Why I like confession

Baha’u’llah condemned the Catholic practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest:

When the sinner findeth himself wholly detached and freed from all save God, he should beg forgiveness and pardon from Him. Confession of sins and transgressions before human beings is not permissible, as it hath never been nor will ever be conducive to divine forgiveness. Moreover such confession before people results in one’s humiliation and abasement, and God—exalted be His glory—wisheth not the humiliation of His servants. Verily He is the Compassionate, the Merciful. (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, page 24)

Of course, when I was a Baha’i I believed this. You shouldn’t confess your sins to a priest. That’s unnecessary and embarrassing.

When I made the decision to join the Catholic Church, I had to go to confession for the first time and say every wrong thing I had ever done up to that point. And you know what? I didn’t feel embarrassed or humiliated. On the contrary, it felt good to get it off my chest, and know that the slate was wiped clean. I didn’t feel like I was getting away with it anymore.

When I was Baha’i, I did feel like I was getting away with it. Whenever I did something wrong, I said “sorry” to God alone. I said it silently, under my breath, when no one could hear me. And it was so easy to do that I never really improved my behaviour. It was easy for me to do that same thing over again, because all I had to do was tell God “sorry”.

Knowing that I would have to bring it up at confession made it far more real to me, and spurred me to change my bad habits. If I had had this during the years I was a Baha’i, my character would have improved earlier. I regret not having had that opportunity.

So my experience has been the opposite of Baha’u’llah’s claim. What I find humiliating is the memory of my youth when I acted like a cad, and kept doing so even when I knew it was wrong and even though I kept telling God I was sorry. I feel humiliated before God that I took his mercy for granted. Baha’u’llah’s teachings made it easy for me to do that. Far from finding confession humiliating, I am grateful for it because it helps me feel accountable for my actions.

There’s no reason to be embarrassed about confession. There’s nothing someone can tell a priest that he hasn’t already heard.

Besides, if Baha’u’llah is right and confession is humiliating, then how does he explain the fact that it is taught in the New Testament?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Christ himself directly taught it:

[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

This quote from Christ directly contradicts Baha’u’llah’s claim above, “…as it hath never been nor will ever be conducive to divine forgiveness”. Obviously there was a time when it was conducive, or else Christ wouldn’t have said so.

God gave us confession as a gift, so that we can have assurance that he forgives us. When you go to confession, after you have stated your sins the priest says, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is comforting to hear that with your own ears. When we pray directly to God, though we can still ask for forgiveness, we can’t hear God’s reply.

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50 Responses

  1. 41. Bahá’u’lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of
    one’s sins from, a human being, and enjoins the sinner, when
    alone, to repent before God, for it is He Who forgives. In this
    connection the Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf to an
    individual believer: “We are forbidden to confess to any
    person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and
    shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do.
    However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been
    wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character,
    and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite
    free to do so.” (p. 47)

    (Baha’u’llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 64)

  2. So, you used to be a jerk which gave you lots of things to confess to your priest. And you think that your past sinful jerkness makes you qualified to tell everyone what is best for their souls. I’ve got some bad news for you. You still are a jerk, which shows that the confession treatment didn’t work.

  3. I think Jane Doe owes you an apology. You have a disagreement with the Baha’i teachings on several issues and it is your right to disagree.

    I also respectfully disagree with you about your understanding of the Bible passages you quote. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” does not on the face of it tell me that ritual confession to a priest is what was meant, but rather, a willingness to admit to others in the community that one has committed an error or sinned.

    This seems to me to be perfectly in line with Shoghi Effendi’s statement: “‘We are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.”

    Clearly Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples, but it is hard to see from your second quotation how the disciples’ authority to bring the community to account equates with the ritualized confession to priests that individuals now engage in. For you it may equate to taking individual responsibility, but to a great many of the Catholics I have known, it was a way to be able to be forgiven quickly (just in case) and then go out to sin again. So perhaps your take on Baha’u’llah’s injunction hasn’t pondered what He might be getting at.

    What I am fascinated by is why it is so deeply significant to you to find and highlight the things you now disagree with in the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Surely you are a committed Catholic and the Baha’i teachings on these subjects are therefore of no further interest or importance to you.

  4. Bill wrote:
    Clearly Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples, but it is hard to see from your second quotation how the disciples’ authority to bring the community to account equates with the ritualized confession to priests that individuals now engage in.

    Let me clarify: I’m not saying that this passage from John clearly lays out the modern form of confession as practised in the Catholic Church. I am saying, though, that Jesus’ statement presupposes that confessing one’s sins is linked to forgiveness.

