The latest on confession and indulgences

Todd alerted me to this story from Reuters:

The Vatican has granted priests the right to forgive the sin of abortion when hearing the confessions of hundreds of thousands of young people attending a Roman Catholic youth festival in Spain this week.

The termination of pregnancy is a sin punishable by excommunication under Church law. The World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims will attend a mass confession in the presence of Pope Benedict on Saturday in a central Madrid park.

“This (concession) is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace,” the Madrid archdiocese said in a statement on its website.

Two hundred white portable confessional cabins have been erected in Madrid’s Retiro Park where hundreds of priests will take confessions in different languages from the pilgrims who have travelled to Spain from around the world.

The pontiff will sit in one of the booths on Saturday morning to hear confessions from three visitors, ahead of a mass with up to 6,000 seminarians.

The Vatican already announced on August 11 that it had authorized a plenary, or full indulgence, to all the young people attending the celebrations.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven and is traditionally granted to WYD pilgrims.

via Priests to forgive abortion in Pope youth festival – Yahoo! News.

First of all, could this be one of those many cases in which the reporter completely misunderstands a religious teaching?  Can it be true that in the Roman Catholic Church a woman who has had an abortion cannot normally repent, confess, and be absolved of that sin?  (Please, may a Catholic reader clear this up for us.)  If this is true, we see again the difficulty of finding full forgiveness under the Roman Catholic penitential system.  More certain, I suppose, is getting an indulgence.  Rome doesn’t sell them anymore, but gives them away for the good work of attending a youth rally!

If this is a correct account, it shows how Lutherans actually have a higher view of confession than Rome does. We also have a higher view of Baptism, which deals with all sin throughout one’s life, not just original sin, and the Lord’s Supper, which we receive for forgiveness, not having to already be pure in order to take it.

UPDATE:  Mollie Hemingway has confirmed with canon lawyers that priests cannot forgive the sin of abortion without special arrangement.  She gave me this quotation linked from a comment in her own discussion of World Youth Day:

“Elaine, I am a canon lawyer. The article is correct. Not all priests have the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion with its attendant automatic excommunication. If a person goes to Confession and confesses abortion, and the  priest does not have the faculty to absolve it, he will request the person come  back a few days later. In the meantime, he will notify the bishop and ask for  the faculty to absolve the sin and lift the excommunication. When the person comes back, then the confession is completed and absolution is given. Many dioceses (such as the one where I work) have granted all priests in the
diocese this faculty.”

So forgiveness comes from the bishop rather than the Word and the promises of the Gospel.

 

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “So forgiveness comes from the bishop rather than the Word and the promises of the Gospel.”

    Good point. My wife, a non-Lutheran, has a hard time with the absolution in the Lutheran liturgy. She’ll offer a complaint along the lines of, “who is he to forgive my sins?” But this complaint doesn’t acknowledge the “in the stead and by the command..” portion of the absolution which positions the Pastor as the messenger, not the originator or source of the forgiveness. Seems that the Catholic approach cited above does make the Priest the source of the forgiveness. My take on the Baptist model is that free forgiveness is offered but it is the sinner who “activates” it – a pretty daunting responsibility. The Lutheran practice of absolution does seem to square nicely with the concept of the Gospel as a message, the delivery of which is the Church’s role.

  • Pete

    “So forgiveness comes from the bishop rather than the Word and the promises of the Gospel.”

    Good point. My wife, a non-Lutheran, has a hard time with the absolution in the Lutheran liturgy. She’ll offer a complaint along the lines of, “who is he to forgive my sins?” But this complaint doesn’t acknowledge the “in the stead and by the command..” portion of the absolution which positions the Pastor as the messenger, not the originator or source of the forgiveness. Seems that the Catholic approach cited above does make the Priest the source of the forgiveness. My take on the Baptist model is that free forgiveness is offered but it is the sinner who “activates” it – a pretty daunting responsibility. The Lutheran practice of absolution does seem to square nicely with the concept of the Gospel as a message, the delivery of which is the Church’s role.

  • helen

    The post above, and these following, all in one morning!
    What a world I have waked up to!
    I think I’ll go back to bed awhile and see if it rights itself.

    Lord, have mercy!

    Previous post: Perry leads in GOP polls–already!

    Next post: Normalizing “minor-attracted persons

  • helen

    The post above, and these following, all in one morning!
    What a world I have waked up to!
    I think I’ll go back to bed awhile and see if it rights itself.

    Lord, have mercy!

    Previous post: Perry leads in GOP polls–already!

    Next post: Normalizing “minor-attracted persons

  • Kimberly

    How incredibly sad and disheartening for the woman who is burdened by an abortion! She finally, by the grace of God, gets up the courage to confess and instead of receiving Christ’s full and free forgiveness is told she’s excommunicated and has to come back later to get forgiveness. (Not that in the RCC penitential system you get “full and free forgiveness” any way…)

    I guess the bright spot is that she can eventually get some measure of comfort in forgiveness.

  • Kimberly

    How incredibly sad and disheartening for the woman who is burdened by an abortion! She finally, by the grace of God, gets up the courage to confess and instead of receiving Christ’s full and free forgiveness is told she’s excommunicated and has to come back later to get forgiveness. (Not that in the RCC penitential system you get “full and free forgiveness” any way…)

    I guess the bright spot is that she can eventually get some measure of comfort in forgiveness.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Let us pray for the day when the Pope will grant the “right” to all Roman Catholic priests to forgive all the sins of their people. The absolution the Pope parses so sparingly is not his to grant, it wasn’t earned by Peter as he warmed himself by the fire and denied his Lord, it was won for us on the cross by Christ alone. He died for all sins and for all sinners that they may repent and be forgiven, not to establish a straw house of plenary indulgences designed to swell the coffers of Rome.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Let us pray for the day when the Pope will grant the “right” to all Roman Catholic priests to forgive all the sins of their people. The absolution the Pope parses so sparingly is not his to grant, it wasn’t earned by Peter as he warmed himself by the fire and denied his Lord, it was won for us on the cross by Christ alone. He died for all sins and for all sinners that they may repent and be forgiven, not to establish a straw house of plenary indulgences designed to swell the coffers of Rome.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Tom Hering

    Well, it is a way make people dependent. And all that that implies.

  • Tom Hering

    Well, it is a way make people dependent. And all that that implies.

  • Jonathan

    I’m serious about this: how does a Lutheran ask for forgiveness for what Lutherans consider first-degree homicide? Say, “Lord, forgive me” and return to church the next Sunday? Even when regret is heartfelt, is there still not restitution to be made, pennace to perform, even a short time of removal from the congregation? Public acknowledgement? Is the baby’s father or the doctor implicated or mentioned?

    I’m curious. In the early centuries of the church, very serious sins were dealt with by having the repetant sinner separate himself for some time.

  • Jonathan

    I’m serious about this: how does a Lutheran ask for forgiveness for what Lutherans consider first-degree homicide? Say, “Lord, forgive me” and return to church the next Sunday? Even when regret is heartfelt, is there still not restitution to be made, pennace to perform, even a short time of removal from the congregation? Public acknowledgement? Is the baby’s father or the doctor implicated or mentioned?

