The Council of Trent
Fourteenth Session, First Canons
ON THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
CANON I.--If any one saith, that in the Catholic Church Penance is not truly and properly a sacrament, instituted by Christ our Lord for reconciling the faithful unto God, as often as they fall into sin after baptism; let him be anathema.
CANON II.--If any one, confounding the sacraments, saith that baptism is itself the sacrament of Penance, as though these two Sacraments were not distinct, and that therefore Penance is not rightly called a second plank after shipwreck; let him be anathema.
CANON III.--If any one saith, that those words of the Lord the Saviour, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, (z) are not to be understood of the power of forgiving and of retaining sins in the Sacrament of penance, as the Catholic Church has always from the beginning understood them; but wrests them, contrary to the institution of this sacra ment, to the power of preaching the gospel ; let him be anathema.
CANON IV.--If any one denieth, that, for the entire and perfect remission of sins, there are required three acts in the penitent, which are as it were the matter of the sacrament of Penance, to wit, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, which are called the three parts of penance; or saith that there are two parts only of penance, to wit, the terrors with which the conscience is smitten upon being convinced of sin, and the faith, generated (a) by the gospel, or by the absolution, whereby one believes that his sins are forgiven him through Christ; let him be anathema.
CANON V.--If any one saith, that the contrition which is acquired by means of the examination, collection, and detestation of sins,--whereby one thinks over his years in the bitterness of his soul, (b) by pondering on the grievousness, the multitude, the filthiness of his sins, the loss of eternal blessedness, and the eternal damnation which he has incurred, having therewith the purpose of a better life,--is not a true and profitable sorrow, does not prepare for grace, but makes a man a hypocrite and a greater sinner; in fine, that this (contrition) is a forced and not free and voluntary sorrow; let him be anathema.
CANON VI.--If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema.
CANON VII.--If any one saith, that, in the sacrament of Penance, it is not necessary, of divine right, for the remission of sins, to confess all and singular the mortal sins which after due and diligent previous meditation are remembered, even those (mortal sins) which are secret, and those which are opposed to the two last commandments of the Decalogtie, as also the circumstances which change the species of a sin; but (saith) that such confession is only useful to instruct and console the penitent, and that it was of old only observed in order to impose a canonical satisfaction; or saith that they, who strive to confess all their sins, wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon ; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins ; let him be anathema.
CANON VIII.--If any one saith, that the confession of all sins, such as it is observed in the Church, is impossible, and is a human tradition to be abolished by the godly; or that all and each of the faithful of Christ, of either sex, are not obliged thereunto once a year, conformably to the constitution of the great Council of Lateran,(c) and that, for this cause, the faithful of Christ are to be persuaded not to con fess during Lent ; let him be anathema.
CANON IX.--If any one saith, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven to him who confesses; provided only he believe himself to be absolved, or (even though) the priest absolve not in earnest, but in joke; or saith, that the confession of the penitent is not required, in order that the priest may be able to absolve him; let him be anathema.
CANON X.--If any one saith, that priests, who are in mortal sin, have not the power of binding and of loosing; or, that not priests alone are the ministers of absolution, but that, to all and each of the faithful of Christ is it said: Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven ;(d) and, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained;(e) by virtue of which words every one is able to absolve from sins, to wit, from public sins by reproof only, provided he who is reproved yield thereto, and from secret sins by a voluntary confession; let him be anathema.
CANON XI.--If any one saith, that bishops have not the right of reserving cases to themselves, except as regards external polity, and that therefore the reservation of cases hinders not but that a priest may truly absolve from reserved cases; let him be anathema.
CANON XII.--If any one saith, that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is no other than the faith whereby they apprehend (f) that Christ has satisfied for them; let him be anathema.
CANON XIII.--If any one saith, that satisfaction for sins, as to their temporal punishment, is nowise made to God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, by the punishments inflicted by Him, and patiently borne, or by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntarily undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, almsdeeds, or by other works also of piety; and that, therefore, the best penance is merely a new life; let him be anathema.
CANON XIV.--If any one saith, that the satisfaction, by which enitents redeem their sins through Jesus Christ, are not a worship of God, but traditions of men, which obscure the doctrine of grace, and the true worship of God, and the benefit itself of the death of Christ; let him be anathema.
CANON XV.--If any one saith, that the keys are given to the Church, only to loose, not also to bind; and that, therefore, priests act contrary to the purpose(g) of the keys, and contrary to the institution of Christ, when they impose punishments on those who confess; and that it is a fiction, that, after the eternal punishment, has, by virtue of the keys, been removed, there remains for the most part a temporal punishment to be discharged; let him be anathema.