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ment, to these concubines and their illegitimate children, plainly prove the utter disregard with which the ecclesiastical laws had hitherto been treated in relation to this matter. The looseness of their morals, indeed, appears in so many of the Councils, that a volume of citations might be compiled on this point alone. All historians agree that the character of the monks and of the clergy, with few exceptions, could hardly be worse than it was, in general estimation. And yet it was in an age like this that a new prerogative was added to the already vast influence of the clergy, by making each individual pastor, in the tribunal of penitence, the absolute inquisitor, judge, and dictator of every soul, male and female, belonging to his flock. It was in an age like this that the decision of a single priest was pronounced final in the forgiveness of sins, and his solitary voice, uttered in secret, was to be received as the voice of Christ himself, dispensing the prerogatives of the Most High, boldly undertaking to absolve the transgressor, and dictating, as if he were endowed with superhuman penetration, such works of satisfaction as should compensate the justice of God and heal the wounds inflicted by iniquity. And thus a power too great for the faculties of angels was committed to men, an awful proportion of whom were a reproach to the priestly profession!
But let me pass on to consider the immediate results of this vast and important addition to the prerogatives of the parochial clergy. Anterior to the fourth Council of Lateran, we do not find many instructions about the mode in which the priests were to discharge their duty toward voluntary penitents. After this period, however, the councils and constitutions of the prelates are more or less copious on the subject. Thus the constitutions of the Bishop of Coventry, A.D. 1237, give some very precise rules for the manner of conducting the work of the Confessional, a specimen of which will be interesting.
Concerning confession we must proceed in this manner : Let it be told the person confessing that there are three things chiefly which usually hinder men from making a true confession: delight in sin, fear of the penance to be enjoined, and shame. ... All things being heard (which the sinner voluntarily reveals), the confessor ought to ask him if any more can be recalled to memory. If he replies Yea, let him utter it. If he answers No, then the priest ought to supply the defect of the person confessing, according to what is written, The just man is the first accuser of himself. His friend comes, and will examine him. The just, that is, the person confessing, ought first to accuse himself; aft ward his friend, that is, the priest, ought to investigate the sins he has omitted.” ....
The laity, in general, must be questioned concerning tithes. .... And whether the penitent be single or married, he should be examined on the seven deadly sins."
“ In the case of women, they should be questioned concerning witchcrafts and divination. In the case of the single, it must be inquired whether they are willing to live chastely until they are married : otherwise the confession is worthless. And, in like manner, the married must be questioned concerning the carnal sins which they committed before wedlock," &c.—(App., Note 167.)
I have felt constrained to leave one half of this citation untranslated, although the learned reader will find the remainder in the notes, carefully set down from the Latin original. It is, indeed, a point of no small difficulty to ascertain how far it is consistent with propriety to proceed with such documents ; for it is certain that they are an inseparable part of the subject, that they form the staple of the Roman Confessional at the present day, and are a true though very brief index to the sort of questions which more than a hundred millions of our fellow-creatures, male and female, are obliged to answer whenever it pleases
the priest to interrogate them; while over the whole of what takes place in the confessional an impenetrable veil of secrecy is thrown. Moreover, these things are not only to be found in the authentic and public Councils of the Church of Rome herself—being, in fact, the official acts of her highest dignitaries—but the same, in substance, are now published in our own language and country, for the use of their laity, as an essential guide to those who come to confession. And yet, so abhorrent are the feelings of our age toward the open discussion of such topics, that no writer can transfer the mere records of Romanism to his pages without incurring the reproach of indelicacy.
Another set of constitutions, set forth by the Council of Cognac, in the thirty-fourth canon, prescribes a similar course of questions to be asked by the confessor on the subject of licentiousness. And for these, also, I must refer to the Appendix, Note 168.
The Council of Clermont, A.D. 1268, enacted a very minute and comprehensive system for the performance of this new duty of auricular confession. In the main, they do not differ from the constitutions of Coventry. Only a few points need be specified to show the progress of the system.
