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How can I explain to My Protestant Friends why Catholics go to Confession?

How can I explain to My Protestant Friends why Catholics go to Confession?

Full Question

How can I explain to Protestant friends why Catholics go to confession? They ask, “Can’t God forgive your sins directly?”


Fr. Eamon Tobin has written in The Sacrament of Penance:

In response to this question, the first remark I often make is, “Why do we not object to having a mediator, another man, at the sacrament of baptism? Why don’t we just baptize ourselves?” Baptism, among other things, cleanses us of sin. The sacrament of reconciliation is like a second baptism; it cleanses us of post-baptismal sin. If we have no objections to another man’s mediating to us God’s grace in the sacrament of baptism, why should we object to another man’s mediating God’s grace in the sacrament of reconciliation?

The primary reason, however, why the Catholic Church asks her members to confess their sins to a priest is simply because the Church has always believed that sin, however private, is a community affair. Every sin, however small, wounds the Body of Christ, the members of the Church. . . . When any of its members sin, they all suffer. Moreover, because my sins wound the community and diminish its effectiveness, reconciliation must include the community and not just God. In the confessional, the priest is the representative of God andof the community. In the confessional, the priest represents the whole Christ, the Head (Jesus) and the members (the Church). [Emphases added]

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a “private” sin—not in the sense of a sin that affects nobody but myself. There are secret sins, but there are none which are matters affecting “only myself and God.” Likewise, our penitence benefits the whole Church, so we celebrate reconciliation communally.

SOURCE: Catholicsay


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Do Catholics Pray “Repetitious Prayer?”

Do Catholics Pray "Repetitious Prayer?"

By Tim Staples:


As a young Protestant, this was one of my favorites to ask Catholics. “Why do Catholics pray ‘repetitious prayer’ like the Rosary when Jesus says not to pray ‘vain repetitions’ in Matthew 6:7?”

I think we should begin here by quoting the actual text of Matt. 6:7:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases (“vain repetitions” in KJV) as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Notice the context? Jesus said “do not heap up ‘empty phrases’ (Gr. –battalagesete,  which means to stammer, babble, prate, or to repeat the same things over and over mindlessly) as the Gentiles do…” We have to remember that the main idea of prayer and sacrifice among the pagans was to appease the gods so that you could go on with your own life. You had to be careful to “take care of” all of the gods by mentioning them, and saying all the right words, lest you bring a curse upon yourself.

And remember as well, the gods themselves were immoral at times! They were selfish, cruel, vengeful etc. The pagans would say their incantations, offer their sacrifice, but there was no real connection between the moral life and the prayer. Jesus is saying that this will not cut it in the New Covenant Kingdom of God! One must pray from a heart of repentance and submission to God’s will. But does Jesus mean to exclude the possibility of devotions like the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet which repeat prayers? No, he does not. This becomes evident when in the very next verses of Matthew 6, Jesus says:

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus gave us a prayer to recite! But notice the emphasis on living the words of the prayer! This is a prayer to be recited, but they are neither “empty phrases” nor “vain repetitions.”

Examples of Biblical “Repetitious Prayer”

Consider the prayers of the angels in Revelation 4:8:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

These “four living creatures” refer back to four angels, or “Seraphim,” that Isaiah saw as revealed in Is. 6:1-3 about 800 years earlier, and guess what they were praying?

In the year that King Uzzi’ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Someone needs to inform these angels about “vain repetition!” According to many of our Protestant friends, especially Fundamentalists, they need to knock it off and pray something different! They’d been praying like that for ca. 800 years!

I say that tongue and cheek, of course, because though we don’t understand fully “time” as it applies to angels, let’s just say they have been praying this way for a lot longer than just 800 years. How about longer than mankind has even existed! That’s a long time! There is obviously something more to Jesus’ words than just to say we should not pray the same words more than once or twice.

I challenge those skeptical of prayers like the Rosary to take a serious look at Psalm 136 and consider the fact that Jews and Christians have prayed these Psalms for thousands of years. Psalm 136 repeats the words “for his steadfast love endures for ever” 26 times in 26 verses!

