Confession, in many religions, is the acknowledgment of one's sins (sinfulness) or wrongs.
Buddhism has been from its inception primarily a tradition of renunciation and monasticism. Within the monastic framework (called the Vinaya) of the sangha regular confession of wrongdoing to other monks is mandatory. In the suttas of the Pali Canon Bhikkhus sometimes even confessed their wrongdoing to the Buddha himself. That part of the Pali Canon called the Vinaya requires that monks confess their individual sins before the bi-weekly convening for the recitation of the Patimokkha.
In Catholic teaching, the Sacrament of Penance is the method of the Church by which individual men and women confess sins committed after baptism and have them absolved by God through the administration of a Priest. The Catholic rite, obligatory at least once a year for serious sin, is usually conducted within a confessional box, booth or reconciliation room. This sacrament is known by many names, including penance, reconciliation and confession (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sections 1423-1442). While official Church publications usually refer to the sacrament as "Penance", "Reconciliation" or "Penance and Reconciliation", many laypeople continue to use the term "Confession" in reference to the Sacrament.
For the Catholic Church, the intent of this sacrament is to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain the grace of God, lost by sin. A perfect act of contrition, wherein the penitent expresses sorrow for having offended God and not out of fear of eternal punishment, even outside of confession removes the eternal punishment associated with mortal sin but a Catholic is obliged to confess his or her mortal sins at the earliest opportunity. In theological terms, the priest acts in persona Christi and receives from the Church the power of jurisdiction over the penitent. The Council of Trent (Session Fourteen, Chapter I) quoted John 20:22-23 as the primary Scriptural proof for the doctrine concerning this sacrament, but Catholics also consider Matthew 9:2-8, 1 Corinthians 11:27, and Matthew 16:17-20 to be among the Scriptural bases for the sacrament.
The Catholic Church teaches that sacramental confession requires three "acts" on the part of the penitent: contrition (sorrow of the soul for the sins committed), disclosure of the sins (the 'confession'), and satisfaction (the 'penance', i.e. doing something to make amends for the sins). The basic form of confession has not changed for centuries, although at one time confessions were made publicly.
Typically, the penitent begins sacramental confession by saying, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been [time period] since my last confession." The penitent must then confess what he/she believes to be grave and mortal sins, in both kind and number, in order to be reconciled with God and the Church. The sinner may also confess venial sins; this is especially recommended if the penitent has no mortal sins to confess. According to the Catechism, "without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's Mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as He is merciful". "When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon." As a result, if the confession was good, "the sacrament was valid" even the penitent inadvertently forgot some mortal sins, which are forgiven as well. As a safeguard not to become something like "subconsciously inadvertent" to avoid saying some sins, these must be confessed in the next confession (if the penitent then remembers them; or generally in the first confession in which they are remembered). Even then it is allowed, however allowed, and even, except for certain devotional purposes, generally sensible to concentrate in one's examination of conscience on the time since the last Confession.
In general, Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians choose an individual to trust as his or her spiritual guide. In most cases this is the parish priest, but may be a starets (Elder, a monastic who is well known for his or her advancement in the spiritual life). This person is often referred to as one's "spiritual father". Once chosen, the individual turns to their spiritual guide for advice on their spiritual development, confessing sins, and asking advice. Orthodox Christians tend to confess only to this individual and the closeness created by this bond makes the spiritual guide the most qualified in dealing with the person, so much so that no one can override what a spiritual guide tells his charges. What is confessed to one's spiritual guide is protected by the same seal as would be any priest hearing a confession. Only an ordained priest may pronounce the absolution.
Confession does not take place in a confessional, but normally in the main part of the church itself, usually before an analogion (lectern) set up near the iconostasion. On the analogion is placed a Gospel Book and a blessing cross. The confession often takes place before an icon of Jesus Christ. Orthodox understand that the confession is not made to the priest, but to Christ, and the priest stands only as witness and guide. Before confessing, the penitent venerates the Gospel Book and cross, and places the thumb and first two fingers of his right hand on the feet of Christ as he is depicted on the cross. The confessor will often read an admonition warning the penitent to make a full confession, holding nothing back.
As with administration of other sacraments, in cases of emergency confession may be heard anywhere. For this reason, especially in the Russian Orthodox Church, the pectoral cross that the priest wears at all times will often have the Icon of Christ "Not Made by Hands" inscribed on it so that such an icon will be available to penitents who are experiencing imminent death or life-threatening danger in the presence of a priest but away from a church.
