sources of catholic dogma 800-900[ Go Back to Sources of Dogma Index Page ]
Chap. 8. How One is to Understand the Gratuitous Justification of a Sinner by Faith
801 But when the Apostle says that man is justified "by faith" [can. 9] and "freely" [Rom. 3:22, 24], these words must be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted consent of the Catholic Church has held and expressed, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because "faith is the beginning of human salvation," * the foundation and root of all justification, "without which it is impossible to please God" [Heb. 11 :6] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and are, therefore, said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith, or works merit the grace itself of justification; for, "if it is a grace, it is not now by reason of works; otherwise (as the same Apostle says) grace is no more grace" [Rom.11:6].
Chap. 9. Against the Vain Confidence of Heretics
802 Although it is necessary to believe that sins are neither forgiven, nor ever have been forgiven, except gratuitously by divine mercy for Christ's sake, yet it must not be said that sins are forgiven or have been forgiven to anyone who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the forgiveness of his sins and rests on that alone, since among heretics and schismatics this vain confidence, remote from all piety [can. 12], may exist, indeed in our own troubled times does exist, and is preached against the Catholic Church with vigorous opposition. But neither is this to be asserted, that they who are truly justified without any doubt whatever should decide for themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and is justified, except him who believes with certainty that he is absolved and justified, and that by this faith alone are absolution and justification effected [can. 14], as if he who does not believe this is doubtful of the promises of God and of the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For, just as no pious person should doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ, and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so every one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may entertain fear and apprehension as to his own grace [can. 13], since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.
Chap. 10. Concerning the Increase of Justification Received
803 Having, therefore, been thus justified and having been made the "friends of God" and "his domestics" [John 15:15; Eph. 2:19], "advancing from virtue to virtue" [Ps. 83:8], "they are renewed" (as the Apostle says) "from day to day" [2 Cor. 4:16], that is, by mortifying the members of their flesh [Col. 3:5], and by "presenting them as instruments of justice" [Rom. 6:13, 19], unto sanctification through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church; in this justice received through the grace of Christ "faith cooperating with good works" [Jas. 2:22], they increase and are further justified [can. 24 and 32], as it is written: "He that is just, let him be justified still" [Rev. 22:11], and again: "Be not afraid to be justified even to death" [Sirach. 18:22], and again: "You see, that by works a man is justified and not by faith only" [Jas. 2:24]. And this increase of justice Holy Church begs for, when she prays: "Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity" [13th Sun. after Pent.].
Chap. II. The Observance of the Commandments, and the Necessity and Possibility thereof
804 But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments [can. 20]; no one should make use of that rash statement forbidden under an anathema by the Fathers, that the commandments of God are impossible to observe for a man who is justified [can. 18 and 22: cf. n. 200]. "For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you both to do what you can do, and to pray for what you cannot do, and assists you that you may be able"; * "whose commandments are not heavy" [1 John 5:3], "whose yoke is sweet and whose burden is light" [Matt. 11:30]. For they who are the sons of God, love Christ: "but they who love him, (as He Himself testifies) keep his words" [John 14:23], which indeed with the divine help they can do. For although in this mortal life men however holy and just fall at times into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial [can. 23], they do not for that reason cease to be just. For that word of the just, "Forgive us our trespasses" [Matt. 6:12; cf. n.107], is both humble and true. Thus it follows that the just ought to feel themselves more bound to walk in the way of justice, in that having been now "freed from sin and made servants of God" [Rom. 6:22], "living soberly and justly and piously" [Tit. 2:12], they can proceed onwards through Christ Jesus, through whom they "have access unto this grace" [Rom. 5:2]. For God "does not forsake those who have once been justified by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by them." * And so no one should flatter himself because of faith alone [can. 9, 19, 20], thinking that by faith alone he is made an heir and will obtain the inheritance, even though he suffer not with Christ "that he may be also glorified" [Rom. 8:17]. For even Christ Himself (as the Apostle says), "whereas he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered and being made perfect he was made to all who obey him the cause of eternal salvation" [Heb. 5:8 ff.] For this reason the Apostle himself admonishes those justified saying: "Know you not, that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty, I so fight, not as one beating the air, but I chastise my body and bring it under subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway" [1 Cor. 9:24ff.]. So also the chief of the Apostles, Peter: "Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election; for doing these things, you shall not sin at any time" [2 Pet. 1:10]. Thence it is clear that they are opposed to the teaching of orthodox religion who say that the just man sins at least venially in every good work [can. 25], or (what is more intolerable) that he merits eternal punishments; and that they also who declare that the just sin in all works, if in those works, in order to stimulate their own sloth and to encourage themselves to run in the race, with this (in view), that above all God may be glorified, they have in view also the eternal reward [can. 26, 31], since it is written: "I have inclined my heart to do thy justifications on account of the reward" [Ps. 118:112], and of Moses the Apostle says, that he "looked to the reward" [Heb. 11:26].
Chap. 12. Rash Presumption of Predestination is to be Avoided
805 No one moreover, so long as he lives in this mortal state, ought so far to presume concerning the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to decide for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestined [can. 15], as if it were true that he who is justified either cannot sin any more [can. 23], or if he shall have sinned, that he ought to promise himself an assured reformation. For except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God has chosen for Himself [can. 16].
Chap. 13. The Gift of Perseverance
806 So also as regards the gift of perseverance [can. 16] of which it is written: He that "shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved" [Matt. 10:22; 24:13] (which gift cannot be obtained from anyone except from Him, "who is able to make him, who stands, stand" [Rom. 14:4], that he may stand perseveringly, and to raise him, who falls), let no one promise himself anything as certain with absolute certitude, although all ought to place and repose a very firm hope in God's help. For God, unless men be wanting in His grace, as He has begun a good work, so will He perfect it, "working to will and to accomplish" [Phil. 2:13; can. 22]. * Nevertheless, let those "who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall" [1 Cor. 10:12], and "with fear and trembling work out their salvation" [Phil. 2:12] in labors, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayers and oblations, in fastings and chastity [cf. 2 Cor. 6:3 ff.]. For they ought to fear, knowing that they are born again "unto the hope of glory" [cf. 1 Rom. Pet. 1:3], and not as yet unto glory in the combat that yet remains with the flesh, with the world, with the devil, in which they cannot be victors, unless with God's grace they obey the Apostle saying: "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die. But if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" [Rom. 8:12 ff.].
