RP 9: The Confessor

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Bishops and priests, those in orders designated as sacerdos, exercise the ministry of confessor.

9. a. The Church exercises the ministry of the sacrament of penance through bishops and priests. By preaching God’s word they call the faithful to conversion; in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit they declare and grant the forgiveness of sins. In the exercise of this ministry priests act in communion with the bishop and share in his power and office as the one who regulates the penitential discipline. [See Lumen Gentium 26.]

The bishop is responsible for the oversight of the sacrament; the parish priest derives “power” and “office” from this.

b. The competent minister of the sacrament of penance is a priest who has the faculty to absolve in accordance with canon law. All priests, however, even though not approved to hear confessions, absolve validly and lawfully any penitents without exception who are in danger of death.

A sensible Roman exception for a needful circumstance.

Comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to RP 9: The Confessor

  1. Anne says:

    A priest who has been laicized for one reason or another may still absolve sins if someone is in danger of death. That is indeed a sensible rule. The sacrament of Holy Orders leaves an indelible character that is never removed even when restrictions may be placed upon any priest. Not a new teaching, I remember this from the Baltimore Catechism.

  2. This is a reminder of what we really believe about the priesthood: the bishop has the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders, and the priesthood of a priest is inextricably bound up with that of the bishop. This is why obedience to, and union with the bishop is so important for a priest. And this is why — sorry to mention a neuralgic subject — one particular outcome of the Scandal was such a bitter pill: the demand that bishops no longer be fathers to their priests, but rather be employers. What makes this such a bitter pill is that it does violence to one of our sacraments, and yet what outcry have we heard from faithful Catholics?

  3. Todd says:

    Fr Fox, I agree in very large part with what you’ve alluded to here.

    “Faithful” Catholics seem content to level perjoratives at bishops, often their own. You don’t have to travel to too many St Blogs’ comboxes to read it.

    To paraphrase a parenting philosophy my wife detests, perhaps bishops were trying to be too much of a “friend” to their priests. Especially when strong medicine was needed–either in screening seminary candidates or in shielding those they thought were merely sinners.

    Unless you discount me as a “faithful” Catholic, I think I’ve posted many times on the lament I feel for the broken and distrustful relationship I’ve seen between bishops and their clergy.

    Fathers have deep responsibilities, primarily not financial (although this does weigh heavily at times, I can attest) but relational. How many bishops have Christus Dominus at their fingertips, much less have read it?

    That said, “grown sons” must also stand up and be men in their relationships, too. What outcry from them?

  4. I certainly don’t discount you as a faithful Catholic; perhaps I phrased that badly. I meant that too few have raised a concern, and too many have actively encouraged this development.

    And I totally agree that this whole mess is due to a failure of leadership by our bishops; and now they lack standing to say needful things.

    As to what the priests are saying: fair point that bears reflection. It may be that many priests are content to be employees, which is sad, but I believe that’s true for many; certainly many priests lack the nerve; many priests figure they have other things to keep them busy. Some priests do speak out.

    One final thought: you will know the “employee” model has taken hold when a priest sues his bishop over something. Don’t know if it’s happened yet, but it’s bound to, I think.

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