Monday, April 8, 2013

Discussion on John 20:23

From a discussion on October 3, 2011 6:37 PM

  1. Hi De Maria,

    Hi Russell,

    (Part 1)

    Sorry for the delay. Thanks for your comments on my article. 

    You're welcome. Thanks for responding.

    I look forward to our discussion and I hope that it will be fruitful. 

    As do I.

    There was a lot to respond to, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just try to highlight a few things.

    I appreciate that.

    Concerning Paragraph #1447 in the Catholic Catechism on penance / confession / reconciliation, you implied that in this context it was speaking only about PENANCE (i.e., the punishment for sins) and not about the actual confessing of sins. So, you seem to be saying that it would mean that the CONFESSION of sins was always to a priest in private, even if the penance for these same sins was public. But I believe that this argument is invalid for several reasons:

    First, it seems to me that if a sin is worthy of PUBLIC PENANCE, it should also be worthy of PUBLIC CONFESSION.

    That is an argument by personal preference. As far as I know, Scripture does not say that confessions or penances must be public.

    It would not make sense to obtain a private confession from someone, and then punish him publicly for it, especially in light of the great importance placed on the “sacramental seal,” i.e., the “absolute secrecy” regarding the confession of each person (CCC #1467). By the very nature of his public punishment, one would pretty much be revealing his secret confession anyway, since there were different penalties for different sins, and the public would have little trouble figuring it out. This would certainly compromise the “sacramental seal.”

    Not so. Penance is still "public". We are frequently told to "go to the altar and pray." Everyone present knows we have confessed a sin. We are coming out of the confessional and going to the altar to do our penance. But, unless they were eavesdropping, they don't know the nature of the sin. Penance does not include revealing to anyone the nature of the sin.
  2. Russell said...
    (Part 2)

Second, according to reputable church historians like J.N.D. Kelly (“Early Christian Doctrines,” page 216), “With the dawn of the third century the rough outlines of a recognized penitential system were beginning to take shape. In spite of the ingenious arguments of certain scholars, there are still no signs of a sacrament of private penance (i.e. confession to a priest, followed by absolution and the imposition of a penance) such as Catholic Christendom knows to-day. The system which seems to have existed in the church at this time, AND FOR CENTURIES AFTERWARDS, was WHOLLY PUBLIC, involving confession, a period of penance and exclusion from communion, and formal absolution and restoration—the whole process being called exomologesis.” (Emphasis added) Likewise, historians John McNeill and Helena Gamer (“Medieval Handbooks of Penance,” page 8) tell us, “The word ‘exomologesis’ is used to include BOTH CONFESSION AND PENANCE which are parts of the same process of PUBLIC HUMILIATION.” (Emphasis added)

    You've filled this term with a great many Protestant anti-Catholic assumptions. Exomologesis is not simply "public confession and penance."

    1. Baptism is a form of exomologesis.

    Catholic Encyclopedia:
    …Tertullian declares in "De pudicitia". That he has changed his mind and expects to be taunted for his inconsistency. He implies that he used to hold such a relaxation, as the one he is attacking, to be lawful. At any rate in the "De paen." he parallels baptism with exomologesis, and supposes that the latter has the same effect as the former, obviously the forgiveness of sin in this life…..

    2. The early Fathers imposed a penance which was "as public" as the exomologesis. In other words, public sins, such as idolatry or adultery, were confessed publicly and the penance served was also public. Private sins were confessed privately and the penance was served privately.
    Catholic Culture

  3. Response to Part 2 cont'd

    On the question of exomologesis, De Maria said:
    3. The Church has no doctrine on "exomologesis." Not even the Greek Church has this. They also distinguish between confession and penance. They also consider private confession to be from the Apostles.

    Russell said:
    In summary, a so called public confession was not applied to all penitents in the early Church. And private confession did exist from the time of the Apostles.

    Third, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia: “Like its Greek and Latin equivalent, exomologesis, confession has a variety of meanings, but ordinarily it signifies an avowal of sin, made either to God or to man. Etymologically exomologesis denotes OPEN DECLARATION and implies PUBLIC CONFESSION. In the primitive Church it was employed for confession of offenses and for the sacramental procedure involving austere discipline. FROM THE 8TH CENTURY ONWARD the term confession designated a disclosure of sins to the priest, but more especially the entire Sacrament of Penance.” (Volume IV, page 131, under “Confession, Auricular” – Emphasis added)

This closely parallels the Catholic Catechism’s paragraph #1447 (mentioned earlier), and it is very clear that it is speaking of PUBLIC CONFESSION IN THE EARLY CHURCH.