    He gives his apostles the authority to forgive sins. Reading this passage as “bringing the community to account” ignores the plain words of the text. “Bringing the community to account” could mean preaching the Gospel, or it could mean encouraging your Christian brother to live the Gospel more perfectly. But that isn’t what Jesus says. He says, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” You don’t forgive someone’s sins simply by preaching or counseling. You forgive sins by saying, “That sin you committed, I forgive that.” And in order for the apostle to know what the sin was that he is forgiving, you have to tell him the sin, i.e. confess it.

    Baha’u’llah, by contrast, says that there is no connection between confessing one’s sins and gaining forgiveness. So how, according to Baha’u’llah, are the apostles supposed to exercise their authority? Are they only authorized to forgive sins committed publicly? Jesus doesn’t place any such condition on the scope of the apostles’ authority. According to Jesus, the apostles can forgive any sin, whether public or private, whether confessed to them or not.

  5. Bill wrote:
    For you it may equate to taking individual responsibility, but to a great many of the Catholics I have known, it was a way to be able to be forgiven quickly (just in case) and then go out to sin again.

    I don’t understand this logic. How is confessing to a priest easier or more convenient that asking forgiveness of God in private prayer? I can understand a cradle Catholic, who is just going through the motions but lacking in internal faith, could have a mechanistic notion of confession. They’ve never known any other way. But why would a Baha’i say that Catholic confession is just a cop-out? Do you really think the Baha’i way of receiving forgiveness is more rigorous, or leaves less room for cynical behavior? I would have thought the opposite.

    Now before all my Baha’i readers freak out on me, let me clarify that I know the Baha’i Faith has high moral standards, and I know that most Baha’is make an honest and strong effort to live up to those standards. I’m not saying that Baha’is take God’s mercy for granted, or think that they can do whatever they want without repercussion.

    What I’m saying is this: (1) When a Baha’i sins before God, how does he or she rectify that broken relationship with God? (2) When a Catholic sins before God, how does he or she rectify that broken relationship with God? (3) Given that the Catholic way involves more steps, adds an extra errand to your weekly schedule, and requires you to talk to another human being about something you’re not proud of, then (4) why on earth would a Baha’i take a smug attitude and say that Catholic confession doesn’t take sin seriously?

  6. Jane Doe, why do you say I’m a jerk?

  7. What I am fascinated by is why it is so deeply significant to you to find and highlight the things you now disagree with in the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Surely you are a committed Catholic and the Baha’i teachings on these subjects are therefore of no further interest or importance to you.

    In general, I write this blog to try to counteract the anti-Catholic misinformation and prejudice that is so common in the Baha’i community.

    With regard to this particular post, I wrote it because I think a lot of Baha’is have the wrong idea about confession. You expressed some of that in your comment – that Catholics just use confession as an easy way to commit sin with a clear conscience. That is a hurtful slur. It makes Catholics look cynical and self-indulgent. Baha’is don’t like it when Shi’ites spread rumours about the supposed loose morals of Baha’is, do they? Well, Catholics don’t like it either.

    I find confession a beautiful and comforting thing. Yet I know from my past experience that Baha’is have a very negative attitude toward it – that it is humiliating and degrading. Why shouldn’t I speak up and defend my faith? Baha’is do it whenever people misrepresent them. Are Baha’is the only ones allowed to do so?

  8. Jonah, are non-Catholics allowed to go to confession?

  9. In terms of finding common ground, I think that Baha’is and Catholics can both agree that it would be better for everyone if criminals would confess their crimes and spare tax payers the price of going to trial. Also when disciplining children or employees or etc. it would be better if they were truthful and forthcoming about their wrongdoing.

    But there is absolutely nothing in the Bible which teaches that confession of sins to a clergyman should be turned into a formal ritual. The important thing is to repent of one’s sins, not to confess them.

  10. If you have wronged other people you should go to them and apologize and do something to make it up to them. Confessing to a priest doesn’t benefit the people that you’ve hurt.

  11. Whether you confess your sins, or recite a Baha’i prayer for forgiveness, it needs to be followed up with actions. Otherwise I think that it just becomes a meaningless ritual.

    “Step 5: Act. Act as though it had all been answered. Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. “(step 5 of Shoghi Effendi’s 5 steps of prayer, according to pilgrim’s notes.)

