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A confessional in St. Peter's Church in Mainz

The Confession ( Lat. Confessio ; Sacrament of Penance , also Office of the key ) is a confession before an ordained church officials, as in the Roman Catholic church before a priest. It is the admission of a culpable misconduct by the penitent or confessor, usually during a private conversation with a confessor, the so-called auricular, individual or private confession.

In the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches , confession is one of the seven sacraments . A general absolution is only exceptionally and under narrowly defined conditions.

In the Evangelical Lutheran churches there are two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper. They have a clear biblical institution through word (commission from Christ) and signs (water or bread and wine). Confession has the biblical mandate, but no material sign. It is thus almost half a sacrament in Evangelical Lutheran theology. At the beginning of his theological considerations, Luther saw confession as a “third” sacrament. Ultimately, according to Martin Luther, there is only one sacrament, namely Jesus Christ himself. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession , Apologia Confessionis Augustanae , a position is taken on the 13th article in the Confessio Augustana (CA) , and in the 25th article (CA) referred directly to confession.

In Anglican and Lutheran churches , in addition to private confession, so-called “general confession” is offered as part of a service . The Old Catholic Church knows - besides the form of the personal confessional interview - the sacrament of penance as an independent “celebration of reconciliation” without an individual admission of guilt.

Confession can be made in various forms. In the churches, confession differs from other pastoral talks in that it aims at a formal, mostly sacramental forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ, usually expressed with the words "Your sins are forgiven" or "I absolve you of your sins".

New Testament foundation

In the teaching of the sacrament of penance, the churches refer to biblical statements such as these:

  • “Jesus said to them again: 'Receive the Holy Spirit! Whom you forgive sins, they are forgiven; to whom you refuse forgiveness, it is refused. '”( John 20 : 21-23  EU )
  • Jesus Christ to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; what you will bind on earth will also be bound in heaven, and what you will loosen on earth will also be loosened in heaven. "( Matthew 16:19  EU )
  • Jesus Christ to his disciples : "Amen, I say to you: Everything that you will bind on earth will also be bound in heaven and everything that you will loosen on earth will also be loosened in heaven" ( Matthew 18.18  EU )


The biblical texts on confession do not make it clear whether it was accepted privately or publicly. The first non-biblical mention is found in the Didache , where confession is mentioned, but not the rite according to which this sacrament was administered. The shepherd of Hermas also knew confession, but did not go into the external form. First St. Irenaeus of Lyon described a public confession in detail. Origen requested public confession in the case of serious sins. From his demand one can conclude that private confession was approved for venial sins. The development towards private or ear confession increased steadily from the year 200 on. Ear confessions were often made with hermits or priests in monastic orders . St. Augustine of Hippo († 430) does not mention public confession in any of his writings; from this one concludes that in the 5th century confession was mostly made privately or in the form of auricular confession. However, the process of confession was only standardized in the 9th century , but only in broad outline. The Irish Scottish monks spread ear confession all over Europe.

The confessional secret has been a natural part of the sacrament of penance since the beginning, but there were also violations of absolute confidentiality by the confessor. Thus the requirement of silence had to be regulated by canon law, which happened at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). Canon 21 ( Omnis utriusque sexus ) ordered that “every believer [...] who has reached the age of decision-making [...] faithfully confess all sins to his own priest at least once a year and [...] to fulfill the imposed penance to the best of his ability search “must. In addition, the Canon ordered the suspension of the priest in the event of a broken confessional secret . He had to repent for life in a strict monastery. According to current church law, the violation of the secrecy of confession results in the immediate excommunication of the priest.

With the Reformation , some criticisms of the existing practice arose . In the 19th and 20th centuries, confession experienced an upswing in some of the more liturgical branches of Protestantism.

The Second Vatican Council and the associated liturgical reform in the Roman Catholic Church again emphasized the salvific effect of this sacrament and therefore attached importance to the fact that this sacrament should be understood as a “celebration of reconciliation” (with God, the Church and people). For this reason, the sacrament of penance is also known as the sacrament of reconciliation .

Roman Catholic Church

All baptized believers are invited to frequent confession, especially during the times of penance in the Church and before the high feast days. Moreover, those who are aware of grave guilt are obliged to receive the sacrament of penance. Those who are aware that they have committed a mortal sin , even if they have deep repentance, should not receive Holy Communion until they have received sacramental absolution. Every believer who has reached the discernment age is obliged to confess his grave sins at least once a year. (Can. 989 CIC ). Believers are advised to confess their other (“venial”) sins as well.


In the Roman Catholic Church , confession is understood to mean either the confession of sin as such or the entire process of administering the sacrament of penance. The sacrament of penance restores the grace of baptism , which is necessary for eternal life with God. For a valid confession five requirements must be met: examination of conscience, repentance, good intentions, confession and reparation ( Catholic adult catechism ).

