As someone who grew up Catholic, it has never bothered me to confess my sins to a priest. Every time I go to confession, it may be intimidating at first, but by the end I feel relieved, relaxed, and at peace. To me, the sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful gift from God.
To someone who was not raised Catholic, however, confessing your sins to a priest is a challenging concept to accept. Since forgiveness comes from God, many Protestants argue, then why don’t Catholics just speak directly to God? Why use the priest as a middleman to receive God’s forgiveness?
Yes, it’s true that only God can forgive sins and absolve sinners. But Christ chose to share this ministry with the apostles, and through them, to all future bishops and priests. The Catechism tells us:
“[Christ] entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the Apostolic ministry which he charged with the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’ The apostle is sent out on behalf of Christ, with ‘God making his appeal’ through him and pleading: ‘Be reconciled to God.’” (CCC 1442).
The quotes in this passage refer to St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20. We see that forgiveness is part of the apostolic and priestly ministries because Christ designed his Church that way.
In John 20:21-23 we read: [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. ”And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Here Christ gives the Apostles authority to forgive the sins of others or to retain their sins in His name. God also breathes on them; only in one other verse in the entire Bible does God breathe on man, this is in Genesis at creation.
The question then becomes, why would Christ want us to confess to a priest? This is easy to answer. Jesus knew human nature, and our desire to hide from our sins instead of bringing them into the light. Confessing to another person forces us to face our sins and feel true remorse. The Catechism confirms this reasoning:
“The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church to make a new future possible. Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance.” (CCC 1455-1456).
So why do Catholics confess to a priest? Because it is God’s plan for people to face their sins, acknowledge the wrong they have done, and seek forgiveness from a priest, who represents God and has authority from Christ.
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Lizann is a Catholic military wife and mother who loves to share about her faith. Read more from Lizann and our other contributors on the Christian Catholic Shop blog.