d) Forgiveness through Confession before Priests:
During the early stages of Christianity, the Pope in Rome claimed that Jesus had granted him the power to forgive sins if the sinful person confessed them before him, except for the original sin which could only be forgiven by believing in crucifixion, resurrection and baptism. The Pope also claimed that he was the successor of Peter who set up the Roman Church according to Jesus' instructions and directives and whom Jesus entrusted and authorized to pass judgment on all religious matters, including what was believed to be licit or illicit. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus addressed Peter, saying, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the Keys of the Kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
When the Pope appointed himself as the head of the Roman church, he claimed that he was sinless and infallible. He then gained a reputation among all Christians that he was acting on behalf of Jesus, granting blessings or curses. Not only this, but he gave himself full authority to forgive all sins if they
were confessed in his presence. He said he was acting in accordance with a statement in John's Gospel, saying, "Whose so ever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose so ever sins ye retain, they are retained."
Furthermore, clerical synods, especially the one held in Rome in 1215 Gregorian, acknowledged the Pope's authorities concerning forgiveness of sins, and depriving those who opposed him from entering Paradise.
The members of the synod believed that if a person had the authority to forgive, he would have the authority to deny forgiveness. Subsequently many Popes used the right to deny forgiveness against those kings and nobles who competed politically with them to impose their authority on people.
When people lined up before the Pope's door asking for forgiveness, his assistants imposed fees on those who wanted to confess their sins in the Pope's presence. Things degenerated even further when forgiveness was conditioned on paying a certain amount of money. When the need for money increased during the Crusades, the Pope and his assistants began to sell indulgences.
And whenever the need for money arose to build churches, monasteries or schools, the Pope gave his orders to get indulgences printed and distributed. He assured the purchasers that their eternal abode would be Paradise.
In this way, tremendous fortunes (including money, jewelry, pieces of land and arms) were heaped on the Pope and his assistants. When the idea of selling indulgences reached remote parts of Christian's world, people found it difficult to travel to Rome to confess their sins before the Pope. The Pope seized the opportunity and authorized the local cardinals and bishops to act on behalf of him. This tradition is still applied nowadays.
The local cardinals and bishops took advantage of the authority given to them by the Pope and started blackmailing ordinary people. They bought themselves palaces, estates and pieces of land. As a result, two classes of people emerged in the Middle Ages: the upper class which consisted of feudal lords (nobles and clergymen), and the lower class which consisted of hirelings, workmen and serfs.