In the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation(commonly called Confession, Reconciliation or Penanc e) is the method by which individual men and women may be freed from sins committed after receiving the sacrament of Baptism. The priest or bishop will then recite the prayers of absolution to forgive the penitents sins. The penitent may confess his sin face to face with the priest, or anonymously through a screen known as a "penitential grille".
The history of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession dates back to the time of the New Testament and the time of Jesus. Catholics believe that it was instituted by Jesus, himself.
Although the issue of the institution of this sacrament by Jesus himself had been debated since the Council of Trent, in 1907 in Lamentabili Sane Exitu (items 46 and 47) Pope Pius X specifically reaffirmed the relevance of Gospel of John 20:22-23 to this sacrament, overriding any previous assertions. In Lamentabili Sane Exitu he quoted John 20:22-23: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
In 1215 the Fourth Council of the Lateran made it canon law that every Catholic Christian receive this sacrament at least once a year. In the 20th century, Pope John Paul II began a program of fostering and renewing the focus on this sacrament. In 1984 he issued Reconciliatio et Paenitentia which cited the Gospel of Mark 1:15, where Jesus said: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel". In 2002 he issued Misericordia Dei which cited the Gospel of Matthew 26:73-75 which said Jesus was born to "save his people from their sins" and the teachings of Saint John the Baptist calling for repentance. Quoting the Epistle to the Romans 8:21, he stated that "Salvation is therefore and above all redemption from sin, which hinders friendship with God."
In the 20th century, during the Second Vatican Council new approaches were taken in the presentation of this sacrament, taking into account the concern of scrupulosity, or the exaggerated obsessive concern for detail. This further distinguished the role of penance from forms of psychotherapy.
Reconciliation enables us to be reconciled to God, community, and self when we have fallen away by sin, for when we sin we alienate ourselves from God, our community, and ultimately from our very selves. We alienate ourselves from ourselves because through sin we are not becoming all that we are created to become. We are created in love and for love. Furthermore, when sinners are truly sorry for their sins, confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and resolve to amend their lives, they are assured of Gods forgiveness through the ministry of the Church which is present in the priest.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers aface to face encounter with the love andforgiveness of God. Who would pass suchan opportunity by? Reconciliation which isoften called "Confession," is the sign ofGods continuing love andforgiveness. Sometime this Sacrament isalso called the sacrament ofPenance. Penance literally meansconversion not punishment.
16 When the teachers of the law whowere Pharisees saw him eating with thesinners and tax collectors, they askedhis disciples: “Why does he eat withtax collectors and sinners?”17 On hearing this, Jesus said tothem, “It is not the healthy who need adoctor, but the sick. I have not come tocall the righteous, but sinners.”
47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Forgiveness and Prayer 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
Jesus Warns of Offenses 6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
The Sacrament of Penance is a liturgical action instituted by the Church for the reconciliation of sinners to communion with God and with the Church. Catholics are obliged to go to confession to receive the sacrament of penance at least once a year -- usually during the Easter season (it used to be called "Easter duty") -- or whenever they are conscious of serious sin. Receiving this sacrament is encouraged at other times, as a means of restoring full unity with God and His Church, and for spiritual growth.
First the penitent (the repentant sinner -- the root word in "penitentiary"), must be aware of his sinfulness and must be truly sorry (contrite) for his sins. Another word for repentance is "contrition". He must repent his sins, and seek the sacrament of penance -- that is, to go to confession to a priest.
The priest-confessor proposes certain actions -- penance -- for the penitent to perform. This may be saying certain prayers and/or performing some other fitting action. This helps him to overcome his faults, and the harm his sins have caused others -- to be reconciled with them and with the Church, and to return to behavior consistent with being a disciple of Christ.
After the penitent accepts the acts of penance, the priest, by the authority that the Church has given him, absolves the sinner; that is, he grants Gods pardon for the sins. Then Jesus said to [His apostles], "Peace be unto you; as my Father has sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted, and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained". John 20:12, 22-23
The penitent confesses to a priest all the sins he can recall. Traditionally confession takes place in the "confessional", a small room where the priest and penitent are separated by a screen to assure complete privacy
The normal practice for administration of the Sacrament of Penance is in private -- with only the penitent and the priest present. To begin, the penitent kneels and, by custom, says: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned", and may add, "It has been [time] since my last confession.“ The priest greets the penitent. Then crossing himself, the penitent says "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and begins his confession.
Act of Contrition O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The priest then extends his hands in blessing over the penitent, and prays the prayer of absolution: Prayer of Absolution God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.