    Yes, it does closely parallel the Catechism #1447. And you read into it the same Protestant assumptions. That statement states explicitly that:
    1. exomologesis has a variety of meanings.
    2. It also distinguishes exomologesis from confession.
    3. It says that it IMPLIES public confession. You emphasized public confession but ignored the word "implies".
    4. And it says that it was imposed for those cases which require austere discipline. Implying that the public confession is part of the Public Penance. Not part of the Sacrament. In other words, first the penitent confesses secretly to a priest and then the priest imposes exomologesis as the PUBLIC PENANCE.

    That statement does not say that public confession and prenance was the general rule, nor does it say that private confession was not practiced.
  4. Russell said...
    (Part 3)

Also, according to Catholic priest S. B. Smith, D.D., in his “Notes on the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore” (October 7 to October 21, 1866):

“PUBLIC CONFESSION was practised during the first ages of the Church. Yet it was restricted generally to sins that were public, or at least publicly committed. Not unfrequently, however, secret crimes and sins were openly avowed. This was a voluntary confession on the part of the penitent. However, public confession soon gave rise to various abuses, and was consequently abolished under Leo I., in 459.” (Chapter XVII, paragraph 52, #237, page 208 – Emphasis added)

    Russell, you just shot yourself in the foot. If you are using that as evidence that auricular confession did not exist, it is stating precisely the opposite.

Fourth, what should be the Christian’s ultimate authority, the Bible, nowhere tells us that one is to confess his sins privately to a priest.

    Nor does the Bible say that the Bible is the "ultimate authority". In fact, it implies the Church is the "ultimate authority" (Matt 18:17).

    And the Bible does imply auricular confession as I have already shown.

So, to insist that private confession to a priest was the norm since the beginning, is simply wrong. 

    It seems to you to be simply wrong because you have discarded the other authorities which Scripture designates. Church and Tradition.

    The “infallible” Council of Trent contradicts Scripture, church history, and even some of its own church’s writings.

    No it doesn't.

For those who would point to the writings of certain church fathers for support on this topic, note that church historian Philip Schaff (“History of the Christian Church,” Volume 5, chapter 14, part 117), concerning conflicting opinions on auricular confession and penance, was speaking of Peter the Lombard: “The opinions handed down from the Fathers, he asserts, were diverse, if not antagonistic.” In other words, there was certainly no “unanimous consent” on this among the fathers, contrary to what some Catholics claim.

    That is a misunderstanding of unanimous consent. The Early Fathers have even been heretics. But the Church has always taken the good and discarded the bad. And they always did this in Council. So, if you want to see the unanimous consent of the Fathers, you must seek the Council records.

Furthermore, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (online), even Pope Pius X, in an official papal decree, “Lamentabili Sane,” July 3, 1907, declared, “In the primitive Church there was no concept of the reconciliation of the Christian sinner by the authority of the Church, but the Church by very slow degrees only grew accustomed to this concept.” He also said that the words of Jesus inJohn 20:22-23 “in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, whatever the Fathers of Trent may have been pleased to assert.”

    My goodness! Have you even read the decree? Here's how it starts:
    Therefore, after a very diligent investigation and consultation with the Reverend Consultors, the Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, the General Inquisitors in matters of faith and morals have judged the following propositions to be condemned and proscribed. In fact, by this general decree, they are condemned and proscribed.
    And that which you mention are number 46 and 47 on the list of CONDEMNED ideas.
  5. I have to go to bed now, but God willing, I'll continue tomorrow. Thanks again for engaging in this dialogue.


    De Maria
  6. OOPS! I just noticed. In response to Part 2 cont'd, I wrote:

    Russell said:
    In summary, a so called public confession was not applied to all penitents in the early Church. And private confession did exist from the time of the Apostles.

    You didn't say that. I did.

  7. Hi Russell, I'm back.

    Russell said...
    (Part 4)

    You mentioned in your response that the fathers refer to auricular confession since the 3rd century. Well, your argument is not with me, but with church historians, the New Catholic Encyclopedia and Pope Pius X. I’m simply pointing out the inconsistency between Trent and other Catholic sources.

    I believe I have shown that you are mistaken.

    You said:

    “Repentance, otherwise known as acts of penance, were then and are today required in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is commonly known as Confession.”

    Biblical repentance is NOT the same as “penance.” Repentance is a state of the heart… penance is the performing of works.

    Penance is the work of one who repents.

    1430 Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.

    Let's say for instance, that you get angry and your neighbor and you break his window. Then you repent and say you're sorry. Is that enough? For most people, it isn't. Because talk is cheap. Your neighbor would probably say, "if you're sorry, you'll pay for the window."