  12. Anonymous wrote:
    Jonah, are non-Catholics allowed to go to confession?

    Anyone can go talk to a priest and receive pastoral care, regardless if they’re Catholic or even Christian. They can just approach him after Mass or call the local church and make an appointment.

    The actual sacrament of confession, though, is a renewal of the cleansing of baptism, so it presupposes that the recipient is baptized (but not necessarily that they’re Catholic, since baptism is the same whether performed by a Catholic, a Protestant, or an Orthodox, and continues to apply even if the person stops believing in Christianity). Baptism erases all past sins, so confession only applies to new sins committed after baptism.

  13. Let’s not let our imaginations run wild. The “ritual” of confession is not that elaborate. There are some set phrases that you say at the beginning and end, but they’re optional. The part of confession that counts is simply a short conversation between the person and the priest.

  14. Manuel wrote:
    Whether you confess your sins, or recite a Baha’i prayer for forgiveness, it needs to be followed up with actions. Otherwise I think that it just becomes a meaningless ritual.

    Why do you assume that a Catholic is not also obligated to apologize to the person wronged?

    If you wrong someone, you sin both against them and against God. You have to apologize both to them and to God. You also have to make up for the wrong that you did, both to them and to God. With regard to the human person you wronged, you apologize and make up for the damage directly with them. With regard to God, you apologize and make up for the wrong through the sacrament of confession.

    Let’s say, for example, you vandalize someone’s car. You have wronged the car owner (and potentially other people), and you’ve also damaged your relationship with God. You need to make things right with the car owner, and you also need to make things right with God. If you go to confession and say you vandalized someone’s car, the priest will ask you if you’ve apologized to the owner and paid to fix the damage. If you refuse to do so, then confession will not do you any good.

  15. Manuel wrote:
    If you have wronged other people you should go to them and apologize and do something to make it up to them.

    Yes, that’s true. The Catholic Church teaches the same thing.

  16. If the confession is about getting things off of your chest, you can chose between 6 billion people, if you are seeking forgiveness, you have to identify the forgiver, either is the priest or God, once you can determine that then this argument is irrelevant. You have made your choice. Good luck with the priest.

  17. If you think that a priest has the authority to forgive you, so be it. But you say you were previously Baha’i? Then you would know that we believe that some teachings are invalid now.

    Your point is moot.

  18. Larry, you must have misunderstood my post. I had two points:

    First, there is a prejudice among at least some Baha’is that confession is a bad experience. I want to say that that perception is unwarranted.

    Second, Baha’u’llah said that confession to a priest “hath never been nor will ever be conducive to divine forgiveness”. In other words, that teaching was *always* invalid. But Jesus is quoted in the Bible as sanctioning it. So I think there is an inconsistency in the Baha’i teachings here.

  19. Azar, I’m not sure if I understand your point. Are you saying that forgiveness from a priest and forgiveness from God are mutually exclusive? If so, then I disagree. The priest is the means by which we hear God’s assurance of forgiveness.

  20. Jonah, just a simple question where does in the Bible a specific group(Priest, Bishops, etc) are defined and which authority has been given to them, if Bible is the Word of God, there is no authorization in that book given to anyone to interpret it. So when you want to define the profession of priesthood, is simply a man-made and its work is man made and I am not sure if you have been checking the news lately, obviously they have been doing more than being a mean to forgiveness, they have been the source of many abhor able “sins” than anything else and if it wasn’t for the age we live, they would have gotten away with it. I think you simply need to check the current date on a calendar.

  21. So…because some Priests do bad things, that means all Priests are bad, and the Priesthood itself is a bad establishment? I don’t think that is very good logic and reasoning, Azar. That would be like saying that because some teachers harm their students, all teachers are evil, and education should be discarded.

  22. Dear Anon, you indicated some priests, maybe you haven’t been reading the news lately and to me this blog wants to turn back the time, I think this is the core problem here. This is 2010 AD and not BC! I questioned the validity of Priesthood, because nothing from God will do so much damage and harm globally, again visit the news out there. Priesthood is completely man-made therefore it was matter of time that it will self-destruct as it has so successfully. It doesn’t require logic or reasoning, requires common sense. It says it so in the Bible, we either succeed and be source of good by our own action or source of harm and self destruction.

  23. hello everyone how are you doing? ok, just to justify the existance of confession because it seems to me that no one has really hit the point i´ll right what the catholic church teaches briefly.

