The Council of Trent Canon 6 states: “If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary to salvation; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human contrivance, let him be anathema.”
Here, a curse (anathema is the strongest word used in Greek) is placed on those – Protestants – who denied that private confession to priest was divine; necessary to be saved; observed from the beginning and was never altered. History proves these 4 assertions are patently false and misleading. Though Catholics have attempted to “find” the sacrament of penance in the New Testament (to no avail), the writings of the church fathers indicate that such a practice was unknown in their time.
Clement of Rome: “The Lord of all things, brethren, is in need of naught; neither requireth he anything of any one, except to confess unto him. For the elect, David saith, I will confess unto the Lord, and that shall please him more than a young calf that putteth forth horns and hoofs” (First Clement, 52).
John Chrysostom: “We do not request you to go to confess your sins to any of your fellowmen, but only to God…You need no witnesses of your confession. Secretly acknowledge your sins and let God alone hear you” (De Paenitentia 4:901).
Basil: “I have not come before the world to make a confession with my lips. But I close my eyes, and confess my sins in the secret of my heart. Before thee, O God, I pour out my sighs, and thou alone art the witness” (Commentary on Psalm, 37).
Augustine: “What have I to do with men that they should hear my confessions, as if they were able to heal my infirmities? The human race is very curious to know another person’s life, but very lazy to correct it” (Confessions, Ch. 3).
The earliest work mentioning anything resembling penance (originally called a “second plank”) can be found in Tertuillan’s work, De Paenitentia (or On Repentance). However, it was not a universal practice at the time and it is vastly different from what Roman Catholicism practices today. Here is how he described it:
“This act which is more usually expressed and commonly spoken under a Greek name, is exomologesis whereby we confess our sins to the Lord, not indeed as if He were ignorant of them, but inasmuch as by confession satisfaction is settled, of confession repentance is born; by repentance God is appeased.
And thus exomolegesis is a discipline for man’s prostration and humiliation enjoining a demeanor calculated to move mercy … it commands (the penitent) to lie in sackcloth and ashes, to cover his body in mourning, to lay his spirit low in sorrows, to exchange for severe treatment the sins which he has committed; moreover, to know no food and drink… to groan, to weep and make outcries unto the Lord your God; to bow before the feet of the presbyters and to kneel to God’s dear ones; to enjoin on all the brethren to be ambassadors to bear his deprecatory supplication before God” (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, VIII).
This confession was to God, not to a priest, and the gestures were severe and public. A Catholic work agrees that in the early church, “There [was] no private sacramental penance as we know it, even though the public character of the canonical penance may vary. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the reception of the eucharist seem to have been the normal remedies for the daily sins of Christians” (The New Dictionary of Theology, 833).
It was recorded that: “At the close of the fourth century in the great churches of the Orient, 60,000 Christians received the Eucharistic communion, in one day, in both kinds, with no other than their private confessions to Almighty God” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 3:48)
In Catholicism, a person who has committed a mortal sin and has not confessed it to a priest is forbidden from receiving the Eucharist under the pain of eternal punishment. This is one more proof that early Christians were not Catholics, because this would have implied that these 60,000 people were without mortal sins, to have received the communion in one day. The only private confession they made was to God and they were reconciled to Him – without any priestly medium involved.
The term “exomologesis” used by Tertullian refers to a public confession, as an author wrote, “When one studies the question, with the document before his eyes, it is impossible not to confess that the Primitive discipline of the Church exhibits not a vestige of the auricular [private] confession afterwards introduced” (L’Abbe, Le Confesseur, 1866, 15).
Patrologist, J. N. D. Kelly stated: “Inspite of the ingenious arguments of certain scholars, there are still no signs of a sacrament of private penance (i.e confession to a priest followed by absolution and the imposition of penance) such as Catholic Christendom knows today. The system which seems to have existed in the Church at this time [i.e the 3rd century], and for centuries afterwards, was wholly public, involving confession, a period of penance and exclusion from communion and formal absolution and restoration- the whole process being called exomologesis” (Early Christian Doctrines, Harper Collins, 1978, 216).
When one compares what Tertullian (and the early church) describes with what the Council of Trent says about this issue, one must conclude that, either Tertullian misunderstood and misinterpreted what Jesus meant when He (allegedly) instituted the sacrament of penance, OR the Catholic church in the later centuries had a “superior insight” into what Christ taught than the early church as a whole. Either way, Catholicism’s doctrinal continuity is shown to be a hoax.
Church history showed that private confession was stopped in the East around 400 AD. But in the West, scholars “trace the origin of private penance as a normal discipline to the churches of Ireland, Wales and Britain, where the Sacraments, including Penance, were administered usually by the abbot of a monastery and his priest-monks… However it was not until the 11th century that secret sins were absolved at the time of confession and before the fulfillment of penance” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, XI: 75).
