Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 17 November 2018

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Democracy and Theocracy. In praise of Choice and Christian Freedom

Keith Giles Patheos Why John 3:16 Isn’t About The Crucifixion

Cristian Ispir British Library Medieval manuscripts blog Medieval hipsters

Robin Ward Church Times How should priests be taught to approach the rite of confession and absolution?
Philip North Church Times Confession: An opportunity, not a risk

Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News Is Agreement Over-Rated?

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Kate
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Kate

I think that those who favour a Roman Catholic version of Confession are twisting the canons and that a clamp down is overdue. As I understand the Canon, a minister who hears a confession may not behave differently to the penitent because of the confession heard. As Robin Ward says, a minister must never “act upon anything” revealed to him. To my mind, that means that imposing a penance, making absolution conditional or refusing absolution are unlawful. Philip North, who should know better, suggests that he weighs whether a person making confession is really penitent before offering absolution so he… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Two points: [1] Somebody expecting absolution but refusing to confess a crime to the police is clearly not penitent. I know only God can judge but wouldn’t it be tantamount to blasphemy to pronounce God’s absolution in such circumstances? [2] I think you are making very heavy weather of the ‘penance’. It isn’t an essential part of the sacrament and doesn’t imply any discredited mediaeval doctrines. It’s simply a devotional aid to enable the penitent to reflect thankfully on the absolution he or she has received. It’s usually a simple prayer, or psalm, or other biblical text, which has some… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

But where do you draw the line? If someone confessed to massaging sales figures, to use the example from the previous thread, shouldn’t we equally then insist that they confess to their boss what they did? If someone married confesses to lustful thoughts about someone else, shouldn’t we insist that they tell their wife / husband? In each case the argument is the same – if someone was truly penitent isn’t this what they would do? In truth, we know it isn’t. We know that one can be genuinely penitent but still not feel we should confess to a boss… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

When I was ordained the Bishop said “Whoever’s sins you forgive, they are forgiven.. Whoever’s sins you retain, they have been retained.” These words of Jesus form our understanding of the Confessional. Philip North is quite right in withholding absolution from someone who admits to a serious criminal offence. The priest must persuade the penitent to report to the police and accompany them if they agree. Kate suggests that God would forgive someone truly penitent of murder without being criminally charged. That is nonsense. The priest HAS discretion to retain sins.

Kate
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Kate

You are absolutely correct in terms of Scripture if the penitent starts “Forgive me Father (ie addresses the priest) for I have sinned” but not, I suggest, in Canon law which states that a priest cannot treat someone differently because of what they have confessed which means that priests must either absolve everyone or nobody, otherwise they are treating people differently based on what they confess ie are judging people. Similarly, there is no provision for a penance because, again, that is treating someone differently. If the penitent says “Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned…” then that’s different again… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

It is not treating people differently if a penitent has broken civil law and another has not. I would forgive someone the sin of gluttony, for instance. But I’d withhold absolution from a child abuser until they submitted to the secular authorities. I suspect, Kate, you are being legalistic and not pastoral.

Kate
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Kate

What do you know of the penitent’s circumstances? To take an example. Suppose a car driver knocks a cyclist off and kills them. The police decide it was an accident but the driver knows they were distracted and that they should be charged with manslaughter and confess that to their priest. They are the only wage-earner and have a disabled spouse and three children. Going to jail would leave the family homeless. Are you really saying that the penitent cannot be truly penitent and should be denied absolution if they do not go to the police? I am sorry but… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Under your assessment, Kate, you’d find a priest to be judgemental if he withheld absolution from Adolf Hitler.

Kate
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Kate

“Forgive us our as we forgive those who sin against us”

I don’t pretend to know how it works, I only know that what Jesus taught is very clear.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

It’s nice to know Hitler has been rewarded with eternal glory, Kate

Kate
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Kate

There is a simple solution available, though: get lay readers to take confessions. Since they are not ordained they aren’t bound by the Seal but they may legally lead prayer so they may use a prayer of absolution. Since Confession isn’t a sacrament, or even a recognised rite, I see no obstacles.

Problem solved.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

One of the curious things (at first sight) about the C of E BCP is the interchange of the words “Minister” and “Priest” within the same liturgical text. It has always seemed to me (purely as a layman) that “Priest” involves a sacramental role (or other role) which cannot be performed by a lay person. It’s interesting to see that in the Visitation of the Sick the “Minister” exhorts the sick person to consider the poor, but when it comes to the confession and absolution (curiously optional) the rubric reverts to the “Priest”; similarly, with the post-absolution prayer. Obviously I… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I think words like priest/minister, sacrament and marriage have come to mean different things to different people. The challenge facing Anglicanism is to decide whether such terms should have a universal meaning across global Anglicanism, or be declared at the level of each province, diocese or parish. It seems to me that about the only thing on which everyone agrees is the apostolic succession of bishops with the supreme irony that, within the Church of England, bishops are formally a Crown appointment.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

‘about the only thing on which everyone agrees is the apostolic succession of bishops’. Well that’s news to me at least.

Tim Chesterton
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‘about the only thing on which everyone agrees is the apostolic succession of bishops’.

Perhaps – but definitely not its significance.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

And also to me. I think there are a lot of people in the Church who don’t believe in the apostolic succession. Or they do – but believe it to consist in faithfulness to the apostles’ teaching, rather than in a chain of laying on of hands.

Nigel LLoyd
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Nigel LLoyd

The Church of England signed the Porvoo agreement by which we entered into full communion with the Lutheran Churches of Scandinavia. What we agreed to included the affirmation that we accept the reality of the Apostolic Sucession in each others’ churches, this being the faithful passing down of the faith through the community of the baptized. We agreed that this was symbolized by the laying on of hands in the ordination of Bishops, but that any break in the line of such laying on of hands did not break the Apostolic Sucession through the continuous community of the baptized.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

The House of Bishops produced Apostolicity and Succession some years back. I wonder how many people read it? As I discovered when I was hauled out of retirement to do POT most of the ecumenical agreements like ARCIC have passed the clergy by… yet these agreements shed light on old divisions and pointed a way forward.

Jo B
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Jo B

Helpful for the sacraments, perhaps, but not for the unity of the church. The ability to read into the 39 articles either 2 sacraments (based on the reading that saying the others are not “sacraments of the Gospel” means they’re not sacraments at all) or more (reading in an unspoken “the others are sacraments of the church”) is one of many early examples of Anglican fudge, evidence that the ecclesiastical kind predates the confectionery!

Kate
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Kate

The Keith Giles was interesting. I had never contemplated that anyone read John 3:16 as being about crucifixion. Just shows how we can each take a verse and form radically different views as to its meaning!

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Agreed! I always think of this in the context of the “Comfortable Words”, conveying hope and reassurance.

Jill Armstead
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Jill Armstead

I think Kate should learn about confession at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham as her understanding of this ministry is frankly bizarre. It is wonderfully healing and perhaps ‘reconciliation’ – the restoration of right relationships with God, with self and with others describes it better.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I presume, Jill, that you received absolution? If the priest has withheld absolution, do you think that you would have still experienced “the restoration of rights relationships with God, with self and with others”?

Jill Armstead
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Jill Armstead

Well, no Kate. Think about it…….

Kate
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Kate

And that’s the point.