The Dogma of Auricular Confession —a Sacriligious
BOTH Roman Catholics and Protestants have fallen into very
strange errors in reference to the words of Christ: "Whosesoever
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever
sins ye retain, they are retained." (St. John xx. 23.)
The first have seen in this text the inalienable attributes of
God of forgiving and retaining sins transferred to sinful men; the
second have most unwisely granted their position, even while
attempting to refute their errors.
A little more attention to the translation of the 3d and 6th
verses of chapter xiii. of Leviticus by the Septuagint would have
prevented the former from falling into their sacrilegious errors,
and would have saved the latter from wasting so much time in
refuting errors which refute themselves.
Many believe that the Septuagint Bible was the Bible that was
generally read and used by Jesus Christ and the Hebrew people in our
Saviour's days. Its language was possibly the one spoken at times by
Christ and understood by his hearers. When addressing his apostles
and disciples on their duties towards the spiritual lepers to whom
they were to preach the ways of salvation, Christ constantly
followed the very expression of the Septuagint. It was the
foundation of his doctrine and the testimonial of his divine mission
to which he constantly appealed: the book which was the greatest
treasure of the nation.
From the beginning to the end of the Old and the New Testaments,
the bodily leprosy, with which the Jewish priest had to deal, is
presented as the figure of the spiritual leprosy, sin, the penalty
of which our Saviour had taken upon himself, that we might be saved
by his death. That spiritual leprosy was the very thing for the
cleansing of which he had come to this world—for which he lived,
suffered, and died. Yes, the bodily leprosy with which the priests
of the Jews had to deal, was the figure of the sins which Christ was
to take away by shedding his blood, and with which his disciples
were to deal till the end of the world.
When speaking of the duties of the Hebrew priests towards the
leper, our modern translations say: (Lev. xiii. v. 6,) "They will
pronounce him clean." or (v. 3) "They will pronounce him
But this action of the priests was expressed in a very different
way by the Septuagint Bible, used by Christ and the people of his
time. Instead of saying, "The priest shall pronounce the leper
clean," as we read in our Bible, the Septuagint version says, "The
priest shall clean (katharei), or shall unclean
(mianei) the leper."
No one had ever been so foolish, among the Jews, as to believe
that because their Bible said clean (katharei), their
priests had the miraculous and supernatural power of taking away and
curing the leprosy: and we nowhere see that the Jewish priests ever
had the audacity to try to persuade the people that they had ever
received any supernatural and divine power to "cleanse" the leprosy,
because their God, through the Bible, had said of them: "They will
cleanse the leper." Both priest and people were sufficiently
intelligent and honest to understand and acknowledge that, by that
expression, it was only meant that the priest had the legal right to
see if the leprosy was gone or not, they had only to look at certain
marks indicated by God himself, through Moses, to know whether or
not God had cured the leper before he presented himself to his
priest. The leper, cured by the mercy and power of God alone, before
presenting himself to the priest, was only declared to be clean by
that priest. Thus the priest was said, by the Bible, to "clean" the
leper, or the leprosy;—and in the opposite case to "unclean."
(Septuagint, Leviticus xiii. v. 3, 6.)
Now, let us put what God has said, through Moses, to the priests
of the old law, in reference to the bodily leprosy, face to face
with what God has said, through his Son Jesus, to his apostles and
his whole church, in reference to the spiritual leprosy from which
Christ has delivered us on the cross.
Septuagint Bible, Levit. xiii.
"And the Priest shall look on the plague, in the skin of the
flesh, and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the
plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague
of leprosy; and the priest shall look on him and UNCLEAN HIM
"And the Priest shall look on him again the seventh day, and if
the plague is somewhat dark and does not spread on the skin, the
Priest shall CLEAN HIM (katharei): and he shall wash his
clothes and BE CLEAN" (katharos).
New Testament, John xx. 23.
"Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto. them; and
whosesoever sins ye retain they are retained."
