(1.) In early ecclesiastical history the Word is frequently used for martyr (q.v.), but its proper application was to those who, after having been tormented, were permitted to live and die in peace. At length it indicated those who, after having lived a good life, died under the reputation of sanctity. According to Cyprian, he who presented himself to torture, or even to martyrdom, without being called to it, was not designated a confessor, but a professor; and if any through want of courage abandoned his country, and became' a voluntary exile for the sake of the faith, he was called ex terris. Later the title Confessor was applied to persons of eminently pious life as "witnessing a good confession." Edward of England was made "Confessor" by a bull of Alexander III.
(2.) In the Romish Church, a confessor is an ordained priest who has power to hear sinners in the so-called sacrament of penance, and to give them "absolution." He is generally designated confessarius, to distinguish him from confessor. The confessors of the kings of France, from the time of Henry IV, were constantly Jesuits; before them, the Dominicans and Cordeliers shared the office between them. The confessors of the house of Austria have also ordinarily been Dominicans and Cordeliers, but the later emperors have taken Jesuits. — Mosheim, Church History, 1:54. SEE AURICOULAR.