Chap. 14. The Fallen and Their Restoration
807 Those who by sin have fallen away from the received grace of justification, will again be able to be justified [can. 29] when, roused by God through the sacrament of penance, they by the merit of Christ shall have attended to the recovery of the grace lost. For this manner of justification is the reparation of one fallen, which the holy Fathers * have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of lost grace. For on behalf of those who after baptism fall into sin, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of penance, when He said: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" [John 20:22, 23]. Hence it must be taught that the repentance of a Christian after his fall is very different from that at his baptism, and that it includes not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation of them, or "a contrite and humble heart" [Ps. 50:19], but also the sacramental confession of the same, at least in desire and to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution, as well as satisfaction by fasting, almsgiving, prayers, and other devout exercises of the spiritual life, not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is remitted together with the guilt either by the sacrament or the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment [can. 30], which (as the Sacred Writings teach) is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, "have grieved the Holy Spirit" [cf. Eph. 4:30], and have not feared to "violate the temple of God" [1 Cor. 3:17]. Of this repentance it is written: "Be mindful, whence thou art fallen, do penance, and do the first works" [Rev. 2:5], and again: "The sorrow which is according to God, worketh penance steadfast unto salvation" [2 Cor. 7:10], and again: "Do penance" [Matt. 3:2; 4:17], and, "Bring forth fruits worthy of penance" [Matt. 3:8].
Chap. 15. By Every Mortal Sin Grace is Lost, but not Faith
808 Against the crafty genius of certain men also, who "by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent" [Rom. 16:18], it must be maintained that the grace of justification, although received, is lost not only by infidelity [can. 27], whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin, although faith be not lost [can. 28], thereby defending the doctrine of the divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelievers, but also the faithful who are "fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners" [1 Cor. 6:9 ff.], and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the assistance of divine grace they can refrain and for which they are separated from the grace of God [can. 27].
Chap. 16. The Fruit of Justipration, that is, the Merit of Good
Works, and the Reasonableness of that Merit
809 To men, therefore, who have been justified in this respect, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received, or have recovered it when lost, the words of the Apostle are to be submitted: "Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" [1 Cor. 15:58]; "for God is not unjust, that he should forget your work and the love, which you have shown in his name" [Heb. 6:10], and: "Do not lose your confidence, which has a great reward" [Heb. 10:35]. And therefore to those who work well "unto the end" [Matt. 10:22], and who trust in God, life eternal is to be proposed, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, "and as a recompense" * which is according to the promise of God Himself to be faithfully given to their good works and merits [can. 26 and 32]. For this is that "crown of justice which after his fight and course" the Apostle declared "was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming" [2 Tim. 4:7ff.]. For since Christ Jesus Himself as the "head into the members" [Eph. 4:15], and "as the vine into the branches" [John 15:5] continually infuses His virtue into the said justified, a virtue which always precedes their good works, and which accompanies and follows them, and without which they could in no wise be pleasing and meritorious before God [can. 2], we must believe that to those justified nothing more is wanting from being considered [can. 32] as having satisfied the divine law by those works which have been done in God according to the state of this life, and as having truly merited eternal life to be obtained in its own time (if they shall have departed this life in grace [Rev. 14:13]), since Christ our Lord says: "If anyone shall drink of the water, that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever, but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting" [John 4:14]. Thus neither is "our own justice established as our own" from ourselves, nor is the justice of God [Rom. 10:3] "ignored" or repudiated; for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified [can. 10 and 11] through its inherence in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.
810 Nor indeed is this to be omitted, that although in the sacred Writings so much is ascribed to good works, that even "he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones" Christ promises "shall not lose his reward" [Matt. 10:42], and the Apostle testifies "that that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" [2 Cor. 4:17]; nevertheless far be it that a Christian should either trust or "glory" in himself and not "in the Lord" [cf. 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17], whose goodness towards all men is so great that He wishes the things which are His gifts [see n. 141] to be their own merits [can. 32]. And whereas "in many things we all offend" [Jas. 3:2; can. 23], each one should have before his eyes the severity and judgment as well as mercy and goodness; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be "not conscious to himself of anything," since the whole life of men must be judged and examined not by the judgment of men, but of God, who "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God" [1 Cor.4:4ff.], "who," as it is written, "will render to every man according to his works" [Rom. 2:6].
After this Catholic doctrine of justification [can. 33]--which, unless he faithfully and firmly accepts it, no one can be justified--it seemed good to the holy Synod to add these canons, so that all may know, not only what they must hold and follow, but also what they ought to shun and avoid.
Canons On Justification *
811 Can. I. If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema [cf. n. 793 ff.].
812 Can. 2. If anyone shall say that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may more easily be able to live justly and merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he were able to do both, though with difficulty and hardship: let him be anathema [cf. n. 795, 809].
813 Can. 3. If anyone shall say that without the anticipatory inspiration of the Holy Spirit and without His assistance man can believe, hope, and love or be repentant, as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be conferred upon him: let him be anathema [cf. n. 797].
814 Can. 4. If anyone shall say that man's free will moved and aroused by God does not cooperate by assenting to God who rouses and calls, whereby it disposes and prepares itself to obtain the grace of justification, and that it cannot dissent, if it wishes, but that like something inanimate it does nothing at all and is merely in a passive state: let him be anathema [cf. n. 797].
