SPLIT: Why confess to a priest?


Why do Catholics believe that one must confess to a priest ( a human)… Why not cut out the middle man and go straight to GOD?
:shrug: …doesn’t make sense to me…


Jesus gave the (human) Apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins. He did so, obviously, expecting them to use it. He never gave anyone an unnecessary commission or unnecessary powers :nope:. He would’ve said confession was to occur straight to God if that was how it was intended to happen. Forgiveness and retention of sins necessarily means confession, since the Apostles wouldn’t know what to forgive and retain otherwise.

Then John in one of his epistles refers to those in sin being ‘prayed over’ in order that their sin may be removed. Again, how would anyone know who’d sinned and was in need of prayers, or what they were to pray about, unless the sinners confessed?


Emo Philips might help you here:When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me … and I got it!A priest would insist that you gave the bicycle back before you were forgiven. Sometimes you aren’t hearing the voice of God, you are hearing yourself saying what you wish God would say.



We do confess to God through the ears of the priest and hear the words of forgiveness from God through the mouth of the priest. If we were 100% pure spirits we would not need the Sacraments. But because we as humans are both Spiritual beings as well as physical beings, God knows we need to receive Spiritual things through physical things.


Split off into its own thread from the Vatican II thread.


Why confess to a priest? Because, when we sin, not only do we injure our relationship with God but we also injure our relationship with the other members of his Church. In order to be reconciled to God and to the other members of his Church, it only makes sense to confess our sins to God and to the other members of his Church, in the persons of the elders (the apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests) of the Church, to whom the Holy Spirit has given the oversight.

I think LilyM may have meant James 5:14-16.


Hi All
Confession is very important. I believe that Jesus wanted us to confess our sins for two very important reasons

  1. He wanted us to “OWN UP” to the things we have done wrong.
  2. If we practice confession, the embarrassment of telling someone about our failures should be enough to help us not give into temptations.

Nowhere in Scripture does it tell that the only person we can confess our sins to is a priest.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Psa 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said,*** I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD;*** and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.


Yes. That’s why looking to Scripture alone brings erroneous conclusions. Tradition, as taught through apostolic succession, has us confess with a priest. This is true in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. It is only the Protestants, 1500 years after Christ, who came up with the novel idea that priests are not necessary to receive absolution.


Catholics everyday should confess their Venial sins directly to God.

Mortal sins must be confessed to a priest.


Because Jesus gave His Apostles the authority to forgive sins and since the Bishop and priests are the successors of the Apostles, they too were given the same authority.

According to John 20:19-23, Jesus granted this authority.

19* On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 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.”

If you read this passage this authority was given his disciples.


At the same time, no where in Scripture does it say we can (or even should) only confess our sins to God. Catholics do both, BTW. :slight_smile:

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

This is the key: James commands us to confess our sins to one another. In the context of James 5, the elders (or presbyters) of the Church are being spoken of (see James 5:14 and 16). In the Catholic Church, these are the priests. Following the commandment of Scripture through James, who are they in *your *ecclesial community?:slight_smile:


You’d have to ask Jesus, since He’s the one Who instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. But we don’t confess TO a priest. We confess TO God THROUGH a priest.


Another aspect to it is that when you sin you do something that pleases you and is easy to do. When you go to confession you do something that is hard to do and is no fun but pleases God.
The very act of confession is the reverse of sin.


I don’t know about yall, but it’s so hard for me to confess that I have to pray for the strength to make my confession and I tremble until I have made it. Afterward it is like stepping out into a clear garden after a rain storm. I feel that that time spent in sin was some kind of insanity and I am relieved and thankful to be rid of it. Absolution is something I am so helpless about. I am so grateful that God forgives me.





What is your (or your church’s) interpretation of John 22:21?

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

I am very interested in what you believe.

Also, the “Middle Man” in the Catholic perspective is the one who is the successor of those spoken of in John 22:21. Catholics believe that this command is still required of His Church leaders (apostles and successors) by Christ.


Just out of curiosity, could you show a single NT verse that says we are to confess our sins to God and not to another?


There are certainly scriptures supporting confession to others. It is a practice I like in the sense that it allows a form of pastoral counseling to take place as well as real healing in a human heart. It is NOT the priest forgiving your sins but Jesus Christ through the Priest.

I think Protestants try to get off too supeficially by merely confessing to God. There is more accountability when we do it through human beings He has provided.

God chooses to involve human beings in each other’s lives. Witness Lazarus. When Christ commanded him to come out of the tomb He could have had him already unwrapped, he could have commanded Lazarus to unwrap himself BUT instead he commanded others to unwrap Lazarus. He involves us in the work, healing, and ministry of His Kindgdom. In addition he gave certain autority to His ministers. All quite scriptural.

Rev North


If you confess to God without the benefit of a priest, how do you know if you are forgiven?
Just assuming that you are is presumptuous. As in the case of Emo and his bike.

on the sin of presumption:
It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.

If you confess your sins to another member of your church, what guarantees do you have that that person won’t tell someone else? And on what authority would this other member of your church forgive your sins?

Also, if you ‘go straight to God’, you avoid humbling your pride to admit and own your sins to a priest who stands In Persona Christi. It is very easy to gloss over your sins when you go ‘straight to God’. You have no one to set you straight or give you any advice on how to combat this sin in the future. It encourages one to continue sinning because one assumes they are already forgiven. The next step is to cease to examine one’s conscience so that one can sin and sin and sin and always assume that forgiveness is a given. Why should you even take it to God then, since you are already forgiven even before you sin? One doesn’t have to reform their life or anything. imo, it is a slippery slope that leads to hell and is one of the corruptions that satan has introduced to lead souls astray.

I am a convert and confession was one of the hardest things for me to do. I was very blessed to meet a priest whose gift was hearing confessions. For the first time, I understood what was going on and how truly wonderful this Sacrament is.

The priest to hear confessions and absolve you of your sins is one of the greatest gifts our Lord has given us to reconcile ourselves to Him again when we fall.


This is what I meant:

“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin … he [the one who sees the sin] will pray, and He [God] will give him [the sinner] life …” (1 John 5:16)

Of course priests don’t literally see all sin, but they nonetheless ideally should pray about all sin, no? So how do they know who to pray for or what to pray over, unless the sinner confesses to them?

Of course the reference from James is probably better :thumbsup:

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