Do you have to go to confession?


Hi all. I am learning about the faith, going through RCIA and seeing if the church is for me. I have a question. Do you HAVE to go to confession? Why can’t you just pray alone and confess you sins to God? Why do you have to go through a priest? I asked this question at RCIA and they say it’s a personal choice and you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. But folks on this forum seem to really push confession so I was wondering what ya’lls thoughts where. Thanks for help with this.


We go to confession because not to go takes all the fun out of it!

And because Jesus provided this BEAUTIFUL Sacrament for our rescue. Please ask your RCIA person for an official Church document indicating that confession is a “personal choice” when one has grave sin on his conscience. You might even bring to their attention the following paragraph from the Catechism:

1484 "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession."95 There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: "My son, your sins are forgiven."96 He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them.97 He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.


Jesus told Peter that Peter has the power to loose and bind on Earth, and what he looses and binds on Earth shall be loosed or bound in Heaven.

Your RCIA class is wrong, in that you must go to confession at least once a year, in the Lenten/Easter time. It’s a precept of the Church.

I go because I know my sins will be forgiven by the priest, and that because I am a sinner I need forgiveness. Jesus gave His Apostles the power to forgive sins. I’m just listening to Him. :wink:


I’m really not trying to start anything but this still doesn’t tell me that you have to go to confession. “Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church” doesn’t tell me that you have to go to a priest, it tells me that you can confess by yourself. “Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.” This tells me the same thing.


From what i remember, the priest doesn’t forgive your sins, but he does forgive your sins through Jesus. So again, this doesn’t tell me that you have to go to confession. Does someone have direct proof of the need to physically go to confession? Either the church law or the Bible.


Right, I meant that Christ forgives sins through the Priest.

The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.[83]

Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest’s absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a “sacrament” not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul.
New Advent is the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917.
(both above and below)

Finally, the confession*** is made not in the secrecy of the penitent’s heart ***nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the “power of the keys”, i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church. [emphasis added]

Does that clear things up? (If I sound blunt/mean, I’m not trying to do so. Apologies).


What are you afraid of? Go. The graces you get give you the power of God. And, you can know you are in a state of supernatural grace. No question about it. God makes us go because it requires humility. Not to go is prideful, and is disobedient to what God has determined you must do to be in HIs good graces.

Don’t knock it until you try it.


The discussion in the paragraph from the catechism is under the heading of the sacrament. “individual” means I go alone, not in a group. “Integral” means I confess ALL of my grave sins. “Absolution” means the priest pronounces absolution. So you have to take the paragraph in its context: discussion of the Sacrament of Confession.

Why would anybody NOT want to go to confession? This is the second best thing about being Catholic!


Yes, you must. Jesus instituted the sacrament of confession and gave the apostles the power to forgive sins through Him (John 20:21-23). If he wanted us to just confess silently, He wouldn’t have done that. The Church would not be following God if we did not do what He says. This is why it is one of the precepts of the Church to go at least once a year. Also, regular confession is necessary for most people because we cannot take the Eucharist whilst in a state of mortal sin. I go about once a week at the advice of my priest. It’s not hard or scary, and it is actually quite helpful. The feeling afterwards is very nice.


It is Jesus Christ, through the priests’ invocation of the Holy Spirit, who forgives all sins. It is this same invocation of the Spirit by which all the sacraments are celebrated.

In Carmel,

Br. Allen


Hi “noclevername” :wave: First of all, welcome to the CAF!

I’d just like to say, to anyone discerning a call to the Catholic Faith… DO NOT BE AFRAID… of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). There is nothing to fear!

In this Sacrament… we have a personal encounter with Our Merciful and Loving Lord, Jesus Christ. The priest, to whom a Catholic confesses… is a well trained, “heard it all before”, personal representative of Our dear Lord.

I wish that I could express in words, the joy which I feel… after the Sacrament of Reconciliation (pssssst. I’m getting ready to go TODAY! :smiley: ). Each time… it’s like having a TON of bricks lifted off my shoulders. For me, it’s a little slice of Heaven… to know, that I’ve been forgiven for all my sins. And to receive the grace, to STAY in grace.

God bless you in your discernment of the Catholic Faith. I will keep you in my prayers. :slight_smile:


noclevername might be interested to know that for many, the attraction to the Catholic Church comes in the form of a desire for the Sacrament of Confession. I believe the desire for this Sacrament is one of the most beautiful gifts the Holy Spirit can bestow on the human soul.



From the Catechism (emphasis added).

