Baltimore Catechism 3

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 * Q. 408. What is confession?
A. Confession is the telling of our sins to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness.


 * An authorized priest is one who has not only the power to forgive sins by reason of his ordination to the priesthood, but also the power of jurisdiction over the persons who come to him. He has this jurisdiction ordinarily from his bishop, or by reason of his office. 32

 * > "I have confessed my sin to thee, and my fault I have not concealed; I said: 'I confess my iniquity to the Lord,' and thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 31:5).

 * > "He that hideth his sins shall not prosper: but he that shall confess and forsake them shall obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).

 * > "And this became known to all the Jews and Gentiles living in Ephesus, and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus came to be held in high honor. And many of those who believed kept coming, and openly confessed their practices" ( 17-18).


 * Q. 409. Why must we confess our sins?
A. We must confess our sins because Jesus Christ obliges us to do so in these words, spoken to the apostles and to their successors in the priesthood: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."


 * See Scripture, questions 380 and 384.


 * Q. 410. How do these words of Christ oblige us to confess our sins?
A. These words of Christ oblige us to confess our sins because the priest cannot know whether he should forgive or retain our sins unless we tell them to him.


 * The priest must judge the penitent. In order to act as judge the priest must know whether to forgive or to retain the penitent's sins. It would be impossible for the priest to decide, that is, to judge, whether or not the penitent should be forgiven unless the penitent made known the extent of his guilt and his sorrow.

 * In the sacrament of Penance the priest acts also as the physician of the soul. He tells the penitent how to avoid sin and how to amend his life. Just as we tell a doctor about our bodily aches and pains in order that he can cure us, so also we tell our sins to the priest in order that he can suggest spiritual remedies.

 * Since God has commanded us to confess our sins to the priest, as His representative, we should not let shame prevent us from doing so. The priest, as God's representative, will advise and encourage us, help us solve our doubts, guide our future conduct, and forgive our sins in the name of Christ. He will never, under any circumstances, not even to save his own life, make our sins known to anyone else. Priests, bishops, and even the Pope must also confess their sins to a priest.


 * Q. 411. Is it necessary to confess every sin?
A. It is necessary to confess every mortal sin which has not yet been confessed and forgiven; it is not necessary to confess our venial sins, but it is better to do so.


 * a) It is not necessary to confess venial sins because they do not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace.

 * b) It is better to confess our venial sins because when we do so, we have more assurance that they are forgiven and because we receive from the sacrament of Penance special graces to help us avoid them in the future.

 * See Scripture, question 408, Proverbs 28:13.


 * Q. 412. What are the chief qualities of a good confession?
A. The chief qualities of a good confession are three: it must be humble, sincere, and entire.


 * Q. 413. When is our confession humble?
A. Our confession is humble when we accuse ourselves of our sins with a conviction of guilt for having offended God.


 * > "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I am no longer worthy to be called thy son' " (Luke 15:21).

 * > "O God, be merciful to me the sinner!" (Luke 18:13).


 * Q. 414. When is our confession sincere?
A. Our confession is sincere when we tell our sins honestly and frankly.


 * We must manifest our humility and sincerity in confession by telling our sins clearly and distinctly so the priest can understand them.

 * Persons who lack the power of speech may, if they wish, write a list of their sins for the priest. Persons who are hard of hearing should confess in places set aside for them so neither they nor the priest will be overheard.


 * Q. 415. When is our confession entire?
A. Our confession is entire when we confess at least all our mortal sins, telling their kind, the number of times we have committed each sin, and any circumstances changing their nature.


 * By the kind of sins is meant the class to which they belong, such as blasphemy, missing Mass, disobedience, theft. The best way to determine the different kinds of sin is to determine the virtue that has been violated or the commandment that has been broken. We must confess whether the sin was in thought, word, or deed. In most prayer books there are lists of sins which help us to determine the kinds of sins we have committed.

