Examination of Conscience as Part of the Good Catholic Confession–Digging Down to the Details—and the Differences
For those who think the Roman Catholic confession experience is simply the Scriptural process of confessing one’s wrongs to God, each other, and repenting, or turning, from them, it is not.
It is much, much more.
Sometimes it helps to dig down to the fine print.
First, consider the following explanation of the state of the rite of confession, aka the Sacrament of Penance, even today, in the Catholic religion:
“The Second Vatican Council did decree that “the rite and formulas of penance are revised in such a way that they may more clearly empress the nature and effects of this sacrament” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 72). Accordingly the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued “The Rite of Penance” in 1973. The new rite did add options for prayers, provide for a reading of Sacred Scripture, and introduce “penance services” with private confessions. Nevertheless, the norms stipulated, “it is for priests, and especially parish priests in reconciling individuals or the community, to adapt the rite to the concrete circumstances of the penitents” (No. 40)…”
…which is just the beginning of the article. For the entire briefing, see HERE for an explanation totaling 1,353 words on the particulars of the rite as well as the justification for them according to Catholic teaching. Here is a list of some of what the article includes:
- The three reasons the Catholic priest alone has the “authority” to “hear” our confession of sins and, if done correctly,
- his authority to “impart absolution” on behalf of God;
- the types of sins we must confess–lesser, or “venial,” sins for which we must suffer an undisclosed amount of penance-by-fire in Purgatory in the hereafter but still have some hope of one day (or several millennia–nobody can know until he/she gets there) entering heaven, contrasted with
- “mortal” sins by which we “sever our relationship with the Lord and kill the presence of sanctifying grace in our souls” (i.e., we lose our salvation entirely);
- and exactly how this must all be done (particularly if one has lost one’s salvation via mortal sins) which includes:
- the option, nowadays, of either remaining anonymous in the confessional booth, or facing the priest,
- further instruction on a good examination of conscience prior,
- an actual script of a couple of appropriate prayer options with which to begin the rite, e.g., “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”,
- the appropriate time to make the “sign of the cross,” and
- a reminder to be sure to specify how long it has been since one’s last confession.
In the Roman Catholic experience of the Rite of Confession, or Sacrament of Penance, there is a lot to remember, a lot to do, and a lot to worry about to carry into the future, even if the priest absolves you because you “made a good confession”.
Now, contrast this with the Biblical confession of sin:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
In context, “he” is understood to be God, Himself.
Other Scriptures instruct us to confess our sins, “one to another,” and to forgive each other—as needed, whenever and wherever.
No “authorized” middle man, no booth, no venial/mortal sin differentiation, no script, no attendant hand gestures, or waiting until next Saturday afternoon when Confession is scheduled.
No waiting until the “age of reason” (6-7) to be able to comprehend all of the instructions on the Sacrament in order begin to “receive it,” i.e., to be able to seek God’s forgiveness via the priest for our sins (if performed just so)…
As Christians, we know that we can confess our sin here, now; whenever and wherever needed; and by faith believe in God’s faithfulness and justice.
We can believe Jesus, when He said, at the close of His sacrifice on the cross, “It is finished.”
We can take Him at His Word.
But think of the difficulty the average Catholic has if he/she has been bound up in Sacred Tradition, taught in that religion to be as reliable as the (Catholic version) of the Bible? A tradition that can change, add, and delete dictums, dogmas, and denouncements over time?
(For more of a detailed list of how the Roman Catholic Church differs in its definition of confession, here is a good summary.)
As stressed earlier in this 7-part feature, such a method of mind–and congregation control–is very effective, particularly, again on the young—whether young in years or in faith.
Once again, the binding power of living underneath the nearly constant threat, if one thinks seriously about it, of on-again, off-again salvation, and even if on-again, the still hovering image of burning alive for an undisclosed amount of time in Purgatory, works on the mind and subconscious.
Add to it the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, featured in part 4, that easily results from the mental anguish, and many a Catholic would just as soon DO IT “their way” and get it over with and hope for the best.
Ah, those clever, clever Jesuits.
Fortunately, however, again, the power of God is far, far stronger than any add-ons and aberrations.
Even for one such as I, born and bred into the Roman Catholic religious system from birth until my salvation when I was in my early twenties. I mean, twelve years of Catholic school as well as having experienced many Catholic rites and rituals also practiced in our home, it is possible to get relief—and get out from under the influence of such control
I often say that if God could bring ME out of that system, it can happen for ANYONE.
(The reader might be interested in the many testimonies of others who have traded the Roman Catholic religion for a relationship with Jesus Christ. An Online search will net hundreds of testimonies and exposes.)
But as is, no wonder most Catholics take a long, long time (unless there is a miraculous deliverance) to untangle from the concept of confession of sins.
How especially hard on the young…
(I remember just now, the words of Jesus that I think can be applied to this matter: “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” [Matthew 18:6]).
I think such control is much, much worse for the children, which is the topic of Part 6, featuring what I call “soft trauma-bonding.”