[quote=Junior]So I have been reading tons of Threads within these pages. I really enjoy the forums. I have been told my whole Baptist life that after I was saved and Baptized all my sins were forgiven. Now I have been questioning my faith and see that the CC does not see it that way. Why must I confess my sins to man instead of directly to Jesus? You mean to tell me the “ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened” thing doesn’t work? All this time praying to Jesus for forgiveness has been for naught? Please explain. I have been struggling with this for some time.
Rest assured, junior, that it is God who imparts the Grace of forgiveness, and praying for that forgiveness in repentance is a good thing to do (your previous prayer was not in vain ). In fact, every week near the beginning of Mass, Catholics as a community pray to God for forgiveness of sins. We say aloud:
“I confess to the Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words; in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do, and I ask the Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”
I think this is a truly beautiful prayer.
One of the things that seems to be regarded differently between Catholic and Protestant denominations is the idea of how private sin truly is. Catholic doctrine recognizes that sin is not “just between me and God”. That position is very evident in the prayer above, where we confess that we are sinners publicly and ask everyone to pray for God’s mercy for us. In this way we lift each other up in our efforts to lead Godly lives. The general protestant position seems to be that sin is very personal, and mostly between the individual and God. Certianly they mostly will support the idea that one should ask one’s neighbor’s forgiveness as well as God’s, but that seems the extent of it.
From the Catholic perspective, there is much more to it than that. Sin has many effects. Not only does it act counter to our relationship with God and our ability to receive the Grace He offers, but it also affects all those close to us. You see, we are all a part of the Body of Christ, and when one part of that body allows sin into his/her life, that sin affects the whole body. Not only does my sin affect me and the person I sinned against, but it affects anyone who may know of what transpired in addition to spiritual effects we may not ever know of. Sin is how Satan weakens, divides, and attempts to separate us from Christ’s Body, which is our source of true life.
And so, since sin affects the whole body, repentence and forgiveness of the sin of one member is part of the mission of the whole body. If the person is disposed to repentence, public confession not only strengthens humility, but allows the body to pray with and for that person, as well as help that person remain accountable to his or her pledge to “go and sin no more”, as Christ commands. (You might ask about what happens if that person is not disposed to repentence. What does Christ say is for the good of the Body in that case? Pick up your Bible and see…)
At one time, I believe, all confessions were done in front of the entire church membership. Imagine that! Over the years, however, much from a practical standpoint, confessions for grave matters were heard privately by the representative of the congregation, the priest.
And just as previous posters have said, the priest also has a spiritual gift by virtue of his ordination (Christ commissioned His Apostles to spread the gospel in His name, giving them the power to act in His name in a miraculous way – the forgivenes of sins!), through the Grace of the Sacrament of reconciliation. The Church teaches that with grave sin – mortal sin – this sacramental Grace is the pre-emminent way God removes that sin and restores us to the state of Grace necessary for our salvation.
The bottom line is that God works through the sacrament, fulfilling His promise to never turn us away if we come back to Him, to impart to us His saving Grace. It is there waiting for anyone who seeks it. So, the only question is, what are people waiting for?
I wish you wisdom and blessings in your search.