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Purpose and Power of Confession
by Joseph Pronechen | Source:




Your Guide to the Purpose and Power of Confession

by Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ, and Sean Brown

Ascension Press, 2007 - 124 pages, $11.99 - To order:

“Why do fewer Catholics go to confession today than a generation ago?”

“Why can’t we just confess our sins directly to God?”

“What is necessary for a good sacramental confession?”

Just ask Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, host of “EWTN Live.” In his latest book, Go in Peace, written with Sean Brown, he answers these and other questions about this sorely neglected sacrament.

The book focuses on 101 questions, such as whether there is any difference between “reconciliation” and “penance,” the two common terms for the sacrament. “Why are some people afraid of going to confession?” and “Does a priest remember the sins that a particular person confesses?” are other topics covered.

Wonder what you should do if you forget the penance the priest gave? Father Pacwa has the simple, direct answer and advice that’s one hallmark of the book.

In fact, here you find the scoop on even esoteric questions, including queries like, “Is it possible to confess sins over the Internet or the phone and receive absolution?”

Want biblical evidence for confession? Purgatory? Indulgences? Father Pacwa offers plenty. This biblical scholar firmly grounds the answers in Old and New Testament references and citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law, Vatican II documents and early Church councils.

Yet everything clicks because of the book’s clear, almost breezy style. Why, for example, can only a priest grant absolution from sins?

“The qualified and approved priest may be compared to an ambassador who has the authority to conduct a king’s business in his absence,” writes Father Pacwa. “The ambassador is not the king, but effectively takes his place in a foreign land, unless the king personally appears. The priest has ‘ambassadorial’ authority to hear confessions and absolve sins for Jesus Christ the King. This very image is used in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.”

The sacrament’s spiritual benefits come to life through easy-to-visualize analogies. Beginning with the canon on how often a Catholic should go to confession, the answer quickly focuses on why the Church recommends frequent use of the sacrament even for venial sins.

“Automobile engines run smoother if they have regular tune-ups by a mechanic, and teeth stay healthier if they are cleaned regularly by a dentist. So, too, the spiritual life of the soul benefits from frequent confession,” he writes. “While the Church makes no specific requirement as to frequency, monthly or even weekly confession is recommended, especially if a person is struggling with a sinful habit. The grace of this sacrament is a powerful aid to overcoming temptation and helps heal the effects of each fall into sin.”

The book’s only fault lies in answers on how to gain indulgences: There’s a lack of more specific examples of works or actions required to be performed together with the conditions listed. Same for the section that contains only four indulgenced prayers. But the references might inspire readers to look them up on their own.

Of course, the book’s main inspiration can translate into a sight that would make heaven and confessors alike leap for joy: the return of the long lines in front of confessionals.

Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.

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