" Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" - John 20:22
"He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whosoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy" - Prov 28:13
"My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me" - Josh 7:19
Questions and Answers on Confession
Confession and Sacred Scripture
How to make a good confession
Examination of Conscience for Adults
Importance of Examination of Conscience and how to examine
Examination of Conscience
The Church Father speak on Confession
Living In The World, But Not Of The World
The Biblical Teaching
The Catholic Priest forgives sinners of their sins in the name of Jesus Christ, by the Authority given to priest by Christ. Christ makes his position clear on this issue when he breathed on his apostles saying to them "He who's sins you forgive they are forgiven, he who's sins you retain, are retained, (John 20:22-23). The Priest does NOT forgive sins by his own authority or in his own name but in the name of Jesus Christ .
It is however often objected that we can go directly to God rather than going to coffession to a priest. However eventhough this is against the express command of Christ, suppose the Emperor of Country were to send an ambassador to this country, and giving him full power to act as plenipotentiary, saying to him "Whatsoever Conditions you agree to, I also agree to them; and whatsoever conditions you reject, I also do reject them." Would not such language be clear and explicit enough? Would not every one see that this ambassador was invested with the same power as the emperor himself? Now, this is precisely the language of our divine redeemer to His apostles: "Whatsoever sins you refuse to forgive, I also refuse to forgive them." When God formed the first man out of the slime of the earth, He breathed into his face the breath of Life, and that instant man became a living image of God. Now, also, God breathes upon His apostles the breath of Life, and that very instant they became not merely images of God, for they were that already, but really Gods, as it were, having all power in heaven and on earth. "As the living Father had sent Jesus Christ to Forgive sins, and to transmit this power to others, and Jesus in Like manner sends His apostles with the power to forgive sins, and to transmit this power to their successors.
Let no one say to me, says St. Augustine, "I will do penance in my heart, I confess all my sins to God and to God alone, who was present when I committed sin. It is He who must forgive me. Then in vain was it said to the apostles, "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain they are retained!"
Just as no one is foolish enough to say "I will go to God alone for the remission of original sin, I will send my Children to God alone instead of sending them to the baptismal font, like wise let no one be foolish enough to say I will go to God alone for the forgiveness of actual sin"; for as the former is forgiven only by means of the sacrament of baptism, so is the latter forgiven only by means of the sacrament of penance.
That Christ Himself possessed the power to forgive sins is, of course, undisputed by any Christian. When He healed the man sick of the palsy, for example, He said to him: "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee"; and to the Scribes, who thought that he had committed blasphemy in saying this, He answered: "That ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins . . . Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house" (Matt 9). But Christ said also to His Apostles: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you; and immediately after saying this, and in connection with those words, He added: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:21-24). In equally clear language did Jesus also say to Peter "I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound also in heaven,; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." Now if these words mean anything, they indicate that Jesus gave to His Apostles a commission to forgive sins in His name; and since that act would be impossible on their part if they did not know what sins had been committed, these must at first be made known to them through Confession.
It is also noteworthy that the duty to give or withhold the forgiveness of sins, as His representatives, is just as clearly stated as the duty to preach the Gospel. Since, however, it was manifestly impossible for the first Apostles themselves to go into all the world and bring the glad tidings to everyone, it cannot be supposed that the duty and the power of hearing confessions and giving absolution was limited to those men only, and that so marvelous a source of grace and mercy should be closed with the completion of the Apostles lives. Hence this power was communicated to their lawful successors.
It is only in this world that we can find a created being who has power to forgive the sinner, who can free him from the chains of sin and hell; and that extraordinary being is the priest, the Catholic priest. "Who can forgive sins except God? Was the question, which the Pharisees harshly asked. "Who can forgive sins?" is the question that the Pharisees of the present day also ask: and the answer is, There is a man on earth that can forgive sins, and that man is the Catholic priest. This because the priest is the ambassador of God (1 Cor 3:9).
We note that slightly before St. James tells the faithful to confess their sins to one another he tells the faithful that if there be any sick amongst them to call the priest (James 5:14-16).
Confession is Gods great gift of mercy, but let no one abuse this gift by saying , "We are without sin," as by doing this we only deceive ourselves, and the truth us not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing... For we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for those of the whole world (I Jn. 1:8-9;). Thus if we acknowledge (confess) our sins he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).
