Do Catholics believe God cannot forgive sins directly?

I have read a bit of what the Catholic church teaches with regards to confession and the priestly authority, first given by Jesus himself, to forgive or retain sins, and I still have an uneasy feeling about the whole thing.

The tipping point came when I read on the Catholics Come Home website one of the listed reasons why people don’t go to confession - the mistaken belief they can confess their sins directly to God and be forgiven for them that way, without going through confession to a priest. Which leads me to the title question: is it Catholic teaching that God cannot forgive someone’s sins directly, without confessing them to a priest?


Certainly, God can forgive anyone, anywhere and at any time. That’s not the problem. The problem comes from the fact that He deliberately instituted the sacrament of Penance because He wanted to give us the assurance of His forgiveness that only the sacrament can give. Otherwise, we are left on our own without any objective input from anybody as to whether our repentance was adequate.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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