    Jesus gave powers to all his apostles, this were, the power to expell demons, the power to preach, the power to forgive sins in his name and the power to cure people (maybe im forgeting more but it´s irelevant).

    and so he comanded them to go to all countries and do this things, some of them even came back being sooo proud of themselves for what they had done, that jesus was angry at them, he told them it was not them who had done ANY of those things, but instead God through them. so no, the priest does not forgive your sins, but God through the priests.

    And to justify the existance of priests they are the sucesors of the apostles and disciples (theres a difference between the two) to whom jesus gave these powers and the pope is the sucesor of Saint Peter to whom jesus said “you are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church”

    I really hope this helps everyone understand better the reason and origin of confession, you don´t have to believe if you don´t want to, but it is why we do it.

    God bless all.

  24. ok, also i´d like to remind everyone that the Catholic religion is not a religion “of the book” but also his teachings come from dogma, if you are interested read bits of the catechism of the catholic church, its a long book, and complicated but if you are interested it is worth reading, I am in the process now.

  25. Andres, I understand the notion of spreading the word of God, Apostles yes, but there is no were in the bible given any authority to anyone to interpret the Word. That is why there are so many branches of Christianity, So what you are describing is another interpretation and only that. One just has to read the History and you will realize how man-made most of the stuff practiced today are.

  26. I know there are problems within the Priesthood of the Catholic Church. I just do not support your prejudice that that means most Priests are bad, or that the entire Priesthood itself is morally corrupt. Painting a whole group of people with a broad brush, is by nature, a prejudice. There are many good Priests who had never harmed a child or anyone else, and when you say things like “the priests”, “the priesthood”, you are lumping in those people with the bad guys.

  27. Hi Anon, point is, we are all suppose to read and act the Word not try to interpret the Word, Priests and Priesthood is man-made, sorry, this is a fact and that is why what has come to pass its just has been going on for a long long time and suppressed for a long long time as well. Priests are human, period, appointed by human, thus, trying to create something different just doesn’t hold, again the evidence is overwhelming. This problem that has surfaced is because of its global widespread not because of “few” bad apples. But then again, if we just accept that priesthood and the whole hierarchy is not of God and of Man, we can move on to present time and go beyond the dogma and rituals which in fact are from before Christianity just adopted to post Christianity. Christ didn’t do any rituals as he talked about the soul of man, but all the rituals Christians do has to do with “body”!! But we have made of Him a Magician, disappearing and reappearing, raising dead and so on. All Physical attributes but no focus on that He awakened dead souls in alive body rather than the other way around. God doesn’t need to impress anybody! His creation is enough including every individual.

  28. “Christ didn’t do any rituals as he talked about the soul of man, but all the rituals Christians do has to do with “body”!! But we have made of Him a Magician, disappearing and reappearing, raising dead and so on. All Physical attributes but no focus on that He awakened dead souls in alive body rather than the other way around. God doesn’t need to impress anybody! His creation is enough including every individual”

    I don’t think it has to be an either/or kind of thing, Azar. For example, can’t Christ awaken “dead souls”, and perform physical miracles as well? I agree with you that God doesn’t “need” to impress anybody, but not having the need to allow miraculous things to happen does not necessitate that He will never perform any miracles. A person may not need to drive a car, but that doesn’t mean they will never do so. Physical attributes does not necessarily exclude spiritual attributes. Christ doesn’t have to ONLY teach allegorically, he can also be literal if he chooses. As far as Christ being a Magician, there is a difference between the practice of magick and what Orthodox/Catholic Christianity teaches.

    The philosophy of Magick states that a person can develop powers through the act of discipline and intention, whereas in Orthodox Christianity Christ is believed to have had these powers innately, and not only that, but is the very source of those powers. Therefore, he did not have to “learn” to perform miracles. The same goes for his apostles. He gave them the ability to forgive sins, perform miracles, etc…This is not something they learned through spiritual disciplines. That doesn’t mean learning spiritual disciplines is somehow “wrong”, but the intention is that people can’t become more spiritual by their efforts alone, but through the grace of God.

