RECONCILIATION (CONFESSION)

By this beautiful Sacrament God gives all sinful members of His Church, "a direct, human, and personal encounter with the mercy of God" as found in the Gospel. [1] (Catechism of the Catholic Church:1446) In this encounter "God, the Father of mercies" pardons His faithful for post-baptism sins that they confessed to the bishop or his priests. (CCC: 1448-1449). In the liturgical actions of this sacrament, especially in the formula of absolution, Jesus Christ reaches out to us in the depth of our soul and mind to lift us to our feet, and restores us to be more perfectly what we are: His saints, the reconciled children of God. He does so "to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our life" (Luke 1.73).[2]

The essential elements of the sacrament of Reconciliation are two: the acts of the penitent who comes to repentance through the action of the Holy Spirit, and the absolution of the priest who in the name of Christ grants forgiveness and determines the ways of making satisfaction.

[1] Thomas Cardinal Collins, Cornerstones of Faith. Reconciliation, Eucharist and Stewardship (Toronto, Canada: Novalis, 2013), p. 14.

[2] Cf. the Canticle of Zechariah, adopted by the Liturgy of the Hours.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. When is it necessary for me to go Confession?

Generally speaking, besides the obligation of annual Confession (Canon Law: 989), the Church encourages its faithful to make use of the sacrament frequently and regularly.

Specifically one should confess all his/her sins, and especially mortal sins which destroy the sanctifying grace in the soul. While Confession of venial sins is not always necessary, one must confess mortal sins.

Mortal sin is (1) a grave matter that turned one away from God in (2) full knowledge of the evil of the act, and with (3) full consent of the will. All three conditions must be met for a sin to be mortal. (CCC: 1855, 1857)

Venial sins do not destroy the sanctifying grace in the soul, but it diminishes and wounds it (CCC: 1855). Venial sin injuries one's relationship with God or with the neighbour or with oneself, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent (CCC: 1862).

2. What if after receiving the Holy Eucharist I became aware of some sins that I failed to confess?

You must go to Confession at your earliest opportunity.

3. Can a priest reveal what has heard to others?

No. "It is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason." This is called "Confessional seal". (Canon Law: 983 §1.)

4. What if I feel nervous about going to Confession? Or what if I haven't gone to Confession for many years?

True contrition turns one to God and the Church in the sacrament (CCC: 1453-1454). Simply go to the Confessional prayerfully in the faith when you are ready, by telling a priest what sins you are sorry for with all your heart. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn 4.18). Recall, for example, the reassuring story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke (15:11-32) and the embrace of the loving father. If necessary, speak to your pastor, and he will be able to guide you in your preparation. You may also make use of a Catholic Confession App which can be found in App stores.

5. I have difficulty in memorizing the Act of Contrition by heart in the Confessional …

Bring a copy of it with you to the Confessional. Sometimes pastors have a copy ready. It is important that you understand the prayer. It is not meant to be a memory test. Express it in your own words when your memory of it fails. You can always ask a priest to help you.

6. Can I be forgiven of the terrible sin of abortion?

Yes! Pope John Paul II once wrote to women in your situation.

The Church is aware of the many factors that may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong, but do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Evangelium Vitae, 99.) Come, begin the process of healing.

7. Can my sins be forgiven outside of the sacrament?

In the sacrament God in his unbound mercy reconciles a contrite person not only to Himself, but also to the Church, through the ministry of priests. In Baptism God washed away all your sins. For post-baptismal sins, the members of the Catholic Church are bound by the sacrament as "the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession" (CCC: 1484).

8. Can our child be baptized in a parish if we do not live within the parish boundaries?

Baptism, like all of the sacraments, is a celebration of a living relationship with God and with the local believing community, the parish. The sacraments are celebrations of our Church and, as such, are normally celebrated in the parish where the family resides or is registered and usually worships.

 © Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto - used with permission.