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CHAP. xv..] THE SCRIPTURES PROHIBITED.
197 year to their own priest, or to some other with his consent or command, being ready to perform the penance enjoined humbly and to the utmost of their power, and receiving thrice a year, at Christinas, Easter, and Whitsunday, the sacrament of the Eucharist with all reverence; so that confession may precode the communion, unless perhaps, for some reasonable cause, they should abstain from its reception at the time by the advice of their own priest. Let the presbyters, therefore, be careful about these things, that they may know, by the inspection of the names, whether there are any who use subterfuge in order to avoid communing; for if any shall abstain from the communion, unless by the advice of his own priest, let him be held suspected of heresy.”
** CHAPTER XIV. " That the Laity may not have the Books of Scripture, except the Psalter and the divine Office, and not even these Books in the Vulgar Tongue. “We also prohibit the laity to have the books of the Old Testament, or of the New, unless, perhaps, that some might desire, for devotion, to have the Psalter or the Breviary for the divino offices, or the Hours of the blessed Mary. BUT WE MOST STRICTLY FORBID THEM TO HAVE THESE BOOKS TRANSLATED INTO THE VULGAR TONGUE."—( App., Note 172.)
These extracts will show the state of the matter, up to the age of the Reformation, when the Council of Trent, A.D. 1551, put forth the following decrees, as the finishing-stroke of the modern system :
“ SESSION XIV., CHAPTER III. " This holy Council also teaches that the form of the sacrament of penance, in which its power chiefly resides, is placed in these words of the minister, I absolve thee, &c. To which, indeed, by the custom of holy Church, certain prayers are laudably added, although they do not affect the essence of the form itself, nor are they necessary to the administration of this sacrament. And the acts of the penitent himself, namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, are, as it were, the elements of this sacrament, which acts, forasmuch as they are required in the penitent by the institution of God, to the integrity of the sacrament, to the full and perfect remission of sins, for this reason are called the parts of penitence. And truly the sub
stance and effect of this sacrament, so far as concerns its virtuo and efficacy, is reconciliation with God,” &c.—(App., Note 173.)
After a very fair and scriptural statement of contrition, the Council proceeds to dispense with its necessity in order to the forgiveness of the sinner, in the following words, viz. :
Although it may happen sometimes that this contrition is perfect in charity, and reconciles man with God before this sacrament is received in act, yet the reconciliation itself is not to be ascribed to the mere contrition without the intention (voto) of receiving the sacrament, which is implied in it. But that imperfect contrition which is called ATTRITION, since it is commonly conceived either from the consideration of the infamy of sin, or from the fear of hell and punishment, if it excludes the intention of sinning, and has the hope of pardon, the Council declares not only that it does not make the man a hypocrite, and a greater sinner, but that he even becomes a temple of God and impelled by the Holy Ghost, not indeed as yet dwelling in him, but only moving him, by whom the penitent being aided, prepares for himself the way to righteousness. And although, without the sacrament of penance, it can not lead the sinner to justification by itself, nevertheless it prepares him to obtain the grace of God in the sacrament of penance."—(App.,
- CHAPTER V.
“Of Confession. «« From the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, already explained, the universal Church has always understood, that the entire confession of sins was instituted by the Lord himself, and made necessary by the divine law for all who sin after baptism; because our Lord Jesus Christ, being about to ascend from earth to heaven, left his priests, the vicars of himself, as presidents and judges, to whom all mortal crimes might be brought into which the faithful of Christ might fall; to the end that by the power of the keys they should pronounce the sentence of remission or retention of sins. For it is evident that the priests can not exercise this judgment without knowing the cause ; nor can they observe equity in the imposing of penance, if they declare their sins in kind only, and not rather in species, and in special detail. From which it is rightly inferred that penitents must enumerate in confession all the mortal sins of which, after diligent self-examination, they are conscious, even the most hidden, including those which are only committed against the two last precepts of the Decalogue; which sometimes wound the soul more seriously, and are more dangerous than those which are manifested openly.”—(App., Note 175.) As the best possible form in which the modern
system of the Roman Confessional can be exhibited, I add the rules established by the eminent cardinal archbishop, Charles Borromeo, in the Council of Milan, A.D. 1565.