    I’m curious. In the early centuries of the church, very serious sins were dealt with by having the repetant sinner separate himself for some time.

  • Tom Hering

    Jonathan @ 6, we pronounce the Lord’s forgiveness and call the police. They bear the sword – not us. And the murderer suffers punishment in the kingdom of the left. (Of which church government is a part, hence our cooperation with secular authority – normally. There are exceptions.). Having received Christ’s forgiveness, however, the murderer never suffers punishment in the kingdom of right. Which Rome insists he still must.

  • Tom Hering

    Jonathan @ 6, we pronounce the Lord’s forgiveness and call the police. They bear the sword – not us. And the murderer suffers punishment in the kingdom of the left. (Of which church government is a part, hence our cooperation with secular authority – normally. There are exceptions.). Having received Christ’s forgiveness, however, the murderer never suffers punishment in the kingdom of right. Which Rome insists he still must.

  • Jonathan

    I appreciate it, Tom.
    But if the homicide is a legal abortion, would the woman (and man) even have to tell their pastor? Would their repetenance be solely a heartfelt, private matter? I understand the dislike here of the Roman practice, but (without defending it) it does seem to recognize that abortion is a sin graver than some others.

  • Jonathan

    I appreciate it, Tom.
    But if the homicide is a legal abortion, would the woman (and man) even have to tell their pastor? Would their repetenance be solely a heartfelt, private matter? I understand the dislike here of the Roman practice, but (without defending it) it does seem to recognize that abortion is a sin graver than some others.

  • KEK

    If you want to understand the history of excommunication and the laws pertaining to it, consult http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm.
    See especially the section “Absolution from excommunication.”

    A very relevant part: “Apart from the rare cases in which excommunication is imposed for a fixed period and then ceases of itself, it is always removed by absolution. It is to be noted at once that, though the same word is used to designate the sacramental sentence by which sins are remitted and that by which excommunication is removed, there is a vast difference between the two acts. The absolution which revokes excommunication is purely jurisdictional and has nothing sacramental about it. It reinstates the repentant sinner in the Church; restores the rights of which he had been deprived, beginning with participation in the sacraments; and for this very reason, it should precede sacramental absolution, which it thenceforth renders possible and efficacious. After absolution from excommunication has been given in foro externo, the judge sends the person absolved to a confessor, that his sin may be remitted; when absolution from censure is given in the confessional, it should always precede sacramental absolution, conformably to the instruction in the Ritual and the very tenor of the formula for sacramental absolution.”

    This distinction between absolution of the sin (i.e. forgiveness) and absolution from the penalty of excommunication is very important. I’m surprised that the “canon lawyer” did not say anything about this. It makes me doubt the reliability of this purported expert.

    On a related point, how does forgiveness come from “promises of the Gospel”? Forgiveness can only come from a person; as Christians, we know it comes only from Jesus Christ (I assume this is what you mean by “Word”). This, however, in no way presupposes that He cannot grant that forgiveness through an ordained representative. In fact, it’s wonderful for us that He does this. That way we don’t start thinking that forgiveness is based on fuzzy notions like “the promises of the Gospel.”

  • KEK

    If you want to understand the history of excommunication and the laws pertaining to it, consult http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm.
    See especially the section “Absolution from excommunication.”

    A very relevant part: “Apart from the rare cases in which excommunication is imposed for a fixed period and then ceases of itself, it is always removed by absolution. It is to be noted at once that, though the same word is used to designate the sacramental sentence by which sins are remitted and that by which excommunication is removed, there is a vast difference between the two acts. The absolution which revokes excommunication is purely jurisdictional and has nothing sacramental about it. It reinstates the repentant sinner in the Church; restores the rights of which he had been deprived, beginning with participation in the sacraments; and for this very reason, it should precede sacramental absolution, which it thenceforth renders possible and efficacious. After absolution from excommunication has been given in foro externo, the judge sends the person absolved to a confessor, that his sin may be remitted; when absolution from censure is given in the confessional, it should always precede sacramental absolution, conformably to the instruction in the Ritual and the very tenor of the formula for sacramental absolution.”

    This distinction between absolution of the sin (i.e. forgiveness) and absolution from the penalty of excommunication is very important. I’m surprised that the “canon lawyer” did not say anything about this. It makes me doubt the reliability of this purported expert.

    On a related point, how does forgiveness come from “promises of the Gospel”? Forgiveness can only come from a person; as Christians, we know it comes only from Jesus Christ (I assume this is what you mean by “Word”). This, however, in no way presupposes that He cannot grant that forgiveness through an ordained representative. In fact, it’s wonderful for us that He does this. That way we don’t start thinking that forgiveness is based on fuzzy notions like “the promises of the Gospel.”

  • Michelle Y

    The Good Book is all you need. It’s all there. We need not other humans (aside from the One Perfect God-Man) to forgive us our sins. Else, of what use was His death on the Cross? It was to pay our sin-debt in full, not as a token to be given to a Priest or a Pastor or anyone else to put in the slot. I cannot fathom thinking of that sacrifice as any less than perfect ransom. The price was far too heavy. I humbly thank Jesus for that agony He went through for the likes of me.

  • Michelle Y

    The Good Book is all you need. It’s all there. We need not other humans (aside from the One Perfect God-Man) to forgive us our sins. Else, of what use was His death on the Cross? It was to pay our sin-debt in full, not as a token to be given to a Priest or a Pastor or anyone else to put in the slot. I cannot fathom thinking of that sacrifice as any less than perfect ransom. The price was far too heavy. I humbly thank Jesus for that agony He went through for the likes of me.

  • Michelle Y

    ‎1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
    ‎”But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” ~ Matthew 6:6
    ‎1 Jn.1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness

  • Michelle Y

    ‎1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
    ‎”But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” ~ Matthew 6:6
    ‎1 Jn.1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness

  • SKPeterson

    Michelle @9 and 10 –

    The Lutheran pastor does not individually forgive the sins, but in the place (or stead) of Christ, and by His command, announces the forgiveness of sins.

  • SKPeterson

    Michelle @9 and 10 –

    The Lutheran pastor does not individually forgive the sins, but in the place (or stead) of Christ, and by His command, announces the forgiveness of sins.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @12 The wording is “….I forgive you…” We don’t just announce the forgiveness.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @12 The wording is “….I forgive you…” We don’t just announce the forgiveness.

  • Shane A

    I have trouble seeing how this is any more problematic than what goes on in Lutheran or Anglican services every week: the confession and absolution. How can fallen men forgive sins? If our imaginations can perceive this paradox, what problem is there?

  • Shane A

    I have trouble seeing how this is any more problematic than what goes on in Lutheran or Anglican services every week: the confession and absolution. How can fallen men forgive sins? If our imaginations can perceive this paradox, what problem is there?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michelle (@10, 11) and Shane (@14), what did Jesus say to his disciples after the Resurrection?

    If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

    Do you believe what Jesus says there in John 20?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michelle (@10, 11) and Shane (@14), what did Jesus say to his disciples after the Resurrection?