815 Can. 5. If anyone shall say that after the sin of Adam man's free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing in name only, indeed a title without a reality, a fiction, moreover, brought into the Church by Satan: let him be anathema [cf. n. 793, 797].
816 Can. 6. If anyone shall say that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God produces the evil as well as the good works, not only by permission, but also properly and of Himself, so that the betrayal of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul: let him be anathema.
817 Can. 7. If anyone shall say that all works that are done before justification, in whatever manner they have been done, are truly sins or deserving of the hatred of God, or that the more earnestly anyone strives to dispose himself for grace, so much the more grievously does he sin: let him be anathema [cf. n. 798].
818 Can. 8. If anyone shall say that the fear of hell, whereby by grieving for sins we flee to the mercy of God or refrain from sinning, is a sin or makes sinners worse: let him be anathema [cf. n. 798].
819 Can. 9. If anyone shall say that by faith alone the sinner is justified, so as to understand that nothing else is required to cooperate in the attainment of the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will: let him be anathema [cf. n. 798, 801, 804].
820 Can. 10. If anyone shall say that men are justified without the justice of Christ by which He merited for us, or that by that justice itself they are formally just: let him be anathema [cf. n. 798, 799].
821 Can. 11. If anyone shall say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of grace and charity, which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and remains in them, or even that the grace by which we are justified is only the favor of God: let him be anathema [cf. n. 799ff., 809].
822 Can. 12. If anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema [cf. n. 798, 802].
823 Can. 13. If anyone shall say that it is necessary for every man in order to obtain the remission of sins to believe for certain and without any hesitation due to his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him: let him be anathema [cf. n. 802].
824 Can. 14. If anyone shall say that man is absolved from his sins and justified, because he believes for certain that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are perfected: let him be anathema [cf. n. 802].
825 Can. 15. If anyone shall say that a man who is born again and justified is bound by faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestined: let him be anathema [cf. n. 805].
826 Can. 16. If anyone shall say that he will for certain with an absolute and infallible certainty have that great gift of perseverance up to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation: let him be anathema [cf. n.805ff.].
827 Can. 17. If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil: let him be anathema [cf. n. 800].
828 Can. 18. If anyone shall say that the commandments of God are even for a man who is justified and confirmed in grace impossible to observe: let him be anathema [cf. n. 804].
829 Can. 19. If anyone shall say that nothing except faith is commanded in the Gospel, that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free, or that the ten commandments in no way pertain to Christians: let him be anathema [cf. n. 800].
830 Can. 20. If anyone shall say that a man who is justified and ever so perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if indeed the Gospel were a mere absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observation of the commandments: let him be anathema [cf. n. 804].
831 Can. 21. If anyone shall say that Christ Jesus has been given by God to men as a Redeemer in whom they should trust, and not also as a legislator, whom they should obey: let him be anathema.
832 Can. 22. If anyone shall say that he who is justified can either persevere in the justice received without the special assistance of God, or that with that [assistance] he cannot: let him be anathema [cf. n. 804, 806].
833 Can. 23. If anyone shall say that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he who falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the contrary, that throughout his whole life he can avoid all sins even venial sins, except by a special privilege of God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin: let him be anathema [cf. n. 805, 810].
834 Can. 24. If anyone shall say, that justice received is not preserved and also not increased in the sight of God through good works but that those same works are only the fruits and signs of justification received, but not a cause of its increase: let him be anathema [cf. n. 803].
835 Can. 25. If anyone shall say that in every good work the just one sins at least venially, or (what is more intolerable) mortally, and therefore deserves eternal punishments, and that it is only because God does not impute those works unto damnation that he is not damned, let him be anathema [cf. n. 804].
836 Can. 26. If anyone shall say that the just ought not to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God and the merit of Jesus Christ for the good works which have been performed in trod, if by doing well and in keeping the divine commandments they persevere even to the end: let him be anathema [cf. n. 809].
837 Can. 27. If anyone shall say that there is no mortal sin except that of infidelity, or that grace once received is not lost by any other sin however grievous and enormous, except the sin of infidelity: let him be anathema [cf. n. 808].
838 Can. 28. If anyone shall say that together with the loss of grace by sin faith also is always lost, or that the faith that remains is not a true faith, though it be not a living one, or that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Christian: let him be anathema [cf. n. 808].
839 Can. 29. If anyone shall say that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again; or that he can indeed recover lost justice, but by faith alone without the sacrament of penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church, taught by Christ the Lord and His apostles, has hitherto professed, observed, and taught: let him be anathema [cf. n. 807].
840 Can. 30. If anyone shall say that after the reception of the grace of justification, to every penitent sinner the guilt is so remitted and the penalty of eternal punishment so blotted out that no penalty of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in the world to come in purgatory before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened: let him be anathema [cf. n. 807].
841 Can.31. If anyone shall say that the one justified sins, when he performs good works with a view to an eternal reward: let him be anathema [cf. n. 804]
842 Can. 32. If anyone shall say that the good works of the man justified are in such a way the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified, or that the one justified by the good works, which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (whose living member he is), does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life (if he should die in grace), and also an increase of glory: let him be anathema [cf. n. 803and 809].
843 Can. 33. If anyone shall say that because of this Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy Synod in this present decree, there is in some degree a detraction from the glory of God or from the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that the truth of our faith, and in fact the glory of God and of Jesus Christ are not rather rendered illustrious: let him be anathema [cf. n. 810]
SESSION Vll (March 3, 1547)
843a For the completion of the salutary doctrine of justification, which was a promulgated in the last session with the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it has seemed fitting to treat of the most holy sacraments of the Church, through which all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased or being lost is restored. Therefore the holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit with the same legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein, in order to destroy the errors, and to uproot the heresies concerning these most holy sacraments, which in this stormy period of ours have been both revived from the heresies previously condemned by our Fathers, and also have been invented anew, which are exceedingly detrimental to the purity of the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls; this Synod in adhering to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions and to the unanimous opinion of other councils and of the Fathers, has thought it proper to establish and decree these present canons, intending (with the assistance of the divine Spirit) to publish later the remaining which are wanting for the completion of the work begun.