The analogy of the diseases with which the Hebrew priests and the
disciples of Christ had to deal, is striking: so the analogy of the
expressions prescribing their respective duties is also
When God said to the priests of the Old Law, "You shall clean the
leper," and he shall be "cleaned," or "you shall unclean the leper,"
and he shall be "uncleaned," he only gave the legal power to see if
there were any signs or indications by which they could say that God
had cured the leper before he presented himself to the priest. So,
when Christ said to his apostles and his whole church, "Whosesover
sins ye shall forgive, shall be forgiven unto them," he only gave
them the authority to say when the spiritual lepers, the sinners,
had reconciled themselves to God, and received their pardon from him
and him alone, previous to the coming to the apostles.
It is true that the priests of the Old Law had regulations from
God, through Moses, which they had to follow, by which they could
see and say whether or not the leprosy was gone.
If the plague spread not on the skin. . . . . the priest shall
clean him. . . . . but if the priest see that the scab spread on the
skin, it is leprosy: he shall "unclean" him. (Septuagint, Levit.
xiii. 3, 6.)
Should any be convinced that Christ spoke the Hebrew of that day
and not the Greek, and used the Old Testament in Hebrew, we have
only to say that the Hebrew is precisely the same as the Greek—the
priest is said to clean or unclean as the case may be,
precisely as in the Septuagint.
So Christ had given to his apostles and his whole church equally,
infallible rules and marks to determine whether or not the spiritual
leprosy was gone, that they might clean the leper and tell him,
I clean thee, I forgive thy sins,
I unclean thee I retain thy sins.
I would have, indeed, many passages of the Old and New Testaments
to copy, were it my intention to reproduce all the marks given by
God himself, through his prophets, or by Christ and apostles, that
his ambassadors might know when they should say to the sinner that
he was delivered from his iniquities. I will give only a few.
First: "And he said unto them, go ye into all the world and
preach the gospel to every creature:
"He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved: but he that
believeth not shall be damned. (Mark xvi. 15, 16.)
What a strange want of memory in the Saviour of the World! He has
entirely forgotten that "auricular confession," besides faith and
baptism are necessary to be saved! To those who believe and are
baptised, the apostles and the church are authorized by Christ to
"You are saved! your sins are forgiven: I clean you!"
Second: "And when ye come into a house, salute it.
"And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if
it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
"And whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when ye
depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your
"Verily, verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for
the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of Judgment, than for
that city." (Matt. X. 12-15.)
Here, again, the Great Physician tells his disciples when the
leprosy will be gone, the sins forgiven, the sinner purified. It is
when the lepers, the sinners, will have welcomed his messengers,
heard and received their message. Not a word about auricular
confession: this great panacea of the Pope was evidently ignored by
Third: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father
will also forgive you,—but if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. "(Matt. vi.
Was it possible to give a more striking and simple rule to the
apostles and the disciples that they might know when they could say
to a sinner: "Thy sins are forgiven!" or, "thy sins are retained?"
Here the double keys of heaven are most solemnly and publicly given
to every child of Adam! As sure as there is a God in heaven and that
Jesus died to save sinners, so it is sure that if one forgives the
trespasses of his neighbor for the dear Saviour's sake, believing in
him, his own sins have been forgiven! To the end of the world, then,
let the disciples of Christ say to the sinner, "Thy sins are
forgiven," not because you have confessed your sins to me, but for
Christ's sake; the evidence of which is that you have forgiven those
who had offended you.
Fourth: "And behold, a certain one stood up and tempted him,
saying: Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
"He said unto him: What is written in the law? how readest
"And he, answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and
with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
"And he said unto him: Thou hast answered right; this do and thou
shalt live." (Luke x. 25-28.)
What a fine opportunity for the Saviour to speak of "auricular
confession" as a means given by him to be saved! But here again
Christ forgets that marvellous medicine of the Popes. Jesus,
speaking absolutely like the Protestants, bids his messengers to
proclaim pardon, forgiveness of sins, not to those who confess their
sins to a man, but to those who love God and their neighbor. And so
will his true disciples and messengers do to the end of the
Fifth: "And when he (the prodigal son) came to himself, he said:
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I
have sinned against Heaven and before thee: and I am not worthy to
be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
"And be arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great
way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and he fell
on his neck and kissed him.