In general practice, after one confesses to one's spiritual guide, the parish priest (who may or may not have heard the confession) covers the head of the person with his Epitrachelion (Stole) and reads the Prayer of Absolution, asking God to forgive the transgression of the individual (the specific prayer differs between Greek and Slavic use). It is not uncommon for a person to confess his sins to his spiritual guide on a regular basis but only seek out the priest to read the prayer before receiving Holy Communion.
In the Eastern Churches, clergy often make their confession in the sanctuary. A bishop, priest, or deacon will confess at the Holy Table (Altar) where the Gospel Book and blessing cross are normally kept. He confesses in the same manner as a layman, except that when a priest hears a bishop's confession, the priest kneels.
There are many different practices regarding how often Orthodox Christians should go to confession. Some Patriarchates advise confession before each reception of Holy Communion, others advise confessing during each of the four fasting periods (Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast and Dormition Fast), and there are many additional variants. Many pastors encourage frequent confession and communion. In some of the monasteries on Mount Athos, the monks will confess their sins daily.
Eastern Christians will also practice a form of general confession, (or manifest contrition), referred to as the rite of "Mutual Forgiveness". The rite involves an exchange between the priest and the congregation (or, in monasteries, between the superior and the brotherhood). The priest will make a prostration before all and ask their forgiveness for sins committed in act, word, deed, and thought. Those present ask that God may forgive him, and then they in turn all prostrate themselves and ask the priest's forgiveness. The priest then pronounces a blessing. The rite of Mutual Forgiveness does not replace the Mystery of Confession and Absolution, but is for the purpose of maintaining Christian charity and a humble and contrite spirit. This general confession is practiced in monasteries at the first service on arising (the Midnight Office) and the last service before retiring to sleep (Compline). Old Believers will perform the rite regularly before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The best-known asking of mutual forgiveness occurs at Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness, and it is with this act that Great Lent begins.
In the Anglican tradition, confession and absolution is usually a component part of corporate worship, particularly at services of the Holy Eucharist. The form involves an exhortation to repentance by the priest, a period of silent prayer during which believers may inwardly confess their sins, a form of general confession said together by all present and the pronouncement of general absolution by the priest, often accompanied by the sign of the cross.
Private or auricular confession is also practiced by Anglicans and is especially common among Anglo-Catholics. The venue for confessions is either in the traditional confessional, which is the common practice among Anglo-Catholics, or in a private meeting with the priest. Often a priest will sit in the sanctuary, just inside the communion rail, facing toward the altar and away from the penitent. Other times he will use a portable screen to divide himself and the penitent. Following the confession of sins and the assignment of penance, the priest makes the pronouncement of absolution. The seal of the confessional, as with Roman Catholicism, is absolute and any confessor who divulges information revealed in confession is subject to deposition and removal from office.
Historically, the practice of auricular confession was highly controversial within Anglicanism. When priests began to hear confessions, they responded to criticisms by pointing to the fact that such is explicitly sanctioned in "The Order for the Visitation of the Sick" in the Book of Common Prayer, which contains the following direction:
Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special Confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which Confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it).
Auricular confession within mainstream Anglicanism became accepted in the second half of the 20th century; the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church in the USA provides two forms for it in the section "The Reconciliation of a Penitent". Private confession is also envisaged by the canon law of the Church of England, which contains the following, intended to safeguard the Seal of the Confessional:
if any man confess his secret and hidden sins to the minister, for the unburdening of his conscience, and to receive spiritual consolation and ease of mind from him; we...do straitly charge and admonish him [i.e., the minister], that he does not at any time reveal and make known to any person whatsoever any crime or offence so committed to his trust and secrecy
There is no requirement for private confession, but a common understanding that it may be desirable depending on individual circumstances. An Anglican aphorism regarding the practice is "All may; none must; some should".
Most Protestant churches believe that no intermediary except Christ is necessary between the Christian and God in order to be absolved from sins. Many mainline Protestant Churches include corporate confession in regular worship. For instance the Presbyterian Church USA's Directory of Worship, in directing the components or worship, states, "A prayer of confession of the reality of sin in personal and common life follows. In a declaration of pardon, the gospel is proclaimed and forgiveness is declared in the name of Jesus Christ. God’s redemption and God’s claim upon human life are remembered."
