They were unanimous in rejecting the episcopacy of the Church of Rome, the sanctity of celibacy, the sacerdotal character of the ministry, the confessional, the propitiatory nature of the mass.
In spite of this very limited reception the Formula Concordiae has always been reckoned with the five other documents as of confessional authority.
The penitentiary system, according to which the priest enforced a code of moral law in the confessional by the sanction of penance - penance which must be performed as a condition of admission to the sacrament of the Eucharist - had been from early times a great instrument in the civilization of the raw Germanic races.
These were huge digests of all that popes, councils, primitive fathers had decided on every kind of question pertaining to the confessional - what exactly is a sin, what kind of questions the priests must ask, under what conditions he could give absolution.
It secured uniformity in the confessional, and thereby protected the penitent from the caprices of individual priests; and by depriving these of responsibility, it forced the penitent back on himself.
The immediate results of disestablishment were civil marriage, the civil registry of births and deaths, and the secularization of cemeteries; but the church retains its influence over all loyal churchmen through the confessional, the last rites of the church, and their sentiment against the profanation of holy ground.
This programme was based upon the idea of a liberal reconstruction: he aimed at the reduction and simplification of the State schools combined with a more rigorous method of teaching, and at affording all facilities to, and indeed inviting the competition of, private instruction, fearless of the confessional school, which in his view would be compelled to modernize itself in order to maintain competition with the State school.
Schmalkalden, drawn up by Luther in 1536, Luther's catechisms, and the Formula of Concord which was an attempt to settle doctrinal divisions promulgated in 1580, sum up what is called " the confessional theology of Lutheranism."
Thus the Liguorian system surpassed all its predecessors in securing uniformity in the confessional on a basis of established usage, two advantages amply sufficient to ensure its speedy general adoption within the Church of Rome.
The Polish Protestants hoped that he would take this course and thus bring about a breach with Rome at the very crisis of the confessional struggle in Poland, while the Habsburgs, who coveted the Polish throne, raised every obstacle to the childless king's remarriage.
His spirit was comprehensive; in confessional matters he was for a union of all Protestants; though a Zwinglian, his readiness to compromise with the advocates of consubstantiation gave him trouble with the Zwinglian stalwarts.
The most important medieval exposition of the Decalogue is that of Nicolaus de Lyra; and the 15th century, in which the Decalogue acquired special importance in the confessional, was prolific in treatises on the subject (Antoninus of Florence, Gerson, &c.).
In the 11th century the indulgence consisted in a remission of part of the penance imposed in the confessional, in return for the discharge of some obligation voluntarily assumed by the penitent.
It is true to say that in the " cure of souls " the confessional plays a larger part in the Church than the pulpit (see Confession and Absolution).
The more fiercely he denounced infallibility, the confessional, the sacramental system, the larger these things bulked in the eyes of Rome.
Half Europe was full of waverers between Protestantism and Catholicism tolerably certain to decide for the Church that offered them the cheapest terms of salvation; and even in wholly Catholic countries many, especially of the upper class, might easily be scared away from the confessional by severity.
What would become of the confessional if penitents were allowed to act on what they fondly took to be a heaven-sent inspiration?
Once more, as in 1580, Portugal was governed by ecclesiastics in the name of an absolute monarch; once more, as in 1580, the chief strength of the ecclesiastical party was the Society of Jesus, which still controlled the conscience and mind of the nation and of its nominal rulers, through the confessional and the schools.
In this connexion it is worth pointing out that Garnet had not thought it his duty to disclose the treasonable intrigue with the king of Spain in 1602, though there was no pretence in this case that he was restricted by the seal of confession, and his inactivity now tells greatly in his disfavour; for, allowing even that he was bound by confessional secrecy from taking action on Greenway's information, he had still Catesby's earlier revelations to act upon.