Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The sacrament of penance in Anglicanism

There have been some scandalous suggestions from the Antipodes.
This is worth reading.
Please do...


  1. "All may; none must; some should." Some of those who "should" will presumably no longer do so -- or avail themselves of the hospitality of the Roman confessional, which has been known to extend the same welcome to Anglican penitents as its altars to Anglican communicants.

  2. Another example of the Anglo-Catholic tendency to make a fine-sounding theology from a natural virtue. The seal of the confessional derives not from the nature of the priest but from the dignity of the penitent before God. It is no different from the duty of confidentiality, except by virtue of its unique context.

    The moral dilemma then lies in the weighing up of the various moral goods involved. I cannot conceive how, having been sacramentally alongside an act of genuine penitence, any priest could reveal any aspect of that relationship. But then I can't see how it should be acceptable for a priest to be indiscreet about any other matter or person he encounters.

    It can be argued, of course, that a genuine penitent will wish to make redress by, among other things, giving himself up to justice. And if the penitent is clearly not genuine, the relationship is abusive and therefore not privileged.

    The evident fact that the Church has been complicit in condoning and covering up specific evil acts should not be used to bounce us into an equally evil betrayal of the sacramental relationship between God and humankind - which is, after all, why we exist!

  3. Agreed - the sacramental context is crucial. The seal of the confessional derives from the nature of the sacramental relationship between penitent and priest, the latter only acting as the channel of grace between God and humankind.
    CCC 1467 speaks of 'the delicacy and greatness' of the ministry of the confessor.
    Surely, though, 'Anglo-Catholic' theology should be simply 'Catholic' theology - i.e. that of the universal church - which, of course, gets us into the rather vexatious territory of defining our terms ......

  4. I hope that you will not be surprised that I phrased my comment very carefully to avoid saying 'Anglo-Catholic theology'. The error I perceived in the passages quoted in your original post is precisely the elevation of the sacramental role of the priest to a greater importance than the sacramental encounter which the priest accompanies (thereby affirming it as a sacrament). This lies at the heart of the Catholic theology of the sacrament, and it does not contradict the nature of its limited use in the 1662 BCP or later Anglican developments of that.

    The unnecessary controversy seen on the posts to which you link arises from an understandable yet misguided desire to focus on the sacramental role of the priest, evidently intended to assert the sacramental relationship of the priest to Christ and the Church, yet obscuring the primary relationship of the penitent to Christ which makes the sacrament.

    1. No, not at all surprised, and I hope, in return you will not be surprised that i completely agree with you. A very un-21st century absence of conflict! I'm still extremely concerned, however, at what seems to be emerging in Australia with regard to the 'seal of the confessional' and those here who advocate a similar approach. We seem to be in agreement about that..


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