I would suggest you read the entire section on Confession, beginning at 1422

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.” When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”

1457 According to the Church’s command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year."56 Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.57 Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.58

2042 The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.82
**The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.**83 The third precept (“You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy


When you love to do something, you won’t ask, “Do I have to do it?”
That is the case of confession for me.

I believe human beings are created to repent. Since none of us is perfect, it is good for the soul to confess. When we go to the confessional, Christ is waiting for us. The priest is the screen for our Lord Jesus Christ. The act of confession gives us the spirit of obedience and humility.

I go to my spiritual director (my pastor) for regular confession. During confession, I tell him what I have learned since my last confession about God and about myself. Each time I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and receive tremendous grace that keeps me closer to God. To me, confession is a discussion of my prayer life and my walk with the Lord. It provides me the resolution of staying closer to God and carrying out His will more faithfully. In confession, I celebrate the presence of God. It is a blessing to my life.

Do I go to confession because I have to? No, I go to confession because I want to.


NoCleverName, Welcome! I too was once in your shoes just a few years ago. I consider myself a baby Catholic because I’m still learning about the many traditions and beliefs of the Catholic faith. I grew up a Protestant (although I have Catholic relatives), so many of the traditions were foreign and even a little intimidating. One being the idea of Confession. I was extremely skeptical about it because 21 of my years growing up, all I had to do was say a prayer and ask for forgiveness and it was done. I didn’t understand why I had to go to a Priest when it is God/Jesus who is forgiving me, not the Priest.

I think that the information provided by all of the members on this forum will hopefully give you the documentation that you are looking for as far as the requirement of confession goes. I wanted to give you a personal account of my first/second confession. I want to start out by saying that my RCIA courses were a bit non-traditional because I took them through the military. I believe that I participated in confession prior to my confirmation, but I don’t really remember it. It is my second confession that stands out in my mind because of how special it was to me (so I consider this my first real confession).

It was the night before I got married to my husband. We had just finished the rehearsal and our Priest told us to come to the back to participate in Confession. I was extremely nervous because I wasn’t prepared for this. (Again, baby Catholic). I went first so I didn’t have a chance to talk to my future Husband about what to do or what to confess. I was particularly nervous about this confession because I didn’t know if I should mention a particular sin that we had both been participating in (although not for some time.) I finally decided that regardless of what my future Husband confesses, I have to confess the total truth. I had no idea how great that I would feel to FINALLY get that burden off of my chest. Not because the Priest forgave me, but because I had the courage to confess such a large sin to a Holy man. I find it pretty easy to confess something to God when I don’t have to actually look at Him or even say it out loud, but there is something powerful about confessing it to someone you have a high amount of respect for. What was even more special was the fact the my future Husband also confessed the sin.

When you are ready, I most certainly encourage you to participate. Hopefully, it will be a moving experience for you!

God Bless!


I want to add real quick that I don’t mean that I don’t have a high amount of respect for God. I hope no one took it that way. I meant that towards a person in the flesh that you can physically touch and see. :o


Only God forgives sin. When we turn to God and repent with contrite hearts, our sins are forgiven.

However, when we sin, we sin outside of the Church and we cause harm to the Church, which is the body of Christ. Because of this, we must be reconciled to the Church, in order to return to full Communion with her. Confession is called the sacrament of reconciliation.

Just like when a child throws a stone and breaks a window, but goes to his father and as for forgiveness. The father forgives the child, but the broken window still must be repaired. So it is with or relationship to the Church, and this is what confession is about. Also, in the sacrament, we receive God’s grace which helps to strengthen us, against temptations.

As a new convert however, your RCIA director may be telling you that you do not have to go to confession, now, because you have not been Baptized and are not a member of the Church yet. Once you are Baptized, your sins are washed away, but should you sin from that point on, you will have to go to confession to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and penance.

That being said. Don’t be afraid of Confessing your sins to a priest. Most priest will give you absolution, but also give you some guidance, that will help you in your spiritual walk.

As St. Teresa of Avila told her sisters, “when you find a good confessor, hang on to him for dear life.”

God Bless


You can confess all your sins to God in private through prayer and with a heartfelt confession. Nothing stops you from doing this at all. HOWEVER, what you cannot do is grant yourself absolution. Why? Because Jesus gave that power to His Apostles, and they passed it along to the priests of the church. So you can confess your sins in private directly to God. But you cannot receive absolution and grace outside of the sacrament.

Confession is the sacramental means of reconcilling yourself to God’s grace and ridding yourself of the stain of mortal sin. Only the priests have been granted to power to do this.


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