In light of Australia’s new law requiring priests to break the seal of confession, a friend asked for some tutorials on the sacrament for sharing with those who don’t really understand what the issues are.
Starting with the basics, here is Catholic TV’s primer on How to Go to Confession. Catholics Come Home has this excellent collection of resources on why we go to Confession and how it’s done.
Did Catholics just make this stuff up? (“Medieval invention” maybe?) By no means! Catholic Answers explains how to defend the sacrament of confession here, and provides you the clues to where to find it in the writings of the ancient Church here.
On the question of secrecy, I’ve written about the seal of the sacrament in several places:
- Does the Seal of Confession Help Criminals?
- What Happens if Sacramental Confession Ceases to be Secret?
- And for Hitchcock fans, I Confess: The Hero Movie Par Excellence
Finally, some people really, really worry about when to go to confession and whether they are going to Hell for doing it wrong. Two posts on that point, written for a Catholic audience:
Now for Something Completely Not That Different
Since I have a growing number of Evangelical readers, if you want to look at the question of sin and salvation from a different angle, here is Focus on the Family wrestling with the idea of eternal security versus willful sin:
We could also call this the sin of persistent self-hardening. It’s the process by which an individual sears his conscience and stiffens his neck against God. If it goes on long enough, the person eventually reaches the point where genuine repentance is an impossibility. The fact that you’re wrestling with doubts and fears about your standing with God leads us to suppose that you cannot be guilty of this sin. If you were, you wouldn’t be concerned about it.
If our assumptions are correct, it’s possible to argue that Hebrews 10:26-31 doesn’t refer to struggling Christians like yourself at all. This passage may be aimed at hardened, bitter people who only seem to be Christians.
Look at it this way. If an individual insists on living an unchristian life even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth,” we might be led to suspect that he never really accepted Christ in the first place. If he willfully persists in committing the same sin over and over again without remorse and without showing any evidence of a genuine desire to change, we would have every reason to doubt the sincerity of his faith. Such a person is like the demons mentioned in James 2:19: they “believe” the truth but refuse to grant it their personal allegiance. In a case like this, it is absolutely true to say that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” since Jesus Himself is that sacrifice. “But we are confident of better things concerning you” (Hebrews 6:9).
Catholic friends, before you keel over, kindly remember that we have a name for what Protestants do when they repent of their sins and turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior — it’s called “Perfect Contrition” and it sure as heck works. (EWTN reminds Catholics all the same: Go to Confession!)
Regardless of how you come at the problem, Catholics and Evangelicals agree on the general solution: Turn back to Jesus in repentance, confess those sins, and get yourself into the life of divine grace.
- It’s a good idea to have a mechanism in place that helps people turn to Jesus.
- It’s a bad idea to make laws that keep people from being able to find help in confronting their sins and moving on.
Image by Warner Bros., Inc.. Artists(s) not known. (http://www.impawards.com/1953/i_confess_ver2.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons