Hey, I could use some help in defending the ability for a priest to forgive sins. I was having a debate with a Protestant and we were talking about the verse in John where Jesus says to the apostles “Whatever sins you forgive are forgiven, and whatever sins you retain are retained…” Her argument was that Jesus didn’t give man any ability to discern the heart of men, so how could they forgive sins if man wasn’t pure in his motives? Her point was that anyone could walk into a confession booth and have a priest absolve their sins but the confessor’s motives might not be pure yet they would get absolution and forgiveness anyway. I know this isn’t the truth, and you need a heart of contrition and reconciliation but when I tried to explain that, she just used the verse over again and said “It doesn’t say anything about having the proper heart, it just gives the apostles the ability to forgive sins… period. If they have the ability to forgive, then they can forgive without properly discerning the motives of a human being asking for forgiveness”.
Honestly, I was a little bit at a loss as how to properly respond. If I argued that contrition and pure motives are required for the person asking forgiveness, then she argued that Jesus never said that was necessary and simply gave the power to forgive sins to man. If I argued that they can forgive sins anyway, then she used it as an example of how the Catholic Church will let anyone into a confession booth and gain absolution, but their motives aren’t pure, and they just live to go sin again knowing that they can confess it away at the next confession.
Also, this person tried to explain away the John verse where Jesus gives the power of forgiveness to the apostles. Something about the greek for forgiveness implied sins that had already been forgiven, so Jesus couldn’t have meant what he said.
Can anyone help me with all of this? I know the Catholic position is correct but I don’t know how to best argue it. I also need some greek analysis on that particular verse in John so I can better defend what Jesus seems to be obviously saying to the apostles. Thanks.