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twice a year, namely, at the commencement of Lent, and between the middle of August and the first of November, saving the right of confessing at other times as often as they would, either to the bishop or to a priest deputed by him. If any one should conceal a sin in confessing to the bishop, or seek to confess to other persons, the bishop, if he could discover it, should punish him whipping or imprisonment. This is THE FIRST TIME THAT I FIND CONFESSION COMMANDED." --(App., Note 180.)
The earliest instance furnished by our historian of reconciling penitents immediately after confession, without waiting until their penance was fulfilled, occurs in the rule established by Boniface, the famous apostle of Germany, as he was called, and a martyr. The date of this rule was about A.D. 750. Fleury quotes the words of Boniface as follows, viz. :
• Since divers accidents hinder us from fully observing the canons concerning the reconciliation of penitents, each priest, as soon as he has received their confession, shall take care to reconcile them by prayer; that is to say, he shall not wait until their penance is accomplished."-(App., Note 181.)
The Council of Châlons-sur-Saone, which was held A.D. 813, and which I have already cited in part, furnishes some interesting evidence of the progress of innovation; and Fleury gives the following condensed view of its canons, viz.:
• The practice of penitence, according to the ancient canons, is abolished in most places ; and this is the reason why we must implore the aid of the emperor, to the end that public sinners may perform public penance, and be excommunicated and reconciled according to the canons. Some do not confess thoroughly, and therefore we must warn them that they confess sins of thought as well as outward sins. They must not only confess to God, but to the priests."—(App., Note 182.)
We ought to impose penance according to Scripture and the custom of the Church, and banish altogether the books which they call penitentials, of which the errors are certain and the authors uncertain, and which flatter sinners, by imposing for great sins light and unaccustomed penances."-(App.,
But this very abuse which is here condemned is precisely what the priests have practiced, by the authority of the fourth Council of Lateran, ever since the thirteenth century, and what they can hardly avoid, when the whole business of penitential discipline is left to their private discretion, according to their established modern system. Fleury proceeds, however, with some further testimony from this frankspoken document, as follows:
« The Council of Châlons continues : There is great abuse in the pilgrimages which are made to Rome, to Tours, and elsewhere. The priests and clerks pretend in this way to purify themselves from their sins, and that they ought to be restored to their functions; the laymen imagine that they have obtained impunity for their sins, past and future ; the powerful derive from them a pretext for exaction upon the poor, and the poor a title to mendicity."--(App., Note 184.)
The Council of Paris, held A.D. 829, speaks still more plainly :
Many priests, saith the Council, whether by negligence or ignorance, impose upon sinners other penances than those which the canons prescribe, availing themselves of certain little books which they call Penitentials. For this reason, we have all ordered that every bishop in his diocese shall diligently search for these erroneous books, in order to put them in the fire, that the ignorant priests may no longer use them to deceive men. And these priests shall be accurately instructed by their bishops concerning the discretion with which they should question those who confess, and the measure of penance which they ought to impose on them; for up to this time, through their fault, many crimes remain unpunished, to the great peril of souls. The Council recommends especially the rejection of the new penitentials, which deceived sinners by vain hopes, and that they should hold fast to the severity of the ancient canons, with respect to the abominable impurities which were then but too common.”—(App., Note 185.)
Here it is abundantly manifest that the secrecy of the Confessional was not yet established, and that the system was very different from what is now universal among the Romanists; for the modern priests have no idea of any other course than that which these Councils so strongly condemned. Books are still used, drawn up by the Roman casuists on a plan resembling that of the old Penitentials; and those of the Jesuits, so admirably exposed by Pascal in his Provincial Letters, are far more accommodating to sinners than any which had preceded them. Who among them would now be so absurd as to recommend a return to the strictness of the ancient canons? Who would now venture to declare how often crimes go unpunished by any adequate penance? What Council of Paris would now order the bishops to put the modern Penitentials in the fire, and honestly declare that the priests, in their ignorance, were only deceiving their victims? Doubtless the administration of discipline was in a deplorable way when these Councils published their complaints in the ninth century; but now the whole work of the Confessional is wrapped up in impenetrable secrecy, and the detection of abuses and the correction of error are equally impossible. And Rome has even learned to praise what the early Councils censured so severely. Even the canonized Charles Borromeo tells the confessors to remind their penitents of the ancient canons, not in order to apply them, but in order to arouse the gratitude of sinners for the indulgence of this unchangeable Church, in doing them away, and making the pardon of their sins so easy and light a business in comparison !
But let me return to our historian. The next novelty which Fleury notices in this matter is the enforcement of penance by way of penalty for disobedi- . ence to the papal requisition. This he attributes to Pope Nicholas, A.D. 867, as follows, viz. :
“We see, in the letters of Pope Nicholas, three other examples of these canonical penances, like to those of the first ages; but what appears strange is, that he imposes penances by men. ace on sinners who asked not for them. For Stephen, count of Auvergne, having driven Sigon, the bishop of Clermont, from his diocese, and put a usurper in his place, the pope
commands him to restore him immediately.... Otherwise, saith the pope, we forbid you the use of wine and flesh until you come to Rome and present yourself before us."-(App. Note 186.)
The historian presents another innovation, now, however, perfectly legalized by the Roman Church, in the commutation of penitence for money, which was openly adopted in the instructions of Bouchard, bishop of Worms, A.D. 1022, viz. :
- For example, he who can not fast, for one day of fasting on bread and water shall sing fifty psalms on his knees in the Church, and shall feed one poor man for that day; in consideration of which he shall take what nourishment he pleases, except wine, flesh, and fat. One hundred genuflections shall take place of the fifty psalms, and the rich may redeem themselves for money.”—(App., Note 187.)
I have shown at large a still earlier introduction of this abomination in the Ecclesiastical Laws of King Edgar, but who can say how much further the same principle is carried in the secret and perfectly irresponsible Confessional of a later day?
The canon of the Council of Toulouse, forbidding the laity to have the Scriptures, has been already quoted from the original; but Fleury observes, with respect to it, that it was a novelty.
.. This is the first time that I find this prohibition, but we may explain it favorably by saying, that the minds of men were so excited, that they could not arrest the controversies but by taking away the sacred books, which the heretics abused.”. (App. Note 188.)
We must remember that our historian was a Ro. manist; since otherwise it is impossible that he could have attempted to excuse such an impious absurdity as the taking away the only infallible record which
the wisdom of God had given for the guidance of His people, under the pretext of opposing heresy. During centuries of darkness, however, and even in the freedom and intelligence of the present age, the Church of Rome has shown the same desire to discourage, and, when it is possible, to prevent, the reading of the Bible.
I shall proceed to cite several other passages from this historian, because, making due allowance for his being a Romanist, he has spoken of the melancholy changes which took place in the penitential system of the Church, with truth and candor. My readers, I trust, will mark his statements with care,
and member that when a Romanist of unquestionable eminence and learning has acknowledged so much, it is a fair conclusion that a great deal more must belong to the whole truth of the picture.
• The canonical penitences were still in force at the end of the eleventh century. ... But they imagined, I know not on what ground, that each sin of the same kind merited its penitence; that if, for example, a homicide ought to be expiated by a penance of ten years, it must require an hundred years for ten homicides ; which rendered penitence impossible, and the canons ridiculous.”—(App., Note 189.)
• After they had rendered penitences impossible by thus multiplying them, they were obliged to come to compensations and estimations, such as we see in the decree of Bouchard, and in the writings of Peter Damiani. These consisted of psalms, genuflections, flagellations, alms, and pilgrimages : all acts which men could perform without being converted. ... Penances rendered by proxy were much less allowable, and the castigation which a holy monk gave himself for the sake of a sinner was not a medicinal penance for that sinner; for sin is not like a pecuniary debt, which any other person can pay in discharge of the debtor, and in any sort of money which is current, but it is a malady which must be cured in the person of the sick.”—(App., Note 190.)
This honest declaration of Fleury is worthy of spe