A Perpetrator and His Hagiographer
Oswald Pohl's Confession
A normative model of Christian confessional writings assumes a repentant sinner who is willing to confess his sins (confessio peccati) and reaffirm the Christian faith by praising God (confessio fidei et laudis). It is an act of giving testimony both to a self once chained to sin and to the renewing, universal power of God.
“Man, a little piece of your creation,” Augustine writes in the opening paragraph of the Confessions, “desires to praise you [God], a human being 'bearing his mortality with him,' carrying with him the witness [testimonium] of his sin and the witness [testimonium] that you 'resist the proud'” (1.1.1). Faced with his own mortality, man gives testimony to his past transgressions, to his vainglory, and to a power greater than himself. Garry Wills argues for a close link between confession and testimony, stating that the Latin confiteri means “to corroborate, to confirm testimony.”1 Augustine bears public witness to his sins precisely because he can testify to God. With a perspective external to himself, the sinner is offered the possibility of stepping outside his own sinful self and of recognizing—at the risk of public shaming and ridicule—the need to undergo a spiritual and moral transformation. A confessing sinner moves from the old Adam to the new Adam,