Skip to comments.Need for Annual Confession - (is it necessary?)
Posted on 02/17/2010 1:57:16 PM PST by NYer
ROME, FEB. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Many priests recommend the faithful to have confession at least once year, as in the second precept of the Church (Catechism No. 2042, "You shall confess your sins at least once a year"). But I heard a priest say that this is not necessary unless there are grave sins, as in Canon 989, "All the faithful who have reached the age of discretion are bound faithfully to confess their grave sins at least once a year." Theoretically, one consequence of this assertion is that after first confession (before first Communion), there would be no more need to receive this sacrament unless there are grave sins. Practically, some faithful do not receive this sacrament for many years because "they did not commit any grave sins." Catechism No. 1457 also refers to the above canon ("after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year"). Here, it points out that confession is obligatory only for grave sins. As you know, Canon 989 has a juridical obligation. However, Catechism No. 2041 points out the obligatory character of the five precepts of the Church too. My personal interpretation is that there is no contradiction if we can distinguish a "juridical" obligation of the Canon 989, and a "pastoral" obligation of the second precept. I completely support the urging of regular and frequent confessions. But strictly speaking, is the second precept obligatory only if there are grave sins? -- G.M., Hong Kong
A: I believe that this conundrum can be resolved by looking at the contexts. First of all, Canon 989 builds directly upon the previous canon 988:
"Can. 988 §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.
"§2. It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins."
Thus, Canon 989 indicates that the maximum time for fulfilling the obligation of 988.1 is a year. For this reason, several expert commentators on canon law hold that, effectively, Canon 989's strict obligation of confessing once a year regards serious sins. On the supposition that a person has not committed any serious sins, this canon would not apply to them.
In this light, Catechism No. 1457 quotes Canon 989 because it is dealing with the need to confess ones serious sins before receiving Communion.
Catechism No. 2042, even though it refers to Canon 989 in the footnote, deals with its topic under the title of man's vocation and his life in the Spirit. As our correspondent points out, the Catechism considers fulfilling the second precept as a minimum requirement of spiritual growth.
Because of this, the second precept does not mention "serious or mortal sin" and obliges whether serious sin is present or not. By doing so, Catechism No. 2042 says that the annual confession "ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness." Here, reconciliation is not seen just as the obligatory means of being shriven of mortal sin but as one of the habitual and even necessary means of spiritual progress.
The Compendium to the Catechism also makes no mention of the need for serious sin. Thus, No. 432.2 formulates the precept as: "To confess one's sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year."
By doing this, both the Catechism and its Compendium descend from the ethereal spheres of canonical theory to the reality of the Christian life.
The idea that the annual canonical obligation to confess obliges only in the case of serious sins is fine on paper, but the experience of many directors of souls is that it is rare for someone to avoid any serious sin over a period of one or more years.
Indeed, when serious sin is avoided over the course of years, it almost always occurs in souls who regularly and frequently confess their venial sins and make use of the sacrament of reconciliation in order to grow in their delicacy of conscience and love for God. Such souls are also likely to practice other means of spiritual progress such as regular prayer, frequent Communion, and charitable service.
We also need to remember that the obligation does not fall upon those who are unable to fulfill it due to age, infirmity or some other good reason.
Perhaps the difficulty stems from having diluted the concept of mortal or serious sin, so that it is no longer perceived. At times, sin is reduced to violations of the Sixth Commandment. We pastors need to remind our faithful, and ourselves, that the deadly sins are seven (pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth) and that each poisons the soul in its own way.
Finally, the obligation to annual confession aids us in combating the sin of presumption before God's judgment.
Well, I try to talk to the ‘Big Guy’ daily at a minimum.
Not only because I know I do wrong (a bit), but to thank
him for the health and well being of my family.
Hi NYer; uh, that was really technical. I tend to rely more upon the advice of our Parish Priests and others who strenuously advocate, (as has the Pope of late), much more frequent examinations of conscience and Confession with one explanation being, “the Catechism considers fulfilling the second precept as a minimum requirement of spiritual growth”. From my own experience and learning, I’ve discovered something else applies here as well. In considering the “annual” requirement, many seem to focus on the requirement to annually confess “serious” or “mortal” sin. Most seem to believe, that “mortal” or “serious” sin equates to any violation of the Ten Commandments. Thus I hear people say, “I don’t need Confession, I haven’t killed anyone this year.” I usually reply, yea, but how many times have we heard you take God’s name in vain. That usually causes a prolonged silence in the room.
I don’t believe we can successfully attain any spiritual progress without engaging the discipline of rigorous examination of conscience and frequent confession.
I’ve been a Catholic, but still don’t understand what the sin of presumption is. I may be guilty of it and do not even realize it.
we should confess daily to keep in fellowship with God...
what’s this annual stuff??!
Perhaps the simplest sin of Presumption is believing that we can get away with sin because we presume in advance God’s forgiveness.
“”Presumption is here considered as a vice opposed to the theological virtue of hope. It may also be regarded as a product of pride. It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.””
You should probably just presume you are guilty.
That's good! But ... you have no assurance of forgiveness of your sins. Our Lord established the Sacrament of Penance so that you could confess your sins and know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they were forgiven.
In John 20:21, before He grants the Apostles the authority to forgive sins, Jesus says to them, "as the Father sent me, so I send you." As Christ was sent by the Father to forgive sins, so Christ sends the apostles and their successors to forgive sins. In John 20:22, the Lord "breathes" on the apostles, and then gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. The only other moment in Scripture where God breathes on man is in Gen. 2:7, when the Lord "breathes" divine life into man. When this happens, a significant transformation takes place. And in John 20:23, Jesus says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In order for the apostles to exercise this gift of forgiving sins, the penitents must orally confess their sins to them because the apostles are not mind readers. The text makes this very clear.
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Presumption is where you "presume" in advance that you will have God's forgiveness, and use that presumption as an excuse to sin. In many cases, it is a sin that you WANT to commit, and go ahead and commit it anyway, knowing you can go to Confession later and confess it, and be forgiven. Hence, you are trying to "get away with something" - but God doesn't let us get away with legalistic tricks.
Example (perhaps a bit extreme): You (a fictional person)are a Catholic man, and all the guys in your office you want go out to a strip club together after work on a Friday evening for drinking and "carousing". You know it is wrong, and involves committing one or more sins, quite probably mortal sins, and yet you also want to hang with the guys, and it also sounds like fun to have a "guys night out". You reason in advance that even though you know it is sinful to participate, you want to go and have fun, and you further reason that you will be sorry afterwards, and will go to Confession and be given penance to do, and hence God will forgive you. You may even tell yourself that this is the only time you will do such a thing, and you won't do it again after this.
So, you go ahead and do it, and then go to confession the next day, and receive absolution from the Priest. In addition to other sins, you are probably guilty of the sin of presumption for assuming in advance you can sin at will, just as long as you ar sorry for it, and go to confession afterwards (hopefully, one of the sins you confessed was "presumption"!!).
This may sound silly, but besides the birth of my children, there is no more unexplained joyous feeling in this world than a good and heartfelt Confession. It is truly remarkable. I have a fellow Catholic friend who had been experiencing bouts of depression and despair for many years. I begged her go to Confession, which she did. The transformation in her psycological status was truly amazing. The guilt she had been caring around for years is gone and she has a new sense of purpose to amend her life.
Thanks for the explanation. I’ve always known that was wrong, just didn’t know it had a name.