    If you repent of your sins, you want to do penance.

    It is true that if a person is repentant, that he will indeed do (or at least desire to do) good works and to please God.

    There you go!

    But, biblically speaking, they are not interchangeable.

    Sorry for the confusion. However, Scripture says:
    Acts 26:20
    King James Version (KJV)
     20But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

    You attempted to use 1 Timothy 4:14Romans 15:16Matthew 12:1-8, and Luke 22:25-26 as proof of a New Testament priesthood. I’m sorry, De Maria, but these verses, in context, do absolutely nothing to demonstrate a priesthood like the Catholic Church asserts.

    That is a mere say-so statement. If you want to go over my statements and explanations and attempt to prove me wrong, be my guest. But merely saying that they are wrong because you disagree with them doesn't cut it.

    You said that the fathers referred to “priests” in some of their writings. But we have to ask, what fathers in the New Testament refer to a priest (Greek “hiereus”) as a specific office in the New Testament church? There are none. 

    True. But St. Paul refers to his ministry to the Gospel as "priestly" (hierourgeō; Romans 15:16).

    You also used Hebrews 13:17 to say that God has given to man responsibility over our souls. In a sense, this is true, but it in no way proves the Catholic priesthood.

    Then whom do you consider to be responsible for your soul? I submit to and obey the Catholic Priests because they minister to my soul by providing the Sacraments and feeding me the Word of God. I believe they will be held accountable for the souls of their flock. Whom do you consider will be held accountable for your soul?
  8. Russell said...
    (Part 5)

You mentioned that all Jews were priests, referring to a universal priesthood of Jews in the Old Testament. But there never was a “universal priesthood” in the Old Testament, 

    Yes there was, as I have shown.

    since God’s promise to the Jews was CONDITIONAL in Exodus 19. In verse 5, God tells Moses to tell the Jews that IF they would obey His voice and keep His covenant, THEN they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But, in spite of a few faithful individuals, the Jews, AS A NATION, turned away from God, over and over again. They did not meet God’s conditions. Thus, no universal priesthood for the Jews… at least, not until Jesus returns (Isaiah 61:6).

    So, there is no “three-fold priesthood” concept (i.e., High priest, ministerial priest, and universal priest) in the Old Testament to carry over into the church for today.

    The mere fact, that God allows every Jew to eat of the Passover meal is indicative that they are a nation of priests. Since eating of the Sacrifice is a Priestly action. And the Passover was celebrated every year until today. There is no place in the Scripture where God says that the Jews are not a nation of Priests. In fact, Scripture says:
    Deuteronomy 7:6
    King James Version (KJV)
     6For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
    Deuteronomy 14:2
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
    Deuteronomy 26:15
Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

    So, yes, every Jew is an ordinary priest. The Levites were the ministerial priests and high priests.
    You said concerning Acts 8:20-22:

“This verse however, does not depict that which you claim. Or at least, not when taken in context. It is a man, Simon Magus, begging St. Peter to pray to God to forgive his sin.”

I am simply claiming that Peter did not recognize a need for him (Peter) to absolve Simon, since Peter was telling Simon Magus to pray to God for his OWN sin. If auricular confession was the norm, Peter would not have told him to do that.
    Again, you don't see the obvious.
    First, St. Peter EXCOMMUNICATED Simon Magus. Therefore, as being excommunicated, the only recourse available to Simon Magus would be prayer directly to God.
    Second, Simon Magus recognized the authority of St. Peter and immediately begged forgiveness from St. Peter. Begging him to pray that he, Simon Magus, might be forgiven.

  9. Part #5 cont'd
    Russell said:
    You said concerning the Pharisee and the publican:

“Here, the Protestant assumption is that this man came to the Temple only to pray directly to God. Without it ever occurring to them that although it is not mentioned in Scripture, it is very possible, in fact highly probable, that this man was returning from offering his sacrifice, was in the process of offering his sacrifice or was en route to offering his sacrifice.”

That’s possible, but yours is also an assumption. But even if he were in the process of sacrificing, so what? He was under the Old Testament, not the New.

    You made the reference. So if his example does not apply to the New Testament, why did you offer it? As for me, the fact that this man probably came to make a sacrifice means that he came to see a Levitical priest who would make the sacrifice for him. Thereby showing that the OT contained the three priesthoods, the ordinary priesthood of the believer, the ministerial priesthood and the high priesthood.

    I mentioned that the priest cannot faithfully and accurately absolve, because he doesn’t know the penitent’s heart. You then said that it was the penitent’s duty to reveal his heart to the priest. But why is there a “duty” for him to reveal his heart to a mere man?

