What is the best way to explain why Catholics confess to a priest apart from the catechism and scripture? A family member is having trouble with this as we convert to Catholicism.


The priests are ministers and representatives of Christ on earth; therefore, we are really confessing our sins directly to Christ, only through the priest. Likewise, we receive absolution from Christ Himself, only through the priest.

The Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace. On the outside, we are seemingly confessing to the priest. On the inside, we are really confessing directly to Christ and receiving abundant graces from Him.

Hope this helps! May God bless you and your family member! :slight_smile:


Every sacrament has both form and matter. The form is the words of confession and absolution. The matter is the priest and the penitent. Without any of them, there is no sacrament. Just like the Eucharist - it requires the words of consecration by an ordained priest, and wheat bread and grape wine. Anything or anyone else constitutes an invalid sacrament.


Confession was made for us because God knows that we need the human/personal contact, which we receive through His priests.


Very well said. I kept trying to explain it with your meaning but my words were not as well chosen. Thanks very much.


Can those who are only baptized Catholic go to confession or do you have to be confirmed?


I would suggest a book…Scott Hahn’s Lord Have Mercy-the power of confession

My own take:

Share this passage below with them and ask the question:

Question: Why did God, who spoke directly to Eliphaz, not just forgive him directly? And why did God order him to go through Job?

What was God’s point here, or what was God trying to impart?

Job 42:

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

My take:

There are essentials towards true repentance and contrition.

There is the recognition of one’s sin and a desire to repent and reconcile with Christ, for sin separates us from Him. So, the first step is humility…the humility to admit our sins and our guilt.

Then we must be willing to also forgive those who sinned against us, those who “trespass against us”. Just as God, in his mercy, can forgive, we must also be willling to do the same.

And I think lastly, if we must be willing to confess our sins, the way Jesus wanted it, to a priest. Why?

Because it is the way He wanted it because He wanted a true confession and true contrition on our part by not making it easy. One thing non-Catholics do not recognize is that going to confession is not easy.

One of the most difficult thing for us humans to do is to admit to a guilt, to a sin. We tend to rationalize, which is what usually happens. When one confesses to God directly, which we can certainly do, don’t you find it easy? And you tend to go back and do the transgression again.

In Job 42, this was God’s point…He did not want it easy for eliphaz and his friends.

But with the sacrament, there is no rationalization. When one goes to the confessional, there is an admission of guilt, we accuse ourselves that we have sinned. Then we now have to find the courage to go to confession, and orally account to the priest, who represents Christ, our sins. There is no ifs and buts, but a straight accounting of our transgressions and our admittance of guilt. Then when the priest says the absolution, there is relief in knowing that our sins have been forgiven.

Actually, there is an example of someone where God asked him and her to directly confess their sin but the result was disastrous.

Here it is, from Genesis 3:

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

From verse 11, God knew Adam had sinned, so here he asks the question and is actually asking Adam to confess what he had done. And verse 12 is Adam’s response…and his response actually makes the sin worse, he blames another, Eve, for him being disobedient. So instead of owning to his sin, or admitting the sin (confessing) which God was looking for, he blames another. So the result is disastrous.

Same with the Eve…when God asks Eve in v13, God knows Eve has sinned, God is asking Eve to own up to her disobedience. And you can see Eve’s response…she blames the serpent. So, another disastrous response.

From the examples cited above, you can see the when you go directly to God, there is a lot of rationalization, of second guessing, whether we sinned or not.

Another one: 2Sam 12 (please read the whole chapter, will only cite this verse):

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a] the LORD, the son born to you will die.”

Question: Why did God send Nathan to David to confront him for his sin? Why was Nathan needed? Why did God not just forgive David directly?

Here, King David admits his sin to Nathan, the prophet, and Nathan pronounces the absolution. This seems like a forerunner of the sacrament of confession, doesn’t it?


You do not have to be confirmed. You can ask your pastor for information on how to prepare for a first confession, and then confess when he believes you are ready.


Yes, only baptism is required. One should be properly instructed first, though.


Is there anything official that says this? I ask because I am validly baptized but have been told I can’t go to confession until confirmation, that I have to confess before confirmation but I can’t decide for myself when I’m ready, I will be informed when it’s time (close to Easter is all I can figure)


See this thread:


Every child who is brought up Catholic goes to confession before first communion… which is a long time (in the Roman Rite anyway) before confirmation. However, they do get instruction on a proper confession, and likewise, you would need that as well, if you have not already done so.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit