The Dogma of Auricular Confession —a Sacriligious
BOTH Roman Catholics and Protestants have fallen into very strange
errors in reference to the words of Christ: "Whosesoever sins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye
retain, they are retained." (St. John xx. 23.)
The first have seen in this text the inalienable attributes of God of
forgiving and retaining sins transferred to sinful men; the second have
most unwisely granted their position, even while attempting to refute
A little more attention to the translation of the 3d and 6th verses
of chapter xiii. of Leviticus by the Septuagint would have prevented the
former from falling into their sacrilegious errors, and would have saved
the latter from wasting so much time in refuting errors which refute
Many believe that the Septuagint Bible was the Bible that was
generally read and used by Jesus Christ and the Hebrew people in our
Saviour's days. Its language was possibly the one spoken at times by
Christ and understood by his hearers. When addressing his apostles and
disciples on their duties towards the spiritual lepers to whom they were
to preach the ways of salvation, Christ constantly followed the very
expression of the Septuagint. It was the foundation of his doctrine and
the testimonial of his divine mission to which he constantly appealed:
the book which was the greatest treasure of the nation.
From the beginning to the end of the Old and the New Testaments, the
bodily leprosy, with which the Jewish priest had to deal, is presented
as the figure of the spiritual leprosy, sin, the penalty of which our
Saviour had taken upon himself, that we might be saved by his death.
That spiritual leprosy was the very thing for the cleansing of which he
had come to this world—for which he lived, suffered, and died. Yes,
the bodily leprosy with which the priests of the Jews had to deal, was
the figure of the sins which Christ was to take away by shedding his
blood, and with which his disciples were to deal till the end of the
When speaking of the duties of the Hebrew priests towards the leper,
our modern translations say: (Lev. xiii. v. 6,) "They will
pronounce him clean." or (v. 3) "They will pronounce him
But this action of the priests was expressed in a very different way
by the Septuagint Bible, used by Christ and the people of his time.
Instead of saying, "The priest shall pronounce the leper
clean," as we read in our Bible, the Septuagint version says,
"The priest shall clean (katharei), or shall unclean (mianei)
No one had ever been so foolish, among the Jews, as to believe that
because their Bible said clean (katharei), their priests
had the miraculous and supernatural power of taking away and curing the
leprosy: and we nowhere see that the Jewish priests ever had the
audacity to try to persuade the people that they had ever received any
supernatural and divine power to "cleanse" the leprosy,
because their God, through the Bible, had said of them: "They will
cleanse the leper." Both priest and people were sufficiently
intelligent and honest to understand and acknowledge that, by that
expression, it was only meant that the priest had the legal right to see
if the leprosy was gone or not, they had only to look at certain marks
indicated by God himself, through Moses, to know whether or not God had
cured the leper before he presented himself to his priest. The leper,
cured by the mercy and power of God alone, before presenting himself to
the priest, was only declared to be clean by that priest. Thus the
priest was said, by the Bible, to "clean" the leper, or the
leprosy;—and in the opposite case to "unclean." (Septuagint,
Leviticus xiii. v. 3, 6.)
Now, let us put what God has said, through Moses, to the priests of
the old law, in reference to the bodily leprosy, face to face with what
God has said, through his Son Jesus, to his apostles and his whole
church, in reference to the spiritual leprosy from which Christ has
delivered us on the cross.
Septuagint Bible, Levit. xiii.
"And the Priest shall look on the plague, in the skin of the
flesh, and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague
in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of
leprosy; and the priest shall look on him and UNCLEAN HIM (mianei)
"And the Priest shall look on him again the seventh day, and if
the plague is somewhat dark and does not spread on the skin, the Priest
shall CLEAN HIM (katharei): and he shall wash his clothes and BE
New Testament, John xx. 23.
"Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto. them; and
whosesoever sins ye retain they are retained."
The analogy of the diseases with which the Hebrew priests and the
disciples of Christ had to deal, is striking: so the analogy of the
expressions prescribing their respective duties is also striking.
