Confession is extremely useful both to individuals and to society in general.
1. Confession is profitable to the individual inasmuch as he derives from it self-knowledge, delicacy of conscience, interior peace, strength of character, and moral purity.
By comparing all that he has done or left undone with the law of God’s commandments, the penitent learns to know his own heart. His conscience also speaks more clearly. By frequent confession the law of God is more deeply impressed on the heart of man; when tempted to sin, the commandment he is about to break presents itself to his mind. The mere thought of confession also acts as a deterrent from sin; some persons abstain from sin because they could not bear to tell it to the priest. Experience proves how great a relief confession is to the mind of one who has committed a grievous sin. The impulse to confess one’s misdeeds is inherent in human nature; confession answers to this feeling, and the assurance of pardon affords the greatest consolation. Confession also increases strength of character, for by it we learn to overcome ourselves. Moreover the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding and fortifies our will, and the more steadfastly the will is inclined to what is good, the more strength of character we shall possess. Confession, being in itself an act of humility, cannot fail to make a man humble, and humility is the foundation of all moral perfection. Proud people have the greatest aversion to confession. It is a means of freeing ourselves from the fetters of the devil, for by telling the truth when it would be so easy to deceive, and the temptation to conceal is often experienced, we throw off the yoke of the father of lies, and turn to Him Who is eternal Truth. And the less power the devil has over a man, the more easily he will draw nigh to God. The first step in amendment of life is to go to confession. “Before applying thyself to good deeds,” says St. Augustine, “confess thy misdeeds.”
2. Confession is profitable to society at large because it is a means whereby disputes are settled, stolen property is restored, crimes are prevented, and vice effectually suppressed.
Absolution is not given to the penitent who refuses to forgive his neighbor or make restitution of property wrongfully obtained. The reason why non-Catholics often prefer Catholic servants and are willing to let them go to confession is apparent. The priest in the confessional spares no pains to dissuade those who come to him from carrying out any evil designs they may have formed, and tells them what measures they must take to master their passions. More is done in the confessional than in the pulpit for the furtherance of morality, for what is said in private has more effect that what is said in public. Pope Pius V used to say: “Give me good confessors and I will reform the whole world.” If the discovery were made that confession was practised by one of the pagan nations of antiquity, too much could not be said in praise of so excellent and wise an institution; but because it is practised in the Catholic Church, and appointed by the living God, it is termed foolish, tyrannical, and degrading.
This article, The Advantages of Confession is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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