Forgiveness of Sins without Confession

In my apologetical readings and especially when talking with Protestants, they always seem to say that it is only necessary for the forgiveness of sins is to personally confess them to God instead of to a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation found in John 20. I do know that God can forgive our sins without Reconciliation if we have perfect repentance, but is there any scriptural basis for “perfect” repentance instead of just “imperfect” repentance ???

Would love to hear some answers so I can be more knowledgeable in my replies and give them proper understandings.

Perfect Contrition is a very hard state to achieve, the penitent must be free from ALL attachment to sin.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is crucial to the forgiveness of sins. IN this Sacrament, Christ himself forgives us, not the priest.
The Catholic Church relies on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.


Imperfect contrition is called attrition (Latin attero , “to wear away by rubbing”; p. part. attritus) which leads to repentance. The sinner begins from contrition of fear, more and more, to act out of love of God and this is the path to repentance.

Luke 13

1 At this very time there were some present that told him the story of those Galileans, whose blood Pilate had shed in the midst of their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said in answer, Do you suppose, because this befell them, that these men were worse sinners than all else in Galilee? 3 I tell you it is not so; you will all perish as they did, if you do not repent. 4 What of those eighteen men on whom the tower fell in Siloe, and killed them; do you suppose that there was a heavier account against them, than against any others who then dwelt at Jerusalem? 5 I tell you it was not so; you will all perish as they did, if you do not repent.

1 Like

Get a pocket-sized King James Version. Show them Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20 and 7:48. In each and every biblical case, our Lord told the sinner in plain Aramaic that their sins were forgiven.

Show them 2 Corinthians 2:10 in which Paul forgave sins in the Person of Christ. In Persona Christi, just as Priests and Bishops, east and west, have done since AD33.

Show them 2 Corinthians 5, in which Paul teaches that he has a ministry of reconciliation to Christians in sin.

Show them James 5:16 in which we are admonished to confess our sins to one another.

Do they even know these verses? Shame on them if they do not!


There are good answers in this thread already ; but, as a Protestant on her way to Rome, I wanted to say that the distinction between attrition and contrition (or, as OP put it, between “perfect” and “imperfect” repentance) is completely foreign to my own (Reformed) tradition’s approach of sin and grace. So I’m not sure I would even be understood were I to talk to a Reformed friend in these terms.

To summarize grossly, Calvin saw repentance as an inner renewal, recognizable to its fruits. So, either you are bearing fruit and this is a sign that, by God’s grace, your repentance is real and complete, or you aren’t, and this is a sign that you are not repenting and have not accepted God’s saving grace. There is no middle ground.

I am not saying this is right, I am just saying that the whole idea of different kinds and qualities of repentance needs a good bit of explaining for my particular Protestant tradition.

By the way, as @po18guy’s Bible quotes show, I think one can absolutely defend the necessity of auricular confession without needing to broach this complex topic.


In Catholic teaching is (Catechism 1451)

Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”

1 Like

I think it’s impossible.

1 Like

Why confess your sins to God. He already knows them better than you do.

1 Like

This part is used by the Protestants to explain that we should be confessing to one another and a priest is not necessary . I know Pentecostals confess to one another regularly. It’s not really a good quotation to advocate Apostolic succession imho. Or maybe you have an interpretation in which it is?
This is the quote…:

" 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

16 So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another to be cured; the heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully.

17 Elijah was a human being as frail as ourselves – he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three and a half years;

18 then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops."

You must be thinking of the plenary indulgence requirement, not perfect contrition.

1 Peter 5

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time

1 John 1

9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I heard this from Tim Staples and thought it was pretty good - without slinging scriptures…

Imagine your in a hotel room for business. You are watching TV and with a press of the button, you can sin and watch porn…

Protestant - I shouldn’t do it, but Jesus died for ALL of my sins nothing I need to do And\or I will confess to God and ask for forgiveness…

Catholic - I shouldn’t do it, but if I do, I will need to ask God for forgiveness. I then need to schedule to drive to church and meet with my priest and do a confession. Humbling myself, explaining why I did it and having the priest explain to me why its wrong, what the consequences are and give me an act(s) of contrition.

Which scenario would have a stronger deterrence to sin?

Please understand, that I am simplifying the scenario and love my brethren in Christ.


Well … Were I in the frays of dying . with but a few minutes left -
and I had SINS to Confess.
I’d attend to Praying as JESUS taught us.

Father in Heaven - Forgive Me of My Trespasses…
AS I Forgive Those who’ve Trespassed against me.*

That said… Forgive All who’ve trespassed against one.

Mark 10: 26 et seq: Who wondered the more, saying among themselves: Who then can be saved? [27] And Jesus looking on them, saith: With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God.

Actually many theologians state that one must only have the intention of avoiding mortal sin, not necessarily all sin. Of course the motivation must still be sorrow for having offended God, rather than primarily fear of hell, though one may also have imperfect contrition simultaneously. One source that I can provide right now is the writings of Father Doyle, frequently recommended for the scrupulous.

The part about perfect contrition is on the bottom of page 7 into the top of page 8. There are other sources but I can’t look now.

1 Like

The penitent prays the act of contrition; the priest gives the penitent a penance and absolution.

I understand the act of contrition(prayer), that is why I added the act(s). sorry, couldn’t come up with the official words when I wrote, lol.
Thanks for proper clarification and taking the time to respond!!!

1 Like

We are bound by the sacraments, God is not. He can forgive outside of confession. However, in confession, He guarantees that He shows and grants forgiveness (with proper form and matter, of course).

Given the choice, I’ll take the guarantee. I think the people above me gave good scriptures, but I just wanted to put my opinion out there.

1 Like

Exactly. It’s God’s choice so it’s meaningless, you have to assume that you failed.

Spoken words are powerful. God called the universe into existence with spoken words.

Having said that, I don’t think that only a priest can forgive your sins after hearing them spoken. There are plenty of scenarios where this could take some time to line up. I think that as sins are committed, we should be confessing them to God and asking for forgiveness immediately.

I see Confession with a Priest as a way to help tackle sins that keep tripping us up. Got an addiction or issue understanding your sin? Your Priest can best help address the problem.

To add: Before my RCIA conversation/baptism, I was late for confession (final exams in college). My RCIA instructor told me to verbally confess all sins, specifically, to God while I drive to the ceremony, which I did. The priest told me that was perfectly accepted.

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