The sacrament of Penance is the sacrament by which sins committed after Baptism are remitted for those who confess them with true sorrow. The Minister of the sacrament is one in Holy Orders, Priest or Bishop. The Priest remits sin, that is, gives absolution, by pronouncing the words, "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Any Christian who has committed mortal sin after Baptism is a fit subject for Penance.
Catholic theology distinguishes between mortal and venial. Mortal sin separates us from God and makes us his enemies, in which case unless we repent and confess our sins we shall be demanded ((1 Jn 5:16). While venial sin diminishes in us the glory of God and works to undermine the grace of God which is in us. For example St. Paul illustrates this when he states" Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest. For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. And the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any mans work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy."
St. Paul distinguishes between those who violate the temple of God (those who destroy what they formerly had by Sin, that is the grace of God) and those whose works are not perfect (those who are not totally sanctified since they have imperfect works). This distinction illustrates the difference between those who commit mortal sins (which violates the temple of God) and those who commit venial sins.
Further The first epistle of John clearly distinguishes between mortal and venial sins (1 John 5:16-17) as we read "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal (other translations have deadly.) There is sin, which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin, which is not mortal."
St. Paul likewise gives us a clear picture of mortal sin, when he writes that those who practice such sins, are sent to hell, because of them. Gal. 5 says: 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Those are mortal sins. Paul warns Christians, that if they practice those and are unrepentant before death, they will be sent to hell. See also Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-7, 1 Cor. 6:9-11. The Bible clearly gives us a distinction among types of sins. For example, Num. 15:27-36, Prov. 24:16, Deut. 22:22-29, Lam. 4:6, 1 Cor. 3:14-17, Luke 12:47-48, Mt. 23:23. Those are real distinctions. Some sins warrant more punishment than others: Luke 10:12, 1 Tim. 1:12-13, 2 Pt. 2:21, John 19:11, Heb. 10:26-29.
Catholics are obliged by the legislation of the Church to receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a year (Lateran IV 1215). For a valid reception of the sacrament three acts must be performed by the penitent: Contrition, Confession and Satisfaction.
Contrition is the primary and most essential condition for forgiveness. Without sorrow for sin there can be no possibility of pardon. Sorrow must be internal and genuine, not merely an outward show. Sorrow for sin must be accompanied by sincere humility. "God Will never despise a contrite heart when he sees that it is humbled" (Psalm 1). Sorrow for sin must be universal, that is, cover all mortal sins the penitent is aware of. The penitent must show a detestation of sin as a supreme evil, with an accompanying firm purpose of amendment to avoid it and all its occasions in the future.
The verbal confession of sin is to be valued only inasmuch as it is the expression of a true and heartfelt repentence. Our Lord cursed the barren fig-tree which, though full of branches and leaves, yet bore no fruit; so does He reject and abhor such confessions as abound in many unnecessary words, but are barren of the fruit of efficacious contrition.
Contrition for sin may be of two kinds: Perfect and Imperfect. Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin out of charity, or perfect love of God. Such contrition immediately reconciles the penitent to God. As Christ said of St. Mary Magdalen: "her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much" (St. Luke 7, 47). Nevertheless, reconciliation is not due to perfect contrition alone but must include a desire of receiving sacramental Penance.
Imperfect contrition or attrition, is sorrow for sin based on less perfect motives, such as fear of hell, loss of heaven or the horror and ugliness of sin. Even so, attrition is still regarded as true sorrow and pleasing to God.
When confessing, the penitent must declare to the Priest all mortal sins he or she can sincerely remember. The precise nature of the offense must be related, not merely a generic reference, for example: "I attempted to attack my neighbor with a knife," not "I tried to hurt my neighbor." The exact number of times each sin has been committed must also be given. It is important to note that where a penitent has genuinely forgotten to confess a particular sin, or sins, they are still forgiven, being included in our contrition, "for these and all my sins, I am very sorry." Their guilt does not return, our only obligation being to confess them, when remembered, at the next sacramental confession.