 * Circumstances that change the nature of a sin are those that add some new kind of wickedness to the act we have done. For example, if a person kills another, he commits a sin of murder; but the killing of a cleric is a circumstance that adds a new wickedness to his act and makes it also a sin of sacrilege.

 * > "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Say to the children of Israel: When a man or woman shall have committed any of all the sins that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and offended: they shall confess their sin ..." (Numbers 5:5-7).


 * Q. 416. What are we to do if without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin?
A. If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, we may receive Holy Communion, because we have made a good Confession and the sin is forgiven; but we must tell the sin in confession if it again comes to our mind.


 * There are times when a person can receive the sacrament of Penance without telling the nature and number of all his sins. A dying person, for example, or a large number of soldiers going into battle may not have time for a detailed confession. Before receiving absolution they must admit that they have sinned, that they are sorry, and that they want to be absolved. Those who have confessed in this general way must, in their next confession, tell all their sins according to their nature, number, and circumstances that change their nature.


 * Q. 417. What happens if we knowingly conceal a mortal sin in confession?
A. If we knowingly conceal a mortal sin in confession, the sins we confess are not forgiven; moreover, we commit a mortal sin of sacrilege.


 * To conceal a mortal sin in confession is a sacrilege, because it is a grievous abuse of the sacrament of Penance, a sacred institution of Christ.

 * See Scripture, question 408, Proverbs 28:13.


 * Q. 418. What must a person do who has knowingly concealed a mortal sin in confession?
A. A person who has knowingly concealed a mortal sin in confession must confess that he has made a bad confession, tell the sin he has concealed, mention the sacraments he has received since that time, and confess all the other mortal sins he has committed since his last good confession.


 * Q. 419. Why should a sense of shame and fear of telling our sins to the priest never lead us to conceal a mortal sin in confession?
A. A sense of shame and fear of telling our sins to the priest should never lead us to conceal a mortal sin in confession because the priest, who represents Christ Himself, is bound by the seal of the sacrament of Penance never to reveal anything that has been confessed to him.


 * The priest may not speak about anything he has heard in confession even to the penitent who told it to him, unless the penitent himself willingly permits it.

 * If any person overhears something that is told in confession by another, he may not speak of it to anyone. A person ordinarily should not mention to others what he has told in confession.

 * > "Be not ashamed to confess thy sins" (Ecclesiasticus 4:31).

 * > "He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16).


 * Q. 420. Why does the priest give us a penance after confession?
A. The priest gives us a penance after confession that we may make some atonement to God for our sins, receive help to avoid them in the future, and make some satisfaction for the temporal punishment due to them.


 * It is a sin deliberately to omit the penance received in confession, a mortal sin if the penance is grave and imposed for a grave sin, a venial sin if the penance is slight.

 * If a person intended to perform the penance at the time he received it, the sins he told in confession are forgiven; but he is guilty of a new sin afterward when he deliberately omits the penance.

 * A person should follow exactly the instructions of the priest as to the manner and time of performing the penance. If the priest does not give such instructions, it is best to perform the penance immediately, or as soon as possible.

 * > "And David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin. Thou shalt not die. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die" (2 Kings 12:13-14).

 * > "Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and redeem thou thy sins with alms and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor: perhaps he will forgive thy offenses" (-24).

 * > "Now therefore saith the Lord: Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning" (Joel 2:12).


 * Q. 421. What kinds of punishment are due to sin?
A. Two kinds of punishment are due to sin: the eternal punishment of hell, due to unforgiven mortal sins, and temporal punishment, lasting only for a time, due to venial sins and also to mortal sins after they have been forgiven.


 * We know that God demands temporal punishment for mortal sins even after they have been forgiven, because God Himself has made this known by divine revelation.

 * Christ, by His death on the cross, made more than adequate satisfaction to atone for all the temporal punishment due to all the sins of mankind; but God wants us to perform works of penance ourselves to receive all the benefits of the satisfaction of Christ.

 * > "If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn" (John 15:6).