  • The examination of conscience , before the actual confession, aims at becoming aware of the sins and their circumstances.
  • The reliability is the most important part of confession. Forgiveness of sins is impossible without repentance. What one does not regret cannot be validly confessed. A distinction is made between perfect repentance (out of love for God) and imperfect repentance. Perfect repentance is the wish of the pious heart to turn away from sin out of love for God; and to be fully converted to trust in the love of God, to communion with Jesus Christ. In the case of imperfect repentance, the fear of eternal or temporary punishment from God or the fear of missing the eternal goal can also predominate.
  • The good intent must exist with the intention to avoid all grave sins in the future.
  • For a valid confession, the confession of all conscious serious sins (including deadly sins ), which one has remembered since baptism and which have not yet been forgiven in a sacramental confession, is necessary . Sin is grave when a commandment of God in an important matter has been broken with clear consciousness and with free determination. It is also advised to confess less grave sins called venial sins.
  • The restitution is first in the duty as far as to pay the wrong committed at all possible, for example, stolen must be returned. On the other hand, penance should help to pay off the consequences of guilt in solidarity with the church. With regard to satisfaction, i.e. the elimination of the consequences of sins, the church, as communio sanctorum , forms a temporal and eternal communion with Christ and his saints.

Thus cannot get effective absolution

  • who does not want to feel remorse for his sins
  • who does not want to avoid the next sin or the opportunities for sin
  • who does not want to forgive his enemies, does not want to restore the honor of others or does not want to compensate for other injustices, although he could.


There are two ordinary forms of celebrating the sacrament of penance:

  • the celebration of reconciliation for individuals
  • the communal celebration of reconciliation with confession and absolution of the individual ( forma sollemnior : Caeremoniale episcoporum No. 251).

The communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution is intended for people in mortal danger. The individual confession of grave sins forgiven therein must be made up as soon as possible if the believer survives (can. 962 CIC ).

The divine service regulations can be found in: The celebration of penance according to the new Roman ritual . Study edition, ed. from the liturgical institutes Salzburg, Trier and Zurich, Einsiedeln a. a. 1974. The pastoral introduction is also available on the Internet.

The celebration of reconciliation for individuals takes the following form:


After entering the confessional or room, the confessor makes the sign of the cross and begins with the following words:

Confessor priest
(1.) In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. (2.) God, who illuminates our hearts, give you true knowledge of your sins and His mercy.
(3.) Amen.  

If there is enough time, the priest can read or speak a scripture.

Confession and satisfaction

Now the actual confession of sins takes place in the confessional talk. At the end of the conversation, the priest can give the confessor appropriate penance to make satisfaction for his sins. This can have the character of a prayer or an act of charity.

Prayer of repentance and absolution

Fundamental to confession is sacramental absolution , which in the Roman Catholic Church can only be given by a priest in persona Christi and in the personal presence of the confessor. Some sins associated with excommunication reserved for the apostolic see can only be absolved after a consultation ( appeal ) from the confessor to the competent hierarchical superior. In the case of an abortion , according to the resolution of the Austrian and German Bishops' Conference, all confessors have the power to absolution, including the excommunication associated with it.

The confessor, who has confessed his sins and wrongdoings to the priest, now utters a short prayer of repentance of his choice and is absolved.

Confessor priest
Repentance prayer God, the merciful Father, through the death and resurrection of his Son reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. May he give you forgiveness and peace through the service of the Church. So I absolve you of your sins in the name of the + Father and the + Son and the + Holy Spirit.

or also in the Latin form:

Confessor priest
Deus, Pater misericordiarum, qui per mortem et resurrectionem Fílii sui mundum sibi reconciliavit et Spiritum Sanctum effudit in remissionem peccatorum, per ministerium Ecclesiae indulgentiam tibi tribuat et pacem. Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti , Amen.

Thanks and dismissal

Confessor priest
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
His mercy lasts forever. The Lord has forgiven your sins. Go in peace.

The relationship between confession and indulgence

According to the Catholic understanding, through a valid confession the believer obtains the forgiveness of confessed sins. If the believer was no longer in the state of grace due to serious sins committed , then through confession of these sins communion with God and the Church is restored. Confession, however, does not erase the temporary sin penalties caused by the sins committed, which may still have to be served in purgatory (state of purification). Believers who, in addition to the forgiveness of sins, also want to reduce the time penalties for sins can obtain indulgences in addition to having made confession . Since obtaining an indulgence is linked to the condition that the believer is in the state of grace, confession is often a prerequisite for obtaining an indulgence.

The exact presentation of the Roman doctrine of penance was only defined after the Reformation in the Council of Trent (between 1545 and 1563). The indulgence for the redemption of temporal consequences of sins has not been available for sale since then and is clearly distinguished from the sacrament of penance.

