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From the institution of the sacrament of Penance already explained, the Catholic church has always understood that an entire confession of sins was also instituted by our Lord, and that according to the divine law, this confession is necessary for all those who fall into mortal sin after Baptism : Because our Lord Jesus Christ, before his ascension into heaven, lest the Priests as his Vice-gerents, and as presidents and judges, before whom al? mortal crimes, into which the faithful might fall, were to be laid open, in order that they, by virtue of the power of the Keys which was given to them to remit or to retain sins, might pronounce sentence. For it is manifest, that Priests could not exercise this jurisdiction without cognizance of the cause, nor observe that equity in imposing the penalties, if the Penitent confessed his crimes in general only, and not in particular and in detail.
Whence it follows, that all mortal sins of which penitents find themselves guilty after a diligent examine of conscience, ought to be laid open in coofession, however secret they may be; and although committed only against the two last commandments of the decalogue, as these sorts of sins not unfrequently wound the soul more dangerously than those which are done in the face of the world,
As to venial sios which do not deprive us of the grace of God, and into which we fall more frequently, although it be laudable, useful and in no manner presumptuous to confess them, as the custom of truly deyout and pious persons sufficiently testify, yet they may be omitted without sin, and expiated by various other remedies.
But, as all mortal ins, even those of thought, render men children of wrath and enemies of God, it is therefore necessary to seek forgive
of all from God, by a sincere and humble confession. When therefore, the faithful desire to confess all those sins which occur'to theirmemory, they, no doubt, expose all to the divine mercy; but those who act otherwise and knowingly retain any, present nothing to the divine bounty which can be remitted by the Priest ; for if the patient be ashamed to discover his wound to his physician, his art will not hea! what he is ignorant of.
It follows also that those circumstances which change the oature of the sin, are to be also explained in confession : because without this, the sins themselves are not entirely exposed by the penitent, nor sufficiently known to his judge, (confessor) to enable him to estimate justly their grieviousness, and to impose an adequate penance upon the penitent. It is therefore, wholly inconsonant to reason to teach, that these circumstances have been invented by idle men, or that it is sufficient to confess one of them only, as for example to say, I have sinned against my brother. But it is moreover impious to assert that it is impossible to make one's confession in the manner thus pointed out, or that it is a rack and a torture to the conscience; for it is evident that in the church nothing more is required of penitents, than after each one has diligently examined himself, and explored to the bottom, all the hidden recesses of his conscience, to confess those sins by which he recollects to have offended mortally his Lord and his God.
But the other sins, which do not occur to the mind after a diligent examination, are understood to be included in general, in the same Confession: And it is with regard to these, that we confidently say with the prophet: From my secret sins cleanse me O Lord, Ps. 18. It is true that confession from the difficulty which it offers and the shame we undergo in laying open our sins, might appear indeed a heavy yoke, were it pot rendered light, by so many consolations and advantages which are undoubtedly conferred by Absolution on those who worthily approach this sacrament.
Moreover as to the manner of confessing secretly to a Priest, although Christ our Saviour has forbidden no one to confess his sins publicly, by the way of punishment for his crimes and for his own humiliation, as well as for the edification of others and of the church which be has dishonoured; yet this is not commanded by divine precept, nor would it be adviseable, to require any human law that crimes, particularly such as are hidden, should be divulged by a public confession.
As therefore private sacramental confession which has been from the beginning and is now in use in the Catholic church, has always. been commended by the general and unaninous voice of all the most ancient Fathers of the church; the empty calumny of those who are not ashamed to assert that it is of human invention foreign to the command of God, and took its rise from the Fathers assembled in the council of Lateran, is manifestly refuted. For the church in this council did not at all establish the precept of confession for the faithful, because they well knew that it was by the law of God already established and ne
čessary, but they enjoined that this precept should be observed at least once a year, by all and each one of the faithful, as soon as they had arrived to years of discretion.
It is for this reason, that this salutary custom of confession is now observed in the Catholic church with so great fruit by faithful souls, and more particularly during the holy and favourable time of Lent: which custom this holy Syuod adopts and highly approves of as being replete with piety and worthy of being retained in the church.
OF THE MINISTER OF THIS SACRAMENT, AND OF ABSO
With regard to the mipister of this sacrament, the holy Synod de clares all doctrines false and repugnant to the truth of the Gospel, which by a pernicious error extend the Ministry of the Keys to all men indiscriminately, Bishops and Priests alone excepted, explaining these words of our Saviour: Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: And whatsoever you shall loose upon Earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven, Matt. 16. and 19. And whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: And whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, John, 20. As addressed to all Christians indifferently and promiscuously, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, so that each one has power to remit public sins, by reprehension, if the person reprehended submit himself to reproof, and private ones, by a voluntary confession to any person whatsoever.