    If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

    Do you believe what Jesus says there in John 20?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @15 Well you see Jesus was really pointing at himself when he said that in the disciples presence :p

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @15 Well you see Jesus was really pointing at himself when he said that in the disciples presence :p

  • Joanne

    There is the idea that after forgiveness, the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us on the cross, there still remain penalties for the sin that need to be worked off, mostly in purgatory. Strings are attached to the forgiven sin that will follow you even after death if you do not complete the necessary works of contrition (the penalties to prove you are really contrite for that really bad sin) while still here on earth. Really bad sins might have penalties that no amount of time on earth could allow for the works of contrition to be completed before death.
    Jesus owns the sphere of forgiveness of sins. The Church owns the penalties for sins program. If you don’t understand this division, you’ll have a terrible time understanding Luther’s 95 Theses.
    Confession and Absolution are on the Jesus’ side of the equation. Penalties, contrition (good works), indulgences, and purgatory are on the Church’s side of the equation.
    An Indulgence is a writ of declared satisfaction for penalties, for a few, some, or all (plenary). To get a plenary indulgence means no time in purgatory and that’s a very big deal. Not perhaps to the average European youth who could expect to earn enough penalties in a month of modern living to be again 100,000 years stuck in Purgatory. But to a dying youth, attending the youth gathering in Spain and getting a plenary indulgence straight from the Pope would be of great value to the comfort of his/her soul. The Pope through his writ will have wiped out the penalties left over after forgiveness and that dying youth will have none or very little time in Purgatory to work out his/her contrition. It’s a straight to heaven, get out of jail free card, and very few Roman christians get to go straight to heaven when they die, very few.

  • Joanne

    There is the idea that after forgiveness, the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us on the cross, there still remain penalties for the sin that need to be worked off, mostly in purgatory. Strings are attached to the forgiven sin that will follow you even after death if you do not complete the necessary works of contrition (the penalties to prove you are really contrite for that really bad sin) while still here on earth. Really bad sins might have penalties that no amount of time on earth could allow for the works of contrition to be completed before death.
    Jesus owns the sphere of forgiveness of sins. The Church owns the penalties for sins program. If you don’t understand this division, you’ll have a terrible time understanding Luther’s 95 Theses.
    Confession and Absolution are on the Jesus’ side of the equation. Penalties, contrition (good works), indulgences, and purgatory are on the Church’s side of the equation.
    An Indulgence is a writ of declared satisfaction for penalties, for a few, some, or all (plenary). To get a plenary indulgence means no time in purgatory and that’s a very big deal. Not perhaps to the average European youth who could expect to earn enough penalties in a month of modern living to be again 100,000 years stuck in Purgatory. But to a dying youth, attending the youth gathering in Spain and getting a plenary indulgence straight from the Pope would be of great value to the comfort of his/her soul. The Pope through his writ will have wiped out the penalties left over after forgiveness and that dying youth will have none or very little time in Purgatory to work out his/her contrition. It’s a straight to heaven, get out of jail free card, and very few Roman christians get to go straight to heaven when they die, very few.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Michelle: The pastor has the viva voce – the living voice of Christ. In pronouncing forgiveness in the active voice, the pastor’s voice is the voice of Christ himself. When one understands John 20 (and others) one realizes that Pastor X (your fallen man) is not forgiving the sins as a fallen man but is rather giving voice to the forgiveness which is surely granted by God. The all-sufficient and once-for-all sacrifice of Christ is given to you 2000 years later through MEANS. The means includes the pastoral absolution. It’s hard to argue with the clear sense of scripture.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Michelle: The pastor has the viva voce – the living voice of Christ. In pronouncing forgiveness in the active voice, the pastor’s voice is the voice of Christ himself. When one understands John 20 (and others) one realizes that Pastor X (your fallen man) is not forgiving the sins as a fallen man but is rather giving voice to the forgiveness which is surely granted by God. The all-sufficient and once-for-all sacrifice of Christ is given to you 2000 years later through MEANS. The means includes the pastoral absolution. It’s hard to argue with the clear sense of scripture.

  • SKPeterson

    Dr. Luther @13 – I’ve seen versions that say “announce” and some that say “declare”. I do think that “declare” better expresses the implicit “I forgive you in Christ’s name, because He told me to” better than announce, but why the different wordings? Translation into English leaves something wanting that is expressed in the Greek or German?

  • SKPeterson

    Dr. Luther @13 – I’ve seen versions that say “announce” and some that say “declare”. I do think that “declare” better expresses the implicit “I forgive you in Christ’s name, because He told me to” better than announce, but why the different wordings? Translation into English leaves something wanting that is expressed in the Greek or German?

  • Michelle Y

    ‎1Tim 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”
    Matthew 6:6 ‎”But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” ~
    ‎1 Jn.1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;”

    This is the Word of God! Unrefutable! Precious!

    John 20:23 does not give authority to Christians to forgive sins, it is Jesus saying that Christians can surely declare (and trust in) the surety of the Father’s forgiveness of the sins of a repentant Christian. In other words, we can declare the promises of God, not make them ourselves.

    There is nothing, NOTHING! any human can do to deserve forgiveness for any sin. To even attempt to do so is to belittle the awesome sacrifice He made on that cross for each one of us. When He said “It is finished” before taking his last earthly breath, He meant just that. It is finished. All debts are paid in full.
    I cannot even think on that priceless ransom without weeping in thankful humility.

  • Michelle Y

    ‎1Tim 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”
    Matthew 6:6 ‎”But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” ~
    ‎1 Jn.1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;”

    This is the Word of God! Unrefutable! Precious!

    John 20:23 does not give authority to Christians to forgive sins, it is Jesus saying that Christians can surely declare (and trust in) the surety of the Father’s forgiveness of the sins of a repentant Christian. In other words, we can declare the promises of God, not make them ourselves.

    There is nothing, NOTHING! any human can do to deserve forgiveness for any sin. To even attempt to do so is to belittle the awesome sacrifice He made on that cross for each one of us. When He said “It is finished” before taking his last earthly breath, He meant just that. It is finished. All debts are paid in full.
    I cannot even think on that priceless ransom without weeping in thankful humility.

  • helen

    The “announce” and “declare” people in our church are laymen, not the ordained Pastor.

    It was to the apostles… now the Pastors… that Christ delegated the authority to say, “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
    Mark Veenman has said it well.

  • helen

    The “announce” and “declare” people in our church are laymen, not the ordained Pastor.

    It was to the apostles… now the Pastors… that Christ delegated the authority to say, “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
    Mark Veenman has said it well.

  • Michelle Y

    Helen @21, can you please direct me to the cite in the Bible where that quote came from? I’m now so interested in finding this answer in God’s word.

    Mark, I guess upon further review, you and I are saying the same thing about John 20, except I do not find any reference to “means” and “pastoral absolution”. Please point me to where I can find these in the Bible, as I don’t have all that many years in the Word of God and often need direction. I can’t find it, but I may be missing it.

    What does 1 Tim. 2:5 mean, then, if we need “pastors” to intervene for us?

  • Michelle Y

    Helen @21, can you please direct me to the cite in the Bible where that quote came from? I’m now so interested in finding this answer in God’s word.

    Mark, I guess upon further review, you and I are saying the same thing about John 20, except I do not find any reference to “means” and “pastoral absolution”. Please point me to where I can find these in the Bible, as I don’t have all that many years in the Word of God and often need direction. I can’t find it, but I may be missing it.

    What does 1 Tim. 2:5 mean, then, if we need “pastors” to intervene for us?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think people need to go back and study grammar.

    Seriously “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
    He is talking to the apostles; Jesus very plainly says their forgiveness is binding. I as a pastor am not the intercessor, but I am exercising the office given by forgiving those who confess.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think people need to go back and study grammar.

    Seriously “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
    He is talking to the apostles; Jesus very plainly says their forgiveness is binding. I as a pastor am not the intercessor, but I am exercising the office given by forgiving those who confess.

  • Purple koolaid

    Are there any other sins that rc priests need permission to forgive??

  • Purple koolaid

    Are there any other sins that rc priests need permission to forgive??

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Helen (@21), and DLit2C (@23), you both make the claim that in John 20, Jesus was speaking to the “apostles” — “It was to the apostles” (@21) and “He is talking to the apostles” (@23). But every translation I can find makes clear that Jesus was talking to “the disciples”, not the apostles. And, while I can’t speak to the original Greek, in every English translation I’ve read, John in his gospel distinguishes between “the Twelve” (i.e. the apostles) and “the disciples” (the larger group of follower).

    I only make this distinction clear because some people (apparently including you, Helen) attach special significance to the Apostles. They do this to make the claim that Jesus’ words here do not apply to all people. But, again, Jesus was speaking to “the disciples”, not just the Twelve. There is no reason to think his words do not apply to all believers.

    That said, it is of course the particular duty of a pastor to carry out Jesus’ command in John 20 to all in his congregation. But it is also the duty of all of us to carry out John 20 in our own vocations. For instance, I tell my wife that she is forgiven by God when we have an argument. And I tell my two-year-old son he is forgiven when he has done wrong.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Helen (@21), and DLit2C (@23), you both make the claim that in John 20, Jesus was speaking to the “apostles” — “It was to the apostles” (@21) and “He is talking to the apostles” (@23). But every translation I can find makes clear that Jesus was talking to “the disciples”, not the apostles. And, while I can’t speak to the original Greek, in every English translation I’ve read, John in his gospel distinguishes between “the Twelve” (i.e. the apostles) and “the disciples” (the larger group of follower).

    I only make this distinction clear because some people (apparently including you, Helen) attach special significance to the Apostles. They do this to make the claim that Jesus’ words here do not apply to all people. But, again, Jesus was speaking to “the disciples”, not just the Twelve. There is no reason to think his words do not apply to all believers.

    That said, it is of course the particular duty of a pastor to carry out Jesus’ command in John 20 to all in his congregation. But it is also the duty of all of us to carry out John 20 in our own vocations. For instance, I tell my wife that she is forgiven by God when we have an argument. And I tell my two-year-old son he is forgiven when he has done wrong.

  • Joanne

    And your tw0-year-old announces that your sins are retained in heaven.

  • Joanne

    And your tw0-year-old announces that your sins are retained in heaven.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michelle Y said (@20),

    This is the Word of God! Unrefutable! Precious!

    Curiously, you appear to have said this in response to my quoting John 20:23. Which, last I checked, was also the Word of God, and therefore, “unrefutable” and precious.

    But you then go on to make what kind of appears to be, well, a refutation of John 20:23:

    John 20:23 does not give authority to Christians to forgive sins

    Again, let’s remember what John 20:23 says:

    If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

    Oh, I think I know what you’re trying to get at, but you certainly do seem to be doing your best to directly gainsay Scripture, if I may say so.

    It further occurs to me that this is all due to a distaste for God’s preference for means, not uncommon among American Evangelicals. God doesn’t simply communicate to us that we are forgiven using words on a page, he communicates it to us through physical things: water, wine, bread, and yes, other people. As is made clear by reading Scripture.

    And yet, we see people saying things like (@10):

    The Good Book is all you need. It’s all there. We need not other humans (aside from the One Perfect God-Man) to forgive us our sins.

    If we don’t need other humans forgiving us, then why did Jesus — you know, the One Perfect God-Man — say what he did in John 20? Is it possible that God knows what so many will not admit, that hearing another human say it is in so many ways different from reading it on a page ourselves? Is it possible that God also thereby connects us to other people in our spiritual life, not wanting us to simply live in isolation, “just me and my Bible”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michelle Y said (@20),

    This is the Word of God! Unrefutable! Precious!

    Curiously, you appear to have said this in response to my quoting John 20:23. Which, last I checked, was also the Word of God, and therefore, “unrefutable” and precious.

    But you then go on to make what kind of appears to be, well, a refutation of John 20:23:

    John 20:23 does not give authority to Christians to forgive sins

    Again, let’s remember what John 20:23 says:

    If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

    Oh, I think I know what you’re trying to get at, but you certainly do seem to be doing your best to directly gainsay Scripture, if I may say so.

    It further occurs to me that this is all due to a distaste for God’s preference for means, not uncommon among American Evangelicals. God doesn’t simply communicate to us that we are forgiven using words on a page, he communicates it to us through physical things: water, wine, bread, and yes, other people. As is made clear by reading Scripture.

    And yet, we see people saying things like (@10):

    The Good Book is all you need. It’s all there. We need not other humans (aside from the One Perfect God-Man) to forgive us our sins.

    If we don’t need other humans forgiving us, then why did Jesus — you know, the One Perfect God-Man — say what he did in John 20? Is it possible that God knows what so many will not admit, that hearing another human say it is in so many ways different from reading it on a page ourselves? Is it possible that God also thereby connects us to other people in our spiritual life, not wanting us to simply live in isolation, “just me and my Bible”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joann (@26), what? Sorry, I don’t follow.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joann (@26), what? Sorry, I don’t follow.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Hi Michelle,
    I don’t think we were saying the same thing about John 20. I was saying that in John 20 Christ confers to pastors the, I say, responsibility to give a real, physical voice to the words “I forgive you” and that that word is efficacious. This is clearly the voice of Christ. It all becomes clear when one considers two seemingly opposing texts: the one in John 20:23 and the other “Only God can forgive sins”. We must thankfully uphold both texts as “God-breathed”. So what do you do? You take both together, and to hell with human reason: the voice of the pastor in saying “Based on this your confession, I forgive you all your sins” is the almighty voice of Christ itself. I still remember the first time I heard those words; that was a liberating moment, indeed.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Hi Michelle,
    I don’t think we were saying the same thing about John 20. I was saying that in John 20 Christ confers to pastors the, I say, responsibility to give a real, physical voice to the words “I forgive you” and that that word is efficacious. This is clearly the voice of Christ. It all becomes clear when one considers two seemingly opposing texts: the one in John 20:23 and the other “Only God can forgive sins”. We must thankfully uphold both texts as “God-breathed”. So what do you do? You take both together, and to hell with human reason: the voice of the pastor in saying “Based on this your confession, I forgive you all your sins” is the almighty voice of Christ itself. I still remember the first time I heard those words; that was a liberating moment, indeed.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    I say “liberating” because it was the first time I’d heard the gospel preached to me. Not some pastor preaching ABOUT forgiveness in the passive voice, but preaching it to me in the active voice. Luther does a wonderful job explaining the connection between baptism and absolution in his “Word and Sacrament I,II and III” (I hope I have that right). Lutheran baptismal theology is rich indeed, and, as Dr. Veith points out, is vastly more rich and powerful than even the romish understanding of same. God bless you! Read, read, read!