It is always good and proper to confess all venial sins and faults committed in the sacrament of Penance, or even mortal sins forgiven in an earlier confession. Such confession is called Devotional or Optional confession. The advantage of this practice lies in the added sanctifying and sacramental grace the penitent receives to avoid future venial sins, as well as a total or partial remission of the debt of temporal punishment.
Satisfaction is the voluntary acceptance by the penitent of the penance given by the Priest. Normally, satisfaction would take the form of prayers or acts of charity or other good works. Their aim is to remit, in whole or in part, the debt of temporal punishment which often remains after the sin has been forgiven. Any person who deliberately neglects or refuses to make the satisfaction imposed fails to receive the sacrament validly.
The Church, in the exercise of Her teaching authority, declares Penance to be a sacrament of Christ.1 From Sacred Scripture, we see Christ directly bestowing the power to forgive sins on His Apostles (and their successors). After His Resurrection, Christ appeared to them and said:
"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (St. John 20, 21-23).
Prayer Before Examination of Conscience O' GOD of goodness, who art always disposed to receive the sinner favourably, grant me the grace to approach the Sacrament of Penance with the necessary dispositions. Deign to be in my mind that I may know my sins; in my heart that I may regret them sincerely; in my mouth that I may confess them humbly, as if I were immediately after to appear before Thy Judgement-seat.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
Now examine your conscience, to see what sins you have committed since your last confession, or in your past life.
* When did you make your last confession?* Did you take sufficient pains to awaken contrition? * Did you omit to confess a mortal sin, either intentionaly or through forgetful-ness ? * Did you intentionaly neglect to do the penance imposed on you, or were you so careless that you forgot it? * Have you carried out the resolutions you made at your last confession or have you paid no heed at all to them?
1ST & 3RD COMMANDMENTS
Do you seek to love God with your hole heart?
Have you omitted to say your morning or night evening prayers?
Have you missed Holy Mass, through your own fault, on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
Have you come late to Mass, or left the Church before Mass was over?
Have you talked, or laughed, or let yourself be distracted during Mass?
Have you, without any excuse, eaten meat on Fridays, or failed to observe the Laws of Lent?
Have you neglected to make your Easter duty?
To contribute to the support of your pastors?
Have you doubted GOD's goodness, or presumed on His mercy, or rebelled against His Will?
Have you given way to thoughts of feelings or pride?
Have you been vain, or conceited, or despised others?
Have you been present at a non-Catholic service, or ever denied that you were a Catholic?
Have you ever doubted the Church's teaching, or questioned her authority?
Have you ever received Communion in the state of mortal sin?
Have you ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have you withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
Have you been involbed with superstitious practices or have you been involved with the occult?
Do you do needless work on Sunday?
Have you blasphemed, or misused the Holy Name of GOD, or of Our Lord?
Have you been in the habit of cursing and swearing, or using obscene language?
Have you spoken irreverently of Holy things, or of persons consecrated to GOD, or treated them with disrespect?
Have you ever taken a false oath, or given false evidence in a court of justice?
Have you wished evil upon any other person?
Have you been disobedient to your parents or to those in authority over you?
Has your conduct ever caused them pain or anxiety?
Have you neglected your duty to those under your care or authority?
Have you been unkind, or harsh, or unjust, or cruel to them?
Do you geve your family good religious example?
Do you help care fo your aged and infirm relatives?
Have you ever been impatient, or angry, or bad tempered, or quarrelsome?
Have you wished harm to others, or judged them rashly or unkindly?
Have you been selfish or sulky, or mean, or disagreeable?
Have you been envious or jealous, or given way to feelings of resentment?
Have you harboured thoughts or feelings of dislike, of hatred, or of revenge?
Have you been fighting or caused bodily harm to anyone?
Have you been lazy, or slothful or wasted your time, or neglected your work?
Have you given bad example, or led others into sin, or been in bad company?
Have you been guilty of gluttony (over eating), or taken too much drink?
Have you mutilated yourself through any form of sterilization?
Have you encouraged or condoned sterilization?
6TH & 9TH COMMANDMENT
Have you entertained impure thoughts, or had impure desires, or unlawfully desired to have what belonged to another?
Have you done anything impure by yourself, or with anyone else?
Have you touched others immodestly, or roused their passions? Have you looked at bad pictures, or images, or read bad books?
Have you said impure words, or told bad stories, or listened to them?
