Confession

Lesson 31 from the Baltimore Cathechism

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408. What is confession?

Confession is the telling of our sins to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness.

He that hideth his sins shall not prosper; but he that shall confess and forsake them shall obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

409. Why must we confess our sins?

We must confess our sins because Jesus Christ obliges us to do so in these words, spoken to the apostles and to their successors in the priesthood: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."

Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:22-23)

410. How do these words of Christ oblige us to confess our sins?

These words of Christ oblige us to confess our sins because the priest cannot know whether he should forgive or retain our sins unless we tell them to him.

411. Is it necessary to confess every sin?

It is necessary to confess every mortal sin which has not yet been confessed and forgiven; it is not necessary to confess our venial sins, but it is better to do so.

He that hideth his sins shall not prosper; but he that shall confess and forsake them shall obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

412. What are the chief qualities of a good confession?

The chief qualities of a good confession are three: it must be humble, sincere, and entire.

413. When is our confession humble?

Our confession is humble when we accuse ourselves of our sins with a conviction of guilt for having offended God.

O God, be merciful to me the sinner! (Luke 18:13)

414. When is our confession sincere?

Our confession is sincere when we tell our sins honestly and frankly.

415. When is our confession entire?

Our confession is entire when we confess at least all our mortal sins, telling their kind, the number of times we have committed each sin, and any circumstances changing their nature.

When a man or woman shall have committed any of all the sins that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and offended: they shall confess their sin. (Numbers 5:6-7)

416. What are we to do if without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin?

If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, we may receive Holy Communion, because we have made a good confession and the sin is forgiven; but we must tell the sin in confession if it again comes to our mind.

417. What happens if we knowingly conceal a mortal sin in confession?

If we knowingly conceal a mortal sin in confession, the sins we confess are not forgiven; moreover, we commit a mortal sin of sacrilege.

418. What must a person do who has knowingly concealed a mortal sin in confession?

A person who has knowingly concealed a mortal sin in confession must confess that he has made a bad confession, tell the sin he has concealed, mention the sacraments he has received since that time, and confess all the mortal sins he has committed since his last good confession.

419. Why should a sense of shame and fear of telling our sins to the priest never lead us to conceal a mortal sin in confession?

A sense of shame and fear of telling our sins to the priest should never lead us to conceal a mortal sin in confession because this is a grave sacrilege, and also because the priest, who represents Christ Himself, is bound by the seal of the sacrament of Penance never to reveal anything that has been confessed to him.

Be not ashamed to confess thy sins. (Ecclesiasticus 4:31)

420. Why does the priest give us a penance after confession?

The priest gives us a penance after confession that we may make some atonement to God for our sins, receive help to avoid them in the future, and make some satisfaction for the temporal punishment due to them.

421. What kinds of punishment are due to sin?

Two kinds of punishment are due to sin: the eternal punishment of hell, due to unforgiven mortal sins, and temporal punishment, lasting only for a time, due to venial sins and also to mortal sins after they have been forgiven.

If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. (John 15:6)

422. Does the sacrament of Penance, worthily received, always take away all punishment?

The sacrament of Penance, worthily received, always takes away all eternal punishment; but it does not always take away all temporal punishment.

Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:22-23)

423. Why does God require temporal punishment for sin?

God requires temporal punishment for sin to satisfy His justice, to teach us the great evil of sin, and to warn us not to sin again.

424. Where do we pay the debt of our temporal punishment?

We pay the debt of our temporal punishment either in this life or in purgatory.

The fire will assay the quality of everyone's work; if his work abides which he has built thereon, he will receive reward; if his work burns he will lose his reward, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (I Corinthians 3:13-15)

425. What are the chief means of satisfying the debt of our temporal punishment, besides the penance imposed after confession?

Besides the penance imposed after confession, the chief means of satisfying the debt of our temporal punishment are: prayer, attending Mass, fasting, almsgiving, the works of mercy, the patient endurance of sufferings, and indulgences.

Prayer is good with fasting and alms; more than to lay up treasures of gold. (Tobias 12:8)

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