Canons on the Sacraments in General
844 Can. I. If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, or that there are more or less than seven, namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order, and matrimony, or even that anyone of these seven is not truly and strictly speaking a sacrament: let him be anathema.
845 Can. 2. If anyone shall say that these same sacraments of the new Law do not differ from the sacraments of the Old Law, except that the ceremonies are different and the outward rites are different: let him be anathema.
846 Can. 3. If anyone shall say that these seven sacraments are equal to each other in such a way that one is not for any reason more worthy than the other: let him be anathema.
847 Can. 4. If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but are superfluous, and that, although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or without the desire of them through faith alone men obtain from God the grace of justification; let him be anathema.
848 Can. 5. If anyone shall say that these sacraments have been instituted for the nourishing of faith alone: let him be anathema.
849 Can. 6. If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle in the way, as-though they were only outward signs of grace or justice, received through faith, and certain marks of the Christian profession by which the faithful among men are distinguished from the unbelievers: let him be anathema.
850 Can. 7. If anyone shall say that grace, as far as concerns God's part, is not given through the sacraments always and to all men, even though they receive them rightly, but only sometimes and to some persons: let him be anathema.
851 Can. 8. If anyone shall say that by the said sacraments of the New Law, grace is not conferred from the work which has been worked [ex opere operato], but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices to obtain grace: let him be anathema.
852 Can. 9. If anyone shall say that in the three sacraments, namely, baptism, confirmation, and orders, there is not imprinted on the soul a sign, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible mark, on account of which they cannot be repeated: let him be anathema.
853 Can. 10. If anyone shall say that all Christians have power to administer the word and all the sacraments: let him be anathema.
854 Can. 11. If anyone shall say that in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, the intention at least of doing what the Church does is not required: let him be anathema.
855 Can. 12. If anyone shall say that a minister who is in mortal sin, although he observes all the essentials which pertain to the performance or conferring of the sacrament, neither performs nor confers the sacrament: let him be anathema.
856 Can. 13. If anyone shall say that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church accustomed to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments may be disdained or omitted by the minister without sin and at pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones: let him be anathema.
Canons on the Sacrament of Baptism *
857 Can. 1. If anyone shall say that the baptism of John had the same force as the baptism of Christ: let him be anathema.
858 Can. 2. If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit" (John 3:5), are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.
859 Can. 3. If anyone shall say that in the Roman Church (which is the mother and the teacher of all churches) there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism: let him be anathema.
860 Can. 4. If anyone shall say that the baptism, which is also given by heretics in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism: let him be anathema.
861 Can. 5. If anyone shall say that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation: let him be anathema [cf. n.796 ].
862 Can. 6. If anyone shall say that one who is baptized cannot, even if he wishes, lose grace, however much he may sin, unless he is unwilling to believe: let him be anathema [cf. n. 808].
863 Can. 7. If anyone shall say that those who are baptized are by baptism itself made debtors to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ: let him be anathema [cf. n. 802].
864 Can. 8. If anyone shall say that those baptized are free from all precepts of the holy Church, which are either written or handed down, so that they are not bound to observe them, unless they of their own accord should wish to submit themselves to them: let him be anathema.
865 Can. 9. If anyone shall say that men are to be so recalled to the remembrance of the baptism which they have received, that they understand that all the vows which have been taken after baptism are void by virtue of the promise already made in baptism itself, as if by them they detracted from the faith which they professed, and from the baptism itself: let him be anathema.
866 Can. 10. If anyone shall say that all sins which are committed after baptism are either remitted or made venial by the mere remembrance and the faith of the baptism received: let him be anathema.
867 Can. 11. If anyone shall say that baptism truly and rightly administered must be repeated for him who has denied the faith of Christ among infidels, when he is converted to repentance: let him be anathema.
868 Can. 12. If anyone shall say that no one is to be baptized except at that age at which Christ was baptized, or when at the very point of death, let him be anathema.
869 Can. 13. If anyone shall say that infants, because they have not actual faith, after having received baptism are not to be numbered among the faithful, and therefore, when they have reached the years of discretion, are to be rebaptized, or that it is better that their baptism be omitted than that they, while not believing, by their own act be baptized in the faith of the Church alone: let him be anathema.
870 Can. 14. If anyone shall say that those who have been baptized in this.manner as infants, when they have grown up, are to be questioned whether they wish to ratify what the sponsors promised in their name, when they were baptized, and if they should answer that they are not willing, that they must be left to their own will, and that they are not to be forced to a Christian life in the meantime by any other penalty, except that they be excluded from the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments until they repent: let him be anathema.
Canons on the Sacrament of Confirmation*
871 Can. I. If anyone shall say that the confirmation of those baptized is an empty ceremony and not rather a true and proper sacrament, or that in former times it was nothing more than a kind of catechism, by which those approaching adolescence gave an account of their faith before the Church: let him be anathema.
872 Can. 2. If anyone shall say that they who ascribe any power to the sacred chrism of confirmation offer an outrage to the Holy Spirit: let him be anathema.
873 Can. 3. If anyone shall say that the ordinary minister of holy confirmation is not the bishop alone, but any simple priest: let him be anathema.