Have you, as a married person, been unfaithful to your marriage vows, or neglected the duties of your state, or violated the laws of Holy Matrimony?
Have you used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in your marriage?
Do you seek to be chaste in your thoughts, words and actions?
Are you careful to dress modestly?
Do you pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
Have you taken and kept what belonged to another?
Have you stolen money, or wasted other people's money?
Have you squandered your earnings on drink or on gambling?
Have you cheated, or been dishonest, or been guilty of fraud in your dealings with others?
Have you injured others in their business, or damaged their property, or possessions?
Have you neglected to pay your just debts, or to make restitution of ill-gotten goods?
Do you waste time at work, school or at home?
8TH & 10TH COMMANDMENT
Have you told lies, or been deceitful?
Have you spoken of the fault of others, or indulged in uncharitable gossip or criticism?
Have you said what is false about people, or taken away anothers good name or character. Have you complained, or murmured against authority, or stirred up strife, or caused discontent?
Have you refused to forgive those who have offended you, or caused you harm?
Have you ever refused to help those whom you knew to be in want?
Have you been discontent with your lot in life, or envied the good fortune of others, or coveted what they possessed?
Have you neglected to say the penance given you in your last Confession?
Do you keep secret what should be kept confidential ?
Are material possessions the purpose of your life?
Do you trust that God will care for all my material needs?
Once you've discovered your sins, determine if they mortal sins or venial along with any special circumstances which may affect them. Determine their frequency or number and then excite in yourself a true sorrow and detestaion of your sins. This is the MOST ESSENTIAL requirement for a good confession.
Approach the confessional as if you were going to confess to our Lord Himself.
BEFORE CONFESSION An Act of Contrition What a subject of confusion for me, O' my GOD, constantly to fall into the same sins, so often and so easily, and after having so often promised to commit them no more! I have
abused Thy goodness by offending Thee, O' my GOD, my Creator, and the best and most patient of Fathers! Let Thy Sacred Heart be touched by the regrets of a heart deeply afflicted for having offended Thee who art infinitely good, and so worthy to be loved.
Pardon me, O' my GOD, for all the evil that I have committed, and that I have caused to be committed; pardon me for the sins I know, as well as for those I do not remember; I detest them, I renounce them, I would willingly make amends at the price of all that I hold dearest, for the displeasure I have caused Thee. Supply for my sorrow, O' my Saviour, by the merits of Thy agony in the garden of Olives; put in my heart some of that profound sorrow with which Thy soul was then penetrated at the thoughts of my sins. (Contemplate the Crucifix for a few minutes).
RENEWAL OF THE PROMISES OF BAPTISM I renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his pomps, and I pledge myself to Jesus Christ forever, Amen.
IN THE CONFESSIONAL
Kneel down in the Confessional, begin with the Sign of the Cross and say "Bless me Father for I have sinned". Tell the priest now how long it is since your last confession "Father, it has been a week (a fortnight, a month, a year, or more) since my last confession. These are my sins. I accuse myself of..." Here mention the sins that you remember to have committed. If you have any serious sins to confess, tell them simply and clearly, and the number of times that you have committed them. Tell your sins to the priest as you would to Our Lord Himself, and never keep a sin back. The priest will always help you if you have any sin that you find hard to confess.
After you have told your sins, say to the priest: "Father, those are all the sins that I remember. I am sorry for them, humbly ask GOD's pardon for them, and penance and Absolution of you, Father." The priest now gives you a penance. If you do not hear the penance tell the priest and he will repeat it for you. Listen carefully to any spiritual advice that he gives you. The priest is now going to forgive your sins. While he gives you holy Absolution, say your Act of Contrition, slowly and devoutly. "O' my GOD, I am sorry and beg pardon for all my sins, and detest them above all things, because they deserve Thy dreadful punishments, because they have crucified my loving Saviour Jesus Christ, and most of all, because they offend Thine infinite Goodness; and I firmly resolve, by the help of Thy Grace, never to offend Thee again, and carefully to avoid the occasions of sin, Amen."
Do not leave the confessional as soon as you finish your Act of Contrition, but wait till the priest dismisses you. Say your penance as soon as you come out of the Confessional, so that you may not forget it. The penance is part of your confession, and must not be omitted.