Perhaps most importantly, we have Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Mark 14:32-39:

And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.” And the took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ”Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptiation; the spirit indeed is weilling, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again, he came and found them sleeping… And he came a third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping…?”

Our Lord was here praying for hours and saying “the same words.” Is this “vain repetition?”

And not only do we have our Lord praying repetitious prayer, but he also commends it. In Luke 18:1-14, we read:

And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Vindicate me against my adversary.” For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Final Thoughts

Would any wife tell her husband, “Hey knock it off! You’ve already told me you loved me three times today! I don’t want to hear it any more!” I think not! The key here is that the words are from the heart, not the number of times they are said. I think that is Jesus’ emphasis. There are some words, like “I love you,” or like the “Our Father,” or the “Hail, Mary,” that you really can’t improve upon. The key is that we truly enter into the words so that they are coming from our hearts.

For those who do not know, the Rosary is not about “mindless repetition” so that God will hear us. We repeat the prayers of the Rosary to be sure, but we do so in order that we may keep our focus while we meditate upon the most important mysteries of the Faith. I find it to be a wonderful way for me to be able to focus on the Lord.

I find it ironic that as a former Protestant who prayed much, and many words, before I was Catholic, that it was far easier to drift into “vain repetition” when all I prayed was spontaneous prayers. My prayers often devolved into petition after petition, and yes, I tended to pray the same way, and the same words, over and over, over the years.

I have found praying liturgical prayer, and devotional prayers to have tremendous spiritual benefit. First, these prayers are either from Scripture, or from the greatest minds and souls who have ever walked the earth who have gone before us. They are theologically correct as well as spiritually rich. They free me from having to think about what I am going to say next and they allow me to really enter into my prayer, and into God. These prayers challenge me at times because of their spiritual depth while they keep me from reducing God to a cosmic bubble gum machine. “Give me, give me, give…”

In the end, I have found, the prayers, devotions, and meditations of the Catholic tradition actually save me from the “vain repetition” that Jesus warns about in the Gospel.

This does not mean that there is not a danger of mindlessly repeating the Rosary or other such devotions. There is. We must always stay on guard against that very real possibility. But if we do fall prey to “vain repetition” in prayer, it will not be because we are “saying the same words” over and over in prayer as our Lord did in Mark 14:39. It will be because we are not praying from the heart and truly entering into the great devotions Holy Mother Church provides for our spiritual nourishment.




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Ulrich Zwingli: How his Works influenced the Church Today

Ulrich Zwingli: How his Works influenced the Church Today

Ulrich Zwingli: Printed by Hans Asper


Ulrich Zwingli was a highly regarded Swiss Protestant leader during the era of the church reformation and he actually played a significant role in the breaking up of the Roman Catholic Church thus setting up the protestant wing. He is in fact ranked in the third place after Martin Luther and John Calvin with regard to the protestant reformers. Initially Zwingli was a Roman Catholic cleric in the state of Zurich, Swiss city and his main oppositions was against the selling of indulgences, as well as the manner in which the Catholic Church was pardoning those souls in the purgatory. Therefore for being a protestant reformer he shaped views in relic worship as well as the Lord’s Supper in the sixteenth century. His work later then impacted the church today (Nichols 2007).

Zwingli was apparent born at Wildhaus Switzerland on January 1, 1484 to parents Margret and Ulrich Zwingli. For once his family background influenced him to pursue theology matters as for instance his father was an influential principal magistrate in his home village, while his brother named Bartholomew was also the community priest. Moreover, his brother named Johannes was an abbot in the Benedictine abbey found in Fischingen whereas his probable uncle, Bunzli was also an abbot in the Old St. John’s church near Wildhaus (Hambrick & Charles 1984).

He received his early on schooling at Wesen under the supervision of this uncle, who by then was learning at Basle as well as coaching in the institution of St. Theodore, which Zwingli hereafter attended. For higher education he attended the universities of Berne, Vienna, and Basel. These institutions where actually known as amongst some of the outmost humanists of Switerzerland. Zwingli was exceedingly knowledgeable in the conventional studies of ancient classics, physics, astronomy, music, and poetry, acquiring his degree in the year 1504 also Master of Arts at the University of Basel in 1506. It was, astoundingly, along with his total emersion in the philosophies of humanism at institution, that he met humanities who would eventually sow extensive seeds of activism and reformation in his mentality (Green 1976).

