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Confess with Absolution

Confession (Latin confessio; sacrament of penance) is a confession of sins before an ordained church official, such as in the Roman Catholic Church before a priest. It is the admission of culpable misconduct on the part of the confessor, usually in a private conversation with a confessor, the so-called auricular, individual or private confession.

The word absolution (lat. absolvere "detach", "acquit") stands for absolving and means the forgiveness of a sin after confession.

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The confession

Confession (Latin confessio; sacrament of penance) is a confession of sins by the believer before an ordained ecclesiastical official, such as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. It is the acknowledgment of culpable misconduct by the penitent or penitent, usually during a private conversation with a confessor, the so-called aural, individual or private confession.

In the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, confession is one of the seven sacraments1. A general absolution is only possible under narrowly defined conditions.

1 In Christianity, a sacrament is a rite which, as a visible sign or as a visible action, brings to mind an invisible reality of God and allows us to participate in it.

There are two sacraments in the Evangelical Lutheran churches: baptism and communion. They have a clear biblical institution through word (commission by Christ) and signs (water or bread and wine). Confession certainly has a biblical mandate, but no material sign. It is thus almost half a sacrament in Evangelical-Lutheran theology. At the beginning of his theological reflections, 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 the 25th article (CA ) directly related to the confession.

The confession can be made in different forms. In the churches, confession differs from other counseling conversations 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".

The confession also differs in the respective church corporations.

The absolution

The term absolution (lat. absolvere "detach", "acquit") stands for absolving and means the forgiveness of a sin after confession.

The absolution in the Roman Catholic understanding

In the Roman Catholic Church, absolution in individual confession is the sacramental absolving of sins by a priest who speaks the absolution formula: "God, the merciful Father, has reconciled the world with himself through the death and resurrection of his son and sent the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may he give you forgiveness and peace. I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". The priest lays his hand on the penitent or extends his hand in blessing. The celebration of the sacrament of penance ends with absolution. Before that, the sinner must repent of his actions and have the serious intention to improve ("good intention"). In danger of death, the priest can grant a general absolution to all those who confess without prior individual confession of sins. The individual confession of grave sins forgiven in it must be made up as soon as possible if the believer survives the emergency situation (Can. 962 CIC).

A priest complicit in a sin against the sixth commandment (adultery) cannot absolve the person who committed adultery with him of that sin. Except in cases of danger of death, absolution is invalid (can. 977) and entails excommunication2 as a punishment for the priest (can. 1378 § 1).

2 Excommunication (Latin excommunicatio, for the prefix ex- "from": outside; communis here communion, Eucharist3 is in a broader sense the temporary or permanent exclusion from a church or a religious community or from certain activities in such a community. It is applied as a reprisal, i.e. until the misconduct is terminated or remedied.

3 The Eucharist ("gratitude, thanksgiving"), also known as the Last Supper or Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, Altar Sacrament, Most Holy Sacrament [of the Altar], in some Free Churches the Breaking of Bread, in the Eastern Churches called Holy or Divine Liturgy, is a Christian sacrament that is celebrated in the understood differently by different denominations. It is related to the Lord's Supper, which Jesus celebrated with his disciples shortly before his passion and death, according to the Gospels and 1 Corinthians, and is interpreted either as a bloodless representation of the sacrifice on the cross or as a celebration of the representation of the memory of Jesus' death.

The absolution in the evangelical-lutheran understanding

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church, absolution forms the conclusion and climax of confession. The sins are forgiven with the laying on of hands of the church company employee in the name of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit exclusively by the ordained minister after prior repentance and prayer of repentance by the penitent (applies at least to the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church). The absolution can take place either as a private or individual confession in front of a pastor, for example in the sacristy, or in the general confession in a penitential service. In principle, confession is only heard by an "ordained" 4 clergyman. In the member churches of the VELKD, however, confession can be heard by any baptized Christian, with legal protection only being granted to authorized persons.

4 Ordination is an act of worship in Christianity and Judaism. In almost all churches, sect followers, so-called believers, are blessed, separated and sent to spiritual office through ordination. The central sign of blessing in all ordination liturgies is the laying on of hands.

The Lutheran Churches (following the Large Catechism) understand confession or absolution as a return to — or "creeping back" into — baptism (reditus ad baptismum). Baptism is therefore the sine qua non for receiving absolution. Absolution cannot be given to the unbaptized. In addition to the Confessio Augustana from 1530 and its Apology from the years 1530/1531, the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther's explanation of confession and the course of a confession process. Luther respected confession all his life and practiced it to the end. (Quote: "I don't want anyone to take my secret confession away from me and I didn't want to give it treasures around the world because I know what strength and comfort it gave me. I would have been overcome and choked off by the devil long ago if I would not have received this confession.") Confession, which culminates in the forgiveness of sins, follows, according to the Lutheran understanding, to let go of sin and to improve one's life.

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