 * > "But if anyone build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw-the work of each will be made manifest, for the day the Lord will declare it, since the day is to be revealed in fire. The fire will assay the quality of everyone's work: if his work abides which he has built thereon, he will receive reward; if his work burns he will lose his reward, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

 * > 'But as for the cowardly and unbelieving, and abominable and murderers, and fornicators and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, their portion shall be in the pool that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Apocalypse 21:8).


 * Q. 422. Does the sacrament of Penance, worthily received, always take away all punishment?
A. The sacrament of Penance, worthily received, always takes away all eternal punishment; but it does not always take away all temporal punishment.


 * The sacrament of Baptism takes away all punishment, temporal as well as eternal, due not only to original sin but also to all actual sins committed before Baptism.

 * The sacrament of Penance, however, does not always take away all temporal punishment due to sins committed after Baptism. The dispositions with which one receives the sacrament of Penance determine the amount of temporal punishment which will be taken away.

 * See Scripture, question 420.


 * Q. 423. Why does God require temporal punishment for sin?
A. God requires temporal punishment for sin to satisfy His justice, to teach us the great evil of sin, and to warn us not to sin again.


 * Q. 424. Where do we pay the debt of our temporal punishment?
A. We pay the debt of our temporal punishment either in this life or in purgatory.


 * We should do as much penance as we can in this life for our sins. Our works of satisfaction in this life help us to merit greater glory in heaven.

 * The debt of temporal punishment is paid in this life according to the penance imposed and the devotion with which it is performed. The priest is obliged to impose greater or less penance in proportion to the gravity and number of the sins confessed.

 * See Scripture, question 421, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.


 * Q. 425. What are the chief means of satisfying the debt of our temporal punishment, besides the penance imposed after confession?
A. Besides the penance imposed after confession, the chief means of satisfying the debt of our temporal punishment are: prayer, attending Mass, fasting, almsgiving, the works of mercy, the patient endurance of sufferings, and indulgences.


 * > "Prayer is good with fasting and alms: more than to lay up treasures of gold. For alms delivereth from death: and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting" (Tobias 12:8-9).

 * See Scripture, question 420.




 * Most persons outside the Catholic Church think it is a very difficult thing to go to confession. The truth is that confession is one of the most consoling features of the Catholic religion. Catholics go to confession with the conviction that they are really telling their sins to God. The priest is present as God's representative, to give advice and encouragement, to settle doubts of conscience, to guide the penitent's future conduct, above all to forgive sins in the name of Christ Himself. Never, under any circumstances, even to save his own life, may he reveal a single sin of the penitent.

 * Sometimes we hear people say it is enough to confess our sins to God, without having to tell them to another human being. To these persons we answer that since God Himself has commanded us to confess our sins to the priest, as His representative, we must obey God if we wish to receive the pardon of our sins.

 * With all these considerations before them, Catholics should not find it difficult to make a worthy confession, especially in view of the fact that they are always free to confess to a priest who does not know them. Surely, it is most unreasonable to conceal a mortal sin in confession. Such an act renders the confession useless. The sinner leaves the confessional still burdened with all the sins with which he entered and in addition with a new sin of sacrilege. He has the obligation of telling all the sins again; and if he has the misfortune of leaving this world without receiving the forgiveness of his transgressions, the sin which he was afraid to reveal to one person in private will be revealed to the whole world to his shame at the last judgment.

 * In the early centuries it was not unusual for Christians to make their confession publicly, before the entire congregation. Moreover, a very severe penance was often imposed in those times, sometimes lasting for several years. Nowadays the Church is far more lenient. The modern penance is generally a few prayers that can be said in a short time.

 * Hence, we see the necessity of supplying for our debt of temporal punishment by works of self-denial over and above the sacramental penance. We need not practice the extraordinary deeds of mortification performed by the great saints; even the smallest deeds of self-denial, when we are in the state of grace, possess satisfactory value toward atoning for our debt of temporal punishment. And we can perform such works of satisfaction not only for ourselves but also for others, whether living or dead.

