What constitutes a “good confession”?

BpKaffer 

Q: Regarding the Catholic sacrament of reconcilation, what’s the difference between a “good confession” and some other kind?

A: The only type of confession that is typically acceptable to God and effective for the forgiveness of sins is a “good” one. The late Auxilliary Bishop of Joliet, Roger L. Kaffer, who was known to hear lots and lots of confessions throughout his more than fifty year priesthood, once explained it to me like this:

It is absolutely essential for the penitent to confess every mortal sin that they can remember, since deliberately holding back even one grave sin, no matter what the reason, typically results in the penitent remaining in a state of mortal sin, still deprived of God’s grace, still unforgiven, no matter how many other sins they might have confessed … whether the priest provides absolution … or not.

(By definition, a mortal sin must be gravely serious, the person committing the sin must KNOW that it is gravely serious, and the sin must have been committed with the full consent of the sinner.  An experienced priest is the best guide for evaluating and explaining the “fine points” of these matters.)   

Deliberately holding back serious sin(s) in the confessional may also constitute another grave sin … the sin of sacrilege … which is defined as the abuse, deliberate misuse, or profanation of a holy thing.

If one actually forgets about a particular serious sin(s) and so fails to confess for that reason alone, there is no real problem … but if the “forgotten” sin one day comes to mind again, it should be properly confessed, as soon as possible.

The circumstances which lead a person to commit sins are also often important. If and when a priest inquires about such details, it is important to respond honestly.

For example, someone confesses the sin of fornication or adultery: Under normal circumstances, it might be a “one time event”. But if the sin is the result of an unmarried couple “living in sin”  under the same roof, without benefit of matrimony, then absolution (forgiveness) is typically NOT available unless and/or until the illicit living arrangement is terminated.

This would apply equally to ANY unmarried couple who might be living together … whether straight or gay … without distinction.

Minor or venial sins may also be confessed to the priest in the confessional, but since those can also be routinely forgiven through reciting a good act of contrition, by attending Mass, and in other ways, confessing venial sins is laudable and recommended, but not required.

Assuming that the penitent has accurately confessed ALL the mortal sins of which he/she is aware, then, acting in and through the ministerial priesthood of the Holy Catholic Church, in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the priest prescribes an act of contrition, assigns a small personal  penance, absolves the penitent of all sin, and dispenses the graces necessary to fill any spiritual “void” that the sin(s) might have caused.

The whole idea behind confessing one’s sins in the great sacrament of Reconciliation and subsequently receiving absolution (the absolute assurance that ALL of one’s sins have truly been forgiven by God) is to avoid the prospect of divine judgment, and to truly be at peace with both God and man, since once sins have been properly absolved through a “good confession” God will never bring them up again. 

For this reason, it is also advisable for the penitent to listen carefully, after his confession has been completed … to make certain that the priest does not fail to provide the necessary absolution.  The “formula” for absolution (at a minimum) sounds like this, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” 

So, a “good confession” is one where we properly prepare by conducting a through examination of conscience, we subsequently confess every mortal sin without exception, providing details to the priest/confessor as necessary, we recite a good act of contrition, do our assigned penance, and we receive absolution and grace from the priest, who acts in the person of  Jesus Christ, for the purpose of our salvation.

Any confession other than a “good” one is simply unacceptable … and may actually be worse than no confession at all!

For a complete, Traditional Catholic study of this entire matter, click here.

Bishop Roger Kaffer Died Today

kaffer

May 28, 2009

With faith and hope in Eternal Life  and with gratitude for a beautiful Christian life, I wish to inform you  that Bishop Roger Kaffer died this afternoon at approximately 3:45 p.m. 

His brother, Bob, and I had the privilege of being with him, and we gratefully commended him into the arms of the Lord he loved so much.

Since his death occurred just a short while ago, no arrangements have been made as of yet. However, as soon as we know more, we will let everyone know.   In the meantime, please keep Bob and Liz, and the entire Kaffer family in your prayers as their grieve the loss of their beloved brother.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

-Bishop Peter Sartain

(Editor’s note: Bishop Kaffer was a wonderful man, a great priest and bishop, and a tireless worker for the Church. His accomplishments are too numerous to list. I’ m sure that everyone who knew him, loved him. He will be sorely missed.)