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in law, the formal admission of criminal guilt, usually obtained in the course of examination by the police or prosecutor or at trial. For a confession to be admissible as evidenceevidence,
in law, material submitted to a judge or a judicial body to resolve disputed questions of fact. The rules discussed in this article were developed in England for use in jury trials.
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 against an accused individual, it generally must have been procured voluntarily after the person was informed of his or her right to remain silent and right to consult an attorney (see Miranda v. ArizonaMiranda v. Arizona,
U.S. Supreme Court case (1966) in the area of due process of law (see Fourteenth Amendment). The decision reversed an Arizona court's conviction of Ernesto Miranda on kidnapping and rape charges.
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). If a confession is obtained through torture, threats, prolonged interrogation, or false promises of immunity from prosecution, it is inadmissible, but law enforcement officials may and do use psychological pressure, which can lead to false confessions. A signed confession is presumed to be voluntary, and the accused must introduce proof that it was extorted in order to prevent its introduction at the trial. In 1981 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that murder defendants should be informed of their right to remain silent during interviews with psychologists, who might later testify for the prosecution that the client was "dangerous" and thus deserving of a stiff penalty. A 1986 ruling stated that a criminal defendant entering a plea of "not guilty" had the right to describe to the court how his confession was obtained by police. The ideal of a voluntary confession was upset recently, however, in the case of Arizona v. Fulminante (1991). There, the Supreme Court ruled that coerced confessions do not invariably nullify a conviction, but can be regarded merely as "harmless errors"—at least where additional incriminating evidence is available. Usually, a person who does not plead guilty cannot be convicted solely on the basis of his confession.


See P. Brooks, Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature (2000).

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Confessional inside the Cathedral of St. Pol-de-Leon, Brittany, France. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

A Christian "confession" carries with it the meaning of agreeing to a particular statement of faith. For example, the minister sometimes invites a congregation to read the Apostles' Creed (see Gnosticism) by saying, "Let us together make our confession of faith." But perhaps the most familiar meaning of the word refers to the Catholic tradition of confessing ad auriculam, "into the ear of" a priest. The practice began in the medieval church. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 declared confession had to be at least an annual event if the confessor wanted to receive the host during Eucharist. In the sixteenth century, in order to provide privacy and a more substantial ritual, confessional stalls began to be used. It has always been the law of the land that anything said to a priest was absolutely confidential. The priest took a holy vow that he was bound not to reveal anything told him in the confessional. But recently, as a result of child-abuse scandals in the Catholic church, state legislatures are beginning to question the practice of excusing priests and ministers from lists of people, such as doctors and social workers, who are required to report instances of child abuse. In May 2002 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for example, eliminated from the list of exceptions ministers of denominations who did not use confessionals by tradition.

Terrorist threats raised more questions. If a terrorist, seeking to save his soul after committing murder, confesses to a priest bound by the power of the confessional, is the priest obligated to remain silent?

It remains to be seen how long the Church will be able to hold out from social pressure requiring, for the public good, at least some confidentiality to be discarded.

confession, confessio

1.The tomb of a martyr or confessor; if an altar was erected over the grave, the name was also extended to the altar and to the subterranean chamber in which it stood; in later times a basilica was sometimes erected over the chamber and the entire building was known as a confession.
2. The space immediately below, or in front of, the primary altar of a church.


1. Christianity Chiefly RC Church the act of a penitent accusing himself of his sins
2. confession of faith a formal public avowal of religious beliefs
3. a religious denomination or sect united by a common system of beliefs
References in periodicals archive ?
Hellwig assesses the resultant sacrament of penance to be a merger of some of the better qualities of both the earlier traditions, canonical and monastic.
The practical loss of the sacrament of penance leaves the Church without the kind of ritual through which Catholics can come to understand sin and learn how to respond to the presence of evil in the world and within their own faith-community.
Organiser Bishop Gianfranco Girotti said the sacrament of penance had been "in a serious state of difficulty" for years.
Although the sacrament of penance was not formally codified until the Lateran Council in 1215, a significant seminal figure in the debate over its earliest formulation was the Christian apologist, Tertullian, who--as a convert from Catholicism to the Puritanical sect of Montanism--served as a doctrinal source for both Catholic and Puritan understandings of sin and its proper treatment.
Thayer provides an exceptionally clear summary of the sacrament of penance in the late Middle Ages.
It is for this reason," he continued, "that those Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.
He released a pastoral letter stating, "Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for [abortion, stem-cell research or for any form of euthanasia] may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.
Nonetheless, I think that Thayer's attempt in the concluding contribution to correlate how the sacrament of Penance was preached in the late Middle Ages with where the Reformation took hold and where it did not deserves special mention.
Meanwhile, the confessional in all churches will be available for longer hours during Lent to give churchgoers more opportunity to avail of the Sacrament of Penance.
Through the Sacrament of Penance Jesus offers us pardon and peace.
Like Morrill, I find the presupposed ecclesiology of "Reconciliation and Penance" inadequate to the pastoral situation of a community in which the sacrament of penance has ceased to function.
In July 2009, the state of Louisiana settled with the ACLU of Louisiana in a federal court case brought on behalf of a Catholic death row inmate who claimed he couldn't receive the sacrament of penance or listen to a televised Catholic Mass because of mostly Baptist services broadcast from a tier of televisions shared by inmates.