 * When a person realizes that he has been guilty of many sins and doubtless has a great debt of temporal punishment to pay, it is always better for him to make as much satisfaction as he can in the present life instead of deferring it to purgatory. Our satisfactory works in the present life, unlike our suffering in purgatory, not only pay our debt of temporal punishment but also merit greater glory for us in heaven.

 * We should be very careful in preparing for confession to know exactly what sins we have committed, their particular nature, any circumstances changing their nature, and especially the number of times each has been committed. If we do not know the exact number of times, we should strive to know it as nearly as possible; or at least get an average number by the week or the day. Of course, strictly speaking, we are obliged to tell the number of our mortal sins only; venial sins can be confessed merely by specifying their nature without mentioning their number. Indeed, venial sins need not be confessed at all. Yet, it is advisable to inform our confessor how frequently we have failed even by venial sins.




 * Resolve never to keep back anything serious in confession; and if the temptation to do so enters your mind, remember that when confessing your sins in the sacrament of Penance you are speaking to God rather than to the priest.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 31





 * (Select the word or phrase in each parenthesis which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence.)


 * If a person kills a priest, he commits, in addition to the sin of murder, a sin of (sacrilege ... perjury ... blasphemy).

 * An authorized priest for the sacrament of Penance is one who possesses not only the power of orders but also the power of (teaching ... ruling ... jurisdiction).

 * The obligation of confessing our sins comes from (the Law of Moses... the law of Christ ... the law of the Church).

 * If a person has forgotten a mortal sin in confession (he may not go to Holy Communion until he has confessed it ... he need not worry about it anymore ... he may go to Holy Communion but he must confess it the next time he goes to confession).

 * If a person overhears something said in another's confession (he may not speak of it to anyone ... he may speak of it to the person who confessed it but not to others ... he may speak of it to anyone).

 * If a person neglects a light penance (he commits a mortal sin ... he commits no sin ... he commits a venial sin).

 * A confessor (may reveal venial sins he has heard in confession but not mortal sins ... may not reveal either venial or mortal sins under any circumstances ... may reveal a penitent's sins to save his own life).

 * In confessing venial sins (it is better not to mention the number ... itis necessary to confess the number ... it is advisable but not necessary to mention the number).

 * The sacrament of Baptism received by one who has attained the use of reason (takes away all the debt of temporal punishment ... takes away no temporal punishment ... takes away some temporal punishment according to the dispositions of the recipient).

 * If a person deliberately neglects to perform a penance received for mortal sins, though at the time he received it he intended to perform it, (his mortal sins return to his soul ... he commits a mortal sin but his forgiven sins do not return ... he commits a venial sin).



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Father Geoffrey, a priest from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, is visiting his relatives in Philadelphia for a few days. Ralph, the altar-boy who is to serve his Mass asks Father Geoffrey to hear his confession. Father Geoffrey excuses himself by saying that he is from another diocese and may not hear confessions in Philadelphia. During the Mass he is serving, Ralph is asking himself how it is that this visiting priest may say Mass in Philadelphia and yet not hear confessions. Explain the case to Ralph.

 * Pierpont, a Unitarian Sunday School pupil, tells his Catholic friend Clarence that it is not necessary to tell his sins to the priest. Pierpont suggests that it is nicer and easier to tell them directly to God in the privacy of one's own home. What reply should Clarence make to his friend Pierpont? Does God need to be informed about our sins?

 * By God's grace, Annuntiata, now in the graduating class of St. Bruno's school, has preserved her baptismal innocence. Venial sins and imperfections have been the only things she has had to confess in the years gone by. In her examination of conscience she has always been very exact; she likewise has been very exact in telling her sins by their names and the number of times she has committed them. In three or four sentences, please tell us whether or not you approve of Annuntiata's exactness. Give reasons for the statements you make.

 * Cosmas is a deaf-mute. Generally he makes his confession to Father Thaddeus by means of the sign language. But Father Thaddeus is absent at the present time-in Europe. There is no other priest available, who understands the sign language. Write a short note to Cosmas telling him what to do.