Through the influence of Thomas Wyttenbach, he was encouraged to undertake serious theology,   and this saw him back to studies and thereafter receiving the degree of Master of Theology. Soon after he got that he was selected to be a priest of Glarus. Therefore Zwingli had lived a normal life, and what really influenced much of his life in the church were the humanistic features he came across in the several institutions he attended (Potter 1975).

After being ordained into priesthood in 1506 at the town of Glarus, and thereafter started studying Erasmus writings and these literatures are somehow credited to have activated the reformations instincts in Zwingli. Subsequent to relocating to Einsiedeln, he came close to the evilest intrinsic practices rooted in the Roman Catholic for instance like buying of indulgences. He then strongly started condemning and preaching against them, and he also powerfully opposed the church’s mercenary service, which was a practice that appeared particularly to make the church wealthy while murdering Swiss youngsters as well as leading others to an existence of moral crumble in the expression of constant conflict.

It was after being called on to the cathedral at Zurich to preach that’s when he started to deeply explain the bible and how people ought to stick to the exact teachings of the holy book rather than queer explanations. That’s when his humanism emerged where he didn’t stick to the doctrinal innovation of his fellow clergy and he also went further to speak out against an indulgence preacher. The alteration of Zwingli the politician and Humanist into an educator of the new devotion was greatly facilitated by the political and ecclesiastical conditions of the public authorities and people at Zurich city as well as Switzerland in general (Green 1976).

The general public displayed immense religious enthusiasm externally however it was not enough to counteract the molder of morals, and this resulted mainly from the church’s mercenary army system. The clerical to a great level neglected their responsibilities; where a lot of them lived in states of concubinage, and attached in the shameless chase of spiritual pretends, hence damaging their reputation. While in Zurich, Zwingli became outspoken concerning the deeds of the Pope who was much into politics and this made him denounce the mercenary system and also made him publicly relinquish his papal retirement fund. One significant achievement into his revolts was the refusal of Zurich canton into entering any alliances with France (Ulrich Zwingli (n.d.)).

Even though the seeds of transformation had by then been planted, Zwingli was not fully in the Lords side but a 1520 plague completely reformed to total obedience of the truthful teachings of scripture. Throughout Switzerland tremendous reforms were brought about by the petition to the magistrate of the metropolis who called for a ponder between Roman Catholic reformers and theologians. He who protected his position mainly effectively and roughly always it happened that the reformers who generally based their opinion solely on the scripture or rather the bible, was awarded the freedom to make, or on the other hand not make, the doubtful reform. Zwingli was really thorough in his arguments as he based them on humanism thus this saw him win his first of numerous successful debates he undertook. Several of the reforms instigated by his debates included the abandonment of Lent, replacement of the mass, declaration of clerical celibacy to be umbilical; moreover the churches were disengaged from the papacy which brought out the protestant factions (Hambrick & Charles 1984).

Owing to his achievement as a politician, Zwingli attained much reputation as well as importance elevated to higher heights. He came out as a strong sponsor of numerous religious innovations, and his initial reformatory work called “Vom Erkiesen und Fryheit der Spysen”, came into the limelight booksellers Froschauer together with his acquaintances openly defied the religious law touching fasting, and a debate relating to fasts broke out. Zwingli affirmed the fasting provisions which he termed them as mere human orders which were not in accord with the Holy Writ; and the scriptures found in the Bible were the sole supply of faith, as he emphasized in his second literature work, “Archeteles”. During the designation the Bishop of Constance that is when he pressured the town to conform to the full scripture’s teachings (Potter 1975).