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    I say “liberating” because it was the first time I’d heard the gospel preached to me. Not some pastor preaching ABOUT forgiveness in the passive voice, but preaching it to me in the active voice. Luther does a wonderful job explaining the connection between baptism and absolution in his “Word and Sacrament I,II and III” (I hope I have that right). Lutheran baptismal theology is rich indeed, and, as Dr. Veith points out, is vastly more rich and powerful than even the romish understanding of same. God bless you! Read, read, read!

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    tODD, I believe you are confusing Matthew and John. Matthew made the distinction, John not so much.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    tODD, I believe you are confusing Matthew and John. Matthew made the distinction, John not so much.

  • http://www.messiahlacrescent.org Matthew Lorfeld

    One can still purchase indulgences. At the Mission at San Juan Capistrano there is a cross for sale (or was 3 years ago when the Seminary Choir was on tour) with instructions on how to receive the benefit of this indulgence to the effect of:
    carrying this will grant you X days remission from purgatory
    praying the Our Father will grant you X more
    going to the sacrament of penance will grant X more

  • http://www.messiahlacrescent.org Matthew Lorfeld

    One can still purchase indulgences. At the Mission at San Juan Capistrano there is a cross for sale (or was 3 years ago when the Seminary Choir was on tour) with instructions on how to receive the benefit of this indulgence to the effect of:
    carrying this will grant you X days remission from purgatory
    praying the Our Father will grant you X more
    going to the sacrament of penance will grant X more

  • helen

    Joanne @ 26
    And your tw0-year-old announces that your sins are retained in heaven.

    Thanks for the humor!
    [It might also suggest some limits are needed on the "priesthood of all believers"?]

    Matthew usually differentiates between disciples in general and the 12. Matthew’s Gospel is specific about the 12 (11 now) being in the upper room after the resurrection.

    John not so much. We might consider also that the word apostle means “sent” and the sending was in John 20:19 . [I would ask, "Why should I believe that more than the 11 were there to be given the instruction to forgive sins? I do not find anything to support that.]

    The Gospels are not taken in isolation; they are not four different stories, but four tellings of the ONE story, from different angles, as it were.

    I have been taught, and I believe, that any Christian may say to another repentant soul, “God, in Christ, has forgiven you all your sin.”
    But (as Mark says it better than I) the congregation issues the call of God to a man to be their Pastor, to provide them with the Word and the Sacraments, to speak the words of Christ, “I forgive you all your sins.”

    To quote my Pastor:
    The problem with those statements is that we never really know whether the 12 are ministers or assembled church. The Confessions certainly take the so-called great commission in a ministry sense. Yes, we all “declare” God’s forgiveness according to our vocations, but I daresay no one other than pastors “effects” it (the difference is the indicative-operative formula of absolution).

    We do it because Christ first sent men to do it, they appointed other men and so a congregation is a group of people and their Pastor to this day.

    How else can I say it? Christ has forgiven the sins of all the world.
    The Pastor applies it to the congregation, or an individual, in the words of Christ.

    I need to hear it. YMMV!

  • helen

    Joanne @ 26
    And your tw0-year-old announces that your sins are retained in heaven.

    Thanks for the humor!
    [It might also suggest some limits are needed on the "priesthood of all believers"?]

    Matthew usually differentiates between disciples in general and the 12. Matthew’s Gospel is specific about the 12 (11 now) being in the upper room after the resurrection.

    John not so much. We might consider also that the word apostle means “sent” and the sending was in John 20:19 . [I would ask, "Why should I believe that more than the 11 were there to be given the instruction to forgive sins? I do not find anything to support that.]

    The Gospels are not taken in isolation; they are not four different stories, but four tellings of the ONE story, from different angles, as it were.

    I have been taught, and I believe, that any Christian may say to another repentant soul, “God, in Christ, has forgiven you all your sin.”
    But (as Mark says it better than I) the congregation issues the call of God to a man to be their Pastor, to provide them with the Word and the Sacraments, to speak the words of Christ, “I forgive you all your sins.”

    To quote my Pastor:
    The problem with those statements is that we never really know whether the 12 are ministers or assembled church. The Confessions certainly take the so-called great commission in a ministry sense. Yes, we all “declare” God’s forgiveness according to our vocations, but I daresay no one other than pastors “effects” it (the difference is the indicative-operative formula of absolution).

    We do it because Christ first sent men to do it, they appointed other men and so a congregation is a group of people and their Pastor to this day.

    How else can I say it? Christ has forgiven the sins of all the world.
    The Pastor applies it to the congregation, or an individual, in the words of Christ.

    I need to hear it. YMMV!

  • Joanne

    I have to say this is one of those nooks of scripture that preys on my mind. It comes right after the crucifixion/resurrection and is part of the history that is related differently among the writers. We aren’t told specifically who is there, but apostles and disciples are there. It’s Jesus first visit since they had lost him on the cross and the very first thing he does is breath the Holy Spirit on them.
    I’m surprised by that. Doesn’t Jesus explain his physical departure at the Ascention by saying that the Holy Comforter, the Holy Spirit can’t come if he doesn’t go away. And, don’t we have to wait till Pentecost for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to found the Church. Don’t we think of Pentecost as the founding day of the Church?
    So, back in the locked up room with only his disciples, the very first thing Jesus does is to give them the Holy Spirit, a sign of the founding of the Church. And then he gives them unbelievable authority on earth and in heaven to forgive or to retain sins.
    Just days before Jesus had earned the forgiveness of sins for the whole world and now he’s making this little group the gatekeepers of that precious gift of God. “You say they’re forgiven, they are forgiven both on earth and in heaven. You say they’re not forgiven, they are not forgiven both on earth and in heaven.” How could Jesus possibly think this little freightened bunch could be up to such a task. Why should it be their decision?
    The questions arise of “just who” is being given the authority. Is it just the apostles, is it the assembled church, or is it every individual present singly? It bothers me to find that the Lutheran theologians have said that all who received the Holy Sprit, singly, that day received the authority because, as I snarked above, the idea of individuals exercising the Office of the Keys to retain sins leads to ideas like, “well, my Aunt retains my sins, but my cousin releases them.”
    I would have been so happy to have found Franz Pieper noting signs of the Church being found in that locked room when Jesus establishes the Office of the Keyes. Then of course the church establishes it’s public servants (pastors) to perform the office in order. I’ve had the misfortune of suffering through the turning of the keys in a congregation. It was a miserable time for all. It’s a totally corporate matter rending the heart of the church.
    I strugle with the idea that individuals singly can turn the keys and bind and loose sins on earth and in heaven. But argue with me about that, tell what I am overlooking.