  29. Hi Anon, for some odd reason you choose to answer what aligns with the practice of Christianity today, focus is always on Miracles as defined by establishment all physical, raising the dead(not spiritually), healing the blind to see(again physical not spiritual), physical resurrection, etc. Like that is why Christ was chosen to be a messenger. And again apostles didn’t setup churches, they taught as we all should and walk the talk, this is hardly the practice these days, not only in Christianity but in Islam too. Please revisit history. Up to this date, we have “priest” blessing those who go to War, you mean these are the people representing the guy who said “Turn the Other Cheek”?! Please revisit the history and it is so obvious, there is no consistency.
    So called religions but mostly one or two person interpretations started wars(as we still see it today), massacred populations, that is why people are running away from organized religion as they have realized all the contradictory actions.
    I think your notion that Christ didn’t teach only allegorically is accepted as your interpretation which I respect but that doesn’t mean you or anybody else has the authority to say that is what everyone should accept as I think it is exactly the case it is all allegorical as Miracles are only valid for those who have seen it and were there and it doesn’t hold truth physically for those who weren’t present but it always hold true if it is allegorical as it is trying to demonstrate a deeper meaning. I think I will leave this discourse at this. Appreciate your thoughts and opinion.

  30. “Hi Anon, for some odd reason you choose to answer what aligns with the practice of Christianity today, focus is always on Miracles as defined by establishment all physical, raising the dead(not spiritually), healing the blind to see(again physical not spiritual), physical resurrection, etc. Like that is why Christ was chosen to be a messenger. And again apostles didn’t setup churches, they taught as we all should and walk the talk, this is hardly the practice these days, not only in Christianity but in Islam too. Please revisit history.”

    That’s not what I said, actually. I said that while Christ did perform many “spiritual” miracles, and used allegories, metaphors, and parables in his teachings; that alone does not necessitate that physical miracles are out of the equation. In other words, the mere act of lifting up people’s spirits and infusing their “dead souls” with life, does not in of itself exclude Christ from performing physical miracles. Again, I don’t think it has to be an either/or thing. The stories of the Bible can have simulteanous meanings, they don’t have to always be literal *or* allegorical, allegorical *or* literal, but they can be both.

    Christ can “spiritually” heal a man’s “spiritual blindness”, *and* heal his physical eyes in the process. Christ can “spiritually” raise a man’s “dead spirit”, *and* physically raise a dead man to life. I am not suggesting that an allegorical interpretation is out of place, but I don’t think it has to *only* be allegorical and nothing else. Even Baha’u’llah and the Bab’ were said to have performed “physical” miracles, although they are not mentioned to convince people. But there are still stories of the Bab’ physically curing an ill child, of Baha’u’llah scattering locusts from ruining people’s crops, etc. These weren’t understood in “spiritual” terms, but as literal events. Thus, even the Baha’i Faith has some room for the “supernatural”, and doesn’t solely rely on rationalism and logic.

  31. “Please revisit history.”

    And please be kind, Azar. I have shown you nothing but respect so far in our exchange, and I hope you will return the favor.

    I study history, and although I am not a trained historian, I don’t think I am completely ignorant of it.

  32. Hi Anon, I sincerely apologize if my comments have been at anyway offensive. I think what you sense in my comments is just frustration that the emphasis is on physical aspect of things in the religions of the past and have truly denied the people to taste the true fruits of attaining spiritual bliss from acts of service rather than rituals. If I repeat myself on referencing history because the proof is there, not because you are not aware of it . Point is we need to move on, there is no need for the middle-man, thus priest, mullas, etc. As middle-man has a vested interest. And again I don’t think there is any authority given to anybody to know God through except His Messengers and this is focal point of our disagreement. He created everyone equal and none of us are going to be questioned through the priest or anybody for that matter when we supposedly answer for our doings. Otherwise the whole concept of belief goes out of the door, and comes in blind faith and the follies that follow as evident today. Regards.

  33. Personally, I think that someone should give you a good flogging every time you screw up. Maybe that would work even better than confession.

  34. I think it is important to note two points with respect to the passage quoted from the Gospel of John: firstly, it only speaks of *forgiveness*, not confession. Baha’u’llah states that *confession* of sins has never been conducive to divine forgiveness, but the passage in the Gospel only states “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them”; it does not specifically ordain confession. There is certainly no mention of the ritualized confession that is practised by Catholics. Here, then, there is no conflict. Secondly, it seems that this passage mainly concerns *the Apostles* and their role as leaders of the church, for this writer cannot see any other possible sense for the latter part of verse 23: “and whose sins you retain are retained.” That is, Jesus is saying that if His disciples, learn of serious misdeeds committed by one of the community, the Apostles have the power to decide whether the infraction can be forgiven by them, or if the sin is so great that it cannot be condoned, and the believer should be cast out of the community. We could compare this to the power of the Guardian or the Universal House of Justice to cast out covenant-breakers.