Some Protestants confess their sins in private prayer before God, believing this suffices to gain God's pardon. However confession to another is often encouraged and in some sects or denominations required when a wrong has been done to a person as well as to God. Confession is then made to the person wronged and also to God, and is part of the reconciliation process. In cases where sin has resulted in the exclusion of a person from church membership due to unrepentance, public confession is often a prerequisite to readmission. The sinner confesses to the church his or her repentance and is received back into fellowship. In both cases there is a required manner to the confessions: for sins between God and Man and for sins between Man and Man.
Lutherans differ from other Protestants as they practice "confession and absolution" (in two forms). They, like Roman Catholics and many Anglicans, see James 5:16 and John 20:22-23 as biblical evidence for confession. The first form of confession and absolution is done at the Divine Service with the assembled congregation (similar to the Anglican tradition). Here, the entire congregation pauses for a moment of silent confession, recites the confiteor, and receives God's forgiveness through the pastor as he says the following (or similar): "Upon this your confession and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The second form of confession and absolution is known as "Holy Absolution", which is done privately to the pastor (commonly only upon request). Here the person confessing (known as the "penitent") confesses individually their sins and makes an act of contrition as the pastor, acting in persona Christi, announces this following formula of absolution (or similar): "In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In the Lutheran Church, the pastor is bound by the Seal of the Confessional (similar to the Roman Catholic tradition). Luther's Small Catechism says "the pastor is pledged not to tell anyone else of sins to him in private confession, for those sins have been removed.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the second form of confession and absolution fell into disuse; at the present time, it is, for example, expected before partaking of the Eucharist for the first time.
In the Methodist Church, as with the Anglican Communion, penance is defined by the Articles of Religion as one those "Commonly called Sacraments but not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel", also known as the "five lesser sacraments". John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, held "the validity of Anglican practice in his day as reflected in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer", stating that "We grant confession to men to be in many cases of use: public, in case of public scandal; private, to a spiritual guide for disburdening of the conscience, and as a help to repentance." The Book of Worship of The United Methodist Church contains the rite for private confession and absolution in A Service of Healing II, in which the minister pronounces the words "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!";[a] some Methodist churches have regularly scheduled auricular confession and absolution, while others make it available upon request. Since Methodism holds the office of the keys to "belong to all baptized persons", private confession does not necessarily need to be made to a pastor, and therefore lay confession is permitted, although this is not the norm. Near the time of death, many Methodists confess their sins and receive absolution from an ordained minister, in addition to being anointed. In Methodism, the minister is bound by the Seal of the Confessional, with The Book of Discipline stating "All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences"; any confessor who divulges information revealed in confession is subject to being defrocked in accordance with canon law. As with Lutheranism, in the Methodist tradition, corporate confession is the most common practice, with the Methodist liturgy including "prayers of confession, assurance and pardon". The traditional confession of The Sunday Service, the first liturgical text used by Methodists, comes from the service of Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Offices and Services of the Order of Saint Luke, a Methodist religious order, similarly contains a corporate Service of Prayer for Reconciliation in addition to a Rite of Reconciliation for Individual Persons. The confession of one's sin is particularly important before receiving Holy Communion; the official United Methodist publication about the Eucharist titled This Holy Mystery states that:
We respond to the invitation to the Table by immediately confessing our personal and corporate sin, trusting that, “If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our expression of repentance is answered by the absolution in which forgiveness is proclaimed: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!”
Many Methodists, like other Protestants, regularly practice confession of their sin to God Himself, holding that "When we do confess, our fellowship with the Father is restored. He extends His parental forgiveness. He cleanses us of all unrighteousness, thus removing the consequences of the previously unconfessed sin. We are back on track to realise the best plan that He has for our lives."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that "confession is a necessary requirement for complete forgiveness." Such confessions take place in worthiness interviews prior to baptism into the church, to being set apart for any church callings, or to receiving yearly temple recommends.
Within confession, the sinner must confess both to God and to those persons wronged by the sin. Confession may also be required to an authorized priesthood leader, such as a bishop, branch president, stake president, or mission president. Although there is no definitive list of sins that require confession to a priesthood leader, "adultery, fornication, other sexual transgressions and deviancies, and sins of a comparable seriousness" are included, as is intentional and repeated use of pornography. Depending on the seriousness of the sin, the priesthood leader may counsel the sinner to submit to the authority of a disciplinary council, but does not have the authority to forgive sin, which can come only from God. The confession to the priesthood leader must be held in strict confidence unless the confessor grants permission to disclose it to the disciplinary council. The LDS Church rejects the belief that confession is all that is required to secure repentance from God.