  • Joanne

    I have to say this is one of those nooks of scripture that preys on my mind. It comes right after the crucifixion/resurrection and is part of the history that is related differently among the writers. We aren’t told specifically who is there, but apostles and disciples are there. It’s Jesus first visit since they had lost him on the cross and the very first thing he does is breath the Holy Spirit on them.
    I’m surprised by that. Doesn’t Jesus explain his physical departure at the Ascention by saying that the Holy Comforter, the Holy Spirit can’t come if he doesn’t go away. And, don’t we have to wait till Pentecost for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to found the Church. Don’t we think of Pentecost as the founding day of the Church?
    So, back in the locked up room with only his disciples, the very first thing Jesus does is to give them the Holy Spirit, a sign of the founding of the Church. And then he gives them unbelievable authority on earth and in heaven to forgive or to retain sins.
    Just days before Jesus had earned the forgiveness of sins for the whole world and now he’s making this little group the gatekeepers of that precious gift of God. “You say they’re forgiven, they are forgiven both on earth and in heaven. You say they’re not forgiven, they are not forgiven both on earth and in heaven.” How could Jesus possibly think this little freightened bunch could be up to such a task. Why should it be their decision?
    The questions arise of “just who” is being given the authority. Is it just the apostles, is it the assembled church, or is it every individual present singly? It bothers me to find that the Lutheran theologians have said that all who received the Holy Sprit, singly, that day received the authority because, as I snarked above, the idea of individuals exercising the Office of the Keys to retain sins leads to ideas like, “well, my Aunt retains my sins, but my cousin releases them.”
    I would have been so happy to have found Franz Pieper noting signs of the Church being found in that locked room when Jesus establishes the Office of the Keyes. Then of course the church establishes it’s public servants (pastors) to perform the office in order. I’ve had the misfortune of suffering through the turning of the keys in a congregation. It was a miserable time for all. It’s a totally corporate matter rending the heart of the church.
    I strugle with the idea that individuals singly can turn the keys and bind and loose sins on earth and in heaven. But argue with me about that, tell what I am overlooking.

  • helen

    Joanne @ 34
    It isn’t just that “frightened little bunch”… it’s that frightened little bunch, with the help of the Holy Spirit,
    coming to understand what the Lord has entrusted to them.

    Perhaps (I’m extrapolating here…someone may correct me) they needed the interval between the locked room and Pentecost to absorb it all, to have all things brought to their remembrance, so that they could go out as confidently as they did?

    The Pastor forgives sins in the general confession and in private confession and absolution. He will retain sins to the extent of asking someone to refrain from communion. Excommunication as it is (rarely) practiced, is done by the congregation… even then the object is not to condemn a person forever but to make him realize that his sin is serious, in need of repentance, and the church wants him back. He may attend services but not the Sacraments.

    This is all serious business and faithful pastors take it very seriously!

  • helen

    Joanne @ 34
    It isn’t just that “frightened little bunch”… it’s that frightened little bunch, with the help of the Holy Spirit,
    coming to understand what the Lord has entrusted to them.

    Perhaps (I’m extrapolating here…someone may correct me) they needed the interval between the locked room and Pentecost to absorb it all, to have all things brought to their remembrance, so that they could go out as confidently as they did?

    The Pastor forgives sins in the general confession and in private confession and absolution. He will retain sins to the extent of asking someone to refrain from communion. Excommunication as it is (rarely) practiced, is done by the congregation… even then the object is not to condemn a person forever but to make him realize that his sin is serious, in need of repentance, and the church wants him back. He may attend services but not the Sacraments.

    This is all serious business and faithful pastors take it very seriously!

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    The office of the keys is given to the pastor! I’ll never understand how a congregation can excommunicate. There are TWO keys; they are both the pastor’s. The prophet Nathan holds the key of absolution (which he grants David) but withholds forgiveness for Saul. That’s the other key and it is also held by Nathan.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    The office of the keys is given to the pastor! I’ll never understand how a congregation can excommunicate. There are TWO keys; they are both the pastor’s. The prophet Nathan holds the key of absolution (which he grants David) but withholds forgiveness for Saul. That’s the other key and it is also held by Nathan.

  • http://www.messiahlacrescent.org Matthew Lorfeld

    Helen and Joanne, if I may offer some gentle correction. I think in both cases the point is being missed. What makes Absolution, Absolution, is the Word of God. If my mother or my sister says to me “I forgive you your sins in Jesus name” or something to that affect (as it isn’t about incanting the right syllables either), they are speaking the very Gospel which all Christians have been given. Now they do so within the private relationships within their vocations as sister or mother (which means that as brother or son, I’ve likely sinned against them… and trust me I have, O so many times). Is this forgiveness incomplete? By no means! This is precisely what Luther refers to as the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren (which he elaborates in his Brief Exhortation to Confession).

    So what of pastors? This is about vocation. That God has placed a man in the midst of the congregation for the expressed purpose of delivering His gifts publicly and privately. But it isn’t about the man, but really that in his Office, the pastor has been given to speak the Word of God, publicly and privately.

    One can make exegetical distinctions in the various passages mentioned above, ie. in Matthew 16 he speaks solely to Peter in the singular, in John 20:19 it is the disciples, namely Twelve (minus Judas and Thomas) as vs. 24 makes it clear. That said, we have other Scripture that speaks to this issue: Ephesians 4:32, James 5:16, and the like, and the Confessions nor the Lutheran Fathers did not see Scripture forbidding a Christian from speaking forgiveness to another Christian.

  • http://www.messiahlacrescent.org Matthew Lorfeld

    Helen and Joanne, if I may offer some gentle correction. I think in both cases the point is being missed. What makes Absolution, Absolution, is the Word of God. If my mother or my sister says to me “I forgive you your sins in Jesus name” or something to that affect (as it isn’t about incanting the right syllables either), they are speaking the very Gospel which all Christians have been given. Now they do so within the private relationships within their vocations as sister or mother (which means that as brother or son, I’ve likely sinned against them… and trust me I have, O so many times). Is this forgiveness incomplete? By no means! This is precisely what Luther refers to as the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren (which he elaborates in his Brief Exhortation to Confession).

    So what of pastors? This is about vocation. That God has placed a man in the midst of the congregation for the expressed purpose of delivering His gifts publicly and privately. But it isn’t about the man, but really that in his Office, the pastor has been given to speak the Word of God, publicly and privately.

    One can make exegetical distinctions in the various passages mentioned above, ie. in Matthew 16 he speaks solely to Peter in the singular, in John 20:19 it is the disciples, namely Twelve (minus Judas and Thomas) as vs. 24 makes it clear. That said, we have other Scripture that speaks to this issue: Ephesians 4:32, James 5:16, and the like, and the Confessions nor the Lutheran Fathers did not see Scripture forbidding a Christian from speaking forgiveness to another Christian.

  • Joanne

    This article started with a focus on the Roman Church, so I have in mind when I write that perhaps we are still involved with what the Romans would say about these issues. I think I know that they see only the Apostles and especially Peter being authorized to hold these Keys. I think they understand that the local priest in the confessional has received his authority to forgive/retain sins from Jesus, through Peter, the apsotles, then the Roman Church has given him his jurisdiction.
    So, Mark V. caught me overlooking the Apostles straight out of the gates. (Helen caught me overlooking the power of God the Holy Spirit to do whatever he proposes, however did I miss that!!)
    I do want to clarify that when I speak of “singular individual” I do not mean the pastor of a congregation, even though he may be only one person. He performs his role within the corporate body and even within the situation of private confession is not acting as a “singular individual,” nor acting as my singularly individual aunt and cousin would be.
    And, I like to focus on the retention of sins Key because that’s where the rubber hits the road. Nobody cares whether my aunt and cousin forgive sins, but everybody cares when they don’t and claim that these unforgiven sins are also not forgiven in heaven as well.