When God said to the priests of the Old Law, "You shall clean
the leper," and he shall be "cleaned," or "you shall
unclean the leper," and he shall be "uncleaned," he only
gave the legal power to see if there were any signs or indications by
which they could say that God had cured the leper before he presented
himself to the priest. So, when Christ said to his apostles and his
whole church, "Whosesover sins ye shall forgive, shall be forgiven
unto them," he only gave them the authority to say when the
spiritual lepers, the sinners, had reconciled themselves to God, and
received their pardon from him and him alone, previous to the coming to
It is true that the priests of the Old Law had regulations from God,
through Moses, which they had to follow, by which they could see and say
whether or not the leprosy was gone.
If the plague spread not on the skin. . . . . the priest shall clean
him. . . . . but if the priest see that the scab spread on the skin, it
is leprosy: he shall "unclean" him. (Septuagint, Levit. xiii.
Should any be convinced that Christ spoke the Hebrew of that day and
not the Greek, and used the Old Testament in Hebrew, we have only to say
that the Hebrew is precisely the same as the Greek—the priest is said
to clean or unclean as the case may be, precisely as in
So Christ had given to his apostles and his whole church equally,
infallible rules and marks to determine whether or not the spiritual
leprosy was gone, that they might clean the leper and tell him,
I clean thee, I forgive thy sins,
I unclean thee I retain thy sins.
I would have, indeed, many passages of the Old and New Testaments to
copy, were it my intention to reproduce all the marks given by God
himself, through his prophets, or by Christ and apostles, that his
ambassadors might know when they should say to the sinner that he was
delivered from his iniquities. I will give only a few.
First: "And he said unto them, go ye into all the world and
preach the gospel to every creature:
"He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved: but he that
believeth not shall be damned. (Mark xvi. 15, 16.)
What a strange want of memory in the Saviour of the World! He has
entirely forgotten that "auricular confession," besides faith
and baptism are necessary to be saved! To those who believe and are
baptised, the apostles and the church are authorized by Christ to say:
"You are saved! your sins are forgiven: I clean you!"
Second: "And when ye come into a house, salute it.
"And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if
it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
"And whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when
ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
"Verily, verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for
the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of Judgment, than for that
city." (Matt. X. 12-15.)
Here, again, the Great Physician tells his disciples when the leprosy
will be gone, the sins forgiven, the sinner purified. It is when the
lepers, the sinners, will have welcomed his messengers, heard and
received their message. Not a word about auricular confession: this
great panacea of the Pope was evidently ignored by Christ.
Third: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father
will also forgive you,—but if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. "(Matt. vi.
Was it possible to give a more striking and simple rule to the
apostles and the disciples that they might know when they could say to a
sinner: "Thy sins are forgiven!" or, "thy sins are
retained?" Here the double keys of heaven are most solemnly and
publicly given to every child of Adam! As sure as there is a God in
heaven and that Jesus died to save sinners, so it is sure that if one
forgives the trespasses of his neighbor for the dear Saviour's sake,
believing in him, his own sins have been forgiven! To the end of the
world, then, let the disciples of Christ say to the sinner, "Thy
sins are forgiven," not because you have confessed your sins to me,
but for Christ's sake; the evidence of which is that you have forgiven
those who had offended you.
Fourth: "And behold, a certain one stood up and tempted him,
saying: Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
"He said unto him: What is written in the law? how readest thou?
"And he, answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and
with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
"And he said unto him: Thou hast answered right; this do and
thou shalt live." (Luke x. 25-28.)
What a fine opportunity for the Saviour to speak of "auricular
confession" as a means given by him to be saved! But here again
Christ forgets that marvellous medicine of the Popes. Jesus, speaking
absolutely like the Protestants, bids his messengers to proclaim pardon,
forgiveness of sins, not to those who confess their sins to a man, but
to those who love God and their neighbor. And so will his true disciples
and messengers do to the end of the world!