Lay confession

In addition to the sacramental confession, the Church also knows the so-called lay confession , which was made by St. Thomas Aquinas is expressly recommended. It does not replace sacramental confession and does not lead to the forgiveness of sins. Sacramental confession is particularly necessary for serious sins . The effect of lay confession consists, for example, in an extended examination of conscience, it can increase repentance about sins, it is an exercise of humility and it can prepare a sacramental confession. So it is a useful addition, but is little known and is therefore hardly practiced.

Orthodox Church

Confession is practiced in the Orthodox churches and counted among the sacraments. Most Orthodox believers consider recent confession to be a prerequisite for receiving communion ; some churches expressly donate them only to believers who have confessed the previous evening.

Confessionals are not common, usually the penitent is in a private room of his confessor a Christ - icon turn and so take his confession, the next kneeling priest is to help through prayers and questions. Many Orthodox prefer to seek confessor from a priest other than that of their local community; but the confessor should not be changed from confession to confession. If there is a monastery nearby, many also turn to a monk as a confessor. Since most of them are not priestly monks, in this case the monk calls in a priest at the end, who then performs the absolution.

The early Christian form of confession before the whole congregation is rarely practiced today; but sometimes still in the case of adult baptisms, if the person being baptized so wishes. The absolution must also be granted by a priest here.

Evangelical Lutheran Churches

In fact, Luther only recognizes Jesus Christ himself as a sacrament.

“The scriptures know a single sacrament, which is Christ the Lord Himself. (WA 6.86, Th. 18) "

The doctrine of justification asks what must happen so that the relationship between man and God, which has been burdened by man's sins, can come back to normal.

Lutheran criticism of the Roman Catholic penal institute

Martin Luther vigorously opposed every human effort to forgive sins ( having to confess all sins , indulgences, etc.), but he advocated individual confession. He himself confessed regularly, even daily in difficult times. The criticism of the Lutheran Reformation, in particular the confessional writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a doctrinal norm of this denomination, is therefore not generally directed against confession, which must be understood as a sacrament according to the Lutheran confessional writings, but against what is considered to be undesirable developments in the Roman Catholic Confessional was seen. The Roman Catholic Penitential Institute includes:

  1. Recognition of guilt
  2. true repentance = contritio cordis (Latin: literal contrition of the heart)
  3. Confession of guilt = confessio oris (lip confession)
  4. Satisfaction = satisfactio operum
  5. Promise of forgiveness = absolutio
  • A controversial issue is the contritio cordis (contrition of the heart)

Luther and the Lutheran confessional writings contradict the Roman doctrinal conception that man is in a position to feel a complete repentance that encompasses all sins, since man can only recognize part of his sins. It is further noted that the courage to confess and absolution cannot result from contrition of the heart, but that sinful man has to turn to the sacrifice of Christ. Man as a sinner remains a homo incurvatus in se ipsum (inwardly bent man). The third point of criticism turns at this point against the Roman Catholic doctrine of original sin , which is not as strictly defined in the Roman tradition as in the Lutheran doctrine of original sin. Fourthly, this means that the gospel in Christ is not adequately appreciated. In Lutheran doctrine of confession, the human being is not the subject of action, but the object. Sinful man is recognized as such by God. Only when a person allows God to recognize himself as a sinner does he become aware of his being a sinner. It is only through the hermeneutic principle - law and gospel - that the context between repentance and confession is expressed.

  • Another controversial issue is the "satisfaction" ("satisfactio operum")
  1. Luther denied, because of his stricter conception of original sin , the possibility of satisfaction on the part of depraved people and refers to the “vicarious death of Jesus” with which he justifies the justification by grace “ sola gratia ”.
  2. The rejection of the “satisfactio operum” is one of the reasons for Luther's resistance to the Roman Catholic Church and to the indulgence trade .
  3. This trade in indulgences arose because in the practice of confession, instead of reparation, compensation was sometimes demanded by good works , which could also consist in the purchase of indulgence slips and which in practice could even be understood as a purchase of forgiveness .
  4. This satisfactio operum originally had its meaning in the fact that it represented a sign of genuine repentance : the confessor should make it clear that his repentance was serious. It mainly consisted of fasting, prayer, and giving. This achievement is performed in the name of divine justice and is to be performed either in life or in purgatory. However, Luther and the Lutheran Church also know a satisfaction. But this is Christ's sacrifice on the cross and not a human achievement. The term satisfaction is avoided because from Luther's point of view it has a negative connotation.
  5. The “compulsion to confess”, which does not exist in the Lutheran Church, is also criticized.

Confession in the light of the Lutheran confessions

The Evangelical Lutheran Confessions speak in favor of confession, since according to the Lutheran conception of the confession, the justification of the sinner before God occurs most clearly in confession . In addition to baptism and the Lord's Supper, confession is named as the third sacrament. The apology of the Augsburg Confession defines in the 13th article that baptism, confession and the Lord's Supper are to be considered sacraments in the strict sense.

