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ing the seal to be broken up in some cases; and yet she hath restrained it more than formerly was observed in the churches of God. Burchard expressly affirms, that before the Nicene council, the penitentiary priest might publish what he heard in confessions, if it were for the good of the penitent, or for the greatness of the crime, as it seemed fit to the confessor.
And that he says true, we have sufficient testimony from Origen: "Tantummodo circumspice diligentius, cui debeas confiteri peccatum tuum.-Si intellexerit et præviderit talem esse languorem tuum, qui in conventu totius ecclesiæ exponi debeat et curari, ex quo fortassis et cæteri ædificari poterunt, et tu ipse facilè sanari, multâ hoc deliberatione et satis perito medici illius consilio procurandum est." By which words he affirms, 1. That it was in the power of the confessor to command the publication of certain crimes. 2. That though it was not lightly to be done, yet, upon great reason, it might. 3. That the spiritual good of the penitent, and the edification of others, were causes sufficient for the publication. 4. That of these, the confessor was judge. 5. That this was no otherwise done by the consent of the party, but because he was bound to consent, when the confessor enjoined it and the matter is evident, in the case of the incestuous Corinthian; who either was restored without private confession; or, if he was not, St. Paul caused it to be published in the church, and submitted the man to the severest discipline, and yet public, that was then or since in the world. The like to this, we find in a decretal epistle of Pope Leo1; for when some confessors, exceeding the ancient ecclesiastical rule, were not so prudent and deliberate in conducting their penitents, as formerly they were, but commanded that all their whole confessions should be written down, and publicly read; he says, "Though the plenitude of faith might be laudable, that is not afraid to blush in public, yet the confession is sufficient, if it be made in secret, first to God, and then to the priest:" and adds, "Non omnium hujusmodi sunt peccata, ut ea quæ pœnitentiam poscunt, non timeant publicari ;""All sins are not of that nature, that are fit to be
* Lib. 19. Decreti sui, c. 37. Concil. Mogual. cap. 10. 21.
published:" and therefore" removeatur tam improbabilis consuetudo;" "let such a reprovable custom be taken away.' In which words of St. Leo, we find, 1. That the seal of confession, as at this day it is understood at Rome, was no such inviolable and religious secret; for by a contrary custom, it was too much broken. 2. That he blames not the publication of some sins, but that they indiscriminately did publish all. 3. That the nature of some sins did not permit it: for, as he adds afterward, men by this means were betrayed to the malice of their enemies, who would bring them before tribunals, in some cases. 4. That this was not spoken in case of public crimes, delated, and brought into public notice, but such as were spoken in private confession. And here I cannot but desire, there had been some more ingenuity in Bellarmine *, who, relating to this epistle of St. Leo, affirms, that St. Leo says, 'It is against the apostolical rule, to reveal secret sins, declared in confession;' when it is plain, that St. Leo only blames the custom of revealing all ; saying, 'that all sins are not of that nature, as to be fit to be revealed.' And by these precedent authorities, we shall the easier understand that famous fact of Nectarius, who abolished the custom of having sins published in the church, and therefore took away the penitentiary priest; whose office was (as I proved out of Origen, Sozomen, and Burchard), to enjoin the publication of some sins, according to his discretion. It happened in Constantinople, that a foul fact was committed, and it was published in the ears of the people, and a tumult was raised about it; and the remedy was, that Nectarius took away the office and the custom together. "Consulentibus quibusdam, ut unicuique liberum permitteret, prout sibi ipse conscius esset et confideret, ad mysteriorum communionem accedere, pœnitentiarum illum presbyterum exauctoravit." Every man was thenceforth left to his liberty, according to the dictate and confidence of his own conscience, to come to the communion; and this afterward passed into a rite: for the manners of men growing degenerate, and worse sins being now confessed than, as he supposes, formerly they had been; the judges having been more severe, and the people more modest, it was fit enough that this custom, upon the occasion of such a scan
* De Pœnitentià, lib. 3. cap. 14. Denique cum Secreta.
dal, and so much mischief like to follow it, should be laid aside wholly; and so it was. Here is a plain story, truly told by Sozomen, and the matter is easy to be understood. But Bellarmine, seeing the practice and doctrine of the church of Rome pinched by it, makes a distinction, derived from the present custom of his church, of public confession and private, saying, that Nectarius took away the public, and not the private. This I shall have occasion to discuss in the next section. I am now only to speak concerning the seal of confession; which from this authority, is apparent, was not such a sacred thing, but that it was made wholly to minister to the public and private edification of the penitent, and the whole church.