In the 8th century, regular confession to a superior at least once a year was recommended. Confession and penance before each mass was allowed. In the 9th century, the classification of sins made up by Gregory the Great in the 6th century was incorporated into the penitential system of Catholicism and this made private confession to a priest acceptable. Notwithstanding, “there was no general agreement upon the necessity of sacerdotal confession. In the twelfth century for example, the [Peter] Aberlardian school rejected its necessity, while the Victorine school insisted upon it.” It was not until the Fourth Lateran council of 1215 that penance officially became obligatory and a sacrament (Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2005, 117-121).
Another work says: “At the close of the twelfth century a complete change was made in the doctrine of penance … The first elements added by the medieval system were that confession to the priest and absolution by the priest are necessary for pardon. Peter the Lombard did not make mediation of the priest a requirement, but declared that confession to God was sufficient. In his time [12th century], he says there was no agreement on three aspects of penance … The opinions handed down from the fathers, he asserts, were diverse, if not antagonistic” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol 5, 573-4).
So Medieval Catholicism purportedly had the “power” to change the penance into a doctrine unknown in the early centuries. Yet the Council of Trent had the effrontery to call this concoction of men in the cauldron of delusion a “divine law…observed from the beginning.” Such deceit!
A certain Catholic apologist who was confronted with these facts replied: “Christ didn’t give us formats how the sacrament of confession should be done thereby we are open to the necessity of the Church and so the Holy Spirit leads the Church in every age. He lets the people use one form in one age and then as we continue to learn the different things that needs to be applied in different cultures and ages, the sacrament itself changes. The Church is still learning”
This is typical Jesuit logic. He implicitly admits that his church has changed her doctrines, but quickly blames it on the Holy Spirit. By diving into this relativistic theory, he contradicts the position of the Council of Trent and the hoary canard of Rome that: “the Church never changes” (semper eadem). If such “changes” were acceptable for Catholicism, then Protestantism’s Biblical stance on confessing to God remains valid.
Why the switch from public to private confessionals? Some scholars said it was because of the scandals that public confessions created. That may be true, but it also seems that it was done to mimic the old pagan mystery rites in which secret confessions were mandatory. For example:
“The ritual texts show that both public and private confession was practiced in Babylonia. Indeed, private confession seems to have been the older and more usual method” (The Religion of Ancient Egypt and Babylon, 1902, 497).
The Greeks were also not far behind: “All the Greeks from Delphi to Thermopylae, were initiated in the mysteries of the temple of Delphi. Their silence in regard to everything they were commanded to keep secret was secured by the general confession exacted of the aspirants after initiations” (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, 10).
Among the Aztecs, confession rites were made to their fertility goddess, Tlazolteutl:
“The ‘sinner’ would appear before the priest and list all misdeeds. Wrong-doing would include disobeying the gods, deviating from the mores of the community, cowardice during battle, and neglect of sacrifices. Offerings were made to the gods, and absolution was granted by Tlazolteutl’s priest. If the confession was honest, Tlazoteutl would absorb the sins of the confessor, and purify the soul” (Turner Patricia and Coulter Russell, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 2000, 88).
The confessional has long been Satan’s weapon of control and seduction. It has created a suitable environment for perversions in the hearts of father confessors to burn and many women, girls and boys have been consumed. A Dominican priest candidly writes:
“With the advent of the private confession of sins came the abuse known as solicitation for sex in the act of sacramental confession. Unscrupulous priests began to use the intimacy of confession as an opportunity to seduce the penitent into some form of sexual contact. This abuse is particularly heinous because it takes advantage of a person when he or she is most vulnerable and susceptible to the abuse of priestly power” (Thomas Doyle, O. P., Crimen Solicitationis Promulgated by the Vatican, March 4, 2010).
This pattern of sexual abuse through the booth has been a huge scandal right down to this day. Perhaps this is why the Catholic Encyclopedia (11:628) discreetly wrote: “If at the Reformation or since the Church could have surrendered a doctrine or abandoned a practice for the sake of peace and to soften a ‘hard saying,’ confession would have been the first to disappear!”
So why has Catholicism not given up the confessional seeing the bad fruits it has borne? From 1561 to 2001, popes and bishops have handed down disciplinary laws against solicitation for sex during confession, but why has the unbiblical practice itself been maintained? Because it serves their purpose – to wield a system of control over Catholics. This is what happens when a religion is more concerned with its public image than addressing the evil being meted out to its adherents.
On March 16, 1962, the Congregation of the Holy Office issued a document Crimen Solicitationis (approved by pope John XXIII). It was sent to all bishops worldwide, yet they were strangely told to maintain a strict confidentiality about the document and to never allow it to be reproduced. It was not until 2001 that the Vatican publicly mentioned this document. Most bishops were not even aware of its existence. This, as Fr. Doyle said, is due to Catholicism’s “culture of secrecy, clericalism and institutional self-preservation.”
They make their own laws and write down the penalties and then do everything in their power to hide it from even the culprits! In essence, most of those documents the Vatican release against sexual abuse are mere public relations stunts. All these prove without doubt that Roman Catholicism is a religion of falsehood and spiritual bondage.