JULIUS III 1550-1555
COUNCIL OF TRENT, continued
SESSION XIII (Oct. II, 1551)
Decree On the Most Holy Eucharist *
873a The sacred and holy ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully a assembled in the Holy Spirit with the same legates and nuncios of the Apostolic See presiding therein, although it has convened for this purpose not without the special guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, namely to publish the true and ancient doctrine concerning faith and the sacraments, and to provide a remedy for all the heresies and other very serious troubles by which the Church of God is at present wretchedly agitated and torn into many different factions, yet from the beginning has had this especially among its desires, to uproot the "cockles" of execrable errors and schisms, which the enemy in these troubled times of our has "sown" [Matt. 13:25ff.], in the doctrine of the faith, in the use and worship of the sacred Eucharist, which our Savior, moreover, left in His Church as a symbol of that unity and charity with which He wished all Christians to be mutually bound and united. Therefore, this same sacred and holy synod, transmitting that sound and genuine doctrine of this venerable and divine sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Catholic Church, instructed by our Lord Jesus Christ himself and by his Apostles, and taught by the "Holy Spirit who day by day brings to her all truth" [John 14:26], has always held and will preserve even to the end of time, forbids all the faithful of Christ hereafter to venture to believe, teach, or preach concerning the Most Holy Eucharist otherwise than is explained and defined in this present decree.
Chap. 1. The Real Presence of our Lord Jesus in the Most
Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist
874 First of all the holy Synod teaches and openly and simply professes that in the nourishing sacrament of the Holy Eucharist after the consecration of the bread and wine our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially [can. I] contained under the species of those sensible things. For these things are not mutually contradictory, that our Savior Himself is always seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven according to the natural mode of existing, and yet that in many other places sacramentally He is present to us in His own substance by that manner of existence which, although we can scarcely express it in words, yet we can, however, by our understanding illuminated by faith, conceive to be possible to God, and which we ought most steadfastly to believe. For thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ, who have discussed this most holy sacrament, have most openly professed that our Redeemer instituted this so wonderful a sacrament at the Last Supper, when after the blessing of the bread and wine He testified in clear and definite words that He gave them His own body and His own blood; and those words which are recorded [Matt. 26:26ff.; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19 ff.] by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by St. Paul [1 Cor. 11:23 ff.], since they contain within themselves that proper and very clear meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers, it is a most disgraceful thing for some contentious and wicked men to distort into fictitious and imaginary figures of speech, by which the real nature of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, recognizing with an ever grateful and recollecting mind this most excellent benefit of Christ, as the pillar and ground of truth [1 Tim. 3:15], has detested these falsehoods, devised by impious men, as satanical.
Chap. 2. The Reason for the Institution of this
Most Holy Sacrament
875 Our Savior, therefore, when about to depart from this world to the Father, instituted this sacrament in which He poured forth, as it were, the riches of His divine love for men, "making a remembrance of his wonderful works" [Ps. 110:4], and He commanded us in the consuming of it to cherish His "memory" [1 Cor. 11:24], and "to show forth his death until He come" to judge the world [1 Cor. 11:23]. But He wished that this sacrament be received as the spiritual food of souls [Matt. 26:26], by which they may be nourished and strengthened [can. 5], living by the life of Him who said: "He who eateth me, the same also shall live by me" [John 6:58], and as an antidote, whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins. He wished, furthermore, that this be a pledge of our future glory and of everlasting happiness, and thus be a symbol of that one "body" of which He Himself is the "head" [1 Cor. 11:23; Eph. 5:23], and to which He wished us to be united, as members, by the closest bond of faith, hope, and charity, that we might "all speak the same thing and there might be no schisms among us" [cf. 1 Cor. 1:10].
Chap. 3. The Excellence of the Most Holy Eucharist
Over the Other Sacraments
876 This, indeed, the most Holy Eucharist has in common with the other sacraments, that it is a "symbol of a sacred thing and a visible * form of an invisible grace"; but this excellent and peculiar thing is found in it, that the other sacraments first have the power of sanctifying, when one uses them, but in the Eucharist there is the Author of sanctity Himself before it is used [can. 4]. For the apostles had not yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord [ Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22] when He Himself truly said that what He was offering was His body; and this belief has always been in the Church of God, that immediately after the consecration the true body of our Lord and His true blood together with His soul and divinity exist under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine by the force of the words, but the body itself under both by force of that natural connection and concomitance by which the parts of Christ the Lord, "who hath now risen from the dead to die no more" [ Rom. 6:9], are mutually united, the divinity also because of that admirable hypostatic union [can. I and 3] with His body and soul. Therefore, it is very true that as much is contained under either species as under both. For Christ whole and entire exists under the species of bread and under any part whatsoever of that species, likewise the whole (Christ) is present under the species of wine and under its parts [can. 3].
Chap. 4. Transubstantiation
877 But since Christ, our Redeemer, has said that that is truly His own body which He offered under the species of bread [cf. Matt. 26:26ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; Luke 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor. 11:23 ff.], it has always been a matter of conviction in the Church of God, and now this holy Synod declares it again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a conversion takes place of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This conversion is appropriately and properly called transubstantiation by the Catholic Church [can. 2].
Chap. 5. The Worship and Veneration to be Shown to this
Most Holy Sacrament
878 There is, therefore, no room left for doubt that all the faithful of Christ in accordance with a custom always received in the Catholic Church offer in veneration [can. 6] the worship of latriawhich is due to the true God, to this most Holy Sacrament. For it is not less to be adored because it was instituted by Christ the Lord to be received [cf. Matt. 26:26 ff.]. For we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father when introducing Him into the world says: "And let all the Angels of God adore Him" [Heb. 1:6; Ps. 96:7], whom the Magi "falling down adored" [cf. Matt. 2:11], who finally, as the Scripture testifies [cf. Matt. 28:17], was adored by the apostles in Galilee. The holy Synod declares, moreover, that this custom was piously and religiously introduced into the Church of God, so that this sublime and venerable sacrament was celebrated every year on a special feast day with extraordinary veneration and solemnity, and was borne reverently and with honor in processions through the streets and public places. For it is most proper that some holy days be established when all Christians may testify, with an extraordinary and unusual expression, that their minds are grateful to and mindful of their common Lord and Redeemer for such an ineffable and truly divine a favor whereby the victory and triumph of His death is represented. And thus, indeed, ought victorious truth to celebrate a triumph over falsehood and heresy, that her adversaries, placed in view of so much splendor and amid such deep joy of the universal Church, may either vanish weakened and broken, or overcome and confounded by shame may some day recover their senses.
