Confession: The Sacrament of Penance

Confessions are heard by appointment at St Aidan, Skelmanthorpe - please contact Philip, parish priest, on 07805 509469 or at to make an appointment, or to chat this over without obligation.

The Anglican tradition is that ''all may, none must, some should'' make an individual private confession. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Visitation of the Sick states: ''Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special Confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which Confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it).''

At most services there is a chance for all in a congregation to make a general confession; but it may be of help for individuals to talk in confidence in private confession; the priest may be able to offer support and advice.

Anything that is said will not be repeated to anyone (even to the penitent) outside the act of confession. ''The seal of confession'' is normally to be regarded as absolute, and priests will normally risk even imprisonment themselves in order to protect the sanctity of the confessonal.

However, a priest may consider it a duty to report something that will cause very great harm or danger to others. Should a priest remain silent if children and/or vulnerable adults are at serious risk of being abused?

In very serious cases absolution (the promise of God's forgiveness) may be withheld until the penitent has gone to, eg, the police, perhaps accompanied by the priest. The protection of, eg, children and vulnerable adults is a priority.

However, even serious matters of sin may not be about the law. Many sins are not actually illegal. Sometimes a confession is made about something that does not really require confession, despite confusion by the pentinent it may not actually be a sin! In all such cases re-assurance and the lifting of guilt should occur.

There is no sin so small that God is not aware of it. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive it.

The penitential rite of confession is quite simple, it fits on one side of a sheet of A4 paper. Usually there is a penance to perform. Sometimes the penance may seem very 'light' in comparison with the sin confessed - but it is not a 'punishment' for sin; nor is it a work to 'pay off' sin. Only the total and infinite freedom, love, mercy and compassion of God does that. The penance may be a simple act of prayer.

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