"And the son said, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in
thy sight, and am not worthy to be called thy son.
"But the father said to his servants: Bring forth the best robe,
and put it on him: put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and
bring hither the fatted calf. For this my son was dead, and he is
alive again, he was lost and he is found." (Luke xv. 17-24.)
Apostles and disciples of Christ, wherever you will hear, on this
land of sin and misery, the cry of the Prodigal Son: "I will arise
and go to my Father," every time you see him, not at your feet, but
at the feet of his true Father, crying, "Father, I have sinned
against thee," unite your hymns of joy to the joyful songs of the
angels of God; repeat into the ears of that redeemed sinner the
sentence just fallen from the lips of the Lamb, whose blood cleanses
us from all our sins; say to him, "Thy sins are forgiven."
Sixth: "Come unto me all ye who labor, and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am
meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for
my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. xi. 28-30.)
Though these words were pronounced more than 1800 years ago, they
were pronounced this very morning: they come at every hour of day
and night from the lips and the heart of Christ to everyone of us
sinners. It is just now that Jesus says to every sinner, " Come to
me and I will give ye rest." Christ has never said and he will never
say to any sinner, "Go to my priests and they will give you rest."
But he has said, "Come to me, and I will give you rest."
Let the apostles and disciples of the Saviour, then, proclaim
peace, pardon, and rest, not to the sinners who come to confess to
them all their sins, but to those who go to Christ, and him alone,
for peace, pardon and rest. For "Come to me," from Jesus' lips, has
never meant—it will never mean—"Go and confess to the priests."
Christ would never have said: "My yoke is easy and my burden
light " if he had instituted auricular confession. For the world has
never seen a yoke so heavy, humiliating, and degrading, as auricular
Seventh: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even
so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have eternal life." (John iii. 14.)
Did Almighty God require any auricular confession in the
wilderness, from the sinners, when he ordered Moses to lift up the
serpent? No! Neither did Christ speak of auricular confession as a
condition of salvation to those who look to Him when He dies on the
Cross to pay their debts. A free pardon was offered to the
Israelites who looked to the uplifted serpent. A free pardon is
offered by Christ crucified to all those who look to Him with faith,
repentance, and love. To such sinners the ministers of Christ, to
the end of the world, are authorized to say: "Your sins are forgiven
"we clean your leprosy."
Eighth: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but
have eternal life.
"For God sent not his Son to condemn the world, but that the
world, through him, might be saved.
"He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that believeth
not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world,
and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were
evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither
cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
"But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may
be manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John iii. 16-21.)
In the religion of Rome, it is only through auricular confession
that the sinner can be reconciled to God; it is only after he has
beard a most detailed confession of all the thoughts, desires, and
actions of the guilty one that he can tell him: "Thy sins are
forgiven." But in the religion of the Gospel, the reconciliation of
the sinner with his God is absolutely and entirely the work of
Christ. That marvellous forgiveness is a free gift offered not for
any outward act of the sinner: nothing is required from him but
faith, repentance, and love. These are marks by which the leprosy is
known to be cured and the sins forgiven. To all those who have these
marks, the ambassadors of Christ are authorized to say, Your sins
are forgiven," we clean" you.
Ninth: The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much
as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying: " God! be
merciful to me a sinner!
"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified." (Lake
xviii. 13-14.) Yes! justified! and without auricular confession!
Ministers and disciples of Christ, when you see the repenting
sinner smiting his breast and crying: "Oh, God, have mercy upon me,
a sinner!" shut your ears to the deceptive words of Rome, or its
ugly tail the Ritualists, who tell you to force that redeemed sinner
to make to you a special confession of all his sins to get his
pardon. But go to him and deliver the message of love, peace, and
mercy, which you received from Christ: "Thy sins are forgiven! I
Tenth: "And one of the malefactors which were hanged, railed on
him, saying: If thou be Christ save thyself and us.
