Difference between Private Confession and Confession to a Priest



Is there a difference between me confessing to a priest and me confessing my sins privately to God during prayer?


His Grace, due to the Sacrament, for one thing. Not needing to have perfect contrition (which I wonder if we can ever truly know that we have), but knowing for sure that we are absolved of a sin, for another.



What is a “Sacrament” and " Perfect Contrition?" Also, I thought God absolved all sins.


Yes. For one thing, you do not receive absolution when you confess straight to God. Absolution comes through the ministry of the priest. God can certainly forgive you however and wherever He pleases, but forgiveness is not absolution.

There is much grace that comes through the sacrament of reconciliation that can help you avoid sin in the future.

Sometimes you may receive advice or direction from the priest that will be helpful. You don’t get that when you confess privately.

There is something very humbling about admitting our sins out loud without excuses to another human being. We are called to humble ourselves before God, coming to Him in humility and surrender.

It can be very healing to hear the words of absolution; something you don’t get when you confess privately.


The Church is the Sacrament of salvation, and its members must live a sacramental life. Confession is sacramental reconcilation. Just as no one goes to the Father except through the Son, so too no one goes to the Father except through the one whom the Incarnate Son has apointed to the priesthood to work in His Person. Only God can forgives sin, so only one who works in the Person of Jesus Christ, the same Person in whom God and man are forever married, can absolve sins. But God is not bound by His sacraments; He is Infinite and Almighty, the sacraments are only the ordinary ways He uses to gives souls Grace and Mercy. Extraordinarily, He forgives sins of those who are outside the Catholic Church, and this extraordinary activity is not an exception nor a special privlege but is simply, together with the ordinary, His way of dealing with sinners. For He died for all and makes no difference between the soul of the Christian and the soul of the non-Christian; all are sinners before Him, all are in need of His Infinite and All-Powerful Mercy. But it is better to be within the Church, and so receive the sacraments, than it is to be outside the Church and not receive the sacraments, for, one cannot presume God’s Mercy and the sacraments, while ordinary, help us extraordinary in the spiritual life and within sacramental reconcoliation attrition is only necessary to receive full forgiveness of sins, while outside the sacrament perfect contrition is necessary to receive full forgiveness of sins. And perfect contrition, while obtainable, is not easy for the soul. This is why Jesus gives us the Church, to make the way to Heaven all that much easier for us.


You’re Orthodox - do you not have the Mystery of Penance offered by your priests?


The Orthodox Churches have Apostolic Succession. They have all the sacraments and they are both valid and licit.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:


I know they do, it was a rhetorical question. Most odd, then, to not know the difference. :shrug:


" I know they do, it was a rhetorical question. Most odd, then, to not know the difference."

New to the Christian Faith. Learning things as I go along. Thanks for everybody’s help. :slight_smile:


I’m not up on all the the theological subtleties that may exist in the Orthodox churches, but Catholic teaching is that in the the sacrament, the priest is there but he is acting “in persone Christi”, in the person of Christ.

So, it is Jesus Himself you are confessing to, and Jesus Himself that gives you the advice and penance, and Jesus Himself that you hear absolving your sins! Where else can you talk to Him one on one like that and be sure that you have?

If that’s not reason enough to go to the Sacrament and take it seriously I don’t know what is :smiley:


According to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

#146 - Christ communicates his Spirit and the grace of God through the sacraments to all the members of the Church, who thus bear the fruits of the new life of the Spirit. …

Also, when speaking of interior penance [contrition]:

#300 - It is the movement of a “contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) drawn by divine grace to respond to the merciful love of God. This entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, a firm purpose not to sin again in the future and trust in the help of God. It is nourished by hope in divine mercy.

And, perfect vs. imperfect contrition:

#303 - … contrition (or repentance), which is perfect when it is motivated by love of God and imperfect if it rests on other motives …


Hi, yes there is… the reason we confess to a priest, is because Christ gave the Apostles power to forgive sin and they passed this on to their successors. (it’s in the Bible)

when we sin, we not only offend God but also the Church. So that’s why we go to a priest (he speaks on behalf of the Church) and not God alone.

But when we’re at Confession, even though we can only see the priest, we’re actually speaking to God :slight_smile: He is hidden there in the Sacrament. He absolves us by the hand of His representative, the priest.

The only way to have your mortal sins forgiven without a priest is if you have perfect contrition, meaning that you’re completely sorry for having hurt God with your sins, and not just sorry for having done the wrong thing. This is VERY rare and is a special grace from God… I think it’s much safer and more effective to go to a priest; it’s the way that Christ gave us and it’s a great gift :slight_smile:

God bless.


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