"Go, show yourselves to the priests."--LUKE xvii. 14.

INTRODUCTION. All Catholic commentators have seen in the cure of the ten lepers a type of the cleansing by Christ of the mortal leprosy of sin, and in our Lord's sending them to the priests, a figure or type of sacramental confession of sins. The faith which the lepers had in the mercy and power of our Lord, and the obedience which they manifested in carrying out His command are a fitting model of the faith and good dispositions which those should possess who wish to make proper use of confession.

I. The meaning and necessity of confession, 1. Confession is a declaration of personal sins to a lawfully authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining absolution. This declaration must (a) be by word or sign, according to circumstances; (b) it must be made to a priest who is validly ordained and who has either ordinary or delegated jurisdiction (Code, can. 872) ; (c) it must have as its end and purpose the obtaining of sacramental absolution. 2. The necessity of confession is clear from the following: (a) Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance when He said to His Apostles, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," etc. (John xx. 22, 23). But this power of forgiving and retaining sin, which was to be exercised with discretion, could not be exercised at all without that personal declaration which we call confession; (b) Christ instituted confession, not as an optional, but as a necessary means of obtaining pardon, otherwise the power of the keys and of binding and loosing, which was given to the Apostles and their successors (Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18) would be of no avail; (c) that confession has been practiced and considered necessary from the time of the Apostles is evident from the writings of the Fathers and from the definitions of the Councils of the Church.

II. The advantages of confession, 1. Confession is a powerful means of promoting holiness and piety, as is proved by the testimony of all who have any knowledge of its use. 2. It is the least difficult means of obtaining forgiveness, because even imperfect contrition with confession is enough for pardon. 3. Through confession the sinner is able to obtain wise counsel and direction in a manner at once most secret and most competent. 4. The thought of confession is a powerful deterrent against secret sins. 5. Confession promotes the good of domestic and civil society by securing peace and charity, by causing reparation to be made for scandals, injustices, and the like.

III. When and how confession is to be made. 2. Regarding the time of making confession the following points are to be noted: (a) confession becomes obligatory when a person reaches the age of reason; (b) all who are in grave sin after Baptism are obliged to go to confession once a year; (c) everyone in danger of death or about to receive one of the Sacraments of the living is obliged to go to confession, unless he is already in the state of grace. 2. Confession should have the following qualities: it should be humble, entire, sincere, prudent, and brief. 3. Confession should be humble, i.e., not made in a boastful, but in a contrite spirit. 4. It should be entire, i.e., it should embrace: (a) all mortal sins remembered since the last worthy confession; (b) the circumstances which change the malice of a sin or multiply it. 5. Confession must be sincere, i.e., the sins should be declared just as they appear to the conscience without exaggeration or diminution. It should be prudent, i.e., the penitent should confess his sins in careful words, and should guard against revealing the sins of others unnecessarily. 7. Confession should be brief, i.e., the penitent should avoid irrelevant facts and details. 8. Consequences of the preceding points: (a) peoples hould know how to make their confessions properly; (b) a bad confession should be repeated; (c) mortal sins forgotten should be declared in confession when remembered; (d) those who have no certain sins to confess should mention some sin of their past life; (e) general confessions are to be permitted according to the prudence and discretion of the confessor.

EXHORTATION, 1. We should have the highest reverence for this divinely instituted, necessary, and gracious means of obtaining pardon for our sins. 2. We should go to confession not only when it is necessary, but frequently in order to obtain grace and strength from the use of this Sacrament. 3. In order that confession may be properly made it should be preceded by a careful preparation consisting of an examination of conscience and acts of faith, hope, love and contrition. 4. After confession we, like the Samaritan in today's Gospel, should return thanks to our Divine Physician.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II


We now come to confession, which is another part of Penance. The care and exactness which its exposition demands, must be at once obvious, if we only reflect, that most holy persons are firmly persuaded that whatever of piety, of holiness, of religion, has been preserved to our times in the Church, through God's goodness, must be ascribed in a great measure, to the influence of confession. It cannot, therefore, be a matter of surprise, that the enemy of the human race, in his efforts to destroy utterly the Catholic Church should, through the agency of the ministers of his wicked designs, have assailed with all his might this bulwark of Christian virtue. The pastor, therefore, will show in the first place that the institution of confession is most useful and even necessary.