Chap. 6. The Reservation of the Sacrament of the
Holy Eucharist and Bearing it to the Sick
879 The custom of reserving the Holy Eucharist in a holy place is so ancient that even the age of the NICENE Council recognized it. Moreover, the injunction that the sacred Eucharist be carried to the sick, and be carefully reserved for this purpose in the churches, besides being in conformity with the greatest equity and reason, is also found in many councils, and has been observed according to a very ancient custom of the Catholic Church. Therefore this holy Synod decrees that this salutary and necessary custom be by all means retained [can. 7].
Chap. 7. The Preparation that Must be Employed to Receive
the Holy Eucharist Worthily
880 If it is not becoming for anyone to approach any of the sacred functions except solemnly, certainly, the more the holiness and the divinity of this heavenly sacrament is understood by a Christian, the more diligently ought he to take heed lest he approach to receive it without great reverence and holiness [can. 2], especially when we read in the Apostle those words full of terror: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself not discerning the body of the Lord" [1 Cor. 11 :29 ]. Therefore, the precept, "Let a man prove himself" [1 Cor. 11:28], must be recalled to mind by him who wishes to communicate. Now ecclesiastical usage declares that this examination is necessary, that no one conscious of mortal sin, however contrite he may seem to himself, should approach the Holy Eucharist without a previous sacramental confession. This, the holy Synod has decreed, is always to be observed by all Christians, even by those priests on whom by their office it may be incumbent to celebrate, provided the recourses of a confessor be not lacking to them. But if in an urgent necessity a priest should celebrate without previous confession, let him confess as soon as possible [see n. 1138 ff.].
Chap. 8. The Use of the Admirable Sacrament
881 As to its use our Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving this Holy Sacrament. For they have taught that some receive it sacramentally only, as sinners; others only spiritually, namely those who eating with desire the heavenly bread set before them, by a living faith, "which worketh by charity" [ Gal. 5:6], perceive its fruit and usefulness; while the third receive it both sacramentally and spiritually [can. 8]; and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves previously that "clothed with the wedding garment" [ Matt. 22:11, ff.], they approach this divine table. Now as to the reception of the sacrament it has always been the custom in the Church of God for the laity to receive communion from the priests, but that the priests when celebrating should communicate themselves [can. 10]; this custom proceeding from an apostolical tradition should with reason and justice be retained.
882 And finally this holy Synod with paternal affection admonishes, exhorts, entreats, and beseeches, "through the bowels of the mercy of our God" [Luke 1 :78 ], that each and all, who are classed under the Christian name, will now finally agree and be of the same opinion in this "sign of unity," in this "bond of charity,'' * in this symbol of concord, and that mindful of so great a majesty and such boundless love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave us His "own flesh to eat" [John 6:48 ff.], they may believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with that constancy and firmness of faith, with that devotion of soul, that piety and worship, as to be able to receive frequently that "supersubstantial bread" [ Matt. 6:11], and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul and the perpetual health of mind, that being invigorated by the strength thereof [ 1Samuel 19:8], after the journey of this miserable pilgrimage, they may be able to arrive in their heavenly country to eat without any veil that same bread of angelsPs. 77:25 ] which they now eat under the sacred veils.
But whereas it is not enough to declare the truth, unless errors be exposed and repudiated, it has seemed good to the holy Synod to subjoin these canons, so that all, now that the Catholic doctrine has been made known, may also understand what heresies are to be avoided and guarded against.
Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist *
883 Can. 1. If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by a sign or figure, or force, let him be anathema [cf. n. 874,876 ].
884 Can. 2. If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist there remains the substance of bread and wine together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood, the species of the bread and wine only remaining, a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema [cf. n. 887 ]
885 Can 3. If anyone denies that the whole Christ is contained in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist under each species and under every part of each species, when the separation has been made: let him be anathema [cf. n. 876 ].
886 Can. 4. If anyone says that after the completion of the consecration that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is not in the marvelous sacrament of the Eucharist, but only in use, while it is taken, not however before or after, and that in the hosts or consecrated particles, which are reserved or remain after communion, the true body of the Lord does not remain: let him be anathema [cf. n. 876 ].
887 Can. 5. If anyone says that the special fruit of the most Holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or that from it no other fruits are produced: let him be anathema [cf. 875].
888 Can. 6: If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist the only-begotten Son of God is not to be adored even outwardly with the worship of latria(the act of adoration), and therefore not to be venerated with a special festive celebration, nor to be borne about in procession according to the praiseworthy and universal rite and custom of the holy Church, or is not to be set before the people publicly to be adored, and that the adorers of it are idolaters: let him be anathema [cf. n. 878]
889 Can. 7. If anyone says that it is not lawful that the Holy Eucharist be reserved in a sacred place, but must necessarily be distributed immediately after the consecration among those present; or that it is not permitted to bring it to the sick with honor: let him be anathema [cf. n. 879].
890 Can. 8. If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received only spiritually, and not also sacramentally and in reality: let him be anathema [cf.n. 881].
891 Can. 9. If anyone denies that all and each of the faithful of Christ of both sexes, when they have reached the years of discretion, are bound every year to communicate at least at Easter according to the precept of holy mother Church: let him be anathema [cf. n. 437].
892 Can. 10. If anyone says that it is not lawful for a priest celebrating to communicate himself: let him be anathema [cf. n. 881].
