Teaching of The Church
The Council of Trent (1551) declares:
As a means of regaining grace and justice, penance was at all times
necessary for those who had defiled their souls with any mortal sin.
. . . Before the coming of Christ, penance was not a sacrament, nor is
it since His coming a sacrament for those who are not baptized. But the
Lord then principally instituted the Sacrament of Penance, when, being
raised from the dead, he breathed upon His disciples saying: ‘Receive ye
the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them;
and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained’ (John 20:22-23).
By which action so signal and words so clear the consent of all the
Fathers has ever understood that the power of forgiving and retaining
sins was communicated to the Apostles and to their lawful successors,
for the reconciling of the faithful who have fallen after Baptism.
(Sess. XIV, c. i)
Farther on the council expressly states that Christ left priests, His own
vicars, as judges (praesides et judices), unto whom all the mortal crimes
into which the faithful may have fallen should be revealed in order that,
in accordance with the power of the keys, they may pronounce the sentence
of forgiveness or retention of sins” (Sess. XIV, c. v)
Written by Edward J. Hanna. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911.
New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911.
Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur.
+John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York