Contrition, it is true, blots out sin; but who does not know that to effect this it must be so intense, so ardent, so vehement, as to bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crimes which it effaces? This is a degree of contrition which few reach, and hence, through perfect contrition alone, very few indeed could hope to obtain the pardon of their sins. It therefore became necessary that the most merciful Lord should provide a less difficult means of salvation; and this He has done, in His admirable wisdom, by giving to His Church the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, a doctrine firmly to be believed and professed by all her children, if the sinner have a sincere sorrow for his sins and a firm resolution of avoiding them in future, although he bring not with him that contrition which may be sufficient of itself to obtain the pardon of sin, his sins are forgiven through the power of the keys, when he confesses them properly to the priest. Justly, then, do the Holy Fathers proclaim, that by the keys of the Church, the gate of heaven is thrown open(1) a truth which no one can doubt since the Council of Florence has decreed that the effect of Penance is absolution from sin.(2)


To appreciate the advantages of confession we should not lose sight of an argument which has the sanction of experience. To those who have led immoral lives nothing is found so useful towards a reformation of morals as sometimes to disclose their secret thoughts, their words, their actions, to a prudent and faithful friend, who can assist them by his advice and cooperation. For the same reason it must prove most salutary to those whose minds are agitated by the consciousness of guilt to make known the diseases and wounds of their souls to the priest, as the vicegerent of Jesus Christ, bound to eternal secrecy by the strictest of laws. In the tribunal of penance they will find immediate remedies, the healing qualities of which will not only remove the present malady, but also prove of such lasting efficacy as to be, in future, an antidote against the easy approach of the same moral disease.


Another advantage derivable from confession, too important to be omitted, is that confession contributes powerfully to the preservation of social order. Abolish sacramental confession, and that moment you deluge society with all sorts of secret crimes--crimes too, and others of still greater enormity, which men, once that they have been depraved by vicious habits, will not dread to commit in open day. The salutary shame that attends confession restrains licentiousness, bridles desire, and coerces the evil propensities of corrupt nature.


Having explained the advantages of confession, the pastor will next unfold its nature and efficacy. Confession, then, is defined "A sacramental accusation of one's sins, made to obtain pardon by virtue of the keys."

It is rightly called "an accusation," because sins are not to be told as if the sinner boasted of his crimes, as they do "who are glad when they have done evil";(3) nor are they to be related as stories told for the sake of amusing idle listeners. They are to be confessed as matters of self-accusation, with a desire, as it were, to avenge them on ourselves.

We confess our sins with a view "to obtain pardon." In this respect the tribunal of penance differs from other tribunals, which take cognizance of capital offenses, and before which a confession of guilt does not secure acquittal and pardon, but penalty and punishment.

The definition of confession by the Fathers,(4) although different in words, is substantially the same. "Confession," says St. Augustine, is the disclosure of a secret disease, with the hope of obtaining a cure";(5) and St. Gregory: "Confession is a detestation of sins."(6) Both of these opinions accord with, and are contained in the preceding definition.


In the next place, it is a duty of greatest moment that the pastor unhesitatingly teach that this Sacrament owes its institution to the singular goodness and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who ordered all things well, and solely with a view to our salvation.(7) After His resurrection He breathed on the assembled Apostles, saying: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."(8)

Our Lord seems to have signified the same thing when, having raised Lazarus from the dead. He commanded His Apostles to loose him from the bands in which he was bound.(9) This is the interpretation of St. Augustine. "The priests," he says, "can now do more: they can exercise greater clemency towards those who confess, and whose sins they forgive. The Lord, in giving over Lazarus, whom He had already raised from the dead, to be loosed by the hands of His disciples, wished us to understand that to priests was given the power of loosing."(10)

To this also refers the command given by our Lord to the lepers cured on the way, that they show themselves to the priests, and subject themselves to their judgment."(11)

Invested, then, as they are, by our Lord with power to remit and retain sins, priests are evidently appointed judges of the matter on which they are to pronounce; and since, according to the wise admonition of the Council of Trent, we cannot form an accurate judgment on any matter, or award to crime a just proportion of punishment without having previously examined and made ourselves well acquainted with the case, it follows that the penitent is obliged to make known to the priest, through the medium of confession, each and every sin.(12)

This doctrine the pastor will teach as defined by the holy synod of Trent, and handed down by the uniform doctrine of the Catholic Church. An attentive perusal of the Fathers will present innumerable passages throughout their works, proving in the clearest terms that this Sacrament was instituted by our Lord, and that the law of sacramental confession, which, from the Greek, they call "exomologesis," and "exagoreusis," is to be received as true Gospel teaching. And if we seek figures in the Old Testament, the different kinds of sacrifices which were offered by the priests for the expiation of different sorts of sins seem, beyond all doubt, to have reference to sacramental confession.


