I am looking at confession and have read John 20:21-23. I read an argument from critics of Catholicism that question why the ability to forgive/retain sins was passed to modern Catholic priests (or the ability to facilitate access to Jesus’s forgiveness), while others powers the apostles had were not passed along (like writing scripture, healing blind, raising the dead etc).
This argument says there are not any actual examples in the Bible of apostles forgiving sins.
Is that statement correct?
What is the Catholic explanation for only the power to forgive sins and not the other listed gifts being passed to modern Catholic priests?
Raising the dead is not one of the seven sacraments nor is it one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. All of the sacraments were passed on. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to the present day.
As Catholics we believe that ordained priests of the Church act as instruments through which God can forgive your sins.
Lev. 5:4-6; 19:21-22 - Under the Old Covenant, God used priests to forgive and atone for the sins of others.
Isa. 22:22 - Under the Old Covenant, the High Priest could “open and shut” access to God’s mercy.
Mt. 16:19;18:18 – Under the New Covenant the apostles are given authority to “bind and loose” penalties of sin.
Jn. 20:21-23 – Under the New Covenant Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive or retain sins.
“In church confess your sins, and do not come to your prayer with a guilt conscience. Such is the Way of Life…On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure." Didache 4:14,14:1 (A.D. ~90 )
“… Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and appropriate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins…” St. Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition (A.D. 215)
“In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance…when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord.” Origen, Homilies on Leviticus (A.D. 248)
“I have recently heard that some have unlawfully presumed to act contrary to a rule of Apostolic origin… All that is necessary, however, is for the sinner to manifest his conscience in a secret confession to the priests alone…It is sufficient, therefore, to have first offered one’s confession to God, and then also to the priest, who acts as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents” Pope St Leo the Great, Magna indignation (A.D. 459)
“All mortal sins are to be submitted to the keys of the Church and all can be forgiven; but recourse to these keys is the only, the necessary, and the certain way to forgiveness. Unless those who are guilty of grievous sin have recourse to the power of the keys, they cannot hope for eternal salvation. Open your lips, them, and confess your sins to the priest. Confession alone is the true gate to Heaven.” St. Augustine of Hippo, Christian Combat (A.D. 397)
**CCC 1441 **- Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.” Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.
CCC 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.”*
We can see the mission of the Church in the first line of Acts of the Apostles.
In the first book, O The-oph’ilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, (Acts 1:1)
Luke wrote both the third Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. His Gospel is about what Jesus began to do while he walked the earth. Acts of the Apostles is about the Church and what Jesus continues to do through the Church.
Jesus began. The Church continues Jesus’ work.
Jesus healed. The Church continues to heal.
Jesus taught. The Church continues to teach.
Jesus forgave sins. The Church continues to forgive sins.
God had sent Jesus to forgive sins, but after his resurrection Jesus told the apostles, “‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.** If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’”** (John 20:21–23).
Jesus was not talking specifically about baptism here, which also cleanses sins, but the act of forgiving ones sins when they are confessed to the Apostles.
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise.
Is anyone among you sick?* He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord,j
and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
Here the priest (presbyter) pray over the person and their sins are forgiven.
Haydocks Commentary Ver. 10.I also. The apostle here granted an indulgence, or pardon, in the person, and by the authority of Christ, to the incestuous Corinthian, whom before he had put under penance: which pardon consisted in a releasing of part of the temporal punishment due to his sin.
10 And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ:
**10 ** cui autem aliquid donatis et ego nam et ego quod donavi si quid donavi propter vos in persona Christi
10 If you shew indulgence to anybody, so do I too; I myself, wherever I have shewn indulgence, have done so in the person of Christ for your sakes
I like the answers others have given but I just kind of wanted to add there is a very good book by Scott Hahn, Lord Have Mercy, which he describes what is the Biblical history and basis of the Sacrament of Confession.
One thing in particular I remember from the book is he explains that when Jesus told the apostles what sins they forgive are forgiven and what sins they retain are retained they would have known that when Jesus said this the only way to know what sins to retain or what sins to forgive they would need to know what the sins were.
And this became known to all the Jews and the Gentiles that dwelt at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.And many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds. And many of them who had followed curious arts, brought together their books, and burnt them before all; and counting the price of them, they found the money to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
This is a compendium what means the true sacrament of forgive sins:
Examine your conscience.
Be sorry for your sins.
Resolve not to sin again.
Go to Confession.
Do the penance given by the priest.
Those ephesians* fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified*, they examined their consciences and were sorry for their sins (1-2) . But not all of them went to confession. Only who believed (4): And many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds. And they resolved not to sin again and did the penance (3-5) destroyed the cause of their sins: “And many of them who had followed curious arts, brought together their books, and burnt them before all; and counting the price of them, they found the money to be fifty thousand pieces of silver”
…came confessing and declaring their deeds This is an interesting part of the verse because those ephesians didn’t only confess to Paul that they had sinned but also they were specific about what were their sins. A perfect example of confession :eek:
What about my question about the Catholic Church today only having the authority to declare sins forgiven, not the other powers that were given to the Apostles. What ist he reason for this in the view of the Catholic Church? Thanks.
I don’t know for sure where to find the Church teaching on this, but my opinion is that the events during the apostolic age were part of the Revelation, which stopped with the death of Saint John.
How beautiful it is though to know that such miracles happen even today, but not in the same way. I guess also that if the successors of the Apostles were to do such things, it would be problematic and would probably having trouble with (other!) authorities.