How does confession work?


Can someone please explaint to me How confession works? I guess what I am asking is, who forgives in confession? Thanks in advance.


In confession, it is appropriate either to say that Christ forgives sins through the actions of the priest or that the priest forgives sins by the power that Christ gives him.

The power to forgive sins belongs to God alone (as is recognized by the Pharisees in the Gospels). Christ, however, extended exercise of this power (his own power to forgive sins) to the apostles and their successors.


God forgives you in confession. The priest is acting ‘In Persona Christi’ (in the person of Christ).

   Saint John Chrysostom wrote in the fourth century, "Priests who dwell        upon earth and make their abode therein have been commissioned nonetheless        to dispense things which are in heaven, and have received an authority such        as God has not given either to angels or archangels. For it has not been        said to them: All that you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven (Matthew        18:18). Those who rule upon earth, indeed, have authority to bind, but bodies        only, whereas the binding done by priests takes hold of the soul itself        and reaches to heaven. What priests execute below, God ratifies above, and        the Master confirms the judgment of His servants."


God alone can forgive sins, but He has chosen to do so through men.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


Christ died for the forgiveness of sins.It is this fact that allows a minister to tell a person his sins are forgiven.


Christ said in John 20:23

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

It is through the authority bestowed by Christ that He is able to forgive sins through priests.

If you want a detailed history of the sacrament, read Scott Hahn’s book Lord Have Mercy. I think they still might have a special on EWTN on Monday nights about the book. But it talks about the history of confession in the early Church as well as its roots in the Old Testament.


Did this fact also allow a minister to tell a person that his sins are not forgiven?

“If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” (John 20:23)



Yes. Although this is a rare occurence, a priest may decline absolution if, for example, he judges that contrition is not present, or that the penitent intends to remain in a state of continuing sin.


Yes. It very rare for a person to be denied absolution in confession, although for certain very serious sins the priest might have to refer the matter to the bishop.
However if people are living in defiance of Church teachings, which usually means in second marriages, then they are banned from going to confession until the situation is regularised.


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