Relic worship

A relic is described by the Catholic Church as Something connected with or belonging to Our Lord or even the Saints, which include either a piece of clothing they wore or a part of their bodies. This practice by the church has been active since time immemorial and it is even adept that everywhere a chapel is opened, or a sanctuary consecrated, it usually cannot be comprehensively complete exclusive of some artifact or additional of she-saint or he-saint to give holiness to it. The relic of the saints together with the cross and decayed bones of the church martyrs form a great element of the possessions of the Church. The grossest pretenses have been practiced in view to such relics; and most driveling stories have been narrated of their wonderfully working powers, along with that too by clergies of high name in the account of Christendom.

Zwingli was more outspoken on the issue of the Catholic Church practicing relic worship where he termed it as worshiping idols and items which were against the teachings of the bible. Which followed was a religious disputation basically fighting against the practical institution of the state Catholic Church, the excessive adoration of the saints, the use of images which hug throughout the worship halls, the kneeling before Jesus or Mary’s portraits, as well as placement of saints’ bones in alters. No notable delegate of the prehistoric Faith was in attendance but nevertheless Zwingli urged the acceptance of his church doctrines so fruitfully which made even his friends warn him against fighting for the removal of the ancient beliefs and customs as well as their usage in church proceedings. Actually the reforms came into effect Zurich in 1525 (Nichols 2007).

It was about the Easter festive in 1524 when pilgrimages and indulgences were abolished, and in addition Extreme Unction and the sacraments of Penance were rejected, as well as organs, alters, relics, statues, and pictures destroyed, in spite of of their artistic significance. Also sacred vessels of enormous worth, such as monstrances and chalices were all melted into currency. The Catholic Church possessions were apprehended by the State, which mostly gained the majority by the repression of the church monasteries; for instance the Fraumünster Abbey, which was founded in 853, was willingly surrendered to the worldly authorities by the very last abbess (Ulrich Zwingli (n.d.)).

The church culture of Celibacy was eventually rejected as opposing to Holy Writ, which saw nuns and monks getting married. Since the early year of 1522 Zwingli together with ten additional ecclesiastics gathered at Einsiedeln and tackled a lobby to the Bishop of Constance with regard to allowing priests the freedom to enjoy the marriage rite. They made declarations on the sceneries which prevailed pertaining the shameful and disgraceful life which the clergy till the moment led with the opposite humanity, thus giving dreadful scandal to everybody. Through the petitions celibacy was dropped and this opened the gates for numerous priests throughout Zurich to enter the marriage sacrament. What followed was a fresh marriage law which regulated all the innovations and also the Mass ritual of the Catholic Church fell under scrutiny and was abolished thus introducing the memorial church service of the Last Supper in its place.


Zwingli’s views and their impact however did not achieve much force like Luther’s and Calvin’s due to the geographic locality of Zurich city. Nevertheless majority of his views saw their way to the university levels and due to their influence they received some publications for instance the generally recognized sixty-seven articles. He is renowned as a reformer who influenced the establishment of Protestantism to the nation of Switzerland. He largely changed the religious orientation with regard to the Swiss society, thus actually without him the country would at present still been subjugated by the Catholic doctrine, hence religious pluralism grew in Switzerland. His theocracy and views paved the way for a refinement of the rectification in Switzerland which opened for numerous to form the Church of United Methodist. Overall his impact to the Christian religion through the reformation brought out theological thinking throughout the country cantons and his works and views on the papal, relic worship, lord supper, and baptism paved way for contemporary churches all over the world (Potter 1975).



Green, Lowell C. (1976)“What Was The True Issue At Marburg In 1529.”Springfielder 40.2 102-106. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.Web. 16 Nov. 2012

Gordon, Bruce.(2002) The Swiss Reformation. Manchester, UK; New York: Manchester UP, Print

Hambrick-Stowe, Charles E. (1984)”Ulrich Zwingli : The Life and Works of One Man” Christian Century 101.11 335-339. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.Web.  16 Nov. 2012.

Nichols, Stephen J. (2007) The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, Print

Potter, G R. (1975) “Zwinglian Synods InEastern Switzerland, 1529-1531.”Journal Of Ecclesiastical History 26.3 261-266. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.Web. 16 Nov. 2012

“Ulrich Zwingli: Prophet of the Modern World. (n.d.)” Ulrich Zwingli: Prophet of the Modern World.  Web. 16 nov. 2012.

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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Essay & Research Writing


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