“Vere igitur sunt sacramenta baptism, coena Domini, absolutio quae est sacramentum poenitentiae. Truly, however, are the sacraments baptism, the Lord's supper, absolution, i.e. H. the sacrament of penance. "

The United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) continue to follow this view today. Unlike the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which only regards baptism and the Lord's Supper as sacraments.

  • The Small Catechism and the Great Catechism of Martin Luther - both writings belong to the corpus of the Lutheran Confessions - treat confession in detail. Among other things, the Small Catechism on Confession says:

“What is confession?
Confession has two parts: one, that one confesses sins; the other is that one receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor (regularly: the pastor) as from God himself, and indeed does not doubt it, but firmly believes that sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should one confess?
Before God one should be guilty of all sins, even which we do not recognize as we do in the Our Father. But before the confessor (pastor) we should only confess the sins that we know and feel in our hearts. "

  • The Schmalkaldic articles also emphasize confession.
    Absolution, the effect of the power of the keys, is also a help and consolation against sin and the bad conscience; this is how it was established by Christ in the Gospel. That is why one should not let confession or absolution come to an end in the church.
  • The Confessio Augustana of 1530 deals with the topic of confession and penance in Articles 11, 12 and 25 and defends itself against the accusation that confession has been abolished. Rather, confession is in validity and in practice. On the other hand, the compulsory confession and the requirement that all sins must be confessed are criticized.

Confessional Practice in Lutheran Churches Today

Confessional in Luther Church, Helsinki, Finland

In the 17th century, confession, which was compulsory before the evening meal, developed into a question of the catechism in the Lutheran area. In Pietism, this type of confession fell under criticism and was abolished in many places around 1700. Since the “ Berlin Confessional Controversy ” (1698), the “general confession”, a preparation prayer ( confiteor , the common request for forgiveness) as part of the main worship service or special confessional and penance services, has often replaced individual confessions with the laying on of hands . In many Protestant churches , a confession of sin with the promise of divine forgiveness of sin is part of the Protestant liturgy of the Lord's Supper .

Since 1993, the member churches of the VELKD have offered three options for confession within the main worship service:

  • in connection with the sacrament celebration
  • in the opening part
  • after the sermon

each with a period of personal examination of conscience, an absolute formula, together or by the liturist, with or without the laying on of hands. In addition, there is the voluntary practice of individual confession, which is regulated in the agenda of the VELKD and whose liturgical or free form is preceded by a conversation. The opposite of the penitent, the priest or the pastor. "The Church calls (ordains) and empowers individual Christians to hear confession and to give absolution".

In the member churches of the EKD there were initiatives after the Second World War to win back individual confessions. It was recommended in the Evangelical Adult Catechism : The individual confession is "undoubtedly an expression of personal maturity" and, moreover, an important pastoral offer that has been increasingly used in recent times. Klaus-Peter Hertzsch wrote: “There are people in the Protestant Church who go to confession on a regular basis […] In earlier times, confession had other forms that would be foreign to us today. It has also been misunderstood and abused in the course of history and thus fell into disrepute. It has a much more permanent place in the Roman Catholic Church than in ours and is therefore considered by many to be 'typically Catholic'. But none of this changes the fact that we are given the opportunity and great help here to really get rid of what oppresses us, what unsettles us, and what we yearn for: clarity and peace for our lives. "The German Evangelical Kirchentag contributed to raising awareness of individual confessions (including Frankfurt 1956 with events on the theme of Evangelical confessions ); The protocols of the Kirchentag show that many returnees from the war made confession on this occasion. Despite these initiatives, the practice of private confession remained largely limited to Protestant communities.

In the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), common confession is often held immediately before or in connection with the Lutheran mass. Absolution is awarded by the pastor to every penitent kneeling at the altar with the laying on of hands. Likewise, in the individual confession ("private confession"), sins are confessed to the pastor, for example in the sacristy , and are forgiven with the laying on of hands in the name of the Triune God . The process is similar to that of common confession. In the SELK only an ordained pastor is allowed to make confession and pronounce absolution.

Anglican churches

In Anglicanism, confession is usually a part of communal, public worship, especially at the celebration of the Eucharist . This form of confession includes a call to repentance on the part of the priest, a time of silent prayer to enable a silent remembrance of one's own sins, a form of general confession that is shared by all present, and the promise of absolution by the Priest who is often accompanied with the sign of the cross.

Private confession (also called ear confession) is also practiced by some Anglicans and is particularly widespread among Anglo-Catholics .

There is no general obligation to make private confession, but there is a widespread understanding that it is desirable under certain individual circumstances. An Anglican aphorism relating to this practice states: “All may; nobody has to; some should. "

Reformed churches

The Reformed Church rejects individual confession as a normal practice. For Ulrich Zwingli , Heinrich Bullinger and Johannes Calvin , confession was “non-biblical” practice.

Zwingli argued that since Christ delivered from sin, sacramental forgiveness of sins made no sense. In the proclamation of Jesus' death, that is, in the sermon, the power to bind and to release is exercised. In doing so, Zwingli turned against the traditional notion of the power of keys and explicitly against Luther's adherence to confession.

Calvin only saw the ear confession as justified "when someone can no longer believe it because his conscience torments him or doubts about God's mercy shatter certainty". The general absolution, on the other hand, was "something messed up and old-fashioned". It has hardly been used in the Reformed tradition for over a hundred years.

In the Reformed Liturgy , confession and absolution are explicitly mentioned and carried out in connection with the Lord's Supper. Confession is also mentioned in the Reformed Liturgy in the version of the ordination requirement, which was adopted from the order of the Evangelical Church of the Union .


The “order” of the Anabaptist Amish stipulates that in the event of serious misconduct by a congregation member, the whole congregation should confess guilt.

Evangelical Communities

Even in evangelical groups there is often a kind of confession in the form of a confession of sins before a pastor who promises forgiveness, sometimes on the occasion of conversion , in some places also as a regular spiritual practice. However, this pastor does not have to be a clergyman (lay confession).


In Manichaeism , sacred acts such as prayers, recitation of hymns, solemn Lord's Supper and weekly confession attempted to enable the light-soul to reunite with the divine and thus free it from the cycle of rebirth.

Confession in non-Christian cultures and religions


In the New Religious Movement Scientology and its sub-organizations, confession occupies a prominent position in many forms.

While it is used in different areas and for different purposes, "... security checks, integrity handouts and confessions all have the same procedures and all materials on these topics are interchangeable under these headings" .

Significant unique selling points of Scientology confessions are:

  1. the obligatory writing and the possible (and actually required) archiving of confessed misconduct;
  2. a detailed nomenclature of the terms relevant to the topic (examples: "overt" = an act directed against survival / a moral code (= "sin"); "overt of ommission" = a misconduct committed by omission; "withhold" (dt. Reluctance): An act of which the confessor knows that it has violated a moral code and about which the confessor does not (initially) want to speak; “missed withhold”: A “withhold” that was only almost found out ; etc.), which makes the topic appear like a scientifically researched subject;
  3. the inclusion of a technical aid, the Scientology E-Meter , the use of which is intended to make it easier to find areas that are not immediately accessible to the confessor's consciousness in order to make them accessible and pronounceable (note: The use of this aid presupposes, among other things, training in the operation of the device and the special questioning technique, as well as the willingness of the confessor);
  4. the range of applications of Scientology confessions. This ranges from a) the confessor alone and independently according to a given scheme to write transcripts of misconduct z. B. in the context of his employee relationship, through b) procedures on the path to be followed by Scientologists to the desired level " Clear ", up to c) special confessions and reviews, whether to improve general or special living conditions or security situations of the organization.

The potential for misuse of the confessional secret (also in principle valid in Scientology) is potentiated by several factors: The writing and storage on paper beyond the biological life of the person making the confession allows employees of various Scientology organizations and departments ad infinitum access to what has been written down . If the Scientology E-Meter was used during confession, the documents created in the process remain unavailable to the confessor himself; Incorrect entries made negligently or deliberately thus remain permanently undetected.


In the Inca culture , confessions were made for the forgiveness of sins. There were three different confessors who were visited depending on the nature of the misconduct. There were confessors of high and low rank and jugglers' confessors, the latter recognized by using lots or animal entrails when someone wanted to hide misconduct. Chastisements were also used to forgive sins .

Hoʻoponopono is a traditional Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Similar customs are known throughout the South Pacific.

In Taoist Taiping Jing , sins are associated with illness that can only be removed through a confession accompanied by a Taoist master who interrogates the sick person and tries to find out which of the sins committed may have caused the illness.

Confessional secret

The confessional secret is known in all churches : the confessor (possibly "also interpreters and others who have come to knowledge of sins in some way from confession", can. 983 CIC ) is obliged to the strictest secrecy about everything in the confession was discussed, even if for the martyrdom must suffer ( St. John Nepomuk. ); also towards all government and church bodies. He is also not allowed to speak to anyone about a previous confession. If he learns of a serious crime in confession, he will usually ask the confessor to present himself, and may even make this a requirement for absolution; the decision remains with the confessor.

In Germany, the protection of the “duty of pastoral secrecy” and thus also of the confessional secrecy is guaranteed by Article 9 of the Reich Concordat. In most states, the confessional secret is recognized by the state, so that eavesdropping on a confessional , for example , is prohibited.

Confessional mirror

In the examination of conscience a so-called can confessional be helpful. Its structure should enable a good preparation for confession.

Mathias Schmidt: Delivery of the confession slip , etching, Die Gartenlaube , 1874

Confession slip

A confession slip (schedula confessionis) is a certificate given by the Catholic confessor as part of confession. In many places, until the 20th century after Easter, the fulfillment of the obligation to confess was monitored by the local clergy during the Easter period . The result was sometimes a trade in confession slips.


Confession was believed to have beneficial effects, especially with regard to mental disorders. The psychiatrist and theologian Johannes B. Torelló examined the relationship between confession and psychotherapy and identified the differences.

According to the psychoanalyst Eveline List, Christianity became the determining ideological power in the Middle Ages; In particular, the establishment of "ear confession" for all Christians served as a control over individual people, increased the power of the church and propagated the idea of ​​personal guilt.

According to Viktor Frankl , psychoanalysis wanted to be Freud's “secular confession”, while logotherapy was “medical pastoral care”.

Problem and criticism

The intimacy of the confessional situation often led to assaults and even abuse. Since the 13th century, the lattice window has been used as a partition between priest and confessor. The grid should prevent contact in both directions and thus prevent possible sexual abuse. With the liberalizing press in the second half of the 19th century, cases of verbal abuse in the sacrament of penance became known to a wider audience for the first time. The confessional affair in Linz in 1872 sparked discussions far beyond the borders of Austria: A Carmelite priest had postponed the absolution of a young woman several times in order to court her with sometimes sexually charged words. A year earlier, the self-immolation of a maid in shelter caused criticism of a chaplain who had suggested suicide immediately beforehand in a general confession, because she was now "so sinful that she could go to heaven". The denial of the sacrament of penance in certain cases is well documented. In the middle of the 18th century, the archbishop of Paris refused to confess a Barnabite priest on the grounds that he sympathized with Jansenimus .

In England in the middle of the 19th century a pamphlet was circulating with the title "Anecdotes of the Confessional Box". The text goes back to Peter Dens “Theologica Moralis et Dogmatica” from 1832 and recounts supposedly real confessional talks between women and clergy, in which it was about sexuality. The book was classified as more obscene than the current erotic literature. Its real purpose was to promote patriarchy and not allow women to tell their most intimate secrets to a stranger in the church instead of their husbands, the heads of families.

But even in the recent past there has been repeated abuse of the confessional secret . An Australian priest sexually assaulted up to 1,500 boys for over 25 years until he was finally brought to court in 2003. In the course of time he confessed these deeds to 30 other priests, who, however, only advised him to repent in prayer. The confessional secret was not only used to cover up child abuse, but also served to protect a perpetrator from persecution.

See also


  • Fr (Friedrich) Frank : The penitential discipline of the church from the apostles to the seventh century, Mainz, 1867, with chapters on the ear confession and indulgences. Digitized [1]
  • Agende for Evangelical Lutheran churches and communities , Volume III: The official acts , Part 3: The confession . Revised edition 1993, ed. v. of the church leadership of the VELKD, Lutherisches Verlagshaus, Hanover 1993, ISBN 3-7859-0669-2 .
  • Karl-Ernst Apfelbacher : On the future of the sacrament of penance. A reminder of unfinished business. (The topic: Service of Reconciliation) In: PUK , Heft 6, 154th year, 2015, pp. 762–769.
  • Jes P. Asmussen, Isnard Wilhelm Frank , Ernst Bezzel, Helmut Obst , Manfred Mezger: Article confession I. Religious history II. Middle Ages III. Reformation period IV. Modern period V. Practical-theological . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 5 (1980), pp. 411-439.
  • Christoph Barnbrock, Werner Klän (ed.): Heilvolle Wende. Repentance and Confession in the Evangelical Lutheran Church . (= Oberurseler Hefte supplementary volumes , vol. 5). Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-7675-7133-4 .
  • Ernst Bezzel: Free to admit. History and practice of individual evangelical confession . (= Calwer Theologische Monographien, Vol. 10), Stuttgart 1982. (Bibliography!)
  • Wolfgang Böhme : Doctrine of Confession for Evangelical Christians . Stuttgart 1957.
  • John Cornwell : Confession. A dark story . Berlin Verlag 2014, ISBN 978-3-8270-1155-8 (Original: The Dark Box. A Secret History of Confession , London 2014).
  • Peter Godzik (Ed.): Dying care - cordial and affectionate. Steinmann, Rosengarten b. Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-927043-50-3 , therein:
    • P. 16–26: Peter Godzik: The word of release. A meditation on confession (with references).
    • P. 68–72: Manfred Seitz : Encouragement to confess .
    • P. 72–74: Arnold Bittlinger : The healing and liberating effect of confession .
    • P. 74–78: Agnes Sanford: On the importance of confession .
    • P. 87–88: Andreas Ebert : On the practice of confession and the forgiveness of sins .
  • Klaus-Peter Hertzsch : How my life can be bright again. An invitation to confession in the Evangelical Lutheran Church . Church Office of the VELKD, Hanover 2000.
  • Hildegar Höfliger: The renewal of the Protestant individual confession. Pastoral theological documentation on the evangelical confession movement since the beginning of the 20th century . (= Ecumenical Supplements, published by the Institute for Ecumenical Studies Friborg Switzerland, Volume 6). Freiburg / Switzerland 1971.
  • Laurentius Klein OSB: Evangelical Lutheran Confession. Teaching and practice . Paderborn 1961.
  • Reinhard Messner: Celebrating conversion and reconciliation . In: Reinhard Messner, Reiner Kaczynski : Sacramental celebrations I / 2 (= church service, vol. 7.2). Pustet, Regensburg 1992, pp. 9-240.
  • Helmut Obst : The Berlin confessional dispute. Pietism's criticism of the confessional practice of Lutheran orthodoxy . Luther-Verlag, Witten 1972, ISBN 3-7858-0171-8 (also: Habilitation thesis, Theological Faculty Halle-Wittenberg 1970).
  • Gunter Prüller-Jagenteufel , Christine Schliesser, Ralf K. Wüstenberg: Rediscovering confession. An ecumenical compendium for practice . With contributions by Heinrich Bedford-Strohm , Hermann Glettler, Michael Herbst , Johann Pock, Klemens Schaupp, Christoph Schönborn , Joachim Zehner, Peter Zimmerling . (= Contexts. New Contributions to Historical and Systematic Theology, Volume 45). Göttingen: Edition Ruprecht 2016, ISBN 978-3-8469-0210-3 .
  • Erich Roth : The private confession and the power of keys in the theology of the reformers . Gütersloh 1952.
  • Rupert Maria Scheule : Confession and self-reflection. A Social History of Catholic Penitential Practice in the 20th Century . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2002.
  • Jobst Schöne : Confession in Lutheran . Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8469-0094-9 .
  • Manfred Seitz u. a .: The joy of confession . Neukirchen-Vluyn 1985.
  • Theo Sorg : The solving word. Thoughts on evangelical confession . Stuttgart 1983.
  • Josef Spindelböck : The protection of the confessional secret. Canonical and moral theological considerations from a fundamental and current perspective . In: Ders .: Responsible Freedom. Contributions to theological ethics . Verlag St. Josef, Kleinhain 2004, ISBN 978-3-901853-09-8 .
  • Johannes B. Torelló: Psychoanalysis and Confession . Fassbaender, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-900538-82-4 .
  • Alexander Wieckowski: Evangelical confessionals in Saxony . Sax-Verlag, Beucha 2005. ISBN 3-934544-74-6 .
  • Alexander Wieckowski: Evangelical private confessions and confessionals: observations on an almost forgotten chapter of Lutheran piety in Leipzig and the surrounding area . In: City history. Announcements from the Leipziger Geschichtsverein e. V. Yearbook 2006. Beucha 2006, pp. 67-108. ISBN 3-86729-007-5 .
  • Peter Zimmerling : Study book confession . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-03634-1 .
  • Peter Zimmerling: The importance of individual confessions for the Reformation doctrine of justification . In: Karl-Hermann Kandler (ed.): The Church's Confession to Questions of Marriage and Church . Freimund, Neuendettelsau 2011, ISBN 978-3-86540-096-3 , pp. 58-74.
  • Peter Zimmerling: Confession - God's forgotten offer . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2014. ISBN 978-3-374-03738-4 .
  • Paul Zulehner : Reversal: Principle and Realization. Using the example of confession . Josef Knecht Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2nd edition 1980, ISBN 3-7820-0418-3 .

Web links

Commons : Confession  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: confession  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Oswald Bayer: Martin Luther's Theology: A Verification . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2003, p. 244.
  2. ^ Bertrand Kurtscheid: A History of the Seal of Confession . London 1927, pp. 1-115.
  3. ^ Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 21. Quoted in translation from: Reinhold Mokrosch, Herbert Walz (arrangement): Middle Ages (= Heiko A. Oberman (ed.): Church and theological history in sources , volume 2). Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1980, ISBN 3-7887-0623-6 , p. 123.
  5. Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), can. 960-991 and 1388
  6. ^ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis , 21
  7. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457
  8. KKK, 1458: “The confession of everyday mistakes, venial sins, is not strictly necessary, but is strongly recommended by the Church [cf. Council v. Trent: DS 1680; CIC, can. 988, § 2]. The regular confession of our venial sins helps us to form our conscience, to fight against our evil tendencies, to allow ourselves to be healed by Christ and to grow in spiritual life. If, in this sacrament, we receive the gift of God's mercy more often, we will be driven to be merciful like him ”.
  9. The celebration of penance according to the new Roman ritual ( memento of August 29, 2014 in the Internet Archive ),
  10. .
  11. Sacrament .
  12. Peter Zimmerling: Handbook of Evangelical Spirituality . Volume 3, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2020, p. 547.
  13. Agende III, 3, p. 12.
  14. Evangelical Adult Catechism, 5th ed. 1989, p. 1084.
  15. Peter Zimmerling: Renaissance of Confession? Background and perspectives in Protestant pastoral care . In: Geist und Leben , Vol. 88 (2015), pp. 145–155, especially pp. 145 and 151.
  16. Klaus-Peter Hertzsch: How my life can be bright again. An invitation to confession in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (= texts from the VELKD). Hanover 2000.
  17. Peter Zimmerling: Handbook of Evangelical Spirituality . Volume 3, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2020, p. 549.
  18. Peter Zimmerling: Handbook of Evangelical Spirituality . Volume 3, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2020, p. 550.
  19. Michael Becker: Confession: None must, All may, Some should . Forward Movement, Cincinnati 2004.
  20. ^ Reformed Church of the Canton of Zurich: Zwingli: Biography. 1516–1522 People priests at the Grossmünster ( memento from October 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive ): «The council took over ... the function of the church and implemented Zwingli's reformatory innovations, i. that is, he did away with Church traditions that were not biblically based, and the like. a. Images of saints, monasteries, confession, confirmation, processions and anointing of the sick. "
  21. ^ Heinrich Bullinger : The Second Helvetian Confession (Confessio Helvetica Posterior) ( Memento of September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), Chapter XIV. The penance and conversion of people , p. 16f. (pdf; 178 kB)
  22. ^ Ulrich Gäbler : Huldrych Zwingli. An introduction to his life and work ; Munich: Beck, 1983; ISBN 3-406-09594-1 ; S. 69. With reference to: Ulrich Zwingli: Interpretation and reasons of the closing speeches ; Z II 148.3-30; 380.16-20.
  23. Ralph Kunz : Forgiveness from faith - the evangelical view . In: NZZ , February 12, 2009, p. 16.
  24. ^ Reformierte Liturgie , pp. 342, 344, 373. p. 342: "The form 'Last Supper on a special occasion' [...] contains confession and absolution as a possibility."
  25. ^ Reformed Liturgy , p. 500: "You are obliged to remain silent about everything that is entrusted to you in confession and pastoral care."
  26. US author and Scientology founder Hubbard in a bulletin from his communications office on January 24, 1977; quoted here from: DIANETICS AND SCIENTOLOGY TECHNICAL DITIONNARY by L.Ron Hubbard, New Era Publications ApS, 1983
  27. ^ List of Scientology security checks. In: Retrieved December 16, 2019 .
  28. José de Acosta : The gold of the condor. Reports from the New World 1590 and atlas on the history of its discovery. Edited and transmitted by Rudolf Kroboth and Peter H. Meurer . Edition Erdmann in K. Thienemanns Verlag, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-522-60750-3 , p. 58 (Original edition: America, Or how one calls it in German Die Neuwe Welt or West India. By Mr. Josepho De Acosta in seven books one Described partly in Latin and one partly in Hispanic language Sutorius, Ursel 1605. Based on the copy in the State Library of Prussian Cultural Heritage, Berlin).
  29. Practice of the confession slip , accessed on February 17, 2019
  30. ^ Fridolf Kudlien : Confession and healing. In: Medizinhistorisches Journal 13, 1978, pp. 1-14.
  31. ^ Johannes B. Torelló: Psychoanalysis and Confession . Fassbaender, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-900538-82-4 .
  32. Eveline List: From the fear of God to the fear of conscience. On the emergence of the modern superego . In: Christine Diercks, Sabine Schlüter (Ed.): Fear. Sigmund Freud Lectures 2009 . Mandelbaum-Verlag, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-85476-350-5 , pp. 198-209.
  33. ^ Viktor Frankl : Medical pastoral care. Basics of logotherapy and existential analysis (last edition, status: 2005). In: Viktor Frankl : Collected works. Volume 4. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78619-1 , p. 311 (525).
  34. Tages-Post, Linz, December 30, 1871, p. 3. Via the Austrian National Library
  35. ^ Reichspostreuter, July 3, 1772, p. 3. Via the Austrian National Library Father Mirasson, who was refused confession, later went to court for supporting "the sale of forbidden books in secret."
  36. Bernstein, Susan David .: Confessional subjects: revelations of gender and power in Victorian literature and culture . University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1997, ISBN 0-585-02647-5 .
  37. John F. Jungclaussen: Duty of secrecy: In the confessional . In: The time . April 9, 2015, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed July 3, 2019]).
  38. Cornwell, John .: The Confession A Dark Story . Bloomsbury, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-8270-1155-8 .