"But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying: Dost thou not
fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
"And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our
deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
"And he said unto Jesus: Remember me when thou comest into thy
Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him: Verily I say unto thee, to-day,
shalt thou be with me in Paradise. (Luke xxiii. 39-43.)
Yes, in the Paradise or Kingdom of Christ, without auricular
confession! From Calvary, when his hands are nailed to the cross,
and his blood is poured out, Christ protests against the great
imposture of auricular confession. Jesus will be, to the end of the
world, what he was, there, on the cross: the sinner's friend; always
ready to hear and pardon those who invoke his name and trust in
Disciples of the gospel, wherever you hear the cry of the
repenting sinner to the crucified Saviour:
"Remember me when thou comest to thy Kingdom," go and give the
assurance to that penitent and redeemed child of Adam, that "his
sins are forgiven:"—"clean the leper."
Eleventh: "Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous
man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have
mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
(Isa. lv. 7, 8.)
"Wash you and make you clean, put away the evils of your doings
from before mine eyes: cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek
judgment, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless, and plead for
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though
your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they
be red like crimson; they shall be as wool." (Isa. i, 16-18.)
Here are the landmarks of the mercy of God, put by his own
Almighty hands! Who will dare to remove them in order to put others
in their place? Has ever Christ touched these landmarks? Has he ever
intimated that anything but faith, repentance, and love, with their
blessed fruits, were required from the sinned to secure his pardon?
Have the prophets of the Old Testament or the apostles of the
New, ever said a word about "auricular confession," as a condition
for pardon? No—never.
What does David say? "I confess my sins unto thee, and mine
iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression
unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm
What does the apostle John say? "If we say that we have
fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son,
cleanseth us from sin;
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is
not in us.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our
sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John i.
This is the language of the prophets and apostles. This is the
language of the Old and the New Testament. It is to God and him
alone that the sinner is requested to confess his sins. It is from
God and him alone that he can expect his pardon.
The apostle Paul writes fifteen epistles, in which he speaks of
all the duties imposed upon human conscience by the laws of God and
the prescriptions of the Gospel of Christ. A thousand times he
speaks to sinners, and tells them how they may be reconciled to God.
But does he say a word about auricular confession? No—not one!
The apostles Peter, John, Jude, address six letters to the
different churches, in which they state, with the greatest detail,
what the different classes of sinners have to do to be saved. But
again, not a single word comes from them about auricular
St. James says: "Confess your faults one to another." But this is
so evidently the repetition of what the Saviour had said about the
way of reconciliation between those who had offended one another,
and it is so far from the dogma of a secret confession to the priest
that the most zealous supporters of auricular confession have not
dared to mention that text in favor of their modern invention.
But if we look in vain in the Old and New Testaments for a word
in favor of auricular confession as a dogma, will it be possible to
find that dogma in the records of the first thousand years of
Christianity? No! for the more one studies the records of the
Christian Church during those first ten centuries, the more he will
be convinced that auricular confession is a miserable imposture of
the darkest days of the world and the church this century, by one of
the early fathers of the church. But not a word is said in it of his
confessing his sins to anyone, though a thousand things are said of
him which are of a far less interesting character.*
* [This version lacks some words.—Ed. Another version adds the
following: And so is it with the lives of several of the early
fathers of the church. Not a word is said of their confessing their
sins to anyone, though a thousand things are said of him which are
of a far less interesting character.—Ed.]
So it is with the life of St. Mary, the Egyptian. The minute
history of her life, her public scandals, her conversion, long
prayers and fastings in solitude, the detailed history of her last
days and of her death, all these we have; but not a single word is
said of her confessing to anyone. It is evident that she lived and
died without ever having thought of going to confess.