    As concerning the passage in James 5:16, this states nothing about confession before elders, deacons, priests or even apostles; there is no mention in the passage of a formal confession sacrament. It merely says that believers should confess their faults to one another, and does not explicitly state that such is required for divine forgiveness. James also says nothing about doing penance, or that it is required for the forgiveness of sin, though these are both mandated, as this writer understands it, by the Catholic church. The form of confession that the Letter to James seems to require, therefore, is quite compatible and congruous with what is allowed by the Beloved Guardian in his letter, which has been quoted above; in other words, both James and Shoghi Effendi are speaking of spontaneous confession of sins in front of others whom we have wronged, and neither is requiring the formalized, sacramental form of confession that is currently practised by the church.

    In summary, then, in both biblical Christianity and the Baha’i Faith, we are quite free to confess our sins to others who we have wronged, so that we may clear our conscience, and come to unity; we may also confess our sins to God, for both Baha’u’llah (Tablets, p. 24) and I John 1:9 allow for this. However, formal or sacramental confession before priests is not mandated by Jesus, John or James, and, in the Baha’i Faith, it is completely disallowed.

  35. Lisa wrote:
    Personally, I think that someone should give you a good flogging every time you screw up. Maybe that would work even better than confession.

    If someone disagrees with your religious beliefs, and you respond by saying you wish they’d suffer physical harm, you make yourself and your religion look bad.

    Can someone please explain to me why this post has generated so much hatred?

  36. Urufu wrote:
    I think it is important to note two points with respect to the passage quoted from the Gospel of John: firstly, it only speaks of *forgiveness*, not confession. Baha’u’llah states that *confession* of sins has never been conducive to divine forgiveness, but the passage in the Gospel only states “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them”; it does not specifically ordain confession.

    That is just sophistry.

    “Confession” simply means telling someone you sinned. Are you saying Christ gave the apostles the authority to forgive only those sins that were kept secret from them? If confessing your sins “is not conducive to divine forgiveness”, then that means that an apostle couldn’t forgive a sin that was confessed to him. Why would God impose such a weird rule?

    There is certainly no mention of the ritualized confession that is practised by Catholics.

    What ritual are you talking about? The sacrament essentially consists of a conversation between the priest and the penitent. You seem to be expressing a Baha’i prejudice that Catholic ritual involves a lot of empty fluff.

    Secondly, it seems that this passage mainly concerns *the Apostles* and their role as leaders of the church, for this writer cannot see any other possible sense for the latter part of verse 23: “and whose sins you retain are retained.” That is, Jesus is saying that if His disciples, learn of serious misdeeds committed by one of the community, the Apostles have the power to decide whether the infraction can be forgiven by them, or if the sin is so great that it cannot be condoned, and the believer should be cast out of the community. We could compare this to the power of the Guardian or the Universal House of Justice to cast out covenant-breakers.

    That is the authority of the bishops, the successors of the apostles.

    As concerning the passage in James 5:16, this states nothing about confession before elders, deacons, priests or even apostles; there is no mention in the passage of a formal confession sacrament.

    Read the post. I said James 5:16 contradicts Baha’u’llah’s claim that confession is humiliating. I didn’t say it prescribes confession before anyone in particular.

  37. Jonah

    I think you’ve done a really great job at discussing confession. What you point out here is similar to my experience, that some Baha’i’s have a very different view of what the Catholic Church is and means. Most notably is the misunderstanding that the Church’s teachings and methods came purely from scriptures (which you have touched on before). I had fallen away from the Church, and had considered Baha’i, but I found these misunderstandings and contradictions troubling.

    The Apostles (who had received the Holy Spirit) understood what their mission was. Again, the question is, how can the apostles reconcile people to God without knowing how they are separated from God? The Bible may not say “go sit down with a priest and talk about your sins with these phrases”, but it does establish that the apostles were given the authority to forgive sins, and told to use it. From that information, along with the writings of the early Church (the Didache, Ignatius of Antioch, etc.) it is clear to see that the immediate consequence was that the disciples, through the Church and the Holy Spirit, performed the sacrament of confession.

    As Jonah has pointed out, there are passages in the Bible that have a clear, simple meaning that when combined with the Holy Spirit’s working through the apostles creates a very clear picture of God’s intent in building His Church. To say otherwise is to say that when God gave the Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit they immediately messed up and misinterpreted Jesus’ teachings. I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m saying this to point out what passages in the Baha’i faith (the one starting the post being a prime example) sound like (and imply) to a Catholic.