Fifth: "And when he (the prodigal son) came to himself, he said:
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I
have sinned against Heaven and before thee: and I am not worthy to be
called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
"And be arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a
great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and he
fell on his neck and kissed him.
"And the son said, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in
thy sight, and am not worthy to be called thy son.
"But the father said to his servants: Bring forth the best robe,
and put it on him: put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and
bring hither the fatted calf. For this my son was dead, and he is alive
again, he was lost and he is found." (Luke xv. 17-24.)
Apostles and disciples of Christ, wherever you will hear, on this
land of sin and misery, the cry of the Prodigal Son: "I will arise
and go to my Father," every time you see him, not at your feet, but
at the feet of his true Father, crying, "Father, I have sinned
against thee," unite your hymns of joy to the joyful songs of the
angels of God; repeat into the ears of that redeemed sinner the sentence
just fallen from the lips of the Lamb, whose blood cleanses us from all
our sins; say to him, "Thy sins are forgiven."
Sixth: "Come unto me all ye who labor, and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am
meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my
yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. xi. 28-30.)
Though these words were pronounced more than 1800 years ago, they
were pronounced this very morning: they come at every hour of day and
night from the lips and the heart of Christ to everyone of us sinners.
It is just now that Jesus says to every sinner, " Come to me and I
will give ye rest." Christ has never said and he will never say to
any sinner, "Go to my priests and they will give you rest."
But he has said, "Come to me, and I will give you rest."
Let the apostles and disciples of the Saviour, then, proclaim peace,
pardon, and rest, not to the sinners who come to confess to them all
their sins, but to those who go to Christ, and him alone, for peace,
pardon and rest. For "Come to me," from Jesus' lips, has never
meant—it will never mean—"Go and confess to the priests."
Christ would never have said: "My yoke is easy and my burden
light " if he had instituted auricular confession. For the world
has never seen a yoke so heavy, humiliating, and degrading, as auricular
Seventh: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even
so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have eternal life." (John iii. 14.)
Did Almighty God require any auricular confession in the wilderness,
from the sinners, when he ordered Moses to lift up the serpent? No!
Neither did Christ speak of auricular confession as a condition of
salvation to those who look to Him when He dies on the Cross to pay
their debts. A free pardon was offered to the Israelites who looked to
the uplifted serpent. A free pardon is offered by Christ crucified to
all those who look to Him with faith, repentance, and love. To such
sinners the ministers of Christ, to the end of the world, are authorized
to say: "Your sins are forgiven "we clean your leprosy."
Eighth: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but
have eternal life.
"For God sent not his Son to condemn the world, but that the
world, through him, might be saved.
"He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that
believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the
world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds
were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither
cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
"But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds
may be manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John iii. 16-21.)
In the religion of Rome, it is only through auricular confession that
the sinner can be reconciled to God; it is only after he has beard a
most detailed confession of all the thoughts, desires, and actions of
the guilty one that he can tell him: "Thy sins are forgiven."
But in the religion of the Gospel, the reconciliation of the sinner with
his God is absolutely and entirely the work of Christ. That marvellous
forgiveness is a free gift offered not for any outward act of the
sinner: nothing is required from him but faith, repentance, and love.
These are marks by which the leprosy is known to be cured and the sins
forgiven. To all those who have these marks, the ambassadors of Christ
are authorized to say, Your sins are forgiven," we clean" you.
Ninth: The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as
his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying: " God! be
merciful to me a sinner!
"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified."
(Lake xviii. 13-14.) Yes! justified! and without auricular confession!
Ministers and disciples of Christ, when you see the repenting sinner
smiting his breast and crying: "Oh, God, have mercy upon me, a
sinner!" shut your ears to the deceptive words of Rome, or its ugly
tail the Ritualists, who tell you to force that redeemed sinner to make
to you a special confession of all his sins to get his pardon. But go to
him and deliver the message of love, peace, and mercy, which you
received from Christ: "Thy sins are forgiven! I 'clean' thee!"