The deacon Pontius wrote also the life of St. Cyprian, who lived
in the third century; but he does not say a word of his ever having
gone to confession, or having heard the confession of anyone. More
than that, we learn from this reliable historian that Cyprian was
excommunicated by the Pope of Rome, called Stephen, and that he died
without having ever asked from anyone absolution from that
excommunication; a thing which has not seemingly prevented him from
going to Heaven, since the infallible Popes of Rome, who succeeded
Stephen, have assured us that be is a saint.
Gregory of Nyssa has given us the life of St. Gregory, of
Neo-Caesarea, of the third century, and of St. Basil, of the fourth
century. But neither speak of their having gone to confess, or
having heard the secret and auricular confession of anyone. It is
thus evident that those two great and good men, with all the
Christians of their times, lived and died without ever knowing
anything about the dogma of auricular confession.
We have the interesting life of St. Ambrose, of the fourth
century, by Paulinus; and from that book it is evident, as two and
two make four, that St. Ambrose never went to confess.
The history of St. Martin, of Tours, of the fourth century, by
Severus Sulpicius, of the fifth century, is another monument left by
antiquity to prove that there was no dogma of auricular confession
in those days; for St. Martin has evidently lived and died without
ever going to confess.
Pallas and Theoderet have left us the history of the life,
sufferings, and death of St. Cbrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople,
who died at the beginning of the fifth century, and both are
absolutely mute about that dogma. No fact is more evident, by what
they say, than that holy and eloquent bishop lived and died also
without ever thinking of going to confess.
No man has ever more perfectly entered into the details of a
Christian life, when writing on that subject, than the learned and
eloquent St. Jerome, of the fifth century. Many of his admirable
letters are written to the priests of his day, and to several
Christian ladies and virgins, who had requested him to give them
some good advice about the best way to lead a Christian life. His
letters, which form five volumes, are most interesting monuments of
the manners, habits, views, morality, practical and dogmatical faith
of the first centuries of the church; they are a most unanswerable
evidence that auricular confession, as a dogma, had then no
existence, and is quite a modern invention. Would it be possible
that Jerome had forgotten to give some advices or rules about
auricular confession, to the priests of his time who asked his
council about the best way to fulfil their ministerial duties, if it
had been one of their duties to hear the confessions of the people?
But we challenge the most devoted modern priest of Rome to find a
single line in all the letters of St. Jerome in favor of auricular
confession. In his admirable letter to the Priest Nepotianus, on the
life of priests, vol. II., p. 203, when speaking of the relations,
of priests with women, he says: "Solus cum sola, secreto et absque
arbitrio, vel teste, non sedeas. Si familiarius est aliquid
loquendum, habet nutricem. majorem domus, virginem, viduam, vel mari
tatam; non est tam inhumana ut nullum praeter te habeat cui se
"Never sit in secret, alone, in a retired place, with a female
who is alone with you. If she has any particular thing to tell you,
let her take the female attendant of the house, a young girl, a
widow, or a married woman. She cannot be so ignorant of the rules of
human life as to expect to have you as the only one to whom she can
trust those things."
It would be easy to cite a great number of other remarkable
passages where Jerome showed himself the most determined and
implacable opponent of those secret tete-a-tete between a
priest and a female, which, under the plausible pretext of mutual
advice and spiritual consolation, are generally nothing but
bottomless pits of infamy and perdition for both. But this is
We have also the admirable life of St. Paulina, written by St.
Jerome. And, though in it, he gives us every imaginable detail of
her life when young, married, and widow; though he tells us even how
her bed was composed of the simplest and rudest materials; he has
not a word about her ever having gone to confess. Jerome speaks of
the acquaintances of St. Paulina, and gives their names; he enters
into the minutest details of her long voyages, her charities, her
foundations of monasteries for men and women, her temptations, human
frailties, heroic virtues, her macerations, and her holy death; but
he has not a word to say about the frequent or oracular confessions
of St. Paulina; not a word about her wisdom in the choice of a
prudent and holy (?) confessor.
He tells us that after her death, her body was carried to her
grave on the shoulders of bishops and priests, as a token of their
profound respect for the saint. But he never says that any of those
priests sat there, in a dark corner with her, and forced her to
reveal to their ears the secret history of all the thoughts,
desires, and human frailties of her long and eventful life. Jerome
is an unimpeachable witness that his saintly and noble friend, St.
