Protestants, Catholics, and Confession


I have a question that has been going round and round in my head. As Catholics, we know we are forgiven for our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But Protestants just “confess straight to God”.

While this is all fine and dandy, will it be good enough for them (Protestants) to get into Heaven (or Purgatory). AND, here’s my question, if it’s good enough for Protestants, WHY isn’t it good enough for Catholics?


I am confident that my sins will be forgiven as John says.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 1:8-2:2)


Just to re-state a Catholic fact, and because some Protestants misunderstand confession more than they misunderstand Mary:

Catholics generally “confess straight to God”. Only mortal sin requires sacramental confession, although we are free and encouraged to go more often.

Someone here (LilyM, I think) explained that coming back into a state of God’s grace (after repenting mortal sin) is a sacrament. As much so as marriage. Do Christians normally marry “straight to God” or is it done with a minister?

I thought that was very insightful.


This is a good question and have often wondered this myself. What about the “universal priesthood” in John 20?


Thanks darl, at the risk of a swelled head that one was mine.

I did say that it was indeed like baptism or marriage, in that we don’t baptise or marry ourselves. Even those who celebrate but don’t recognise the sacramental nature of things like the Lord’s Supper, ordination of clergy or confirmation, recognise that the presence of a minister of God is necessary for these things.


This is even better than I was able to remember.



The problem with confessing straight to God like the protestants, do they really do it? I know quite a few protestants and I asked them if they prayed to God all their sins and asked to be forgiven and they said no. They should but don’t.

Thats the problem. They are living with all these sins and believing all is dandy…Not so in the Catholic Religion. We have to prepare before going to Confession. To do a good Confession you must examine your conscience ( I always ask the Holy Spirit to help me) and I know that although the Priest is there, it is Our Lord who is before me and I am humbled on my knees.

The result is a huge weight off your shoulders and a feeling of exhileration. I love Confession as I love the Catholic Church.


as has been mentioned here before…anyone can be in a state of Mortal Sin including protestants. I am sure there is millions of protestants walking around out there that have done somthing

  1. Gravely wrong
    2)Knew that it was wrong
  2. and deliberately and freely did it anyway.

The rare instance of perfect contrition usually doesn’t come into play when someone “assumes” salvation based on the major premise protestants have about once saved always saved.

The normal way to be loosed from mortal sin is a sacramental Confession. Protestants cannot recieve a sacramental confession unless the become Catholics. So in the churches eyes evangelization of Protestants is of significant importance…I think one can connect the dots here.


There is a scriptural element as well, one which many protestants don’t understand.

Matthew 16:16-19 gives Simon-Peter the power to bind and loose.

[quote=Matt 16:16-19 (footnotes deleted)]16
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


So, since Peter and his Heirs hold bound the unconfessed mortal sins, so does God.


actually another VERY appropriate verse would be the Gospel from yesterdays pentecost liturgy. (john 23)“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”


This is only my idea, I might be wrong. I am not stating any Church doctrine.

I know that I have met Protestants who are wonderful examples of Christianity. And I have met others who seemed to be Christians in name only.

I think that as Christians we mature over time, and as God works on us, we tend to loose some of our more negative qualities.

Committing a mortal sin causes one to loose Grace, correct? So the Protestans that commit a mortal sin are cut off from grace. Perhaps this explains those who continue to do things like commit adultery, or gossip etc.

Some Protestants that I have talked to do make a habit of confessing their sins to God. They don’t stop this practice with their original declaration of faith. So, perhaps these types of Protestants are more able to tap into God’s gift of grace and therefore, more likely to mature as Christians.

Again, I am just putting forth guesses here. :o


When I used to join some Protestant Bible study, once a person said something like “Jesus died for us and we are saved by his blood, we are free and we can do whatever we want…” (not exactly word by word, but the meaning) I was so shocked. She was saying this on the stage to a large crowd after a potluck dinner while leading the singing.

In a later occasion of small Bible study group, I brought up the concept of repenting our sins and striving for holiness. Another group member objected by saying that our salvation were by faith not by striving, we should not be striving. Anyway, at the end of that particular discussion, I think my Catholic view went through to certain degree because in the concluding prayer, someone prayed to ask God to forgive our sins.

I repeatedly brought up the concept of sins and repenting in that Protestant Bible study group. I think I made some difference by sharing my Catholic view. Then to certain point, I felt I couldn’t participate any more and quitted joining them. In my experience of close contact with Protestant friends, confession of sins does not seem to be an emphasized concept at all. They seem to emphasize it before a person accepting the Lord, not after. This is the impression I got from the particular Protestant group I have close contact with.

As for how come Protestants can directly confess to God and Catholics have to go to a priest, I think it is like the question of how come Protestant pastor can get married and Catholic priest cannot, or how come my friend can attend such a party and I cannot. Because Protestant pastor belongs to Protestant church and Catholic priest belongs to Catholic Church, because my friend belongs to his family and I belong to mine. Each has to follow his own family rules.

I also love confession and my Catholic Church.


I am former evangelical Protestant and I try to keep up on my reading of Protestant periodicals.

I think that Protestants, at least evangelical Protestants, have just gone through a long period (several decades?) of de-emphasizing sin.

I was taught growing up that to think about our own sins demonstrated a lack of faith in God, who forgives all of our sins, past, present, and furutre.

