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ConfessionCatholics, Repentance, and Forgiveness in America$
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Patrick W. Carey

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190889135

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190889135.001.0001

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Trent and Penance in the Colonial Period

Trent and Penance in the Colonial Period

Chapter:
(p.11) Chapter 1 Trent and Penance in the Colonial Period
Source:
Confession
Author(s):

Patrick W. Carey

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190889135.003.0002

The Catholic penitential tradition in colonial America was influenced by the Council of Trent (1545–63), which was itself affected in part by the polemics of the Protestant Reformation. The entire penitential tradition that colonial Catholics inherited from Trent included special days of prayer and fasting, abstinence from meat on Fridays, and the yearly sacramental practice of confessing one’s personal sins to a priest. Trent declared, in opposition to Protestant reformers, that penance was one of the sacraments ordained by Christ. The sacrament included the penitents’ acts of contrition, confession, and satisfaction (penance) and the priest’s act of absolution. Sacramental confession became a special bone of contention between Protestants and Catholics, especially in the nineteenth century. The polemics, though, preserved something of the biblical language and made the confession of sins to a priest a major part of the Catholic experience in the United States until the mid-1960s.

Keywords:   Trent, contrition, satisfaction, absolution, penitential system, abstinence, Jesuits, Maryland, John Carroll, Charles Henry Wharton

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