Really confused about it all

So I’ve been taking my RCIA classes and little by little I find myself really confused…

Baptism? No problem
Mary? I love Mary, learning about and praying to her
Communion? Fine

so far so good…then comes confession and this is where I get lost…

Now from what I understand as long as you’re a catholic you can receive forgiveness, but if you’re a Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, etc and go to confession you’re denied that forgiveness simply because you’re not catholic. Yes it might seem weird for someone of another faith to go to confession, but I’m sure they have their reasons and who are we to deny them that? Why be so picky? Aren’t we all Gods children in the end?

Didn’t Christ walk among the sinners, the prostitutes, etc and give them forgiveness? “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” Never have I heard him say go to a priest, I’ve always seen it as something between the person and God.

No I don’t think a person should sleep around with a dozen people one day and ask God for forgiveness the next…I don’t believe its that easy, a person needs to be really, really sorry for what he did and WANT to change his ways to be a better person. Is that not a valid way to receive forgiveness?

Sometimes the catholic church makes me feel like the only way to have a relationship with god or seek any forgiveness is through the church, not directly to Him.

And don’t get me wrong I think a priest is there for a reason, to teach and guide us…but when it comes to forgiving sin I honestly do believe its between the me and God.

Maybe I’m taking it all out of context I don’t know, but thats why I’m here to ask questions and figure out my faith. Help a girl out folks.

Hi, Joeanna. I don’t have a super-deep theological answer for you (although I’m sure there is one ;)).

You point out that Christ walked among the sinners offering them His forgiveness. But Christ doesn’t walk (bodily) among us any more, because he ascended to Heaven. He left us a Church is his stead, and granted her the authority to continue carrying out His mission. So while Christ was here on Earth, people would go directly to Christ for forgiveness. Since his ascension, we go to His Church to receive His forgiveness.

I would expect we deny reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to non-Catholics (except for those going through RCIA, who are preparing for full communion) for the same reason we deny Communion to non-Catholics…not to be mean or unwelcoming or to keep the Sacraments to ourselves, but to protect people from receiving God’s Sacraments unworthily and outside of communion with God’s Church, which is the proper ‘keeper’ of those Sacraments.

Receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin, most especially if in denial of the Real Presence (which is a truth that many non-Catholics do not accept), is a sacrilege and does spiritual damage to the recipient. So we deny it to non-Catholics to try and protect them from their own actions and lack of knowledge and lack of unity with Christ’s Church. Theoretically, Catholics have been properly educated about the Sacrament and know not to receive in a state of mortal sin (though I’m sure some do anyway :rolleyes: but at least they know they’re doing something wrong and have made that choice of their free will).

Similarly, going to Confession without understanding what Confession is can be a sacrilege too. If you Confess without intending not to sin again, or withhold mortal sins from the confessor, or don’t intend to perform the penance, or don’t believe the Priest has the authority to absolve…well, it potentially invalidates the whole thing, and those new sins need to be confessed too. We can’t expect our non-Catholic brethren to understand this, so I expect we deny the Sacrament to them for the same reason we deny Communion: to protect the receivers from committing an unintentional sacrilege, or from failing to understand what they are receiving.

If one accepts the validity of the Priesthood, Apostolic succession, and the authority to minister the Sacraments in the Catholic Church, then one should seek full communion (as you presumably are in your RCIA classes :D)…after being taught what the Sacraments are, and how to receive them properly without committing a sacrilege, then it is open to all. We don’t close the door to anybody, we simply have some prerequisites (i.e., being united to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church). This is why so many of us pray every day for Christian unity, so that all may receive the Sacraments that Christ instituted in the Church that He instituted.

As a fellow convert, having been through RCIA and my first Confession, I can tell you without reservation that the Sacrament is there for a reason. You can (and should!) Confess your sins ‘directly to God,’ and in a certain sense your sins are ‘between you and God…’ but God instituted a Church, and a Sacrament, through which He intended for us to receive his forgiveness (note, not just one or the other, but Church and Sacraments together).

Before my first Confession, I felt God and I were reconciled pretty well over my sins…but until I received absolution in the Sacrament those sins were still on my soul. I didn’t even know it until I had stated them aloud to Priest, and received the Sacrament.

I hope this helps explain. God bless you!

The thing about the sacrament of penance is that it is not only reconciliation with God, it is reconciliation with the Church. The Catechism has this to say:

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.

Since those who is not in communion with the Church are incapable of being reconciled with her until they are received into the Church, they cannot validly receive this sacrament. In the same way, reception of other sacraments by non-Catholics is not possible, because reception implies full communion and acceptance of the Church’s teachings, and for a non-Catholic to receive some sacrament would imply a union that does not yet exist.

When a person has been convicted in their hearts of sin and repents, that person has only made the first step in making their relationship with God right. When a person speaks to God directly and asks for forgiveness, how do they know if they’ve been forgiven? It is entirely possible to deceive oneself into thinking that God has forgiven them, but it might not be the case.

The priest is Christ’s representative. When we speak to the priest in the confessional, we are speaking to Christ. When we receive absolution, we receive it from Christ.

Christ established His Church on Peter, and gave us the Sacraments.

Just as the Sacrament of the Eucharist can only be confected by an ordained priest, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is only available through an ordained priest. Just as non-Catholics may not recieve the Eucharist, only an initiated Catholic, that is, one who has received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion, may receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We are bound by what He has given us. He gave us Reconciliation as the way back to the Father after falling away. It is the only way we have.