Tenth: "And one of the malefactors which were hanged, railed on
him, saying: If thou be Christ save thyself and us.
"But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying: Dost thou not
fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
"And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our
deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
"And he said unto Jesus: Remember me when thou comest into thy
Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him: Verily I say unto thee, to-day, shalt
thou be with me in Paradise. (Luke xxiii. 39-43.)
Yes, in the Paradise or Kingdom of Christ, without auricular
confession! From Calvary, when his hands are nailed to the cross, and
his blood is poured out, Christ protests against the great imposture of
auricular confession. Jesus will be, to the end of the world, what he
was, there, on the cross: the sinner's friend; always ready to hear and
pardon those who invoke his name and trust in him.
Disciples of the gospel, wherever you hear the cry of the repenting
sinner to the crucified Saviour:
"Remember me when thou comest to thy Kingdom," go and give
the assurance to that penitent and redeemed child of Adam, that
"his sins are forgiven:"—"clean the leper."
Eleventh: "Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous
man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy
upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa. lv.
"Wash you and make you clean, put away the evils of your doings
from before mine eyes: cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek
judgment, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless, and plead for the
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though
your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be
red like crimson; they shall be as wool." (Isa. i, 16-18.)
Here are the landmarks of the mercy of God, put by his own Almighty
hands! Who will dare to remove them in order to put others in their
place? Has ever Christ touched these landmarks? Has he ever intimated
that anything but faith, repentance, and love, with their blessed
fruits, were required from the sinned to secure his pardon? No-never.
Have the prophets of the Old Testament or the apostles of the New,
ever said a word about "auricular confession," as a condition
for pardon? No—never.
What does David say? "I confess my sins unto thee, and mine
iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto
the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm xxxii.
What does the apostle John say? "If we say that we have
fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son,
cleanseth us from sin;
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our
sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John i. 6-9.)
This is the language of the prophets and apostles. This is the
language of the Old and the New Testament. It is to God and him alone
that the sinner is requested to confess his sins. It is from God and him
alone that he can expect his pardon.
The apostle Paul writes fifteen epistles, in which he speaks of all
the duties imposed upon human conscience by the laws of God and the
prescriptions of the Gospel of Christ. A thousand times he speaks to
sinners, and tells them how they may be reconciled to God. But does he
say a word about auricular confession? No—not one!
The apostles Peter, John, Jude, address six letters to the different
churches, in which they state, with the greatest detail, what the
different classes of sinners have to do to be saved. But again, not a
single word comes from them about auricular confession.
St. James says: "Confess your faults one to another." But
this is so evidently the repetition of what the Saviour had said about
the way of reconciliation between those who had offended one another,
and it is so far from the dogma of a secret confession to the priest
that the most zealous supporters of auricular confession have not dared
to mention that text in favor of their modern invention.
But if we look in vain in the Old and New Testaments for a word in
favor of auricular confession as a dogma, will it be possible to find
that dogma in the records of the first thousand years of Christianity?
No! for the more one studies the records of the Christian Church during
those first ten centuries, the more he will be convinced that auricular
confession is a miserable imposture of the darkest days of the world and
the church this century, by one of the early fathers of the church. But
not a word is said in it of his confessing his sins to anyone, though a
thousand things are said of him which are of a far less interesting
* [This version lacks some words.—Ed. Another version adds the
following: And so is it with the lives of several of the early fathers
of the church. Not a word is said of their confessing their sins to
anyone, though a thousand things are said of him which are of a far less
So it is with the life of St. Mary, the Egyptian. The minute history
of her life, her public scandals, her conversion, long prayers and
fastings in solitude, the detailed history of her last days and of her
death, all these we have; but not a single word is said of her
confessing to anyone. It is evident that she lived and died without ever
having thought of going to confess.
