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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

Why Do Private Confession When We Have General Confession?

By Fr. Daniel Pinell

In Part II of our series on the discipline of confession, I shared how this practice is made possible by the Cross and answered the question: who has the authority to forgive sins? In Part III, we will deal with the question: why go to private confession when we can confess directly to God? Also, we have a general confession on most Eucharistic services. Isn’t that enough?

The authority given to the disciples in no way threatens the value of personal confession to God. One of the gifts of the reformation is the idea that an individual can still have new life in Christ without the aid of any human mediator. So, what’s the point of private confession? There have been times in my life, and I bet in many of our lives when we seek release from persistent, habitual sins. We ask God to forgive us. We have hope and faith in God’s mercy. And yet, sometimes, the sin and guilt of sin still nag us. It won’t leave us alone! The hurt and sorrow that our sin leaves behind are still there, bothering us and sinking us in doubts. We try to believe by faith that we are forgiven, and yet the sense of misery and bitterness is still there. Eventually, we might believe forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven once we die, and not something we can experience now. Or we might believe that we are not worthy of God’s grace. For situations like these, the sacramental rite of confession is a grace of God’s mercy to us!

In the earlier versions of the Book of Common Prayer, we find this encouragement to seek private confession after the call to self-examinations:

“If there be any of you who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein but require further comfort or counsel, let him come to me or to some other minister of God’s word, and open his grief; that by the Ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of Absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding all scruple and doubtfulness.”

If there is any of you that is struggling in quieting their conscience and is seeking healing and comfort from the harm that our sins leave behind, the Discipline of Confession might be the balm your soul needs!

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