    Because it is God's will.

    And how would the priest know for sure, anyway? 

    He doesn't. God does.

    That is the issue. 

    For you. Not for us.

    God ALREADY knows his heart, so the “professional absolver” is an unnecessary (and unbiblical) link in this chain. 

    God knows everything. We are all unnecessary links in the chain. God willed it this way and we do it His way in obedience to His Will.

    You keep saying that this is how God designed it, but that’s just begging the question.

    No. You keep saying it isn't, but that is begging the question. What is "begging the question"? Essentially, it is circular logic.
    "Begging the question" is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself.

    Now, here's your argument in a nutshell:
    There is no New Testament ministerial priesthood because the word "priest" is not in the New Testament.

    Here's my argument:
    There is a New Testament ministerial priesthood because:
    1. Jesus described his disciples as innocent when they worked on the Sabbath.
    2. Jesus said that his disciples would be servants of the servants.
    3. St. Paul called his ministry a priestly service.
    4. The ancient Churches which continue to practice the Traditions of the Apostles all have ministerial priests.
    I have three sources for my conviction, the Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium.

    You essentially have none. All you have is your reading of Scripture and the absence of the word "priest". I'll let the readers decide who is begging the question between you and I.

    Since you Catholics are making the positive claim that we need to confess to a priest, the burden is on you to prove it. 

    Lol! Let's see. The Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years and always had a priesthood. Along come the Reformers, centuries later and change the meaning of Scripture, discard Tradition and the teaching of the Church and begin to claim that the Church must prove that which it has taught for 2000 years?

    Sorry Russell. It is you who must prove your claim. The burden of proof is yours.

    Especially when Scripture contradicts that idea.

    The doctrine of confession contradicts your ideas. Not Scripture. It is perfectly in line with Scripture.
  10. Russell said...
    (Part 6)

Concerning “As the Father has sent Me…”, I asked if all the apostles were also expected to be “crucified,” to be “born of a virgin,” or “be a Messiah,” or “be the fulfillment of all the animal sacrifices,” and you answered yes, and (unfortunately) trivialized it with symbolic answers.

    Trivialized? I am as serious about my faith as you are about yours. First of all, probably the main reason I came back to the Catholic Church is because the Catholic Church is the only Church which makes sense of "suffering". Essentially the doctrine of taking up one's cross. The Protestants have no doctrine to match. They have essentially ignored the idea and frequently ridicule it. Protestants can make no sense out of verses like this:
    Colossians 1:24
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

    As for born of a Virgin, my name, which is a "pen name" ought to be a clue that I am dedicated to my Virgin Mother.

    We do indeed identify with Him in these things, but no one can deny the uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry 

    There is only one who is God the Son. But He came that we might be born again in Him. We are His body.

    (which you seem to be doing).

    You are wrong.

    You know what I meant when I asked those questions, but I suspect you are simply side-stepping the import of this point: 

    I suspect that you don't understand how important the question is to Catholics. We actually believe those doctrines.

    As the Father sent Him - TO PREACH THE GOSPEL - so is He sending us. Just because we are part of His body (the church) doesn’t mean that we can do everything that He did.
    John 14:12
    12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

    Once again, absolving sin is for God alone.
    Once again, God has chosen to absolve us of sins, through the ministerial priests to whom we confess our sins.

Concerning my comments on Matthew 9:8, you asked:

“How many people have you healed? If you haven't healed anyone, does that mean you don't believe? That is the same logic you're applying to the Matt 9 verse.”

No, De Maria, I’m afraid not. I am not the one claiming “special powers” to absolve. Catholics claim this of their own priests. So, your question to me is irrelevant. 

    You missed the point. You do claim to believe, correct? Scripture says that those who believe will heal the sick. Since you haven't healed anyone, your logic has it that you must not be a believer.

    Now, you had the same logic about the Priest and confession. Scripture says that Jesus healed in order to show that He could absolve of sin. Your logic is that Priests don't heal therefore they can't absolve. We never made the claim that all priests had the gift of healing. Your logic therefore impugns you.

    Well, there’s a lot here to think about, so I’ll stop here for now. You also brought up Sola Scriptura (Bible alone) and Sola Fide (Faith alone), but these can get pretty deep, so we can discuss these later if you wish.

    I would love to. One topic at a time however. I agree with you on that. One topic at a time.

    But for now, I await your response on the topic at hand. Thanks again for the discussion.

In His Name,

    Thank you Russell,

    May God bless you,


    De Maria

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