The deacon Pontius wrote also the life of St. Cyprian, who lived in
the third century; but he does not say a word of his ever having gone to
confession, or having heard the confession of anyone. More than that, we
learn from this reliable historian that Cyprian was excommunicated by
the Pope of Rome, called Stephen, and that he died without having ever
asked from anyone absolution from that excommunication; a thing which
has not seemingly prevented him from going to Heaven, since the
infallible Popes of Rome, who succeeded Stephen, have assured us that be
is a saint.
Gregory of Nyssa has given us the life of St. Gregory, of
Neo-Caesarea, of the third century, and of St. Basil, of the fourth
century. But neither speak of their having gone to confess, or having
heard the secret and auricular confession of anyone. It is thus evident
that those two great and good men, with all the Christians of their
times, lived and died without ever knowing anything about the dogma of
We have the interesting life of St. Ambrose, of the fourth century,
by Paulinus; and from that book it is evident, as two and two make four,
that St. Ambrose never went to confess.
The history of St. Martin, of Tours, of the fourth century, by
Severus Sulpicius, of the fifth century, is another monument left by
antiquity to prove that there was no dogma of auricular confession in
those days; for St. Martin has evidently lived and died without ever
going to confess.
Pallas and Theoderet have left us the history of the life,
sufferings, and death of St. Cbrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, who
died at the beginning of the fifth century, and both are absolutely mute
about that dogma. No fact is more evident, by what they say, than that
holy and eloquent bishop lived and died also without ever thinking of
going to confess.
No man has ever more perfectly entered into the details of a
Christian life, when writing on that subject, than the learned and
eloquent St. Jerome, of the fifth century. Many of his admirable letters
are written to the priests of his day, and to several Christian ladies
and virgins, who had requested him to give them some good advice about
the best way to lead a Christian life. His letters, which form five
volumes, are most interesting monuments of the manners, habits, views,
morality, practical and dogmatical faith of the first centuries of the
church; they are a most unanswerable evidence that auricular confession,
as a dogma, had then no existence, and is quite a modern invention.
Would it be possible that Jerome had forgotten to give some advices or
rules about auricular confession, to the priests of his time who asked
his council about the best way to fulfil their ministerial duties, if it
had been one of their duties to hear the confessions of the people? But
we challenge the most devoted modern priest of Rome to find a single
line in all the letters of St. Jerome in favor of auricular confession.
In his admirable letter to the Priest Nepotianus, on the life of
priests, vol. II., p. 203, when speaking of the relations, of priests
with women, he says: "Solus cum sola, secreto et absque arbitrio,
vel teste, non sedeas. Si familiarius est aliquid loquendum, habet
nutricem. majorem domus, virginem, viduam, vel mari tatam; non est tam
inhumana ut nullum praeter te habeat cui se audeat credere."
"Never sit in secret, alone, in a retired place, with a female
who is alone with you. If she has any particular thing to tell you, let
her take the female attendant of the house, a young girl, a widow, or a
married woman. She cannot be so ignorant of the rules of human life as
to expect to have you as the only one to whom she can trust those
It would be easy to cite a great number of other remarkable passages
where Jerome showed himself the most determined and implacable opponent
of those secret tete-a-tete between a priest and a female, which,
under the plausible pretext of mutual advice and spiritual consolation,
are generally nothing but bottomless pits of infamy and perdition for
both. But this is enough.
We have also the admirable life of St. Paulina, written by St.
Jerome. And, though in it, he gives us every imaginable detail of her
life when young, married, and widow; though he tells us even how her bed
was composed of the simplest and rudest materials; he has not a word
about her ever having gone to confess. Jerome speaks of the
acquaintances of St. Paulina, and gives their names; he enters into the
minutest details of her long voyages, her charities, her foundations of
monasteries for men and women, her temptations, human frailties, heroic
virtues, her macerations, and her holy death; but he has not a word to
say about the frequent or oracular confessions of St. Paulina; not a
word about her wisdom in the choice of a prudent and holy (?) confessor.
He tells us that after her death, her body was carried to her grave
on the shoulders of bishops and priests, as a token of their profound
respect for the saint. But he never says that any of those priests sat
there, in a dark corner with her, and forced her to reveal to their ears
the secret history of all the thoughts, desires, and human frailties of
her long and eventful life. Jerome is an unimpeachable witness that his
saintly and noble friend, St. Paulina, lived and died without having
ever thought of going to confess.
Possidius has left us the interesting life of St. Augustine, of the
fifth century; and, again, it is in vain that we look for the place and
time when that celebrated Bishop of Hippo went to confess, or heard the
secret confessions of his people.
More than that, St. Augustine has written a most admirable book
called: "Confessions," in which he gives us the history of his
life. With that marvellous book in hand we follow him step by step,
wherever be goes; we attend with him those celebrated schools, where his
faith and morality were so sadly wrecked; he takes us with him into the
garden where, wavering between heaven and hell, bathed in tears, he goes
under the fig-tree and cries "Oh Lord! how long will I remain in my
iniquities!" Our soul thrills with emotions, with his soul, when we
hear with him, the sweet and mysterious voice: "Tolle! lege!"
take and read. We run with him to the place where he has left his gospel
book; with a trembling hand, we open it and we read: "Let us walk
honestly as in the day... put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. xiii.
That incomparable book of St. Augustine makes us weep and shout with
joy with him; it initiates us into all his most secret actions, to all
his sorrows, anxieties, and joys; it reveals and unveils his whole life.
It tells us where he goes, with whom he sins, and with whom he praises
God; it makes us pray, sing, and bless the Lord with him. Is it possible
that Augustine could have been to confess without telling us when,
where, and to whom he made that auricular confession? Could he have
received the absolution and pardon of his sins from his confessor,
without making us partakers of his joys, and requesting us to bless that
confessor with him?
But it is in vain that you look in that book for a single word about
auricular confession. That book is an unimpeachable witness that both
Augustine and his saintly mother, Monica, whom it mentions so often,
lived and died without ever having been to confess. That book may be
called the most crushing evidence to prove that "the dogma of
auricular confession" is a modern imposture.
From the beginning to the end of that book, we see that Augustine
believed and said that God alone could forgive the sins of men, and that
it was to him alone that men had to confess in order to be pardoned. If
he writes his confession, it is only that the world might know how God
had been merciful to him, and that they might help him to praise and
bless his merciful heavenly father. In the tenth book of his
Confessions, Chapter III., Augustine protests against the idea that men
could do anything to cure the spiritual leper, or forgive the sins of
their fellow-men; here is his eloquent protest: "Quid mihi ergo est
cum hominibus ut audiant confessiones, meas, quasi ipsi sanaturi Sint
languores meas? Curiosum genus ad cognescendam vitam alienam; desidiosum
"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
Before Augustine had built up that sublime and imperishable monument
against auricular confession, St. John Chrysostom had raised his
eloquent voice against it in his homily on the 50th Psalm, where,
speaking in the name of the church, he said: "We do not request you
to go to confess your sins to any of your fellow-men, but only to God!
Nestorius, of the fourth century, the predecessor of John Chrysostom,
had, by a public defence, which the best Roman Catholic historians have
had to acknowledge, solemnly forbidden the practice of auricular
confession. For, just as there has always been thieves, drunkards, and
malefactors in the world, so there has always been men and women who,
under the pretext of opening their minds to each other for mutual
comfort and edification, were giving themselves to every kind of
iniquity and lust. The celebrated Chrysostom was only giving the
sanction of his authority to what his predecessor had done, when,
thundering against the newly-born monster, he said to the Christians of
his time, "We do not ask you to go and confess your iniquities to a
sinful man for pardon—but only to God." (Homily on 50th Psalm.)
Auricular confession originated with the early heretics, especially
with Marcion. Bellarmin speaks of it as something to be practiced. But
let us hear what the contemporary writers have to say on the question.
"Certain women were in the habit of going to the heretic Marcion
to confess their sins to him. But, as he was smitten with their beauty,
and they loved him also, they abandoned themselves to sin with
Listen now to what St. Basil in his commentary on Ps. xxxvii, says of
"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. My groans are within my soul. There is no need of many words to
confess: sorrow and regret are the best confession. Yes, the
lamentations of the soul, which thou art pleased to hear, are the best
Chrysostom, in his homily, De Paenitentia, vol. IV., col. 901, has
the following: "You need no witnesses of your confession. Secretly
acknowledge your sins, and let God alone bear you."
In his homily V., De incomprehensibili Dei natura, vol. I., he says:
"Therefore, I beseech you, always confess your sins to God! I, in
no way, ask you to confess them to me. To God alone should you expose
the wounds of your soul, and from him alone expect the cure. Go to him,
then, and you shall not be cast off, but healed. For, before you utter a
single word, God knows your prayer."
In his commentary on Heb. XII., hom. XXXI., vol. XII., p. 289, he
further says: "Let us not be content with calling ourselves
sinners. But let us examine and number our sins. And then I do not tell
you to go and confess them, according to the caprice of some; but I will
say to you, with the prophet: 'Confess your sins before God, acknowledge
your iniquities at the feet of your Judge; pray in your heart and your
mind, if not with your tongue, and you shall be pardoned.'"
In his homily on. Ps. I., vol. V., p. 589, the same Chrysostom says:
"Confess your sins every day in prayer. Why should you hesitate to
do so? I do not tell you to go and confess to a man, sinner as you are,
and who might despise you if he knew your faults. But confess them to
God, who can forgive them to you."
In his admirable homily IV., De Lazaro, vol. I., p. 757, he exclaims:
"Why, tell me, should you be ashamed to confess your sins? Do we
compel you to reveal them to a man, who might, one day, throw them into
your face? Are you commanded to confess them to one of your equals, who
could publish them and ruin you? What we ask of you is simply to show
the sores of your soul to your Lord and Master, who is also your friend,
your guardian, and physician."
In a small work of Chrysostom's, entitled, "Catechesis ad
illuminandos," vol. II., p. 210, we read these remarkable words:
"What we should most admire is not that God forgives our sins, but
that he does not disclose them to anyone, nor wishes us to do so. What
he demands of us is to confess our transgressions to him alone to obtain
St. Augustine, in his beautiful homily on the 31st Ps., says: "I
shall confess my sins to God, and He will pardon all my iniquities. And
such confession is not made with the lips, but with the heart only. I
had hardly opened my mouth to confess my sins when they were pardoned,
for God had already heard the voice of my heart."
In the edition of the Fathers by Migne, vol. 67, pp. 614, 615, we
read: "About the year 390, the office of penitentiary was abolished
in the church in consequence of a great scandal given by a woman who
publicly accused herself of having committed a crime against chastity
with a deacon."
I know that the advocates of auricular confession present to their
silly dupes several passages of the Holy Fathers, where it is said that
sinners were going to that priest or that bishop to confess their sins:
but this is a most dishonest way of presenting that fact—for it is
evident to all those who are a little acquainted with the church history
of those times, that these referred only to the public confessions for
public transgressions through the office of the penitentiary.
The office of the penitentiary was this:—In every large city, a
priest or minister was specially appointed to preside over the church
meetings where the members who had committed public sins were obliged to
confess them publicly before the assembly, in order to be reinstated in
the privileges of their membership: and that minister had the charge of
reading or pronouncing the sentence of pardon granted by the church to
the guilty ones before they could be admitted again to communion. This
was perfectly in accordance with what St. Paul had done with regard to
the incestuous one of Corinth; that scandalous sinner who had cast
obloquy on the Christian name, but who, after confessing and weeping
over his sins before the church, obtained his pardon—not from a priest
in whose ears he had whispered all the details of his incestuous
intercourse, but from the whole church assembled. St. Paul gladly
approves the Church of Corinth in thus absolving, and receiving again in
their midst, a wandering but repenting brother.