The act of seeking forgiveness from God for sins called Istighfar. Confession of sins is made directly to God and not through man; the only exception is when confessing to a person is a required step in recompensing for the damage done. It is taught that sins are to be kept to oneself to seek individual forgiveness from God. God forgives those who seek his forgiveness and commit to themselves not to repeat the sin.
In Judaism, confession is an important part of attaining forgiveness for both sins against God and another man. Confessions to God are done communally in the plural. Jews confess that "We have sinned." In matters involving offenses against a fellow man, private confession to the victim is a requirement to obtaining forgiveness from the victim, which is generally a requirement to obtaining forgiveness from God. If the victim refuses to forgive, the offender confesses publicly, before larger and larger audience. Confession (viduy) is also performed on one's deathbed, if at all possible.
"If we decline to follow through with this step, our un-confessed sins will haunt us, resulting in the demise of our body and spirit. We will have to continue paying the penalty of our wrongdoings."
"By completing the Fifth Step, we gain God’s forgiveness, supervision, and strength. We obtain complete forgiveness..." [Quotes are from http://aa-history.com/12stephistory2.html]
Sacraments for the UMC include both Baptism and Eucharist. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions count five more, which many Protestants, including the UMC, acknowledge as sacramental: Confession/Absolution, Holy Matrimony, Confirmation/Chrismation, Holy Orders/Ordination, and Anointing/Unction.
The reason is simply that Wesley assumed the validity of Anglican practice in his day as reflected in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. His later comments on the priestly office substantiate this. Just as preaching in the Methodist movement was not a substitute for Holy Communion, so for Wesley class meetings did not take the place of personal confession and absolution.
Confession is an "office of the keys" (see Matthew 16:19) belong to all baptized persons, that is, anyone may confess and any believer may pronounce the word of forgiveness. A declaration of forgiveness is permanent and binding because it comes from Jesus Christ himself.
Occasionally, they may ask the minister to anoint them, hear their confession or absolve them of sin. (In fact, confession and absolution do not have to be done by an ordained minister: one of the cornerstones of Methodism is 'every member is a minister'.) Wherever necessary, the minister encourages the dying person to seek reconciliation with and forgiveness from family members or friends.
5. All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences.
Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced by Christians in the life of the Church. It is a universal feature of the historic churches of Christendom, although the theology and the practice of absolution vary between denominations.
Some traditions see absolution as a sacrament (the Sacrament of Penance), a concept found in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, and Eastern Orthodox churches. In other traditions, notably Lutheranism, absolution is seen as an extension of the forgiveness of sins granted in the sacrament of baptism. In other traditions, including the Anglican Communion and Methodism, absolution is seen as part of the sacramental life of the church, although both traditions are theologically predicated upon the Book of Common Prayer, which counts absolution amongst the five rites described as "Commonly called Sacraments, but not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel". The concept of absolution within the life of the Church is largely rejected by protestantism of the Calvinist school.Confession (Judaism)
In Judaism, confession (Hebrew: וִדּוּי, translit. widduy, viddui) is a step in the process of atonement during which a Jew admits to committing a sin before God. In sins between a Jew and God, the confession must be done without others present (The Talmud calls confession in front of another a show of disrespect). On the other hand, confession pertaining to sins done to another person are permitted to be done publicly, and in fact Maimonides calls such confession "immensely praiseworthy".
