I go to confession, and I don't get penance of the type that is described in your excerpt.<quoted text>
You could be right.
But the fact is, if the people were terrified of the clergy's power to inflict pain no matter what the person said in the private confession ... that ought to be a signal to you that those men in control of the brutal system enjoyed inflicting pain on innocent people ... in public no less ... to give the subtle message "Follow what we tell you is righteous, or this will happen to you."
Those men in power that used religion as weapons were not living in any sense of love whatsoever. They were only preaching the message of love as they brutalized those who belonged to other cults AND to their own cult.
Times change, June.