Not only are the faithful to be taught that confession was instituted by our Lord; they are also to be reminded that, by authority of the Church, have been added certain rites and solemn ceremonies, which, although not essential to the Sacrament, serve to place its dignity more fully before the eyes of the penitent, and to prepare his soul, so that, kindled with devotion, he may more easily receive the grace of the Sacrament. When, with uncovered head, and bended knees, with eyes fixed on the earth, and hands raised in supplication to heaven, and with other indications of Christian humility not essential to the Sacrament, we confess our sins, our minds are thus deeply impressed with a clear conviction of the heavenly virtue of the Sacrament, and also of the necessity of humbly imploring and of earnestly importuning the mercy of God.


Nor let it be supposed that, although confession was instituted by our Lord its use was not declared by Him necessary. The faithful must be impressed with the conviction that he who is dead in sin is to be recalled to spiritual life by means of sacramental confession, a truth clearly conveyed by our Lord Himself, when, by a most beautiful metaphor, he calls the power of administering this Sacrament, "the key of the kingdom of heaven."(13) Just as no one can enter any place without the help of him who has the keys, so no one is admitted to heaven unless its gates be unlocked by the priests to whose custody the Lord gave the keys.

This power would otherwise be of no use in the Church. If heaven can be entered without the power of the keys, in vain would they to whom the keys were given seek to prevent entrance within its portals. This thought was familiar to the mind of St. Augustine. "Let no man," he says, "say within himself: 'I repent in secret to the Lord, God, who has power to pardon me, and knows the inmost sentiments of my heart.' Was there, then, no reason for saying 'whatsoever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven';(14) no reason why the keys were given to the Church of God?"(15) The same doctrine is taught by St. Ambrose in his treatise on Penance, when refuting the heresy of the Novations who asserted that the power of forgiving sins belonged solely to God. "Who," says he, "yields greater reverence to God, he who obeys or he who resists His commands? God commands us to obey his ministers; and by obeying them, we honor God alone."(16)


As the law of confession was no doubt enacted and established by our Lord Himself, it is our duty to ascertain, on whom, at what age, and at what period of the year, it becomes obligatory. According to the canon of the Council of Lateran, which begins: "Omnis utriusque sexus," no person is bound by the law of confession until he has arrived at the use of reason--a time determinable by no fixed number of years.(17) It may, however, be laid down as a general principle, that children are bound to go to confession, as soon as they are able to discern good from evil, and are capable of malice; for, when a person has arrived at an age when he must begin to attend to the work of his salvation, he is bound to confess his sins to a priest, since there is no other salvation for one whose conscience is burdened with sin.


In the same canon the Church has defined the period, within which we are bound to discharge the duty of confession. It commands all the faithful to confess their sins at least once a year.(18) If, however, we consult our eternal interests, we will certainly not neglect to have recourse to confession as often, at least, as we are in danger of death, or undertake to perform any act incompatible with the state of sin, such as to administer or receive the Sacraments. The same rule should be strictly followed when we are apprehensive of forgetting some sin, into which we may have fallen; for we cannot confess sins unless we remember them, neither do we obtain pardon unless through confession, our sins are blotted out.


But since in confession many things are to be observed, some of which are essential, some not essential to the Sacrament, the faithful are to be carefully instructed on all these matters. The pastor can have access to works from which such instructions may easily be drawn.


He will teach first of all that a chief requisite for confession is that it be complete and entire. All mortal sins must be revealed to the priest. Venial sins, which do not separate us from the grace of God, and into which we frequently fall, although they may be usefully confessed, as the experience of the pious proves, may be omitted without sin, and expiated by a variety of other means.(18) Mortal sins, as we have already said, are all to be made matter of confession, even though they be most secret, or be opposed to the last two Commandments of the Decalogue. Such secret sins often inflict deeper wounds on the soul, than those which are committed openly and publicly.

