[quote=1Stephen1]So what gives authority to Priests to hand out Penance? If that’s still done, anyway. And in what way does that help the individual confessing?
There are two types of consequences from sin. Spiritual and temporal. The absolution granted by the priest addresses the spiritual aspect of the sin. However, when we sin, it does not merely affect ourselves. It also affects others. Anyone else who witnessed the sin and how it influenced them (did the fact that I sinned lead another to sin). The Church. (I am a representative of the Church and my sin causes others to look badly on the Church. Did my sin possibly drive them away from the faith?) Christ Himself. (As a follower of Christ, I represent Him before others. If I sin, those who witness it will say, “This is how followers of Christ act.” Therefore, it is only fitting that we be given a Penance to go some way toward repairing the damage we have done.
For example, if I am told to recite a Rosary for Penance, I do not perform this Penance in private. I will take out my Rosary and go for a walk so that those who see me will say, there goes a man of faith who is willing to pray publically. If these same people witnessed my sin, it is hoped that they will say, “he is praying because he has sinned.”
Additionally, just as it is true that the more one sins, the easier it becomes to sin, the more good acts one does the easier it becomes to continue to do good and, thereby, avoid sin. By having a temporal consequence, one that goes beyond stepping into a confessional and confessing one’s sin in private, you also put up what is hoped to be stumbling blocks to sin.
Lastly, our willingness to accept the assigned Penance demonstrates how true our repentance for the confessed sin is. Confession by itself is not good enough. As the Council of Trent taught, the absolution given in the Sacrament is only valid if one has repented.
All Sacraments require form, matter and intent to be valid. In the case of Confession, the form is the verbal confession of sins by the sinner and the words of absolution by the priest. The intent is to receive and grant God’s forgiveness in the method He established for us. The matter is a repentant sinner and an ordained priest.
I hope that this explanation helps.