It likewise teaches that even Priests who are in mortal sin, exercise the power of remitting sin as ministers of Christ, through the virtue of the Holy Ghost received in ordination; and that the opinion of those is erroneous, who contend that this power is forfeited by wicked Priests.
But although the Absolution of the Priest be a dispensation of the benefit of another, it is not however a simple ministry, or a simple commission to announce the Gospel, or to declare that the sins are remitted; but a species of judicial act, by which the Priest as judge pro. nounces sentence: And hence the penitent should not flatter himself, or confide so far in his own faith, as to think, that even without contrition ou his part, or without any intention on the part of the Priest to act se.
Fiously and absolve really, he will nevertheless from his faith alone, be really absolved before God; for faith without penance can produce no remission whatsoever of sins: Norcan a person be otherwise than deemed extremely negligent of his salvation, who perceiving that a Priest absolves him in joke only, does not anxiously seek another, to discharge that duty seriously.
[ As this chapter treats wholly of reserved cases, it's insertion is deemed unnecessary.]
OF THE NECESSITY AND ADVANTAGES OF SATISFACTION.
FINALLY, with regard to satisfaction, which of all the parts of penance has been in all ages the most earnestly recommended to Christians by the holy Fathers: and which nevertheless under a specious pretext of piety is the most combatted in our days, by men who carry with them indeed the appearance of piety, but who have totally extinguishied its virtue: This holy Synod declares, that it is every way false and repugnant to the word of God, to say that no fault has ever been remitted by our Lord without the whole penalty being likewise remitted; for independently of divine tradition, remarkable and illustrious examples may be found in the sacred writings, by which this error is manifestly refuted.
Moreover the course of divine justice seems also to require, that those who before Baptism have sinned through ignorance, should be received into favour differently from those, who having been once delivered from sin and the slavery of the devil, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost have not apprehended to profane deliberately the temple of God, 1. Cor. 3. and to contristate the Holy Ghost, Ephes. 4. And it is in every respect consistent with the divine clemency, not to forgive us our sins without some satisfaction, lest we might take occasion therefrom to consider them of less moment, and by an ungrateful and injurious conduct towards the holy spirit, fall into crimes more enormous, treasuring to burselves wrath against the day of wrath,
Rom. 2. 5. For it is certain that these punishments imposed as a satisfaction for sin, render penitents more cautious and vigilant in future, withdraw them in a special mapper from sin, and keep them within bounds, so as to destroy, by the practice of contrary virtues, those sinful habits contracted by a disorderly life..
It is moreover certain that there has never been considered in the church of God, a more salutary and effectual way of averting those chastisements with which God continually threatens the sinner, than that of having frequent recourse to these works of penance, with sincere and heartfelt sorrow. Add to this, that whilst by satisfaction we suffer for our sins, we become conformable to Jesus Christ, who has satisfied for our sins, having from thence a certain pledge, that if we partake in his sufferings, we shall likewise partake in his glory. ;
But this satisfaction by which we atone for our sins, is not so much ours, as that it is not effected through Jesus Christ. For who of us can do any thing, of ourselves but with the assistance of him who strengthens us, we can do all things. Thus, man has nothing iu which he can glory, but all our glory is in Christ, iu whom we live, in whom we merit, in whom we satisfy, bringing forth worthy fruits of penance, which derive their force and efficacy from him, are offered to the Father by him, and through him are received and accepted by the Father.
The Priests of the Lord ought therefore, as far as the Holy Ghost and their own prudence shall suggest, to enjoin a salutary and proportionate satisfaction, suitable to the quality of the crime and the circumstances, state and condition of the penitent; lest it should happen that by conniving at the sins of, and acting too indulgently with penitents, by enjoining a slight satisfaction for the greatest crimes, they themselves become partakers of the sins of others. They should always reflect that the satisfaction which they impose, is not only a preservative in their new state of life, and a remedy for their infirmities, but likewise a retribution and a punishment for their past sins. * For the ancient Fathers of the church always believed and taught that the keys were given to Priests, for the purpose of bioding as well as loosing, nor did they think that the sacrament of penance was a tribunal of wrath, or of torments, which no Catholic ever thought, or that by our satisfactions, the virtue and efficacy of the merit and satisfaction of our Saviour Jesus Christ, was in the least weakened or diminished. But whilst innovators did not wish to understand this, they taught, that a change of life was the best penance, that they might thús destroy the entire efficacy and practice of satisfaction.