  38. From a purely personal view:

    It would be very humiliating for me to confess my “sins” with another person, ordained or otherwise. Humiliation, in many people, is not a deterrent but just the opposite. Sometimes, people like it for sexual reasons; it actually reinforces bad behavior(masochism).

    For those that are sadists, it is equally counter-productive, some people take comfort in the displeasure of others.

    I really don’t see the upside in the practice of confession.

  39. Why would you need to confess to a Priest * Bishop etc.* when one can ask god for forgiveness. You have already said that God forgives us through a priest, then what is the reason of this priest. If it is to satisfy our material self then we are not really asking for forgiveness.

    If you felt as if asking God for forgiveness was an easy way out, then it seems you truly were not sorry for your sins as you were not truly imploring God of his forgiveness.
    If you require a physical mean of recognizing your forgiveness by which means can you say you believe in God?. God has never been apparent Materially however I assume we all here believe in God, so how can you believe in one but not the other.

  40. Catholics confess sins to a priest for a very simple reason, as you know we believe Jesus is God, and in the Bible Jesus gave the power and permission to his apostles to go and forgive sins (in fact it was more like an order) the way catholics see it is as if the pope, the bishops and priests are the successors of the apostles (that´s more complcated to expain but its for traditional reasons I´m sure you can find out online) so they have that power too, anyways, that´s more or less the reason we do it and in fact it´s been proven that psychologically quite good for a person to confess their sins (that goes to all of you talking about sadists and all that bs), anyways take care hope I helped someone understand.

  41. Very interesting Blog!!!!! I have never found a blog where someone tries to continue to relate to what they figuratively “left behind”. though I have some thoughts related to this topic, hence choosing this one to reply to, I greatly want to encourage this mature perspective. We all, as readers, I think want to read more of this. Whether we agree with you or not, the much much greater importance is for you to proceed on your journey to seek the truth. This is your investigation. I haven’t read these comments but they should certainly bear this in mind. Good luck
    regards from Japan

  42. “If someone disagrees with your religious beliefs, and you respond by saying you wish they’d suffer physical harm, you make yourself and your religion look bad. ”
    You wrote this re “Lisa’s ” comment about flogging. You cannot be sure this person is religious or even has a religion. She certainly does not make any such claim and you cannot therefore assume she is a Bahaí or a member of any religion. There are a lot of trolls hiding under anonymity on the internet and she could well be a an atheist, agnostic, protestant or disgruntled former Catholic.

  43. What an interesting topic.

    I went back and read the James reference, but it seems to me that this particular exhortation to confess sins is in the context of healing a sick person:

    “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

    I found this interesting since the Baha’i Faith affirms that physical illnesses can be caused by spiritual causes, and these illnesses need to be healed through spiritual means, such as repentance and prayer. Most of the healing prayers specifically mention forgiveness or mercy.

  44. I was intrigued by the original issue introduced on this topic: why would Baha’u’llah say that confession of sins to another person is not conducive to divine forgiveness and leads to humiliation, and yet Jesus Christ gave his apostles authority to forgive or not forgive sins. I am not a Biblical scholar so someone else may have better or different references, but I found an interesting article written about the history of confession in Christianity. According to this author, “confession” as practiced in the early church (including up to the time of Augustine) is not at all like it is practiced today; it was for extremely grave sins only (there were only 4 or 5 I think), there was no priestly forgiveness, there was extensive public penance, and it could be done only one time (a repeat offense could be handled by excommunication). The “minor” sins of most believers were to be addressed through private prayer and personal penance. Only in later centuries did the practices develop that are reflected in the current process of confession to a priest.

    The interesting thing for me in reading this is that, except for extended public penance, this aligns somewhat with the Baha’i process of addressing situations where individuals breaking laws of an extremely grave nature, such that the local assembly must become involved. When the matter comes to be known to the assembly, either by the individual coming to the assembly or by the assembly contacting the person and requesting loving discussion with them on the matter, the assembly tries to help the individual to come into compliance. A last resort, if all attempts fail, is to sanction the individual through removal of voting rights, etc.

    So, it seems very possible that there is actually no conflict between what Baha’u’llah states about confession to priests, and the authority given to the apostles when they were sent out to preach and baptise.

  45. p.s. Forgot to add: My husband’s Anglican liturgy includes a congregational confession of sins and priestly pardon, to the whole congregation. I understand that some protestant denominations follow that practice, rather than for an individual confession of sins.

