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Confession, specifically the practice of confessing one's sins to a priest, is a quite common practice in the Catholic Church. When and how did this sacrament first originate and become codified as standard Catholic practice?

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The "ear confession" as we know it today is an invention of Irish monks (some 6th century? I'm not sure). Before that time, only heavy sins (especially renouncing Christ) were confessed in front of whole congregation. Private confession allowed to confess all sins. This practice spread with Irish missionaries quickly. It was codified as mandatory (at least once a year) on IVth Lateran council (1215).

EDIT: wikipedia on the Sacrament of Penance (Catholic Church) focuses on penance, so the beginning of the practice of confession is bit obscured, but it gives further details and approves the codification in 1215.

EDIT 2: wikipedia article on Celtic Christianity gives more details and cites Medieval Handbooks of Penance.

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Can you cite some sources? –  svidgen Nov 27 '12 at 23:28
This account seems implausible given that the Eastern Orthodox practice of confession is essentially the same as the Roman Catholic. –  Ben Dunlap Nov 28 '12 at 23:17
What exactly is implausible? If it's the origin of individual confession in Ireland, I'll try to find some other sources, preferebly some explaining how it spread throughout Europe. I've read at least two books on this topic, one of them written by an Orthodox priest (unfortunately, the books were in Czech, so I can't just link them). –  Pavel Nov 29 '12 at 10:08
@BenDunlap By all accounts I've heard, this is one of the few practices which the East learned from the West. Those have happened you know. –  Ignatius Theophorus Nov 29 '12 at 18:41
@Alypius Good point. (Clearly the rest of us didn't take the time to actually check the resource.) You should submit an answer! –  svidgen Mar 26 '13 at 20:58
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To begin with, I am a Roman Catholic. During a similar conversation with a group of priests, I was told this story. It was the monks who started the private confessions. People in near by proximity to a monastery would bring the monks food. They would go to a wall and place the items in small windows that would slide open and the monks would take the food and absolve those giving of their sins. This became so popular that people would make pilgrimages to the monastery to be absolved of sins. The church tried to stop this practice which only made it more popular. So to control the situation confessions were adopted into practice. I wish I was told the truth on many issues as a child going to a Catholic school. The fairy tales we were told then is causing me to question some of my Catholic teachings. If you read some posts by the devout Catholics, they'll quote saints and scripture on confessions, which I agree. However, let's be truthful about the church wanting to keep control over it's followers.

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Do you have any historical sources to cite for this? –  Caleb Jan 29 at 10:04
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This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

protected by Caleb Jan 29 at 10:02

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