Thus this affair stood in the primitive church. In descending ages when private confessions grew frequent, and were converted into a sacrament; the seal also was made more tenacious; and yet by the discipline of the church, there were divers cases, in which the seal might be broken up. 1. There is a famous gloss in "cap. Tua nos, lib. 4. Decretal. tit. 1. de Sponsalibus et Matrimonio;" where the Pope, answering to a question concerning a pretended contract of marriage, says, that the marriage is good, unless the inquiring Bishop of Brescia could have assured him, that the man did never consent, or intend the marriage, “Quod qualiter tibi constiterit, non videmus." The gloss upon these words say, "Imò benè potuit constare: quia vir ille hoc ei confitebatur," "The bishop might well know it, because the man had confessed it to him; or because he had revealed it to him in penitential confession. For though, in judicial confession before a tribunal, no man is to be believed to the prejudice of a third person, yet, in penitential confession, he is to be believed; because it is not to be supposed, that he then is unmindful of his salvation."-Where the gloss observing that he did or might have received it in confession, and yet make use of it in consultation with his superiors, and upon that answer was to pronounce it to be, or not to be, a marriage, and to treat the persons accordingly; it follows that the thing itself might be revealed for the good of the penitent's soul; and this was done by the Cardinal of St. Lawrence in the case of a woman introducing a supposititious child to the inheritance of her husband; and this revelation
of the confession produced a decretal epistle' from the Pope in that particular case; and of this doctors "give this reason; because a thing so odious, and that would bring so certain ruin to souls, might not be permitted, with so great scandal and so great mischief. 2. And that confession may be revealed for the regulating a doubtful case of marriage, is the opinion of many great canonists. 3. That it may be revealed in the case of heresy confessed, I think there was no doubt of it at any time. 4. And that every confessor may reveal the confession by the penitent's leave, is taught by Durandus, Almain, Medina, and Navar; and generally by all the ancient scholars of St. Thomas. Now if a law be made, that, in certain cases, the confessor shall publish the confession, then every man's consent is involved in it, as his private right is in the public interest; of which it is a part, and to which it is subordinate and must yield. But who pleases to see how this affair once did stand in the church of Rome, and more especially in the catholic church, if he be not yet, may be satisfied by the proofs which Altisiodorensis gives of the lawfulness of publishing confessions in certain cases, 5. Lastly, if a sinful intention of committing a grievous crime be revealed in confession, and the person confessing cannot desist from, or will not alter, his purpose; then that the seal of confession may be broken open, is affirmed by Alexander of Ales", by the Summa Angelica,' which also reckons five cases more, in which it is lawful to reveal confessions, The same also is taught by Panormitan P, Hostiensis, the Summa Sylvestrina ',' and by Pope Innocent himself."
But now, if we consider, how it is in the church of Rome at this day, and hath been this last age for the most part; we shall find that this human constitution, relying upon prudent and pious considerations, is urged as a sacramental obligation and a great part of the religion; and is not accounted obliging only for the reasons of its first sanction; nor as an act of obedience to the positive law, but as a natural, essential, divine, and unalterable obligation. And from thence these doctrines are derived. 1. That what a priest knows in
I Lib. S. Decret. tit. 38. cap. Officii. de Pœnit. et Remiss.
m Vide Suarez. de Paz in Pract. Criminal. Eccles. cap. 109.
Par. 4. q. 28. mem. 2. art. 2. in Respons.
Cap. Omnis. de Pœnit. et Remis. num. 24.
• Confessio ult. num. 7.
In cap. Omnis. Verb. prodit.
confession, he knows it not as a man, but as God: which proposition as it is foolish, and too near to blasphemy, and may as well infer, that the priest may be then adored by the penitent with the distinction, viz. not as a man, but as God; so is expressly confuted by the gloss above cited, and by Scotus; but taught by the modern casuists, and is the ground of a strange practice. For, 2. As a consequent of the former, it is taught in the church of Rome by their greatest guides, that if a priest having heard a thing only in confession"; if being asked, and sworn, he shall say, he never heard that thing, he neither lies nor forswears. So Emanuel Sà teaches; and adds, that in the same manner the penitent may also swear, that he said nothing, or no such thing, in confession. But how this should be excused, or whether they think the penitent to have spoken to none but God; I am not yet satisfied. 3. It is not lawful to reveal any thing that is told only in confession, though it be to avoid the greatest evil that can happen, so said Bellarmine"; to save a whole commonwealth from damage temporal or spiritual, so Suarez; to save the lives of all the kings in Christendom, so Binet a told Isaac Casaubon in the King's library at Paris. The same is openly avowed by Eudæmon Johannes, that there is no evil so great, for the avoiding of which it can be lawful to reveal confession; and that this may appear to be a catholic doctrine, the same author reckons up so many moderns teaching the same, that the very names of the authors and books fill up several pages; and that it is the catholic doctrine, is expressly taught by the author of the famous apology made for the Jesuits, after the horrid parricide of Henry the Fourth of France. They add, even beyond this, all the curiosity of the very circumstances of silence; that this silence does not only oblige in the case of perfect confession, but, if it be begun, not only in case of confession clear and express, but if it be so much as in relation to confession: not only the confessor, but the messenger, the interpreter, the counsellor, he that hears it by chance,
In quartum librum Sent. dist. 21.
"Vide Richard. in lib. 4. Sent, dist. eâd. art. 4. q. 1. Aphor. v. Confess. n. 23.
2 Disp. 33. in 3. par. D. Thom. sect. 1. n. 2.
Præstaret Reges omnes perire, quam si vel semel Confessionis sigillum vio. laretur. Epist. ad Fontonem Ducæum, p. 140.
Apolog. pro Garnette, c. 13.
Apolog. adv. Reg. M. Brit.