 * Wesley, a lad of 12, has lost his angelic innocence by wicked companionships with members of a bad gang down on the waterfront. His conscience has been bothering him for a long time. His mother keeps urging him to go to confession. Finally he decides to go, not to one of the parish priests, but to a foreign-language priest downtown. He will confess his sins in waterfront slang that he feels pretty sure the priest will not really understand. Has Wesley the right idea about the sincerity that is required for confession? Explain your answer.

 * Sergius, a town bully, gives his own father a terrible beating, breaking his jaw, and knocking out four of his teeth. It happened when his father was trying to get him up for Mass on Sunday morning. Six months later Sergius goes to confession during a Mission. In telling this particular sin how must he confess it? Add an explanation to your answer.

 * Rhea, an elderly lady, is burned seriously in a fire that destroyed her home. For 35 years she has been a careless Catholic, neglectful of the Sacraments and attendance at Mass. The chaplain at the hospital gives her the Last Rites. Because of her serious condition, and inability to speak much, the priest suggests, in a general way, that she be sorry for all the sins of her life, especially neglect of religion. He asks her to repeat in her heart the act of contrition he says aloud, he presses the crucifix to her lips that she may kiss it as an expression of her sorrow. After several weeks of careful nursing, Rhea emerges from the danger of death. Since her last confession she has been guilty of only three venial sins-three acts of impatience. Is it enough if she confesses only those three sins? Explain.

 * Nine weeks ago, while making his confession, through fear Ernest kept back a mortal sin. He goes to confession every week with the members of his class. In the next seven confessions Ernest told truthfully and accurately all the new sins he committed each week, but said nothing about the sin concealed, the bad confession, or the unworthy Communion that followed both. Yesterday in his confession again he told truthfully all the new sins committed last week. Then he "slipped in" the big sin he concealed nine weeks ago, but he did not tell that he had kept it back in confession. Can a concealed sin of this kind be "slipped into" a later confession in this way? How is Ernest to straighten out things?

 * There may be in hell Catholics who made worthy confessions during their lifetime but who unfortunately died as enemies of God. In eternity are they better off than they would have been had they never made those worthy confessions? Why?

 * Evans, a Protestant boy, wants to know may a priest tell what he has heard in confession if thereby the priest could save his own life. What answer is to be given to Evans?

 * Miranda, a girl in Junior High School, and all her classmates are brought to the church for their weekly confession. Miranda is assigned to Father April's confessional. She doesn't want to go to confession to him, but is afraid to attract notice by leaving her place to go to another priest. When her turn comes she says; "Father, please give me your blessing; I don't want to go to confession today." What do you think of her solution of the difficulty?

 * During the school year, Ariel and his classmates are taken over to the church regularly every week to make their confession. Ariel is in the seventh grade. Each summer, during the ten week vacation, Ariel also takes "a vacation from the Sacraments." Once Ariel graduates from the parish school, do you think he will be a 'regular at the confessional and at the Communion rail? What is the reason for your opinion? What remedy for his ailment would you suggest?

 * Clifton has a serious sin to confess, but he is very friendly with the priest, and is ashamed to tell him about it. That priest is the only priest in Clifton's home town. Saturday afternoon Clifton takes the bus to the next town and there makes his confession. Do you approve or disapprove of what he did? Give the reason for your answer.

 * Alfred was a soldier in World War II, and several times before going into battle, he received, together with the other Catholic soldiers of his regiment, absolution in a general way from the chaplain, after merely reciting the act of contrition, without confessing his sins according to their number and nature. Since returning from the war Alfred has been going to confession every month, but he never told the sins he had on his soul when he received general absolution from the chaplain, because, he says: "Since these sins were forgiven by the priest, why do I have to worry about them anymore?" Can you enlighten Alfred regarding the obligation he still has to confess any mortal sins that were forgiven by the chaplain's general absolution?


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