893 Can. 11. If anyone says that faith alone is sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist: let him be anathema. And that so great a Sacrament may not be unworthily received, and therefore unto death and condemnation, this holy Council ordains and declares that sacramental confession must necessarily be made beforehand by those whose conscience is burdened by mortal sin, however contrite they may consider themselves. If anyone moreover teaches the contrary or preaches or obstinately asserts, or even publicly by disputation shall presume to defend the contrary, by that fact itself he is excommunicated
SESSION XIV (NOV. 25, 1551)
Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance*
893a The holy ecumenical and general council of Trent, lawfully assembled a in the Holy Spirit with the same delegate and nuncios of the Holy Apostolic See presiding, although for a necessary reason much discussion on the sacrament of penance has been introduced in the decree on justification [see n. 807, 839], because of the kindred nature of the subjects, nevertheless so great is the number of errors of various kinds about this sacrament in this our age that it will be no small public advantage to have handed down a more exact and fuller definition, in which, after all errors have been displayed and refuted, Catholic truth should become clear and manifest; and this truth which this holy synod now proposes is to be preserved for all time by all Christians.
Chap. 1. The Necessity and Institution of the
Sacrament of Penance
894 If in all who have been regenerated, there were this gratitude toward God, so that they would constantly safeguard the justice received in baptism by His bounty and His grace, there would have been no need to institute [can. 2] another sacrament besides baptism for the remission of sins. But "since God, rich in mercy" [ Eph. 2:4] "knoweth our frame" Ps. 102:14], He offers a remedy of life even to those who may afterwards have delivered themselves to the servitude of sin, and to the power of Satan, namely, the sacrament of penance [can. 1], by which the benefit of the death of Christ is applied to those who have fallen after baptism. Penance has indeed been necessary for all men, who at any time whatever have stained themselves with mortal sin, in order to attain grace and justice, even for those who have desired to be cleansed by the sacrament of baptism, so that their perversity being renounced and amended, they might detest so great an offense against God with a hatred of sin and a sincere sorrow of heart. Therefore, the Prophet says: "Be converted and do penance for all your iniquities; and iniquity shall not be your ruin" [ Ezech. 18:30]. The Lord also said: "Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish" [Luke 13:3]. And the prince of the apostles, Peter, recommending penance to sinners about to receive baptism said: "Do penance and be baptized every one of you" [Acts 2:38 ]. Moreover, neither before the coming of Christ was penance a sacrament, nor is it after His coming to anyone before baptism. But the Lord instituted the sacrament of penance then especially, when after His resurrection from the dead He breathed upon His disciples, saying: "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" [ John 20:22]. In this act so significant and by words so clear, the consensus of all the Fathers has always recognized that the power of forgiving and retaining sins had been communicated to the apostles and their legitimate successors for reconciling the faithful who have fallen after baptism [can. 37], and that with good reason the Catholic Church has repudiated and condemned as heretics the Nova. tians, at one time stubbornly denying the power of forgiveness. Therefore, this holy Council, approving and receiving this true meaning of these words of the Lord, condemns the false interpretations of those who, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, falsely distort those words to the power of preaching the word of God and of announcing the Gospel of Christ.
Chap.2. The Difference Between the Sacrament of Penance and
that of Baptism
895 Moreover, it is clear that this sacrament differs in many respects from baptism [can. 2]- For aside from the fact that in the matter and form, by which the essence of a sacrament is effected, it differs very widely, it is certainly clear that the minister of baptism need not be a judge, since the Church exercises judgment on no one who has not first entered it through the gateway of baptism. "For what have I to do," says St. Paul, "to judge them that are without?" [ 1 Cor. 5:12]. It is otherwise with those of the household of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of "baptism" has once made "members of his own body" [1 Cor. 12:13]. For these, if they should afterwards have defiled themselves by somecrime, He did not now wish to have cleansed by the repetition of baptism, since that is in no way permitted in the Catholic Church, but to be placed, as it were, as culprits before the tribunal, so that by the sentence of the priests they may be freed not only once, but as often as they, repentant for the sins committed, have had recourse to Him. Furthermore,the fruit of baptism is one thing; that of penance is another thing. For by putting on Christ by baptism [Gal. 3:27], we are made an entirely new creature in Him, obtaining a full and complete remission of all sins, to which newness and integrity, however, we can in no way arrive by thesacrament of penance without many tears and labors on our part, for divine justice demands this, so that penance has justly been called by the holy Fathers, "a laborious kind of baptism." This sacrament of penance, moreover, is necessary for the salvation of those who have fallen after baptism, as baptism itself is for those as yet not regenerated [can. 6].
Chap. 3. The Parts and Fruits of the Sacrament of Penance
896 Furthermore, the holy Council teaches that the form of the sacrament of penance, in which its force chiefly consists, is set down in these words of the minister: "I absolve thee, etc."; to which indeed certain prayers are laudably added according to the custom of holy Church; yet in no way do they pertain to the essence of this form, nor are they necessary for the administration of the sacrament. The matter, as it were, of this sacrament, on the other hand, consists in the acts of the penitent himself, namely contrition, confession, and satisfaction [can. 4]. These, inasmuch as by the institution of God they are required in the penitent for the integrity of the sacrament for the full and perfect remission of sins, are for this reason called the parts of penance. The reality and effectusof this sacrament, however, so far as concerns its force and efficacy, is reconciliation with God, which at times in pious persons and in those who receive this sacrament with devotion is wont to be followed by peace of conscience and serenity with an exceedingly great consolation of spirit. The holy Council, while recording these matters regarding the parts and effect of this sacrament, condemns the opinions of those who maintain that the parts of penance are the terrors of conscience and faith [can. 4].
Chap. 4. Contrition
897 Contrition, which has the first place among the aforementioned acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of the soul and a detestation of sin committed, with a determination of not sinning in the future. This feeling of contrition is, moreover, necessary at all times to obtain the forgiveness of sins, and thus for a person who has fallen after baptism it especially prepares for the remission of sins, if it is united with trust in divine mercy and with the desire of performing the other things required to receive this sacrament correctly. The holy Synod, therefore, declares that this contrition includes not only cessation from sin and a resolution and a beginning of a new life, but also hatred of the old, according to this statement: "Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" [Ezech. 18:31 ]. And certainly, he who has considered those lamentations of the saints: "To Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee" Ps. 50:6]; "I have labored in my groanings; I shall wash my bed every night" Ps. 6:7]; "I will recount to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul" [Isa. 38:15], and others of this kind, will readily understand that they emanate from a certain vehement hatred of past life and from a profound detestation of sins.
