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Non-Catholics Section: Penance / Confession

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Penance / Confession

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Do You Reject the Catholic Church's Teaching That Priests Have the Power to Forgive Sin?

Do You Reject the Concept of Confessing Sins to a Priest?

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Non Catholics Section: Sin

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Do You Reject the Catholic Church's Teaching That Priests Have the Power to Forgive Sin? 

Consider:

* How can you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that priests have the power to forgive sin in light of Scripture's clear testimony:

"And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (Jn. 20:22-23, emphasis added)

"I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:19, emphasis added)

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 18:18, emphasis added)

"Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters [that is, priests] of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." (Jms. 5:14-15, emphasis added)

Do you call Christ (and St. James) a liar? Why do you refuse to believe what Scripture says?

* How can you deny that the priest is God's appointed representative in light of the above? If priests couldn't forgive sin, why did Christ breathe on them and say "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn. 20:23) if He didn't really mean it?

* What was the point of giving the power to bind and loose (see Mt. 18:18) if it wasn't to be used?

* Do you imagine that Christ - being God and knowing all - would not know that persons would sin after Baptism? Do you image that our Savior would not leave a certain means for sinners to obtain forgiveness? Do you imagine that the merciful Lord would not leave us help in our struggle?

* If you believe that Baptism given by the hands of men gains the remission of sin (see Acts 2:38), why do you reject the concept of that men also have been given the power to remit sins after baptism? "Why do you baptize, if it is not allowed that sins be forgiven through men? In baptism too there is forgiveness of all sins; what is the difference whether priests claim this power is given them to be exercised in Penance or at the font? The mystery is the same in both." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 387 A.D.)

* Since Scripture says that we should not pray when we see our brother committing deadly sin (see 1 Jn. 5:16), what recourse do you suppose that person who committed a deadly sin has? Do you suppose Christ left him no certain means of forgiveness?

* Do you believe the power to forgive sins ended with the Apostles? Why would such power only be given for a certain amount of time? Why do you suppose that Jesus would only provide for the forgiveness of sins for the lifetime of certain men? How can you think that Christ would fail to make provisions for all those who follow Him? 

* Considering that Scripture says: 

Heb. 10:26-31: If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? We know the one who said: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," and again: "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

...is it not clear that Christ's followers who commit sin are in dire need of forgiveness? In light of the above, how could one have peace of mind after committing sin if not for the words of absolution from Christ's authorized ministers?

* Do you think that the Catholic Church teaches that a mere man has the inherent power to forgive sin? Do you not realize that the Catholic Church teaches that it is Christ alone who forgives sin - He merely does this through the instrumentality of authorized men (that is, Catholic priests). "Damasus did not cleanse, Peter did not cleanse, Ambrose did not cleanse, Gregory did not cleanse; for the ministries are ours but the Sacraments are Yours." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, 381 A.D.)

Note: If you believe the only 'mortal sin' for believers is unbelief, click here.


Closing Quotations...

"In this same sense He says: 'Whatsoever thou shall bind upon earth it shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth it shall be loosed also in Heaven.' This metaphorical expression of binding and loosing indicates the power of making laws, of judging and of punishing; and the power is said to be of such amplitude and force that God will ratify whatever is decreed by it." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"They who inhabit the earth, they who make their abode among men, are entrusted with the dispensation of the things of heaven! Priests have received a power which God has given neither to the angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: 'Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.' Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can bind only the body. Priest, however, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself, and transcends the very heavens. Whatever priests do here on earth, God will confirm in heaven, just as the master ratifies the decisions of his servants... I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven, elevated above human nature, and freed of its limitations." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, c. 387 A.D.)

Do You Reject the Concept of Confessing Sins to a Priest?

Consider:

* Considering that Christ has invested certain men with the power to forgive sins or retain sins ["And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'" (Jn. 20:22-23)], how do you suppose these men could do this if they did not know which sins any particular person has committed? Do you imagine that God gave them the power to read minds?

* How do you suppose a person could be given a fitting remedy if the disease is unknown? "[T]he minister [cannot] apply a fitting remedy, unless he be acquainted with the sin, which knowledge he acquires through the penitent's confession." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

* How do you suppose our "spiritual diseases" could be cured if we do not disclose them to the physicians appointed by Christ? Remember that although Christ could heal you of your bodily ills directly, His ordinary providence utilizes the efforts of men. Or would you also deny that He uses men to heal you of bodily diseases?

* Can you not see that Confession brings great benefits to society [especially restitution and the deterrence from future sin (since one who commits sin must confess it and must do penance)]?

* Can you not see that Confession is good for one's spiritual and mental health (people need to actually hear the words that they are forgiven of their sins)?

* Do you also reject the Old Testament basis for the confession of sins (e.g. Lev. 5:5, Num. 5, 2 Sam. 12:13)? "He who conceals his sins prospers not, but he who confesses and forsakes them obtains mercy." (Prov. 28:13)

* If you reject confession of sins to priests under the New Testament, does this mean you also reject the Old Testament practice of priests declaring persons clean or unclean? Or do you also argue that this was left to God alone?

* Why do you reject the confession of sins to men when Scripture shows that persons "confessed" their sins to St. John the Baptist (see Mt. 3:6, Mk. 1:5) "It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God's mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written it the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist; but in Acts they confessed to the Apostles, by whom also all were baptized." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 371 A.D.)