However, the inevitable result of such thinking has occurred and is occuring in evangelical circles. Sin is becoming rampant . There are lots of studies and articles concluding that there is no noticeable difference between evangelical Christians and non-believers.

Divorce rates are virtual equal, and percentage of young people who lose their virginity outside of marriage is extremely high. Abortion rates among evangelical Christians were one of six years ago; who know what they are now. Churches are seeing sexual abuse and homosexuality among their clergy. Various prominent Protestants have been caught in financial schemes (stealing, lying, etc.). Selfishness and materialism are common and the rate of charitable giving is low. There is disobedience of parents and failure to honor parents. Hatred and racism are evident in some evangelical groups.

I could go on. It’s a sad litany of sin.

So I believe that we are now seeing a return to the doctrines of sin and confession of sin. I’ve read in Protestant magazines that some Protestant churches are trying to restore public confession and even private confession. Accountability groups are springing up (e.g., Promisekeepers was an accountability group). Sin, hell, and death are again being preached from the Protestant pulpit.

It’s not a total return yet. The megachurches aren’t really into “negativity” because they use positive messages and seeker-friendly teachings to draw in the non-believers.

But I believe that many of the local evangelical Protestant churches are returning to the idea of accountability for sin and the need to pursue personal holiness.

One more thing: I think that the conversion of many evangelical pastors and lay evangelicals to Catholicism is scaring evangelicals. My husband listens to an anti-Catholic (anti-everything, actually!) radio program, and they asked their guest last week what can be done about this problem. It is a problem for them, and the answer that many of the evangelicals come up with is a return to basic Christianity and a departure from “entertainment” Christianity.


It would be nice if that were the case but in reality it is impossible for humans to tap into God’s gift of grace without the help of God. That help of God comes to us via the sacraments as a means to tap into that grace. the Sacraments flow from God through his Church on Earth. The protestants decided a few hundred years ago to turn their back on that truth and their decendents continue to be cut off from that truth today. That is why they are called protestants…becuause they protest and deny Gods church. it is not to say that they don’t receive grace…but that grace comes to them from the church. Again if God reaveals to mankind via his church what a mortal sin is and that salvation is only possible when a mortal sin is confessed and loosed via a sacramental confession…(or in the rare case of perfect contrition) then we as Catholics must understand that as truth. God has not revealed to us any other way to “tap” into his grace. With that in mind our time is better spent on the various forms of evangelization to bring protestants home for the good of our souls and their souls as well. Speculating that there “might” be another way to “tap” into Gods grace is not Church teacing and could blunt the actual urgency of evangelization.


This is another example of that “either/or” thinking. Like praying to Mary somehow takes away from praying to God. When we confess to the representative of Jesus we confess to Jesus.

Luke 10:16
6 “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

I agree with the other poster here that it is a great exhiliaration to hear the words “your sins are forgiven”! Sometimes it helps to have someone with skin…

James 5:16-17
16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."

The absolution of the priest has great power in it’s effects. God set it up that way. Yes, we can make a good confession without the priest, but why rob oneself of a source of healing and release?

Jesus is the one mediator between God and man. It is His blood that reconciles us to the Father. As with all the other sacraments, Jesus has made us partakers of His ministry. To the successors of the apostles (ordained) he gives the ministry of reconciliation:

2 Cor 5:17-21
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

This is so that we might BECOME the righteousness of God. Ask a protestant after confession if they have BECOME the righteousness of God?


We do not know the answer to this. We only know that God commanded us to be reconciled through the Church. We do not know if he has any mechanism for those who are not. We pray he does, and pray he is merciful.

It is not “good enough” for Protestants, all are commanded to unity and to keep the commandments.

Catholics are given the fullness of truth. Therefore, much is required to whom much is given. We cannot pretend we do not know the Truth. There may be some mercy by God to those who truly do not know the Truth.


The term “entertainment Christianity” is pure gold. I’m going to copy and paste it into as many “I’m not being fed” threads as I can find!!


Of course, I’m being childlike and not wanting to go to confession when I really need to…but…I do worry about my Protestant friends. They think Confession is a joke and that we are doing something that is not needed.

I know we can’t presume on God’s mercy on who goes to Heaven or Hell. But if Protestants truely believe that confession straight to God is good enough, will it be ok for them when judgement time comes?

FWIW, I do love going to confession. I just have a really hard time finding a time that works. There are not many opportunities, unfortunately. :frowning:


PaulaB52, I don’t blame you for being concerned.

One of the Protestant online boards has a thread right now about “how can I know that I’m forgiven for my sins.”

It’s so sad. The posters talk about confessing sins, but not feeling forgiven, and wondering if they should stop thinking about sins and just concentrate on Christ.

One person who is considered the “expert” on that board told everyone that ALL sins are forgiven, past, present, and future, and that they should stop thinking about their sins.

It’s so sad.

As an ex-Protestant, I can testify that I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s extremly tough to humble myself before the Lord, but the result is worth it.


I have to admit I prefer confessing to a priest, not only because I find solace in it, but also because it is alot harder to confess to someone rather then in silence to God. Knowing there is no judgement and also that there will be learning in the end makes it all that much better.
Having said that… How does one explain to a protestant Christian why exactly Catholics confess to a priest? I have been wrestling with this question since my Baptist wife asked me this a while ago.:confused:

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