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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.

"Obedience is the true holocaust which we sacrifice to God on the altar of our hearts."
St Philip Neri

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"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."
St Philip Neri

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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