  • Joanne

    This article started with a focus on the Roman Church, so I have in mind when I write that perhaps we are still involved with what the Romans would say about these issues. I think I know that they see only the Apostles and especially Peter being authorized to hold these Keys. I think they understand that the local priest in the confessional has received his authority to forgive/retain sins from Jesus, through Peter, the apsotles, then the Roman Church has given him his jurisdiction.
    So, Mark V. caught me overlooking the Apostles straight out of the gates. (Helen caught me overlooking the power of God the Holy Spirit to do whatever he proposes, however did I miss that!!)
    I do want to clarify that when I speak of “singular individual” I do not mean the pastor of a congregation, even though he may be only one person. He performs his role within the corporate body and even within the situation of private confession is not acting as a “singular individual,” nor acting as my singularly individual aunt and cousin would be.
    And, I like to focus on the retention of sins Key because that’s where the rubber hits the road. Nobody cares whether my aunt and cousin forgive sins, but everybody cares when they don’t and claim that these unforgiven sins are also not forgiven in heaven as well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLit2C (@31) and Helen (@33), no, I meant what I said about John.

    Admittedly, he only uses the phrase “the Twelve” twice — the rest of the time referring only to “the disciples” — but he clearly distinguishes between those two groups in John 6:

    After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

    I’ve just done a quick skim through John to look for his use of “disciples”, and I see no reason in any of those passages to insist that he can only be referring to the twelve Apostles. In fact, quite the opposite. While most of the references could go either way (most of the “disciples” he names are also Apostles, but usually it refers to an undefined group), John several times uses the word “disciple” to clearly refer to people who are not the Twelve (John 8:31, John 9:27-28), most notably John 19:38, wherein Joseph of Arimathea is called “a disciple of Jesus”.

    Given that Joseph clearly wasn’t one of the Twelve, and the way that John distinguishes between “the Twelve” and Jesus’ “disciples” in John 6, it would seem the burden is on anyone who wants to claim that John 20 can only refer to the Apostles.

    And, once that’s been done, you’ll have to explain to me how it is that whatever Jesus said to the Apostles only (?) applies to pastors. Because if only pastors are to heed the words of John 20 (since, goes the argument, only the Apostles were there), then perhaps the same logic would lead one to conclude that only pastors are to take the Lord’s Supper. But since that is an obviously false conclusion, on what basis are we to understand Jesus’ commands and instructions to the Apostles (or, as John says, “disciples”) now only applying to pastors, and now applying to all believers?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLit2C (@31) and Helen (@33), no, I meant what I said about John.

    Admittedly, he only uses the phrase “the Twelve” twice — the rest of the time referring only to “the disciples” — but he clearly distinguishes between those two groups in John 6:

    After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

    I’ve just done a quick skim through John to look for his use of “disciples”, and I see no reason in any of those passages to insist that he can only be referring to the twelve Apostles. In fact, quite the opposite. While most of the references could go either way (most of the “disciples” he names are also Apostles, but usually it refers to an undefined group), John several times uses the word “disciple” to clearly refer to people who are not the Twelve (John 8:31, John 9:27-28), most notably John 19:38, wherein Joseph of Arimathea is called “a disciple of Jesus”.

    Given that Joseph clearly wasn’t one of the Twelve, and the way that John distinguishes between “the Twelve” and Jesus’ “disciples” in John 6, it would seem the burden is on anyone who wants to claim that John 20 can only refer to the Apostles.

    And, once that’s been done, you’ll have to explain to me how it is that whatever Jesus said to the Apostles only (?) applies to pastors. Because if only pastors are to heed the words of John 20 (since, goes the argument, only the Apostles were there), then perhaps the same logic would lead one to conclude that only pastors are to take the Lord’s Supper. But since that is an obviously false conclusion, on what basis are we to understand Jesus’ commands and instructions to the Apostles (or, as John says, “disciples”) now only applying to pastors, and now applying to all believers?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    To reply a bit further, Helen said (@33):

    Matthew’s Gospel is specific about the 12 (11 now) being in the upper room after the resurrection.

    I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to. Matthew 28 (the only chapter after the Resurrection) doesn’t say anything like that that I can see. Matthew has people going to tell the “disciples” about Jesus’ rising, but doesn’t say where they are, or how many disciples. The only reference to the “eleven disciples” is when they go to Galilee, to worship Jesus on the mountain.

    But even if we did find parallel passages in which the Synoptic gospels said the Twelve were in the same place where John more generically says that “the disciples” were, that does not mean that John’s phrase refers to only the Apostles. The Gospels focus on different things. Saying that “the twelve disciples” were someplace is not the same as saying that only they were there.

    Regardless, I think Matthew Lorfeld’s explanation (@37) is a good one, and I’m glad to see that he is an LCMS pastor, because the other comments here — which I believe all come from LCMS people, both ordained and laypeople — carry a troubling whiff of sacerdotalism with them. Which is one reason my parents left the LCMS.

    See, for example, Mark Veenman’s (@36), “The office of the keys is given to the pastor!” Hmm. From what I can see, the office of the keys is given to Peter specifically (Matt. 16), and then to the disciples in general (Matt. 18, as well as John 20). How, exactly, are we to understand that only being given to the pastor? And if Matthew 18 only applies to pastors, does that mean that Jesus’ other instructions about forgiveness there (vv. 15-17) do not apply to laypeople?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    To reply a bit further, Helen said (@33):

    Matthew’s Gospel is specific about the 12 (11 now) being in the upper room after the resurrection.

    I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to. Matthew 28 (the only chapter after the Resurrection) doesn’t say anything like that that I can see. Matthew has people going to tell the “disciples” about Jesus’ rising, but doesn’t say where they are, or how many disciples. The only reference to the “eleven disciples” is when they go to Galilee, to worship Jesus on the mountain.

    But even if we did find parallel passages in which the Synoptic gospels said the Twelve were in the same place where John more generically says that “the disciples” were, that does not mean that John’s phrase refers to only the Apostles. The Gospels focus on different things. Saying that “the twelve disciples” were someplace is not the same as saying that only they were there.

    Regardless, I think Matthew Lorfeld’s explanation (@37) is a good one, and I’m glad to see that he is an LCMS pastor, because the other comments here — which I believe all come from LCMS people, both ordained and laypeople — carry a troubling whiff of sacerdotalism with them. Which is one reason my parents left the LCMS.

    See, for example, Mark Veenman’s (@36), “The office of the keys is given to the pastor!” Hmm. From what I can see, the office of the keys is given to Peter specifically (Matt. 16), and then to the disciples in general (Matt. 18, as well as John 20). How, exactly, are we to understand that only being given to the pastor? And if Matthew 18 only applies to pastors, does that mean that Jesus’ other instructions about forgiveness there (vv. 15-17) do not apply to laypeople?

  • helen

    tODD, You’re right; I was reading Mark 16.
    Luke 24 also speaks of Christ’s appearing to “the 11″ after Emmaeus.
    [To say there were more people is an argument from silence as far as I can see.]