Speaking of those who should be confessors, the sixth chapter of this Council ordains as follows, viz.:
• Let the bishops adopt this rule in proving them, that they be pious, of good morals, learned, prudent, patient, anxious for the salvation of souls, and faithful depositories of those things which are said in confession; likewise of advanced age, especially those by whom the confessions of women are to be heard."
· Let not the priests, unless from a necessary cause, hear the confessions of women before sunrise or after sunset; nor in cells, but publicly in the church, in seats wherein a partition shall by all means be interposed between the person confessing and the confessor. And the bishops shall take care that seats of this kind are constructed in the churches by those whose duty it is, as soon as may be.”—(App., Note 176.)
“ Neither let them, without necessity, hear the confession of any male or female in private houses.”—(App., Note 177.)
- The confessors should be well acquainted with the penitential canons, and let them admonish the persons confessing of the penance which those canons prescribed for every sin, that they may study so much the more diligently to beware of sin, as they find the Church to be more benignant toward them in mitigating the penances of the canons.”—(App., Note 178.)
“Let them impose public penance on those who sin publicly, as the holy Council of Trent has commanded; nor may they presume to commute this kind of public penance for other secret punishments, unless leave be given by the bishop."(App., Note 179.)
Enough from the fathers and the Councils has now been exhibited to enable every intelligent mind to understand the several steps by which the Confessional I do not,
has attained its modern domination. The selection of these various testimonies has demanded no small labor on my part, and I am quite aware that the careful perusal of them may be deemed a wearisome task on the part of some among my readers; but I have thought it the surest, if not the only, way by which the delusive statements of the Romanists might be thoroughly exposed, and the true rise and progress of their cherished usurpation demonstrated. indeed, charge them all with willful misrepresentation, for I doubt not that a large number of their priests and all their people are alike deceived by the bold and constant reiteration of their claims to divine authori. ty. It was well said by one of their cardinals at the Council of Constance, quoting Cicero in his book of Paradoxes, that "there is nothing so incredible but it will become credible by repetition.”* And it can not be denied that the Confessional enjoys all the advantage of the principle. It is inculcated upon them in childhood ; it is renewed at every administration of the communion; and false as it is in its theory, and dangerous in its consequences both to priest and people, it is doubtless regarded with perfect sincerity as the great bond by which alone the laity can be kept firm in their allegiance, and their spiritual masters be secured in the prerogatives of their extraordinary power.
Before I conclude, it will be my duty to notice the other arguments of the Trentine Catechism derived from the supposed superiority of their system in its practical results, and to present a sketch of the Confessional as administered by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century. But it may be well to premise a few pages of candid admissions from the learned Fleury, who, although a stanch Romanist, has displayed more honesty and frankness than we can often find among the priesthood of his communion. To his testimony, therefore, I shall devote the following chapter, and I think the reader will find it worthy of his serious attention.
* Hard. Concilia, t. viii., p. 217.
FLEURY'S ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.
It will be remembered, I trust, that the fourth Council of Lateran established, throughout the whole Western Church, the compulsory work of auricular confession at least once in every year, under the penalty of exclusion from the Church when living, and deprivation of Christian burial when dead. have called this penalty a virtual excommunication, because no worse consequence was attached, by many of the ancient canons, to the most atrocious crimes. Now I propose to show how plainly the Roman Catholic historian Fleury, prior of Argenteuil and confessor to the king, acknowledges that this was a perfect innovation, although it had begun among the monks some centuries before.
The first introduction of compulsory confession is referred by this learned author to the year 763, in the rules established by St. Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, for his community of canons residentiary, which in many
of its features was a sort of monastic insti. tution. The words of the historian are as follows:
“ It was ordered that the clergy should confess to the bishop