The confession of a sin in itself does not bring immediate forgiveness, but rather it marks a point in time after which a person's demonstration of the recognition and avoidance of similar future transgressions show whether he or she has truly recovered from the sin and therefore whether he or she deserves forgiveness for it.Confessional
A confessional is a box, cabinet, or stall in which the priest in some Christian churches sits to hear the confessions of penitents. It is the usual venue for the sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches, but similar structures are also used in Anglican churches of an Anglo-Catholic orientation. In the Catholic Church, confessions are only to be heard in a confessional or oratory, except for a just reason.The confessional is usually a wooden structure, with a centre compartment—entered through a door or curtain—in which the priest sits, and on each side there is a latticed opening for the penitents to speak through and a step on which they kneel. By this arrangement the priest is hidden, but the penitent is visible to the public. Confessionals sometimes form part of the architectural scheme of the church; many finely decorated specimens, dating from the late 16th and the 17th centuries, are found in churches on the continent of Europe. A notable example, in Renaissance style, is in the Saint Michael's church at Leuven. But more usually, confessionals are movable pieces of furniture.In Eastern Orthodox Church confessionals are not used: the confession often occurs in sight of other believers, e.g., those waiting in the row for the same purpose, but at some distance from them to not break the seal of confession.Confessor
Confessor is a title used within Christianity in several ways.Index of religion-related articles
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If you click on "Related changes" at the side of this page, you will see a list of the most recent changes in articles to which this page links. This page links to itself and its talk page so that changes to them can be tracked by the same means.Indulgence
In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, an indulgence (Latin: indulgentia, from *dulgeō, "persist") is "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins". It may reduce the "temporal punishment for sin" after death (as opposed to the eternal punishment merited by mortal sin), in the state or process of purification called Purgatory.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes an indulgence as "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and all of the saints".The recipient of an indulgence must perform an action to receive it. This is most often the saying (once, or many times) of a specified prayer, but may also include the visiting of a particular place, or the performance of specific good works.
Indulgences were introduced to allow for the remission of the severe penances of the early Church and granted at the intercession of Christians awaiting martyrdom or at least imprisoned for the faith. They draw on the treasury of merit accumulated by Christ's superabundantly meritorious sacrifice on the cross and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers in proportion to the devotion with which those good works are performed or prayers recited.By the late Middle Ages, the abuse of indulgences, mainly through commercialization, had become a serious problem which the Church recognized but was unable to restrain effectively. Indulgences were, from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, a target of attacks by Martin Luther and all other Protestant theologians. Eventually the Catholic Counter-Reformation curbed the excesses, but indulgences continue to play a role in modern Catholic religious life. Reforms in the 20th century largely abolished the quantification of indulgences, which had been expressed in terms of days or years. These days or years were meant to represent the equivalent of time spent in penance, although it was widely taken to mean time spent in Purgatory. The reforms also greatly reduced the number of indulgences granted for visiting particular churches and other locations.Istighfar
Istighfar (Arabic: استغفار istiġfār), is the act of seeking forgiveness from Allah. It is considered one of the essential parts of worship in Islam.Lay confession
Lay confession is confession in the religious sense, made to a lay person.Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate
The Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate (Arabic: متصرفية جبل لبنان; Turkish: Cebel-i Lübnan Mutasarrıflığı) was one of the Ottoman Empire's subdivisions following the Tanzimat reform. After 1861 there existed an autonomous Mount Lebanon with a Christian mutasarrıf, which had been created as a homeland for the Maronites under European diplomatic pressure following the 1860 massacres.Penance
Penance is repentance of sins as well as an alternate name for the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. It also plays a part in confession among Anglicans and Methodists, in which it is a rite, as well as among other Protestants. The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven (in English see contrition). Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of "faith" and "good works". Word derivations occur in many languages.Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) was the first national Presbyterian denomination in the United States, existing from 1789 to 1958. In that year, the PCUSA merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America, a denomination with roots in the Seceder and Covenanter traditions of Presbyterianism. The new church was named the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It was a predecessor to the contemporary Presbyterian Church (USA).
The denomination had its origins in colonial times when members of the Church of Scotland and Presbyterians from Ireland first immigrated to America. After the American Revolution, the PCUSA was organized in Philadelphia to provide national leadership for Presbyterians in the new nation. In 1861, Presbyterians in the Southern United States split from the denomination because of disputes over slavery, politics, and theology precipitated by the American Civil War. They established the Presbyterian Church in the United States, often simply referred to as the "Southern Presbyterian Church". Due to its regional identification, the PCUSA was commonly described as the Northern Presbyterian Church. Despite the PCUSA's designation as a "Northern church", it was once again a national denomination in its later years.
Over time, traditional Calvinism played less of a role in shaping the church's doctrines and practices—it was influenced by Arminianism and revivalism early in the 19th century, liberal theology late in the 19th century, and neo-orthodoxy by the mid-20th century. The theological tensions within the denomination were played out in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and 1930s, a conflict that led to the development of Christian fundamentalism and has historical importance to modern American Evangelicalism. Conservatives dissatisfied with liberal trends left to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936.