It is without question that the forgiveness of sin is central to the Gospel. Confronting the Goodness of God you are conscious of your own failings, and the ways your have not measured up to your own standards or God’s. In the rise and fall of the liturgical pattern most of our public liturgies have some form of ‘general confession’ Normally this is likely to be early in the liturgy, that unencumbered by the weight of sin we are freed to worship and commit ourselves afresh to the way of Christ.
Sometimes as part of our journey some people find benefit in a private confession in the presence of a priest and hearing the absolution specifically for them. Some find this useful as an occasional practice, whilst others have found great benefit in it being part of their rule of life.
At S Stephen’s we honour this ancient practice, and our Priest will generally be available on a Friday Afternoon in S Stephens from about 5.30 pm to hear confessions, or at other times by appointment.
It is a given that the priest hearing a confession of sin is duty bound to forget that which he has heard and not repeat it. (This is called the seal of the confessional)
By way of a by-note you should be aware that the confessional has never been used to avoid responsibility for your own actions, and requires true repentance. The priest may in spiritual wisdom require certain actions be undertaken, as a sign of true repentance, before the absolution may be effective, and that may include reporting the matter to the relevant authorities.
It always seems one of the most outrageous things, that the Church through her priests should forgive sin, however Jesus has entrusted this authority to the Church to bind and to loose. (see John 20:19-23, Matthew 16:13-20, Matthew 18:15-19)
In is famous book ‘Cur Deus Homo’ (Why God Became Man) in the dialogue Anselm argues that we owed everything to God, and the sin showed what we held back, and as all had need, and only God had the ability and the capacity, God became man that we might be forgiven and live in his love for ever.