Paulina, lived and died without having ever thought of going to
Possidius has left us the interesting life of St. Augustine, of
the fifth century; and, again, it is in vain that we look for the
place and time when that celebrated Bishop of Hippo went to confess,
or heard the secret confessions of his people.
More than that, St. Augustine has written a most admirable book
called: "Confessions," in which he gives us the history of his life.
With that marvellous book in hand we follow him step by step,
wherever be goes; we attend with him those celebrated schools, where
his faith and morality were so sadly wrecked; he takes us with him
into the garden where, wavering between heaven and hell, bathed in
tears, he goes under the fig-tree and cries "Oh Lord! how long will
I remain in my iniquities!" Our soul thrills with emotions, with his
soul, when we hear with him, the sweet and mysterious voice: "Tolle!
lege!" take and read. We run with him to the place where he has left
his gospel book; with a trembling hand, we open it and we read: "Let
us walk honestly as in the day... put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rom. xiii. 13, 14.)
That incomparable book of St. Augustine makes us weep and shout
with joy with him; it initiates us into all his most secret actions,
to all his sorrows, anxieties, and joys; it reveals and unveils his
whole life. It tells us where he goes, with whom he sins, and with
whom he praises God; it makes us pray, sing, and bless the Lord with
him. Is it possible that Augustine could have been to confess
without telling us when, where, and to whom he made that auricular
confession? Could he have received the absolution and pardon of his
sins from his confessor, without making us partakers of his joys,
and requesting us to bless that confessor with him?
But it is in vain that you look in that book for a single word
about auricular confession. That book is an unimpeachable witness
that both Augustine and his saintly mother, Monica, whom it mentions
so often, lived and died without ever having been to confess. That
book may be called the most crushing evidence to prove that "the
dogma of auricular confession" is a modern imposture.
From the beginning to the end of that book, we see that Augustine
believed and said that God alone could forgive the sins of men, and
that it was to him alone that men had to confess in order to be
pardoned. If he writes his confession, it is only that the world
might know how God had been merciful to him, and that they might
help him to praise and bless his merciful heavenly father. In the
tenth book of his Confessions, Chapter III., Augustine protests
against the idea that men could do anything to cure the spiritual
leper, or forgive the sins of their fellow-men; here is his eloquent
protest: "Quid mihi ergo est cum hominibus ut audiant confessiones,
meas, quasi ipsi sanaturi Sint languores meas? Curiosum genus ad
cognescendam vitam alienam; desidiosum ad corrigendam."
"What have I to do with men that they should hear my confessions,
as if they were able to heal my infirmities? The human race is very
curious to know another person's life, but very lazy to correct
Before Augustine had built up that sublime and imperishable
monument against auricular confession, St. John Chrysostom had
raised his eloquent voice against it in his homily on the 50th
Psalm, where, speaking in the name of the church, he said: "We do
not request you to go to confess your sins to any of your
fellow-men, but only to God!
Nestorius, of the fourth century, the predecessor of John
Chrysostom, had, by a public defence, which the best Roman Catholic
historians have had to acknowledge, solemnly forbidden the practice
of auricular confession. For, just as there has always been thieves,
drunkards, and malefactors in the world, so there has always been
men and women who, under the pretext of opening their minds to each
other for mutual comfort and edification, were giving themselves to
every kind of iniquity and lust. The celebrated Chrysostom was only
giving the sanction of his authority to what his predecessor had
done, when, thundering against the newly-born monster, he said to
the Christians of his time, "We do not ask you to go and confess
your iniquities to a sinful man for pardon—but only to God." (Homily
on 50th Psalm.)
Auricular confession originated with the early heretics,
especially with Marcion. Bellarmin speaks of it as something to be
practiced. But let us hear what the contemporary writers have to say
on the question.