We hope and pray that those who do not have recourse to this sacrament may be forgiven. While we are bound, God is not. He may act outside of His Sacraments and forgive, but the only way we can know for sure is to Confess and receive absolution.

While our repentance may be deep and sincere, the only way we know we are forgiven is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just feeling that we’ve been forgiven after prayer is not enough.

You are quite right - the Church is our way to Him and the only source of the Sacraments. This is the way he gave us.

This does not preclude having a personal relationship with Christ, rather the Church facilitates it, encourages it by way of the Sacraments.

It takes a great deal of humility to confess one’s sins to a priest. We don’t want them to know what awful people we are. After all, we respect them and look up to them. We don’t want them to know our deepest darkest secrets. It is pride that keeps us from the Confessional, pride that doesn’t want to admit to another person that we have greviously sinned. It is pride that makes us want to keep it in our heart and hope that we are forgiven rather than to humble ourselves and Confess.

As a convert, I also have had a lot of trouble with Confession. However, Christ convicted me that His Church, the Catholic Church, is His Body and that if I want to be united with Him, I must be united with His Church; that what His Body, the Church, teaches is the Truth. The Church teaches that the way back to God after mortal sin is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and no other way.

I’ve only skimmed the answers so forgive if I repeat…

first of all lets get one thing straight. The sins of non-catholics can be forgiven by God. But there are also issues in this because one of their sins is not “listen(ing) to the church” (Mt 18:17) So -

To me the issue is simple. A non-catholic cannot make a valid confession so long as they remain outside of full communion with the Catholic Church since, as stated above, they are not listening to the church…


no that is not how it works
Baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments, but someone who has no been baptized into the Catholic Church must first enter into full communion with her, through profession of Faith, Confirmation and First Communion to be admitted to the other sacraments. The sacrament of penance and reconciliation is just that, an encounter with Christ’s grace, established by him in the context of the Church (read his injunction to the apostles at the end of John’s gospel). As he gave her authority over all the sacraments, he gave her authority over this one, and the Eucharist as the source and summit of all sacramental graces. Until one is ready to enter into communion fully they are not ready to claim the privileges of that unity. That is why sacramental confession will precede your profession of faith and completion of initation, because you want the restoration of the baptismal grace you lost by your actual sin (again this is the editorial, not personal, “you”).

The Church does not refuse the sacrament of penance to non-Catholics. Rather non-Catholics, through their history, have refused to acknowledge the Church’s authority over this and the other sacraments, and until that breach of unity is repaired, they cannot ask for something they do not yet believe in.

You are falling into a common false dichotomy, Joeanna. The priest is acting in the person of Christ. He is not “between” the person and God in the sense of an obsticle, but in the sense of a facilitator. He brings the ministry of reconciliation to the person on behalf of God.

2 Cor 5:18-21
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given 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 the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat 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.

Yes. We believe the sacraments are the means to His grace, though. Without that grace, we cannot really walk in holiness.

Again, this is a false dichotomy. Jesus does not separate Himself from His One Biody,t he Church. The idea that a person can be in relationship with Christ without being at one and the same time in relationship with His Holy Bride is just a modern American Evangelical fantasy. “Jesus and me - No one else”.

You are absolutely right. The priest is there to facilitate your reconciliation with God. That is why He gave them the authority to forgive and remit sins. :thumbsup:

Glad you are bringing your issues to CAF. :thumbsup:

*CCC 1497 Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church. *

Confession is not “the only way” it is “the only ORDINARY way.” There are extra ordinary ways of getting forgiveness and grace, and those so-called EXTRAORDINARY ways are also valid. For example, lets say you’re in mortal sin and you die before reaching the confessional. You don’t have ORDINARY means of reconciliation but you could have an EXTRAORDINARY means of reconciliation like this:

1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."50
1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51 *

There’s extraordinary opportunities like that for non-Catholics too.

Just to add to the above, In John when Christ give the great commission in John 20:21-23 he says:
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The Priest must know what the sins are in order to forgive them.


Watch this video (2 min, 28 sec) in which Fr. Barron explains Why Do I Have To Confess to a Priest? He explains it so well.


Non Catholics can’t receive this Sacrament, but we believe that God can still forgive them, because He is not bound by the Sacraments. However, - Confession is the normal and ordinary way of being forgiven of sin. Protestants are forgiven only because they don’t have access to it, - provided that they are Protestant through ignorance, misunderstanding, etc, and they actually love God, - and not through malice or rejection of His truth.

We as Catholics do know the truth and have access to Confession, so it is important that we do go. The only exception would be if a Catholic died before they had an opportunity to go to Confession, but in that case they still would have needed to repent. Repentance is always necessary no matter what.

God bless

The process for POSSIBLE forgiveness of sin involves:

  1. Lack of awareness of what God has Ordained as the Norm for forgiveness of sin. [John 20:19-23]

  2. Sincere Repentance, with a commitment to with God’s aid, not to sin this way again.

For example one could not be in an adultious affair; claim repentence and chose to not end the illicit relationship. There is NO FOOLING GOD; who reads minds and hearts.

  1. PERFECT Contrition. The IMPORTANT question is what is “Perfect-Contrition” and is your understanding sufficient for God to accept it. Which is the precise reason Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confession; wherein one KNOWS with absolute certainity that there sins have been remitted by God.

What Monica shared is TRUE and well done:)

God Bless,

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