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8. The Minister of Confession

1. Confession is to be made to a duly ordained priest, for to noother is given the power to absolve from sins. St. James indicatesthiswondrous power which Christ gave to men, when he says(James 5:16): "Confess your sins, one to another." St.James knew and preached the divine institution of the sacrament ofpenance; here he directs the faithful to confess to their brethrenwho are priests.

2. Confession to a layman when no priest is availablewould indicate the strong desire of the penitent to receive thesacrament of penance; it would show his eagerness to do his part.Some have held that, in such a circumstance, Christ, the great HighPriest, confers absolution. But this is not revealed, and theChurch does not approve confession to one who cannot giveabsolution. Confession to a layman would generally be an imprudentact, and could be spiritually dangerous to both penitent andlay-confessor.

3. Some have held that it is expedient to confess venialsins to a layman if no priest is available. This is not an approvedprocedure, for it is not necessary to confess venial sins at all,though it is useful and pious to confess them in making regularconfession to a priest, and therefore it is certainly not necessaryto confess them to a layman. Venial sins can be remitted bycontrite prayer, pious practices, and devout use ofsacramentals.

4. The law of annual confession (which is a precept of theChurch) once required each parishioner to confess to his own parishpriest. But now a penitent may fulfill this duty by confessing toany approved priest.

5. A priest receives approval and jurisdiction for thehearing of confessions-in a definite place, or of definitepersons-from his bishop or from his religious superior or fromthose who hold or share the ordinary jurisdiction in a diocese orreligious community.

6. A penitent who is at death's door may be absolved,from sins and censures, by any priest whatever. The Church herselfsupplies jurisdiction to the confessor in such a case.

7. Before absolving a penitent, the confessor imposes uponhim a work of satisfaction (some prayer or piousexercise), which the penitent accepts and agrees to perform. Thisimposed duty is commonly called "a penance," and thepenitent in performing it says that he is "doing hispenance." In imposing such a penance, the priest is guided bythe gravity of the sins confessed, and by circumstances whichindicate in each case what is prudent and salutary.

"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God."
St Philip Neri

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."
Thomas á Kempis

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"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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