"Certain women were in the habit of going to the heretic Marcion
to confess their sins to him. But, as he was smitten with their
beauty, and they loved him also, they abandoned themselves to sin
Listen now to what St. Basil in his commentary on Ps. xxxvii,
says of confession:
"I have not come before the world to make a confession with my
lips. But I close my eyes, and confess my sins in the secret of my
heart. Before thee, O God, I pour out my sighs, and thou alone art
the witness. My groans are within my soul. There is no need of many
words to confess: sorrow and regret are the best confession. Yes,
the lamentations of the soul, which thou art pleased to hear, are
the best confession."
Chrysostom, in his homily, De Paenitentia, vol. IV., col. 901,
has the following: "You need no witnesses of your confession.
Secretly acknowledge your sins, and let God alone bear you."
In his homily V., De incomprehensibili Dei natura, vol. I., he
says: "Therefore, I beseech you, always confess your sins to God! I,
in no way, ask you to confess them to me. To God alone should you
expose the wounds of your soul, and from him alone expect the cure.
Go to him, then, and you shall not be cast off, but healed. For,
before you utter a single word, God knows your prayer."
In his commentary on Heb. XII., hom. XXXI., vol. XII., p. 289, he
further says: "Let us not be content with calling ourselves sinners.
But let us examine and number our sins. And then I do not tell you
to go and confess them, according to the caprice of some; but I will
say to you, with the prophet: 'Confess your sins before God,
acknowledge your iniquities at the feet of your Judge; pray in your
heart and your mind, if not with your tongue, and you shall be
In his homily on. Ps. I., vol. V., p. 589, the same Chrysostom
says: "Confess your sins every day in prayer. Why should you
hesitate to do so? I do not tell you to go and confess to a man,
sinner as you are, and who might despise you if he knew your faults.
But confess them to God, who can forgive them to you."
In his admirable homily IV., De Lazaro, vol. I., p. 757, he
exclaims: "Why, tell me, should you be ashamed to confess your sins?
Do we compel you to reveal them to a man, who might, one day, throw
them into your face? Are you commanded to confess them to one of
your equals, who could publish them and ruin you? What we ask of you
is simply to show the sores of your soul to your Lord and Master,
who is also your friend, your guardian, and physician."
In a small work of Chrysostom's, entitled, "Catechesis ad
illuminandos," vol. II., p. 210, we read these remarkable words:
"What we should most admire is not that God forgives our sins, but
that he does not disclose them to anyone, nor wishes us to do so.
What he demands of us is to confess our transgressions to him alone
to obtain pardon."
St. Augustine, in his beautiful homily on the 31st Ps., says: "I
shall confess my sins to God, and He will pardon all my iniquities.
And such confession is not made with the lips, but with the heart
only. I had hardly opened my mouth to confess my sins when they were
pardoned, for God had already heard the voice of my heart."
In the edition of the Fathers by Migne, vol. 67, pp. 614, 615, we
read: "About the year 390, the office of penitentiary was abolished
in the church in consequence of a great scandal given by a woman who
publicly accused herself of having committed a crime against
chastity with a deacon."
I know that the advocates of auricular confession present to
their silly dupes several passages of the Holy Fathers, where it is
said that sinners were going to that priest or that bishop to
confess their sins: but this is a most dishonest way of presenting
that fact—for it is evident to all those who are a little acquainted
with the church history of those times, that these referred only to
the public confessions for public transgressions through the office
of the penitentiary.
The office of the penitentiary was this:—In every large city, a
priest or minister was specially appointed to preside over the
church meetings where the members who had committed public sins were
obliged to confess them publicly before the assembly, in order to be
reinstated in the privileges of their membership: and that minister
had the charge of reading or pronouncing the sentence of pardon
granted by the church to the guilty ones before they could be
admitted again to communion. This was perfectly in accordance with
what St. Paul had done with regard to the incestuous one of Corinth;
that scandalous sinner who had cast obloquy on the Christian name,
but who, after confessing and weeping over his sins before the
church, obtained his pardon—not from a priest in whose ears he had
whispered all the details of his incestuous intercourse, but from
the whole church assembled. St. Paul gladly approves the Church of
Corinth in thus absolving, and receiving again in their midst, a
wandering but repenting brother.