    Matthew places the “great commission” at the mountain in Galilee and omits any upper room stuff.
    But he does speak of “the 11″.

    Pr. Lorfeld,
    I might say, Jesus has forgiven you everything, and I forgive you [whatever it was.]
    I leave “in the Name…” to the Pastor, whose vocation it is to be Christ’s representative to us.

  • helen

    tODD, You’re right; I was reading Mark 16.
    Luke 24 also speaks of Christ’s appearing to “the 11″ after Emmaeus.
    [To say there were more people is an argument from silence as far as I can see.]

    Matthew places the “great commission” at the mountain in Galilee and omits any upper room stuff.
    But he does speak of “the 11″.

    Pr. Lorfeld,
    I might say, Jesus has forgiven you everything, and I forgive you [whatever it was.]
    I leave “in the Name…” to the Pastor, whose vocation it is to be Christ’s representative to us.

  • Shane A

    tODD (@15), I did not mean to contradict the Lutheran position. I am an Anglican myself, and participate in the confession every week. My point was merely that I fail to see why Lutherans (and Anglicans) are condemning Rome for operating on the same (or very similar) practice.

  • Shane A

    tODD (@15), I did not mean to contradict the Lutheran position. I am an Anglican myself, and participate in the confession every week. My point was merely that I fail to see why Lutherans (and Anglicans) are condemning Rome for operating on the same (or very similar) practice.

  • helen

    Shane,
    To get back to the topic proposed, the Roman system says “Confess and do this”… in the case discussed, you can confess an abortion and be forgiven because you came to world youth day. (Back home, it might be easier or harder, depending on the decisions of the diocese, apparently.)

    Confession at home for an RC will have some string attached, even if it’s “10 Hail Marys and 1 Our Father”.
    It’s confession plus you do something else.

    A repentant sinner confessing to a Lutheran Pastor will not normally be told to go “earn” forgiveness, or that punishment awaits in purgatory because the Pastor can only forgive temporally. We don’t believe in purgatory; it follows that we don’t believe in indulgences. That’s what is different for Lutherans. I don’t know about Anglicans.

  • helen

    Shane,
    To get back to the topic proposed, the Roman system says “Confess and do this”… in the case discussed, you can confess an abortion and be forgiven because you came to world youth day. (Back home, it might be easier or harder, depending on the decisions of the diocese, apparently.)

    Confession at home for an RC will have some string attached, even if it’s “10 Hail Marys and 1 Our Father”.
    It’s confession plus you do something else.

    A repentant sinner confessing to a Lutheran Pastor will not normally be told to go “earn” forgiveness, or that punishment awaits in purgatory because the Pastor can only forgive temporally. We don’t believe in purgatory; it follows that we don’t believe in indulgences. That’s what is different for Lutherans. I don’t know about Anglicans.

  • Rob C.

    I fear that the canonist cited by Mollie Hemingway seriously missed the mark regarding the distinction between absolution and the lifting of excommunication.

    Can. 1398 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church imposes the censure of excommunication on people who participate in the procuring of an abortion. This censure is intended to help people understand the grave spiritual danger they are in and seek a remedy, and, in the case of publicly known situations, let other people know that there is something gravely wrong with the behavior that incurred the censure.

    Excommunication is a censure that means a person cannot receive the sacraments, any sacrament, until there is reconciliation and a lifting of the excommunication by the ecclesiastical authority of the proper level. It is a serious penalty, but in the case of abortion, it is a gravely serious sin.

    Direct participation in an abortion is a crime/sin that incurs automatic excommunication absent mitigating factors. To incur such excommunication, a person must be 16 years or older, aware of the gravely sinful nature of the action, aware that it incurs the censure, have the use of reason and must be acting with unimpaired free will.

    If a person is in state of fear or is mentally disturbed, if a person is being coerced, or is otherwise not able to exercise free will, he or she does not incur the censure. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the level of a person’s participation in the sin of another. The medical personnel who perform the abortion and those supplying the means and money for it and/or counseled or provoked it would not fall into this category. If the mother herself knows it is wrong, knows there is a censure and does it anyway from free will, even if she is a little afraid, she incurs the excommunication. A woman who is terrified, truly fearful, perhaps bullied by an angry husband, parent, boyfriend, would not incur it because her freedom is compromised.

    Some censures can be absolved by diocesan bishops or their delegates, some are reserved to the Holy See and must be absolved by the Holy Father, the Apostolic Penitentiary, or a confessor to whom the faculty to lift the censure has been given, as is the case in Madrid. Once the excommunication is removed, only then may the penitent receive absolution for the sin which incurred the excommunication and any other sins.

    To summarize, it is not that priest are unable to absolve penitents from the sin of abortion. Rather, the sin of abortion (absent mitigating circumstances) incurs the penalty of excommunication, which renders the sinner unable to receive the sacraments until the excommunication is lifted. Only then can the penitent receive sacramental absolution (or any other sacrament).

  • Rob C.

    I fear that the canonist cited by Mollie Hemingway seriously missed the mark regarding the distinction between absolution and the lifting of excommunication.

    Can. 1398 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church imposes the censure of excommunication on people who participate in the procuring of an abortion. This censure is intended to help people understand the grave spiritual danger they are in and seek a remedy, and, in the case of publicly known situations, let other people know that there is something gravely wrong with the behavior that incurred the censure.

    Excommunication is a censure that means a person cannot receive the sacraments, any sacrament, until there is reconciliation and a lifting of the excommunication by the ecclesiastical authority of the proper level. It is a serious penalty, but in the case of abortion, it is a gravely serious sin.

    Direct participation in an abortion is a crime/sin that incurs automatic excommunication absent mitigating factors. To incur such excommunication, a person must be 16 years or older, aware of the gravely sinful nature of the action, aware that it incurs the censure, have the use of reason and must be acting with unimpaired free will.

    If a person is in state of fear or is mentally disturbed, if a person is being coerced, or is otherwise not able to exercise free will, he or she does not incur the censure. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the level of a person’s participation in the sin of another. The medical personnel who perform the abortion and those supplying the means and money for it and/or counseled or provoked it would not fall into this category. If the mother herself knows it is wrong, knows there is a censure and does it anyway from free will, even if she is a little afraid, she incurs the excommunication. A woman who is terrified, truly fearful, perhaps bullied by an angry husband, parent, boyfriend, would not incur it because her freedom is compromised.

    Some censures can be absolved by diocesan bishops or their delegates, some are reserved to the Holy See and must be absolved by the Holy Father, the Apostolic Penitentiary, or a confessor to whom the faculty to lift the censure has been given, as is the case in Madrid. Once the excommunication is removed, only then may the penitent receive absolution for the sin which incurred the excommunication and any other sins.

    To summarize, it is not that priest are unable to absolve penitents from the sin of abortion. Rather, the sin of abortion (absent mitigating circumstances) incurs the penalty of excommunication, which renders the sinner unable to receive the sacraments until the excommunication is lifted. Only then can the penitent receive sacramental absolution (or any other sacrament).

  • Pingback: The Roman penitential system and the emergence of Reformation doctrine – extra 1 « theology like a child

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