So the Council of Trent (20) has defined, and such has been the constant teaching of the Church, as the Fathers declare. St. Ambrose speaks thus: "Without the confession of his sin, no man can be justified from his sin."(21) In confirmation of the same doctrine, St. Jerome, on Ecclesiastes, says: "If the serpent, the devil, has secretly and without the knowledge of a third person, bitten anyone, and has infused into him the poison of sin; if unwilling to disclose his wound to his brother or master, he is silent and will not do penance, his master, who has power to cure him, can render him no service." The same doctrine we find in St. Cyprian, in his sermon on the lapsed. "Although guiltless," he says, "of the heinous crime of sacrificing to idols, or of having purchased certificates to that effect; yet, as they entertained the thought of doing so, they should confess it with grief to the priest of God."(22) In fine, such is the unanimous voice, such the unvarying record of all the Doctors of the Church.(23)


In confession we should employ all that care and exactness which we usually bestow upon worldly concerns of great moment, and all our efforts should be directed to the cure of our soul's wounds and to the destruction of the roots of sin. We should not be satisfied with the bare enumeration of our mortal sins, but should mention such circumstances as considerably aggravate or extenuate their malice. Some circumstances are so serious as of themselves to constitute mortal guilt. On no account whatever, therefore, are such circumstances to be omitted. Thus if one man has killed another, he must state whether his victim was a layman or an ecclesiastic. Or, if he has had sinful relations with a woman, he must state whether the female was married or unmarried, a relative or a person consecrated to God by vow. These circumstances change the nature of the sins; so that the first kind of unlawful intercourse is called by theologians simple fornication, the second adultery, the third incest, and the fourth sacrilege. Again, theft is numbered in the catalogue of sins. But if a person has stolen five dollars his sin is less grievous than if he had stolen five hundred or a thousand dollars, or an immense sum; and if the stolen money belonged to the Church, the sin would be still more grievous. The same rule applies to the circumstances of time and place, but the examples are too well known from books to require mention here. Circumstances such as these are, therefore, to be mentioned; but those which do not considerably aggravate the malice of the sin may be lawfully omitted.


So important is it that confession be entire that if the penitent confesses only some of his sins and willfully neglects to accuse himself of others which should be confessed, he not only does not profit by his confession, but involves himself in deeper guilt. Such an enumeration of sins cannot be called sacramental confession; on the contrary, the penitent must repeat his confession, not omitting to accuse himself of having, under the semblance of confession, profaned the sanctity of the Sacrament.


But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with extraordinary minuteness, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion.

We are not, however, to examine our consciences with careless indifference, or to be so negligent in recalling our sins as to seem as if unwilling to remember them. Should this have been the case, the confession must be made over again.


In the second place our confession should be plain, simple, and undisguised, not artfully made as is the case with some who seem more intent on defending themselves than on confessing their sins. Our confession should be such as to reflect a true image of our lives, such as we ourselves know them to be, exhibiting as doubtful that which is doubtful, and as certain that which is certain. If, then, we neglect to enumerate our sins, or introduce extraneous matter, our confession, it is clear, wants this quality.


Prudence and modesty in explaining matters of confession are also much to be commended, and a superfluity of words is to be carefully avoided. Whatever is necessary to make known the nature of every sin, is to be explained briefly and modestly.


Secrecy should be strictly observed as well by penitent as by priest. Hence, no one can, on any account, confess by messenger or letter, because in those cases secrecy would not be possible.


The faithful should be careful above all to cleanse their consciences from sin by frequent confession. When a person is in mortal sin nothing can be more salutary, so precarious is human life, than to have immediate recourse to confession. But even if we could promise ourselves a long life, yet it would be truly disgraceful that we who are so particular in whatever relates to cleanliness of dress or person, were not at least equally careful in preserving the luster of the soul pure and unsullied from the foul stains of sin.



Go show yourselves to the priests.--LUKE xvii. 14.