    In my Baha’i prayer book are 10 pages of prayers specifically revealed for forgiveness of sins, which we often may read in a group setting. That is not the same thing as a public confession of our individual sins, of course, but could relate to the scripture in James exhorting believers to confess sins to each other and pray for each other. One of these is:

    “O Thou forgiving Lord! Thou art the shelter of all these Thy servants. Thou knowest the secrets and art aware of all things. We are all helpless, and Thou art the mighty, the Omnipotent. We are all sinners, and Thou are the Forgiver of sins, the merciful, the Compassionate. O Lord! Look not at our shortcomings. Deal with us according to Thy grace and bounty. Our shortcomings are many, but the ocean of Thy forgiveness is boundless. Our weakness is grievous, but the evidences of Thine aid and assistance are clear. Therefore, confirm and strengthen us. Enable us to do that which is worthy of thy holy Threshold. Illumine our hearts, grant us discerning eyes and attentive ears. Resuscitate the dead and heal the sick. Bestow wealth upon the poor and give peace and security to the fearful. Accept us in Thy kingdom and illumine us with the light of guidance. Thou art the Powerful and the Omnipotent. Thou are the generous. Thou are the Clement. Thou are the Kind”. – Abdul-Baha

  46. Hi Kimberlee, thanks for your comments.

    Regarding your second comment, the article you read was mistaken. People still confessed their lesser sins to their priests. Only the very serious sins required the drawn-out public penance that you referred to.

    You don’t have to take my word for it. It’s easy to do an Internet search and find quotes from early Christians mentioning the sacrament of confession, some of which clearly show that it involved reporting your sins to a priest or bishop.

  47. Entering the presence of a priest is Not entering the presence of God. No priest can absolve one of their sins. Only God can do this.

    If a person “feels better” after confession of their horrid deeds to another human being, whether in the costume of a priest or friend, what is the cause of this feeling?

    The Baha’i view is that one has humiliated oneself before another soul who now knows these bad deeds. Whenever the priest, or whoever, sees this person, they shall also be burdened with knowing what they should not have to know about another person.

    It also sidesteps God. If the manner of prayers for forgiveness is superficial, they will do very little good.

    One enters the Presence of God when we enter the Presence of the Manifestation of God. As neither Jesus, nor Moses, or Baha’u’llah are physically present, one may tend to think that They are not here, or not present.

    This assumption confuses the Reality of Christ or Baha’u’llah with the mortal frame which is temporary, subject to death, etc.

    Truly, a Manifestation of God appears in human attire solely for our benefit, for we could never handle seeing Them as they truly are in all Their Glory.

    If one lacks a comprehension of Who Baha’u’llah is and rejects Him, that soul also rejects Jesus, clinging only to His name.

  48. Please forgive the unkind comments in the post here. The difference between the Baha’i and the Catholic confession of sins, is that when a Baha’i prays for forgiveness it is not automatically granted, (it depends on the will of God). In Catholic confession it is guaranteed. The former is much more conducive to change because there is no guarantee. What happens to a person who repeatedly transgresses, asks for forgiveness, and then does the same thing over and over again without trying to correct his behavior? The light of faith is extinguished in his heart(without the person even realizing it). This is the worst punishment of all.

  49. I am a former Baha’i. My husband is Baha’i and we attend our village Presbyterian church where there is a congregational confession of sins. “Let us confess our sins to our neighbor and to ourselves”. I see this as an acknowledgement not only of “I” missing the mark, but humanity as a whole. We are witnessing for the “our”. My husband will never join in this congregational utterance and that is his conscience. Also, I find that contemplating the ways in which we (I) miss the mark (the word sin means “missing the mark”) in this weekly practice actually points me towards improving more than Baha’i ever did.
    As for Dales pronouncement that this who don’t comprehend or reject who Baha’u’llah is also rejects Jesus doesn’t set well with me Who are you to judge first of all?
    Having been with the faith for thirty years, I understand this argument, as the logic would be that the reality of progressive revelation enjoins us to accept all the holy prophets from all religions….to reject one is to reject all. Well, it is not so black and white for those who are following their various religious paths.
    I love Jesus for his teachings, not his name.

  50. 🍃🌺Baha’i Daily Reflections-Monday

    “This is the most great, the most joyful tidings imparted by the Pen of this Wronged One to mankind. Wherefore fear ye, O My well-beloved ones? Who is it that can dismay you? A touch of moisture sufficeth to dissolve the hardened clay out of which this perverse generation is moulded. The mere act of your gathering together is enough to scatter the forces of these vain and worthless people.”
    From the LAWH-I-DUNYÁ (Tablet of the World), Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 84-85

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