Friday, July 15, 2011

General confession not necessarily a kind of poor-man's private confession

"There are two consciences to be purged, the particular conscience that is purged in each in the secrecy of confession, and the public conscience that Saint Hilary calls [the] conscientiam publicam, the confession of which must be public. . . .  Sometimes it is even the custom to confess in that action very publicly all of the kinds of sin capable of being committed by those most wicked and lost; and this is very well done, [which is] to say [(et cela estoit tres bien fait, pour dire)] that absolutely anyone [(qui que ce soit)] had been capable of committing them and must [therefore] hold himself responsible for them, [he] for whom it is here a question of making a full apology [(reparation d'honneur)] for all public sins, contagious and scandalous."

     Jean Morin or François II de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Rouen (it isn't clear to me which), as quoted in Nichole Lemaitre, "Confession privée et confession publique dans les paroisses du XVIe siècle," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 69, no. 183 (1983):  199n23 (189-208).  I can't tell for sure which of the two cited here is the one from which these words are taken, but Lemaitre makes it clear that it was Francis I de Harlay who, in 1641, was the first to articulate this position.  There is more on this (and its patristic roots) in context.

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