Under the old law leprosy was looked upon not only as a type and figure of sin, but the result of sin itself. Hence men afflicted by this disease were unclean in the eye of the law; were segregated from their fellow men and had to dwell apart from their kinsfolks and relatives. Their lot was an unhappy one, for they were not only driven from the usual haunts of their fellow men, but should any come near them, they were obliged to announce their own disabilities by the cry of "Unclean! Unclean!" Moreover, they were so declared by the law of God, and any attempt to thrust themselves upon the companionship of their fellow creatures would have been a violation of the divine ordinance. They were not only physically affected, but were legally unclean. Could the men healed by Christ of leprosy in today's Gospel immediately go back to their friends? Not so, for the law held that they could not associate with their fellow creatures until their legal disabilities had been removed by the priest, so that in this ordinance of the Old Law we have a perfect type of the great Sacrament of Penance.


At all times God has made use of the ministry of man to do favor to man. It was by the mouth of His prophets that He taught man. It was by the ministry of Moses that He liberated the Israelites from bondage and led them to the Promised Land. It was by means of Aaron and his descendants that He made known his will to the Jewish people, and even now, when He acts directly for the healing of the unclean. His first instructions are "Go show yourselves to the priests" (Luke xvii. 14). Why? Because, as you are legally unclean, you can not g-o back to your homes or associate with your fellow men until you have made known your condition to the proper authority and been declared clean, i.e., absolved by the priest. Thus we see that even under the Old Law the manifestation of one's condition was necessary to obtain absolution. If any one doubts this let him read the fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers, where it is expressly prescribed that, when men have sinned, "they shall confess their sin," etc. The same law is laid down in the fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. In fact, confession of sin has always been a prerequisite in order to obtain pardon, so that instead of confession being an invention of Rome, as our enemies would have you believe, it was well understood by the first Christians from the ancient practice among Hebrews. Edersheim, in his "Life and Times of Jesus Christ," says it was the custom of the Jews to go to confession before marriage. (Vol. I, p. 352, also note p. 353.) No one ever heard of God pardoning sin without a confession, and that, too, before man. David obtained pardon only after he had confessed to Nathan, and long before that the Jews confessed to Moses when they had committed grave crimes, in order that they might obtain forgiveness. Even in the natural order this practice is constantly followed, for the State is always merciful only to those who acknowledge their guilt and throw themselves upon the mercy of the court; and Scripture says: "Be not ashamed to confess thy sins" (Ecclus. iv. 31) ; again, "He that hideth his sins shall not prosper, but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy" (Prov. xxviii. 13).


It is not easy to understand the objection of those who reject the idea that the Church of God has the power to forgive sin. Every organization claims this power and exercises it. Even the sects, while denying it in theory, claim it in practice, for when a member has violated their ordinances they may expel him, but, on his repenting and fulfilling certain conditions, they receive him back again. The State, also, and every association, no matter for what purpose originated, all have a way and means by which a delinquent member may be restored to full fellowship. Now, why should not this be the case in that society instituted by Christ to impart the merits of His redemption to individuals? Surely there must be some way in which a man, who has been so unfortunate to lose his citizenship in that kingdom, may be reinstated. True, other societies will not claim the power of forgiving sins against God. They can go no higher than their origin, and, since they are human, they can only forgive offenses against themselves. This is very proper. But the kingdom of God is a divine institution founded for the purpose of ministering in divine things. Its purpose in this world is to reconcile the sinner with God, which would be useless unless the Church can pardon the sinner. Hence St. Paul says: "But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ: and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation, and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation. For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors, God, as it were, exhorting by us" (2 Cor. v. 18, etc.). The Apostle must certainly have known of what he was speaking when he. made use of the above language, which seems clear enough to any intelligent person. It shows plainly enough that the Apostle claimed the power of reconciling the sinner with God, since he was acting as ambassador of Christ in that very matter in which the Eternal Father had endowed His Divine Son, viz., the ministry of reconciliation. That he exercised this power is clearly shown by his action with the incestuous Corinthian, mentioned in the second chapter of the same book.

But in doing this St. Paul was only making use of that power which Christ had given to His Apostles after His resurrection. Having come to them in Jerusalem, His first salutation is "Peace be to you," and then He uses this remarkable language: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this he breathed on them, and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John xx. 21-23). Now, our Divine Lord did not use this singular language without some object. We know He was sent with full power to reconcile the world to God. This power He claimed, and we are not Christians if we do not acknowledge His authority in the matter. But He distinctly, and in so many words, says that "as the Father sent me, I send you." Either He had the power to do so or He had not. If He had the power, what was to prevent Him from so sending them? He did so in unmistakable language, and this commission is coupled with the extraordinary action of His breathing upon them and communicating the Holy Spirit. Only twice have we a record of God breathing upon man. In the first instance He gives man his natural life, in the second case He communicates to him a supernatural power, viz., the power of reconciling the sinner. "Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you shall retain are retained." It is impossible to impart a commission in more direct and positive language, and this text has always proved a stumbling block to those who would deny this power to God's Church.


