The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional
By Charles Chiniquy
Chick Publications, 1979, 144 pages
I don’t normally waste my time with material from Chick Publications because I don’t believe in every calamity being attributed to a Jesuit global conspiracy, but I received this book as a gift. This Chick reprint of “The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional” by ex-priest, Charles Chiniquy, preserves a valuable nineteenth-century Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism’s sacrament of auricular confession. Chiniquy’s book was first published in 1875, followed by many subsequent editions.
With overwrought prose typical of his times, Chiniquy warns his readers of the dangers inherent in “auricular” (spoken into the ear of the confessor) confession. Catholics are obligated to confess their “mortal” sins to a priest at least once a year under penalty of incurring yet another “mortal” sin. Since most penitents are extremely reluctant to divulge any embarrassing sexual sins, whether they be thoughts or actions, priests are instructed to thoroughly question the person about such matters to ensure a candid “good” confession. Chiniquy gives many examples of the dangers of celibate confessors (priests) interrogating their female supplicants about such personal matters. The church even defines the use of the confessional for immoral purposes by priests as “solicitation.”
Catholicism teaches salvation comes by receiving its sacraments, all tightly controlled by the clergy, and by obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules. The sacrament of reconciliation, auricular confession, is just another opportunity for the Catholic clergy to exercise control over its members. Chiniquy demonstrates that confession of sins to a priest has no basis in New Testament Scripture and he urges the reader to turn from man-made Catholic legalism and traditions and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Once a person accepts Christ they should confess all sin directly to God, not to a human mediator (Mark 2:7).
The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional has been lumped together with similar Evangelical Protestant books of the period as anti-Catholic hate literature of a bygone era. One could argue the title is a bit salacious and meant to appeal to prurient interest. Likewise, the illustrated cover provided by Chick Publications is mildly sensationalistic. Ex-priest Chiniquy definitely exaggerates his point by claiming the confessional was directly responsible for bringing many Catholic countries to ruin. These very minor objections aside, even the most sectarian Catholic apologist can’t deny the Roman confessional has led to abuse of scandalous proportions.
While Chiniquy was concerned with relationships between confessor priests and their female penitents, news reports over the last thirty years have revealed shocking clerical sexual abuse of children, mainly boys, validating the ex-priest’s warnings but going far beyond the impropriety alluded to in this book. In many cases the abusive relationships between priests and children began in the confessional box. Sending very young children (age 7) into the dark box didn’t begin until 1910 with a decree from “Saint” Pius X. In 2012, bishopaccountability.org reported the number of American priests credibly accused of molesting children since 1950 to be more than 6,100. Over 16,000 victims have been documented although many others surely never came forward. The Catholic church’s cover up of its pedophile priests scandal involved the highest offices of the hierarchy.
In contrast to Chiniquy’s time, Catholics now stay away from the confessional box in droves despite the threat of “mortal” sin. Who can blame them? Recent Catholic sources state only 12% of its members participate in confession at least once a year. Evidently the other 88% would rather take their chances with eternity than share a dark box with a priest. Additionally, asking penitents to recall all of the times they disobeyed the Ten Commandments in the past year is beyond ludicrous. I couldn’t possibly recall all of my sins against God in thought, word, deed, and omission for even a single day. Christ reveals in Matthew 5 the utter hopelessness of attempting to obey the law as a means to salvation. The entire business is a religious sham designed to keeps its members totally dependent on the Catholic clergy.
“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” – Galatians 2:16
Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that’s preaches God’s Word without compromise.