When the Holy Fathers of the first centuries speak of
"confession" they invariably understand "public confessions" and not
There is as much difference between such public confessions and
auricular confessions, as there is between heaven and hell, between
God and his great enemy, Satan.
Public confession, then, dates from the time of the apostles, and
is still practiced in Protestant churches of our day. But auricular
confession was unknown by the first disciples of Christ; as it is
rejected to-day, with horror, by all the true followers of the Son
Erasmus, one of the most learned Roman Catholics who opposed the
Reformation in the sixteenth century, so admirably begun by Luther
and Calvin, fearlessly and honestly makes the following declaration
in his treatise, De Paenitentia, Dis. 5: "This institution of
penance [auricular confession] began rather of some tradition of the
Old or New Testament But our divines, not advisedly considering what
the old doctors do say, are deceived, that which they say of general
and open confession, they wrest, by and by, to this secret and privy
kind of confession."
It is a public fact, which no learned Roman Catholic has ever
denied, that auricular confession became a dogma and obligatory
practice of the church only at the Council of Lateran in the year
1215, under the Pope Innocent III. Not a single trace of auricular
confession, as a dogma, can be found before that year.
Thus, it has taken more than twelve hundred years of efforts for
Satan to bring out this masterpiece of his inventions to conquer the
world and destroy the souls of men.
Little by little, that imposture had crept into the world, just
as the shadows of a stormy night creep without anyone being able to
note the moment when the first rays of light gave way before the
dark clouds. We know very well when the sun was shining, we know
when it was very dark all over the world; but no one can tell
positively when the first rays of light faded away. So saith the
"The kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good
seed in his field.
"But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the
wheat and went his way.
"But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, there
appeared the tares also.
"So the servants of the householder came and said unto him: Sir,
didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it
"He said unto them: An enemy hath done this." (Matt. xiii.
Yes, the Good Master tells us that the enemy sowed those tares in
his field during the night when men were sleeping.
But he does not tell us precisely the hour of the night when the
enemy cast the tares among the wheat.
However, if anyone likes to know how fearfully dark was the night
which covered the "Kingdom," and how cruel, implacable, and savage
was the enemy who sowed the tares, let him read the testimony of the
most devoted and learned cardinals whom Rome has ever had, Baronius,
Annals, Anno 900:
"It is evident that one can scarcely believe what unworthy, base,
execrable, and abominable things the holy Apostolic See, which is
the pivot upon which the whole Catholic Church revolves, was forced
to endure, when princes of the age, though Christians, arrogated to
themselves the election of the Roman Pontiffs. Alas, the shame!
alas, the grief! What monsters, horrible to behold, were then
intruded on the Holy See! What evils ensued! What tragedies they
perpetrated! With what pollutions was this See, though itself
without spot, then stained! With what corruptions infected! With
what filthiness defiled! And by these things blackened with
perpetual infamy (Baronius, Annals, Anno, 900.)
"Est plane, ut vix aliquis credat, imino, nee vix quidem sit
crediturus, nisi suis inspiciat ipse oculis, manibusque contractat,
quam indigna, quainque turpia atque deformia, execranda insuper et
abominanda sit coacta pati sacrosancta apostolica sedes, in cujus
cardine universa Ecclesia catholica vertitur, cum principes saeculi
hujus, quantumlibet christiani, hac tamen ex parte dicendi tyrrani
saevissini, arrogaverunt sibi, tirannice, electionem Romanorum
pontificum. Quot tune ab eis, proh pudor! pro dolor! in eamdem
sedem, angelis reverandam, visu horrenda intrusa sunt monstra? Quot
ex eis oborta sunt mala, consummatae tragediae! Quibus tunc ipsam
sine macula et sine ruga contigit aspergi sordibus, purtoribus
infici, in quinati spurcitiis, ex hisque perpetua infamia