But this commission conveys a judicial power. To exercise that power the judges in the case must know and understand the spiritual condition of the sinner. Without doing so it would be impossible for them to justly exercise the power here delegated to them. But how are they to know the condition of the soul that applies to them? How are they to know whether to forgive or retain his sins? Evidently there must be some manifestation of conscience, for that soul's state can not otherwise be known. For sin is in the will, and no man may know the guiltiness of another, except that man make it known. Neither the kind of a sin nor the culpability of the sinner can be known except by confession of the sinner himself. There are a thousand and one acts of man which may seem serious, and yet no great culpability be attached to them. Want of malice, forgetfulness, ignorance and even circumstances, all have their part in determining a man's guilt. How then were the Apostles to know what they were to do with a sinner, unless that man manifested the spiritual state of his soul? Clearly it was impossible. And yet they had the commission to settle this matter with the sinner.

Whatever difficulties this matter may present to others, it seems to have occasioned no trouble to the Apostles, for St. Paul says: "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. x. 10). And St. John tells us that "If we confess our sins: He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity" (1 John i. 9). What is here set forth we find practiced both before and during the apostolic age. Those who heeded the words of the Baptist confessed their sins (Matt. iii. 6), and when the Apostles went out to convert the world they began by preaching penance. "Peter said to them: Do penance and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins" (Acts ii. 38). And "many of them that believed came confessing and declaring their deeds" (Acts xix. 18). It was thus the first ministers of Christ exercised the power given to them when Christ said "Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John xx. 20-21). Many were pardoned, but we have a noted instance in the case of Ananias and Sapphira when there was no forgiveness forthcoming.

After all, there must be some way in which a man may obtain pardon for his delinquencies, or else we may as well abandon hope. Man is not an angel or a mere spirit. He has a very substantial body, and it is through that body he commits most of his sins. Why then should not that body participate in the humiliation necessary to secure pardon? To do so it must use external signs or expressions, and confession is one of the most potent means. We may further ask why should a man be pardoned who is unwilling to acknowledge his guilt? True some there are who, running away with that saying of St. James "Confess your sins one to another" (James v. 16), insist that the offender shall confess to the Church while denying the power of the priests of the Church. But we can not conceive how, if the individual has not power to absolve from sin, any number should possess this faculty. A multitude has no more power in this case than the individual, for it is the power of God which is exercised, and if God has not made some "ambassadors in the ministry of reconciliation" it is inconceivable how any number of those same helpless individuals could acquire that power by accumulation. It is a divine power which here energizes the fallen one, and no aggregation of finite beings can ever become infinite. Moreover, that plan would be upsetting all precedent in such cases, for even in civil affairs the power is exercised by the individual and not by the multitude which compose the State. No man can give that which he has not, and St. Paul tells us that "all power comes from God." Hence while the individual in some cases may be chosen by the multitude to execute laws the power comes from God. But in this case not even the appointment comes from the people, for St. Paul tells us that "no man takes this honor to himself but he that is called by God as Aaron was" (Heb. v. 4).

And all history, sacred and profane, teaches us that Christ chose out His own ministers. "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" (John xv. 16). It follows that no man can attempt this ministry unless it has been handed down to him by legitimate authority. Hence it is easy to understand why those who rejected that authority denied this power of man to forgive sins. But that question was settled long since by no less an authority than Jesus Christ, who replied to the Jews: "Whether is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say. Arise and walk? But that you may know that the son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. ix. 5, 6), He healed the man of his physical infirmities. Having thus demonstrated His power. He afterwards, as we have seen, passed it on to His Apostles. To reject this truth is to refuse to believe Holy Writ and the testimony of all Christianity for fifteen hundred years.

