Today, in some Christian churches, there is the practice of confession. The penitent – person who feels remorse for sins – goes to a priest, to whom one confesses one's sins, and the priest might possibly grant absolution, that is forgiveness of sins.

Was that something St. Augustine of Hippo, was doing/practicing himself as a priest (aka listen to other people's confessions, and also confess his sins)?

I'd appreciate some evidence, citing why this would be or not be the case.

  • 1
    The difficulty with this question comes in the form of what exactly is meant by confession. Did Augustine tell his sins to others and hear the sins of others? Most probably, yes. But did he practice some form of a reconciliatory sacrament/ordinance as a member of the clergy? Well it seems there may be some difficulty in granting that depending on your denominational adherence.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 17:23
  • Yes, I'm talking about the confession as a sacrament. Not just, simply confessing sins, but as something that the priest specifically and only has power to do
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 18:54
  • thanks for the clarification. Hopefully my answer suffices.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


It seems so.

From a Sermon to the Catechumens on the Creed:

“When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance” (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395]).

Of course, penance here implies the act of confession.


St. Augustine (d. 430) warns the faithful: "Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God has power to forgive all sins" (De agon. Christ., iii).


“There is a harder and more grievous penance, the doers of which are properly called in the Church penitents; they are excluded from participation in the sacraments of the altar, lest by unworthily receiving they eat and drink judgment unto themselves “(St. Augustine, “De utilitate agendae poenit.”, ser. cccxxxii, c. iii). . . .

And finally:

“If his sin is not only grievous in itself, but involves scandal given to others, and if the bishop [antistes] judges that it will be useful to the Church [to have the sin published], let not the sinner refuse to do penance in the sight of many or even of the people at large, let him not resist, nor through shame add to his mortal wound a greater evil” (Sermo cli, n. 3). . . .

Given that Saint Augustine was a member of the church clergy, and that the Catholic Encyclopedia quotes St. Ambrose, Augustine’s teacher, as saying:

Again he [Ambrose] teaches that this power was to be a function of the priesthood. "It seemed impossible that sins should be forgiven through penance; Christ granted this (power) to the Apostles and from the Apostles it has been transmitted to the office of priests" (On Penance II.2.12).

It seems reasonable to conclude Augustine did practice the sacrament of penance/confession/reconcilliation.

  • It seems that you're equating penance with confession. But that doesn't seem to follow from citations. Also, as far as I'm aware penance seems to be something that could only be done once in a lifetime: pathsoflove.com/blog/2010/05
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 20:01
  • @Dan those words as far as I understand are synonymous. Similar to the equivocation between reconciliation and confession. I think the Ambrose quote indicates that rather strongly.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 0:04

Augustine was ordained as a Priest in AD 391 . He was made Coadjutor Bishop of Hippo in 395 and was soon ordained as full-time Bishop. As such, he spent only four years as a Priest and was known for his eloquent homilies. He may have administered the Sacrament of Confession to the faithful,as is required of a Priest. If his sinful past was not a barrier to his spiritual speeches, nor was it for his role as a Confessor.

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