By Fr. Sean McDermott
"The Sacrament of Penance is God's healing of grace and mercy. The tribunal offered in the Sacrament of Penance is a tribunal of love, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy from Our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Anglican Province of America (APA) held its annual clergy retreat on February 6 at St. Barnabas Church in Dunwoody, GA. The topic of retreat was the Sacrament of Penance. Bishop Chad Jones led the retreat and gave a series of lectures on the topic along with an extensive Q&A session.
Bishop Chad's first lecture was about the nature of the Confession, the strengths of the Anglican approach to the Sacrament of Penance, attrition, and how the Sacrament helps us walk on the path of holiness. Click below on each link to listen. You may also listen to these lectures from any podcast host like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. Click here for more information.
In his second lecture, Bishop Chad starts by considering two questions that came up after his first lecture. First, the difference between the absolution given at the general Confession at the Holy Mass and the absolution given in the Sacrament of Penance. Second, how a priest may offer help outside of Confession if the penitent expresses the need of additional help. He then goes on to talk about the difference between penance and repentance, and why Anglicans should seek after The Sacrament of Penance.
The third lecture contains the three conditions necessary for the penitent and how priests may encourage these three conditions. These are contrition, Confession, and amendment of life.
The fourth lecture was specifically about scrupulosity, or the habit of obsession over one's sins without trusting in the forgiveness of God. Bishop Chad talks about the conditions of scrupulosity but also its remedies in this lecture.
To conclude, Bp. Chad answered questions from the audience concerning Confession. Many different topics are considered from mandatory reporting and cases of confessed abuse, to the liturgy of confession, and more on the nature of the seal. Some of the questions are hard to hear, but Bp. Chad usually repeated the question in his answer.
The clergy also had to read Bp. William Webb's The Cure of Souls, which you will hear referenced.
This book is a very good resource and provides straightforward definitions and descriptions of Confession. It was a pleasant surprise to see that our friend Fr. Ben Jeffries designed the book. Thank you Fr. Jeffries! Though it is more encyclopedic than narrative, the book offers many good insights for the confessor. During the retreat, there were many questions the nature of the seal and penance, both topics which Webb deals with extensively. At the same time, there was at least one major difference between Bp. Chad's advice and Bp. Webb. In The Cure of Souls, Bp. Webb writes that once you enter into Confession, the priest may bring up the content of previous Confessions. While the priest may ask permission to do so in certain circumstances, Bp. Chad was clear that to bring up content from previous Confessions would still break the seal of Confession. There is more on this in the Q&A session if you want to hear more!
Fr. Sean McDermott is Curate at All Saints Anglican Church in Charlottesville, VA, and Editor in Chief of Earth & Altar.