When the Holy Fathers of the first centuries speak of
"confession" they invariably understand "public
confessions" and not auricular confession.
There is as much difference between such public confessions and
auricular confessions, as there is between heaven and hell, between God
and his great enemy, Satan.
Public confession, then, dates from the time of the apostles, and is
still practiced in Protestant churches of our day. But auricular
confession was unknown by the first disciples of Christ; as it is
rejected to-day, with horror, by all the true followers of the Son of
Erasmus, one of the most learned Roman Catholics who opposed the
Reformation in the sixteenth century, so admirably begun by Luther and
Calvin, fearlessly and honestly makes the following declaration in his
treatise, De Paenitentia, Dis. 5: "This institution of penance
[auricular confession] began rather of some tradition of the Old or New
Testament But our divines, not advisedly considering what the old
doctors do say, are deceived, that which they say of general and open
confession, they wrest, by and by, to this secret and privy kind of
It is a public fact, which no learned Roman Catholic has ever denied,
that auricular confession became a dogma and obligatory practice of the
church only at the Council of Lateran in the year 1215, under the Pope
Innocent III. Not a single trace of auricular confession, as a dogma,
can be found before that year.
Thus, it has taken more than twelve hundred years of efforts for
Satan to bring out this masterpiece of his inventions to conquer the
world and destroy the souls of men.
Little by little, that imposture had crept into the world, just as
the shadows of a stormy night creep without anyone being able to note
the moment when the first rays of light gave way before the dark clouds.
We know very well when the sun was shining, we know when it was very
dark all over the world; but no one can tell positively when the first
rays of light faded away. So saith the Lord:
"The kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good
seed in his field.
"But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the
wheat and went his way.
"But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit,
there appeared the tares also.
"So the servants of the householder came and said unto him: Sir,
didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it
"He said unto them: An enemy hath done this." (Matt. xiii.
Yes, the Good Master tells us that the enemy sowed those tares in his
field during the night when men were sleeping.
But he does not tell us precisely the hour of the night when the
enemy cast the tares among the wheat.
However, if anyone likes to know how fearfully dark was the night
which covered the "Kingdom," and how cruel, implacable, and
savage was the enemy who sowed the tares, let him read the testimony of
the most devoted and learned cardinals whom Rome has ever had, Baronius,
Annals, Anno 900:
"It is evident that one can scarcely believe what unworthy,
base, execrable, and abominable things the holy Apostolic See, which is
the pivot upon which the whole Catholic Church revolves, was forced to
endure, when princes of the age, though Christians, arrogated to
themselves the election of the Roman Pontiffs. Alas, the shame! alas,
the grief! What monsters, horrible to behold, were then intruded on the
Holy See! What evils ensued! What tragedies they perpetrated! With what
pollutions was this See, though itself without spot, then stained! With
what corruptions infected! With what filthiness defiled! And by these
things blackened with perpetual infamy (Baronius, Annals, Anno,
"Est plane, ut vix aliquis credat, imino, nee vix quidem sit
crediturus, nisi suis inspiciat ipse oculis, manibusque contractat, quam
indigna, quainque turpia atque deformia, execranda insuper et abominanda
sit coacta pati sacrosancta apostolica sedes, in cujus cardine universa
Ecclesia catholica vertitur, cum principes saeculi hujus, quantumlibet
christiani, hac tamen ex parte dicendi tyrrani saevissini, arrogaverunt
sibi, tirannice, electionem Romanorum pontificum. Quot tune ab eis, proh
pudor! pro dolor! in eamdem sedem, angelis reverandam, visu horrenda
intrusa sunt monstra? Quot ex eis oborta sunt mala, consummatae
tragediae! Quibus tunc ipsam sine macula et sine ruga contigit aspergi
sordibus, purtoribus infici, in quinati spurcitiis, ex hisque perpetua
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