* Since Christ has stated that certain authorized persons have the power to forgive sins, why do you deny this? Do you think it pleases Him that you prefer to go to Him directly when He was the very one who established men as the dispensers of His forgiveness (see Jn. 20:22-23)? Imagine if you had a supervisor (Joe) who instructed you to contact a certain person (Bob) for assistance with a particular matter, but you instead ignored your supervisor's instruction and kept going directly to Joe instead of Bob each time that the matter came up. Do you actually think Joe would be pleased that you were ignoring (disobeying) his explicit instructions? Why is it you think Christ invested certain persons with the power to forgive sins (see Jn. 20:22-23) if He didn't want people to go to them for forgiveness? Do you imagine that you are pleasing Him by rejecting the very means He Himself established?

* If you argue that "there is one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5), how can you explain the clear mandate in Scripture that...?

"Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (Jn. 20:23)

"Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:19)

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 18:18)

Why are you unwilling to admit that authorized men have a "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18) and are "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20)? Why are you unwilling to admit that what Christ said is true [namely, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (Jn. 20:23)]? Do you actually suppose Christ speaks without meaning?


Closing Quotations...

"If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing." (1 Jn. 1:9)

"Invested, then, as they are, by our Lord with power to remit and retain sins, priests are evidently appointed judges of the matter on which they are to pronounce; and since, according to the wise remark of the Council of Trent, we cannot form an accurate judgment on any matter, or award to crime a just proportion of punishment without having previously examined and made ourselves well acquainted with the case, it follows that the penitent is obliged to make known to the priests through the medium of confession, each and every sin." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"We read in Leviticus about lepers, where they are ordered to show themselves to the priest, and if they have leprosy, then they are to be declared unclean by the priest. It is not that the priests make them lepers and unclean; rather, it is the priests who separate the leper from the one who is not a leper, and they can distinguish the clean from the unclean. Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop binds or looses not those who are innocent or guilty, by reason of their office, when they have heard various kinds of sins, they know who is to be bound and who is to be loosed." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, c. 398 A.D.)

"The manifold mercy of God came to the assistance of fallen men in such a way that the hope of eternal life might be recovered not only by the grace of baptism, but also by the remedy of penance, that those who have violated the gifts of regeneration, condemning themselves by their own judgment, might attain to the remission of their sins; the help of divine goodness having been so ordered that the indulgence of God cannot be obtained except by the supplications of the priests. For 'the Mediator of God and of men, the man Christ Jesus' [cf. 1 Tim. 2:5] has entrusted this power to the leaders of the Church, that they might both grant the action of penance to those confessing, and admit the same [persons] cleansed by salutary satisfaction to the communion of the sacraments through the gate of reconciliation." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, 459 A.D.)

"[St. Ambrose] rejoiced also with those who rejoiced, and wept with those who wept. For whenever anyone confessed his sins to him to receive a penance, he so wept that he forced the penitent too to weep. For he considered that he was himself in a state similar to that of the penitent. But when cases of crimes were confessed to him, he spoke of it to none but the Lord alone, with whom he interceded; and thus he left a good example to later priests, to be intercessors with God rather than accusers among men. For even according to the Apostle, love is to be confirmed in dealing with a person of this kind; for he has become his own accuser who does not wait for but anticipates the accuser; and thus, by confessing, he lightens his own sin, lest he have something of which the adversary [i.e. the devil] might accuse him." ('Life of St. Ambrose', c. 420 A.D.)

"These words [of absolution from the priest in Confession] fall, it is true, from the lips of one who, in his turn, must needs beg the same absolution from another priest. This does not debase the merciful gift; but makes it, rather, appear greater; since beyond the weak creature is seen more clearly the hand of God through whose power is wrought this wonder. As an illustrious layman has written, treating with rare competence of spiritual things: '...when a priest, groaning in spirit at his own unworthiness and at the loftiness of his office, places his consecrated hands upon our heads; when, humiliated at finding himself the dispenser of the Blood of the Covenant; each time amazed as he pronounces the words that give life; when a sinner has absolved a sinner; we, who rise from our knees before him, feel we have done nothing debasing... We have been at the feet of a man who represented Jesus Christ... we have been there to receive the dignity of free men and of sons of God.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Ad Catholici Sacerdotii", 1935 A.D.)

"This truth is clearly conveyed by our Lord Himself, when, by a most beautiful metaphor, He calls the power of administering this Sacrament, the key of the kingdom of heaven. Just as no one can enter any place without the help of him who has the keys, so no one is admitted to heaven unless its gates be unlocked by the priests to whose custody the Lord gave the keys. This power would otherwise be of no use in the Church. If heaven can be entered without the power of the keys, in vain would they to whom the keys were given seek to prevent entrance within its portals. This thought was familiar to the mind of St. Augustine. Let no man, he says, say within himself: 'I repent in secret to the Lord. God, who has power to pardon me, knows the inmost sentiments of my heart.' Was there then no reason for saying 'whatsoever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven'; no reason why the keys were given to the Church of God? This same doctrine is taught by St. Ambrose in his treatise On Penance, when refuting the heresy of the Novatians who asserted that the power of forgiving sins belonged solely to God. Who, says he, yields greater reverence to God, he who obeys or he who resists His commands? God commands us to obey his ministers; and by obeying them, we honor God alone." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

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