898 The Council teaches, furthermore, that though it sometimes happens that this contrition is perfect because of charity and reconciles man to God, before this sacrament is actually received, this reconciliation nevertheless must not be ascribed to the contrition itself without the desire of the sacrament which is included in it. That imperfect contrition [can. 5] which is called attrition, since it commonly arises either from the consideration of the baseness of sin or from fear of hell and its punishments, if it renounces the desire of sinning with the hope of pardon, the Synod declares, not only does not make a person a hypocrite and a greater sinner' but is even a gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Spirit, not indeed as already dwelling in the penitent, but only maying him, assisted by which the penitent prepares a way for himself unto justice. And though without the sacrament of penance it cannotperselead the sinner to justification, nevertheless it does dispose him to obtain the grace of God in the sacrament of penance. For the Ninivites, struck in a salutary way by this fear in consequence of the preaching of Jonas which was full of terror, did penance and obtained mercy from the Lord [cf.Jonas 3]. For this reason, therefore, do some falsely accuse Catholic writers, as if they taught that the sacrament of penance confers grace without any pious endeavor on the part of those who receive it, a thing which the Church of God has never taught or pronounced. Moreover, they also falsely teach that contrition is extorted and forced, and that it is not free and voluntary [can. 5]
JULIUS III 1550-1555
COUNCIL OF TRENT, continued
SESSION XIII (Oct. II, 1551)
Decree On the Most Holy Eucharist *
Chap. 5. Confession
899 From the institution of the sacrament of penance as already explained the universal Church has always understood that the complete confession of sins was also instituted by our Lord, [Jas. 5:16; John 1:9; (Luke 17:14)], and by divine law is necessary for all who have fallen after baptism [can. 7], because our Lord Jesus Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, left behind Him priests as His own vicars [ Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23], as rulers and judges, to whom all the mortal sins into which the faithful of Christ may have fallen should be brought, so that they in virtue of the power of the keys may pronounce the sentence of remission or retention of sins. For it is evident that priests could not have exercised this judgment without a knowledge of the matter, nor could they indeed have observed justice in imposing penalties, if the faithful had declared their sins in general only, and not specifically and one by one. From this it is gathered that all mortal sins of which they have knowledge after a careful self-examination must be enumerated in confession by the penitents, even though they are most secret and have been committed only against the two last precepts of the decalogue [ Exo d. 20:17; Matt. 5:28], sins which sometimes wound the soul more grievously, and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly. For venial sins, by which we are not excluded from the grace of God and into which we fall more frequently, although they may rightly and profitably and without any presumption be declared in confession [can. 7], as the practice of pious persons indicates, may be passed over in silence without guilt and may be expiated by many other remedies But since all mortal sins, even those of thought, make men children of wrath [ Eph. 2:3] and enemies of God, it is necessary to ask pardon for all of them from God by an open and humble confession. While, therefore, the faithful of Christ strive to confess all sins which occur to their memory, they undoubtedly lay all of them before the divine mercy to be forgiven [can. 7]. While those who do otherwise and knowingly conceal certain sins, lay nothing before the divine bounty for forgiveness by the priest. "For if one who is ill is ashamed to make known his wound to the physician, the physician does not remedy what he does not know."* Furthermore, it is gathered that those circumstances also must be explained in confession, which alter the species of the sin, [can. 7], because without them the sins themselves are neither honestly revealed by the penitents, nor are they known to the judges, and it would not be possible for them to judge rightly the gravity of the crimes and to impose the punishment which is proper to those penitents. Hence it is unreasonable to teach that these circumstances have been conjured up by idle men. or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely up by idle men, or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely to have sinned against a brother.
900 But it is also impious to say that a confession, which is ordered to be made in this manner [can. 8] is impossible, or to call it a torture of conscience; for it is clear that in the Church nothing else is exacted of the penitents than that each one, after he has carefully examined himself and searched all the nooks and recesses of his conscience, confess those sins by which he recalls that he has mortally offended his Lord and God; moreover, the other sins which do not occur to him after diligent thought, are understood to be included in a general way in the same confession; for these sins we trustingly say with the Prophet: "From my hidden sins cleanse me, O Lord" Ps. 18:13]. But, truly, the difficulty of such confession and the shame of disclosing the sins might appear a burdensome matter indeed, if it were not alleviated by so many and such great advantages and consolations which are most certainly bestowed by absolution upon all those who approach this sacrament worthily.
901 Moreover, as regards the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, although Christ has not prohibited that one confess sins publicly in expiation for his crimes and for his own humiliation, and as an example to others, as well as for the edification of the Church offended, yet this is not commanded by divine precept, nor would it be advisedly enjoined by any human law that offenses, especially secret ones, be disclosed by a public confession [can. 6]. Therefore, since secret sacramental confession, which the holy Church has used from the beginning and which she still uses, has always been recommended by the most holy and most ancient Fathers in emphatic and unanimous agreement, the empty calumny of those who do not fear to teach that this is foreign to the divine mandate and is a human invention, and that it had its origin in the Fathers assembled in the Lateran Council [can. 8] is manifestly disproved; for neither did the Church through the Lateran Council decree that the faithful of Christ should confess, a matter which she recognized was necessary and instituted by divine law, but that the precept of confession should be fulfilled at least once a year by each and all, when they have reached the years of discretion. Hence, this salutary custom of confessing to the great benefit of souls is now observed in the whole Church during that sacred and especially acceptable time of Lent, a custom which this holy Council completely approves and sanctions as pious and worthy to be retained [can. 8; see n. 427 f.].