Confession In the Church of Rome and in the Eastern churches the confession of sins is considered to be one of the seven sacraments. SEE AURICULAR CONFESSION. The law prescribing how often the member of the Church should go to confession was not uniform in all parts of the Church, some synods enjoining one, others two, others three confessions a year. Since the Council of Trent, the Church inflicts ecclesiastical censures only upon those who omit going to confession once a year. For nuns the Council of Trent prescribes a confession once a month. Priests are exhorted to go often to confession; some synods, like that of Ghent, enjoined upon them a weekly confession.
In the Middle Ages it was customary to pay a tax to the priests (nummus confessionarius) for hearing confession; but the demand for the abolition of this custom was so urgent that after the 16th century the payment of the tax was generally optional, and in this form it still exists in some Roman Catholic countries. Offerings of this kind remained also in use in many Lutheran churches until the present century, while the Reformed churches entirely abolished them.
The priest to whom a confession is made has the duty of observing with regard to it an absolute silence. No exception whatever is allowed to this rule. If a person makes communication to a priest of a crime which is still to be committed, the priest must try to change the mind of such a person, and induce him to do all that is possible to prevent its being committed by others, but he is not allowed to notify the secular government of it. In several countries (as Prussia) the civil law demanded in the latter case a notification, but the Church of Rome has always refused compliance with such a law. Luther, and the Church regulations in the Lutheran countries, also enjoined the strictest observance of the secret of confession.