What are Protestant concerns with the sacrament of confession?



First let me say that I am not trying to start any arguments. I am just curious as to what issues most Protestants have with confession.

I ask because I want to write an article on confession for my website and I would like to know what questions that I need to try and answer.:slight_smile:

If you are Catholic what questions do your Protestant friends ask you most about. If you are Protestant, what are your concerns or questions about the sacrament of confession.

Thank you ahead of time for help my website grow by answering this question.:slight_smile:

I hope that I worded this correctly.


I’m Catholic. Here is a simple objection that you would need to address:

“I confess my sins directly to God in prayer, and He forgives me. There is no need to go to a priest when I can go directly to God.”


Here’s one, a bit of a variation on the one above. As Christians, we have within ourselves both the old nature that comes from sin and the fall of man and the new nature that comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That being the case, why would I want to confess my deepest, darkest, most embarassing sins to another man instead of to God…who, after all, already knows about them and died on a cross to cleanse me of them?


That is the one. For those of us who were not brought up within the Ian Paisley “Papistry-is-of-the-Devil” school of Protestantism, the idea of confessing to a human rather than directly to God really just seems quite superfluous.


I have had this question posed not only by protestants, but also catholics. When presented with the following scripture I am at a loss on both sides. Where does it say that we must confess to a priest? All I know is that as Catholics, we are to confess to a priest - I cannot tell anyone why…:confused:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.(NRSV - Catholic Women’s Study Bible)


ps - my point with the Bible quote was it does NOT say that we must confess to a priest…forgot to add that to my post…


The authority to bind and loose (forgive) sins in both Heaven and on Earth was given to Peter by Jesus. Peter gave this authority to the other Apostles.
Jesus after his resurrection said to the gathered apostles:

(Joh 20:21)Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
(Joh 20:22) And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
(Joh 20:23) If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

How were the apostles (and their successors) to effect forgiving sins if the sins are not communicated to them? Jesus, himself, in a very straight forward way in John 20:23 is establishing the sacrament of confession via a duly appointed person.

The Catholic priest is forgiving sins “in persona Christi” or “in the person of Christ”. Jesus Christ ultimately forgives the sins. Based from apostolic authority, however, the priest decides if it shall be granted at the time of the confession.


Simply read the entire context, James 5:14:
Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church,…


The Catholic practice of being required to confess all mortal sins to a priest dosn’t make any sense at all to a protestant for a few reasons:

  1. Protestants believe in the priesthood of all believers. This gives the power to “bind and loose” to all those with the Holy Spirit.

  2. Protestants have a totally different view of “Mortal sin.” (Mortal Sin is in quotes because I’ve never heard a protestant actually use the term.) OSAS Protestants say there is no mortal sin - meaning there is no sin so bad that you were not forgiven of it in advance the moment you truly became a Christian. The other view of “Mortal Sin” by protestants is by those who believe it is possible but very difficult to lose your salvation. To this group the only Mortal sin is that in which you renounced your decesion to be a follower of Christ altogether. Should you choose to do this, why would you confess it anyhow? You have rejected forgiveness and thus rejected God! Why would someone who rejects God ask God for forgiveness? That would make no sense.

Now, Last I checked, Catholics do believe you may confess venial sins directly to God. (correct me if I’m incorrect!) By Protestant belief, all of a True Christians sins are venial ones and therefore qualify for direct to God confession.

Another thing to note when talking to protestants about confession… Protestants do believe there are some sins that should be confess to other men. these include sins against the person you are confessing to and a public confession that you are a sinner, you know it and you are repenting. This public confession is usually done in the form of “the sinners prayer” as well as at the time of Baptism.


Thank you all! Wow, I have plenty to try and answer. The wonderful thing is that by starting the website, I can research my faith and come to a much deeper understanding then I would otherwise.

Now I have to go do some research!

Thanks again!


It is interesting that some of the “Bible” churches out there are starting to come around on the confession idea. I actually was told by one of my Evangelical friends the other day that while at a service, their minister had said, “You know, I think that the Catholics have got it right when it comes to confession. There are just too many times in the Bible where we are told to confess to each other.” Now that is enough to give you hope!



Deb -

Could you please post the link to your website? I am having this very discussion with my fundamentalist husband. Thank you so much for starting this because I’ve been digging for the same answers to give to him. I’d like to follow your progress.


PLEASE read John 20: 21_23


I think that it depends on what Non-Catholic Church you are talking about, and who you are talking too.

There are some Non-Catholic Churches that do “confessions”, however to them it IS NOT a Sacrament, therefore it’s hardly talked about.

For example from the LCMS web-page you can read articles on how members of the LCMS can “confess” their sins to a Pastor and recieve an “absolution”. They even tell you what sins sould be “confessed” to the Pastor.

Granted, it’s not totally the same as what Catholic’s Believe; seeing we see it as a Sacrament. However, it’s their within their church.

For example if you go to www.lcms.org and type in the word “confession” you will get a link to this article: lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/wa_confession-absolution.pdf


To my understanding, we can confess our sins to frez/pastor + confessing to God as well, however i believe how comfort are you to confess your sins to others. We do not label our sins into mortal/venial sins, as long as you don’t do anything right you are sinning, even bad mouth others/gossiping about others are things that are not right in the eye’s of God, so we are sinning thus need confession.


:amen: That’s what Catholic’s believe too!

Honestly I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have some kind of 'hang-ups" when it comes to confessing. There is always some kind of comfort level at issue.

There isn’t much more to add. You are right, gossiping and bad mouthing others are SINS. Sins need to be confessed. period.

I realize that you do not label sins as “mortal” or “venial”. So here from the CCC re: “Mortal Sin” vs. “Venial Sin”

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1855]Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

Also from the CCC:

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1857]For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

What’s Grave Matter?

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1859] Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments

So to give a small example:

Failure to pray to God daily would be a “venial” sin.
Using God’s name intentionally as a curse word would be a “mortal” sin.

Also Catholics should daily be doing a examation of conscience. In that daily examation of conscience we ask God to forgive our “venial” sins.

We go to a confession to a priest. To recieve forgiveness from God re: “mortal” sins.


Keep in mind that James was addressing his Bishops: not the general population. Since they were all priests, “to one another” meant “to a priest” - in other words, they already knew that they were supposed to hear the Confessions of the lay people who came to them; James was reminding them, “Hey, you have to go to Confession, too, so hear each other’s Confessions as well as those of the lay people.”


In the letter of James, he says “confess to one another.” So we certainly have established that it is important to confess to SOMEBODY. In the early Church, public, out-in-the-open confession in front of the whole congregation – in the presence of the priest – was the norm.

Clearly, that was extremely awkward. Gradually as the practice of the Sacrament evolved, confession was limited to the ears of those who had received the charism to forgive and retain sins: Priests.


Good answer!

rr – I understand you were middle-to-low Church as an Episcopalian. When I was an Episcopalian I regularly made sacramental confessions. Used the same priest for 18 years! (Poor devil!)


That’s pretty interesting. I know that there are Episcopal Parishes that did that. It was not common in my parish though. I imagine that if you asked the priest to take your confession he would probably have agreed…but with a puzzled look on his face!

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