Concerning the sins of carnality, let inquiry be made .... about the persons, whether a priest, or a deacon, or a sub-deacon, or a monk. Concerning the time, whether during the perpetual solemnities. . . . And if a single layman commit fornication, he ought to undergo three years' penance, according to the rigor of the canons, fasting on the second, fourth, and sixth days of the week, by abstaining from his ordinary food. ... But because the frailty of our time does not suffer so much severity, let the priests commute or temper this sort of penalty into prayers or alms-deeds, or other satisfactions, as may seem to them expedient."-(App. Note 169.)
The Council of Cologne, A.D. 1280, laid down some rules designed to restrain the abuses of the Con
CHAP. XVI.] RULES FOR CONFESSION.
195 fessional, none of which, however, could possibly be enforced, from the very nature of the system.
“We command that the parochial priests shall frequently admonish their subjects, and even enjoin penance, that they may often come to confession. And before they come, let them diligently examine their hearts, willing to confess, and let them carefully recall their sins to memory; and let them come to confession with grief and a suppliant aspect, as if to the judgment of God. And let the priests, as the ministers of God, give the utmost diligence to the hearing of confession and enjoining of penitence, that they may listen to the person confessing attentively, diligently, and with modesty."
“ Likewise in hearing confessions, let the priests select a common and fit place in the church, that they may be seen by all. But let them not hear confessions in obscure and dark places, nor out of the church, unless in great necessity or sickness.
“ Also, we command, under pain of excommunication, that the priests, in hearing confessions, maintain an humble countenance, with their eyes on the ground; nor let them look in the face of the person confessing, and especially not of women.
"We order, likewise, under pain of excommunication, that no priest hear the confession of a woman with whom he has sinned, nor even the companions or encouragers, or instruments of his sin, but let him send them, both males and females, to honest and discreet confessors."
.....There is a sacred order, a sacred place concerning the sin of carnality and lust, all which are noted in this verse :
Who, what, where, with whom, how often, why, how, when.”
..." Likewise, let no priest in anger, hatred, or even corporal fear, dare to reveal the confession of any penitent by word or sign, generally or specially by saying, I know what sort of person thou art. And if he shall reveal it in any manner, and shall be convicted of it, he ought to be degraded without mercy. If, however, he should need counsel, let him ask for it cautiously (as it is laid down), without indicating the person in any manner.'
• "But if any one shall not have confessed to his own parish priest fully and wholly at least once during the year, we order that the priest shall by no means administer the sacrament to bini at Easter."
“Let the priests likewise diligently mark which of their parishioners do not come to confession at least once a year, and let
them give in their names to us or our official, or to the ordinary of the place, that they may be worthily punished, lest we hold the priests themselves responsible for this negligence."—(App.,
The Council of Exeter, held A.D. 1287, set forth a very detailed system for the Confessional, in which the ignorance of the priests, the flagellation of the penitent, and some other matters, are deserving of observation. · Summary, or Mode of exacting Confessions and enjoining Pen
ance, by the same Rev. Father Peter, bishop of Exeter, imposed upon the Priests of his Diocese to be observed, in the Council of Exeter.
"I therefore, Peter of Exeter, deeply considering these things, and comPASSIONATING THE INCAPACITY of the holy presbyters, who hear confessions, WHOSE IGNORANCE, ALAS! 1 HAVE VERY OFTEN EXPERIENCED, assign to them the present summary, that they may know it for the advantage of themselves and of those confessing to them."
· Against the sins of the Spirit, they are to enjoin chiefly prayer, humility, meekness, and such like. Against gluttony and licentiousness, and covetousness and avarice, they are to enjoin FLAGELLATION OF THE BODY, fastings, DISCIPLINE, AND PILGRIMAGES."-(App., Note 171.)
There was one more Council in this century worthy of especial note. It was assembled at Toulouse, under St. Angelus, cardinal and legate of the pope, A.D. 1229, and was peculiarly memorable for its enactments concerning the discovery and punishment of heretics. But I shall only extract the chapters bearing on Confession, and on the prohibition of allowing the laity to have possession of the Holy Scriptures, even in the Latin tongue.
66 CHAPTER XIII. " That all Persons shall confess and commune thrice in every
Year, otherwise they shall be held suspected of Heresy. “. All persons of either sex, after they have come to years of discretion, shall make confession of their sins three times a