Among all the errors which arose from time to time it remained for the sixteenth century revolters to deny that God had provided a means by which man might obtain pardon for his sins. That might not have been so serious had it not been for the fallacy they invented, that a man should confess to God alone. Outside of this absurdity that God should provide a totally inadequate means, one shorn of all power to help man in the most important needs of life, their proposition involves the idea that God's justice should never be made manifest. In their idea, no matter what sin a man may commit, he could secretly go to God and obtain pardon without humbling himself. This makes the criminal at the bar dictate to the Deity on what terms he is willing to come back. The sinner becomes his own judge and jury in the case. It is no longer what the offended infinite majesty of God may require, but what the sinner may choose to give. Practically he demands pardon without offering any recompense, which is contrary to all justice. God can not pardon the sinner without repentance, and, since the sinner has no rights in the case, if he wishes restoration to favor, it is not the sinner but God who has the right to name the conditions. Somewhere along the line the sinner must humble himself and acknowledge that "I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son" (Luke xv. 21). Then God may receive him back again. But since He has established the tribunal of Penance, that is the means by which this must be accomplished.

How thankful should we not be that God has been so merciful to man. Not angels or the powers of heaven has Pie chosen to exercise this authority, but man, who knows the weakness of our nature, who daily comes into conflict with the powers of darkness and the wiles of Satan, and can sympathize with our ailments and help us in our need. We may look upon it as a humiliation, and it is, but as Tertullian says: "It is better to confess here than to burn hereafter." And having fulfilled the required conditions, we can arise with the conviction that as we have not been our own judge, but have submitted our case to that independent tribunal which God established, we have really been made clean and restored to friendship with God. Either here or hereafter, since we commit sins before man, must our manifestation be made.

How much better then to make it here than to have the whole world witness our confession. Here we are taken on. our own valuation, for this is the only tribunal where man is taken at his own estimate, but in eternity we shall be judged without mercy, since we refused to accept the opportunity to acquire it, while the confessional was still open to us. "If we should judge ourselves we should not be judged" (1 Cor. xi. 31). But if we resist the grace of God and refuse to submit ourselves to His own tribunal, we can expect no reward except that of the proud Pharisee, who went down, not justified. For such the wells of mercy shall be dried up on that awful day, when Christ comes to judge the living and the dead.

1. Ambr., serm. I, de quadrag.; quoted in de poenit. dist. I c. ecce nunc.; August, lib. 2 de adul. conjug. 59; Chrysost., de sacerdot. lib. 3. 2. In decree of Eugene IV; de poenit. dist. 6. c. sacerdos,
3. Prov. ii. 14.
4. Chrysost., 20 in Genes.
5. Aug., ser. 4 de verbis Domini.
6. Greg., hom. 40. in Evangel.
7. See C. of Trent, sess. 14. de poenit. c. 5; can. 6; Aug., lib. 50. hom. homil. 49; quoted in de poenit. dist. I. c. agite; Orig., hom. I. in Psal. 31; Chrysost., de sacerd. lib. 3.
8. John xx. 22, 23.
9. John xi. 44.
10. De vera et falsa poenit. c. 16; senn. 8. de verbis Domini.
11. Luke xvii. 14.
12. Sess. 10. c. 5; can. 7. de pcenit. That priests are the appointed judges of sins is taught by August., lib. 20. de civit. Dei, c. 9; Jerome, epist. I. ad Heliod.; Chrysost, lib. 3. de Sacerd.; hom. 5. de verbis Isaise; Greg., hom. 26. in Evang.; Ambr., lib, 2. de Cain, cap. 4; C. of Trent, sess. 14. de poenit. c. 5. can. 7.
13. Matt xvi. 19.
14. Lib. 50. horn. 49.
15. Matt. xviii. 18.
16. Lib. i. de poenit. 2.
17. Lat cone. cap. 22.
18. Lat. cone. cap. 21.
19. How venial sins are remitted see Aug., in Ench. cap. 71; quoted in de poenit. dist. 3. c, de quotidianis, and in C. of Toledo 4, cap. 9.
20. Sess. 14. de posnit. c. 5. et can. 7.
21. Lib. de Paradiso, c. 4. c. i. super illud: si mordeat serpens.
22. Circa finem.
23. The necessity of confessing all mortal sins is taught by August., lib. de vera et falsa poenit. cap. 10; Gregor., homil. 10. super Eze.; Ambr., lib. de parad. cap. 14; Jerome, in Ecclesiast. c. 20; Cypr., de lapsis towards the end; see also de poenit. dist. 3. cap. sunt plures, etc., pluit; ibid. dist. I c. quem poen. & ibid. passim.