Mediator Dei 177

Frequent confession: a later development in the Church’s liturgical and devotional practice. The question remains, especially for today: is it a permanent tradition? Or will it continue to evolve, and will we somehow gain a richer and more fruitful practice?

177. Since the opinions expressed by some about frequent confession are completely foreign to the spirit of Christ and His Immaculate Spouse and are also most dangerous to the spiritual life, let Us call to mind what with sorrow We wrote about this point in the encyclical on the Mystical Body. We urgently insist once more that what We expounded in very serious words be proposed by you for the serious consideration and dutiful obedience of your flock, especially to students for the priesthood and young clergy.

Today, the numbers just don’t work for frequent confession universally practiced. Except in religious communities with priests. Some would say that’s not the problem: confessors have plenty of thumb-twiddling time as is.

Mediator Dei on the Vatican web site.

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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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3 Responses to Mediator Dei 177

  1. Liam says:

    For reference, here is what Pius XII was hearkening back to in Mystici Corporis (1943)

    87. No less far from the truth is the dangerous error of those who endeavor to deduce from the mysterious union of us all with Christ a certain unhealthy quietism. They would attribute the whole spiritual life of Christians and their progress in virtue exclusively to the action of the Divine Spirit, setting aside and neglecting the collaboration which is due from us. No one, of course, can deny that the Holy spirit of Jesus Christ is the one source of whatever supernatural powers enters into the Church and its members. For “The Lord will give grace and glory” as the Psalmist says.[167] But that men should persevere constantly in their good works, that they should advance eagerly in grace and virtue, that they should strive earnestly to reach the heights of Christian perfection and at the same time to the best of their power should stimulate others to attain the same goal, – all this the heavenly Spirit does not will to effect unless they contribute their daily share of zealous activity. “For divine favors are conferred not on those who sleep, but on those who watch,” as St. Ambrose says.[168] For if in our mortal body the members are strengthened and grow through continued exercise, much more truly can this be said of the social Body of Jesus Christ in which each individual member retains his own personal freedom, responsibility, and principles of conduct. For that reason he who said: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me”[169] did not at the same time hesitate to assert: “His (God’s) grace in me has not been void, but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”[170] It is perfectly clear, therefore, that in these false doctrines the mystery which we are considering is not directed to the spiritual advancement of the faithful but is turned to their deplorable ruin.

    88. The same result follows from the opinions of those who assert that little importance should be given to the frequent confession of venial sins. Far more important, they say, is that general confession which the Spouse of Christ, surrounded by her children in the Lord, makes each day by the mouth of the priest as he approaches the altar of God. As you well know, Venerable Brethren, it is true that venial sins may be expiated in many ways which are to be highly commended. But to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, We will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself. Let those, therefore, among the younger clergy who make light of or lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien to the Spirit of Christ and disastrous for the Mystical Body of our Savior.

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks, Liam. The aim, of course, is growth in virtue and openness to God’s merciful grace. Frequent confession accomplished this for people with access to clergy outside of mission lands. One has to wonder that for 1947 as well as today, how we can cultivate an awareness of sin for those who do not have access to frequent celebration of the sacrament. A snarky commentator might say that for some misbehaving priests and bishops, frequent confession didn’t *seem* to do enough good.

    • Liam says:

      A snarky reply might by the same light say the same thing about frequent communion. Not enough of a reason, at least for me, to be skeptical about frequent communion.

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