Why Catholics confess to Jesus through the priest (and other common questions)

I will provide answers for a few common questions non-Catholics ask on this forum, via apologetics, Churc teaching, and private revelation.

Why confess to a priest?

Father Vincent explains that “in John 20:21 when Jesus appeared to his Apostles in the upper room on Easter Sunday evening He said: " ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ’ Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’”

With such words Jesus took the matter out of the penetent’s hands and put it into the hands of his priests. He not only gave them the power to forgive sins, he also gave them authority to objectively discern when to use such power and when to withhold it.

This is not something that he said to all of his followers, but only to those he had chosen to lead his Church.

For more, see these:




Today, the Lord has been teaching me, once again, how I am to approach the Sacrament of Penance: My daughter, just as you prepare in My presence, so also you make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest it is that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light. (Divine Mercy In My Soul, 1725)

Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation,65 bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
1465 When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. the priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner.
1466 The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant. the minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ.71 He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord’s mercy.

Why is a priest called “Father”?

Jim Blackburn explains that Jesus said, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matt 23:9). Several sentences later he said, “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers” (Matt 23:32). So clearly verse 9 was not meant to be a prohibition against the use of the word “father” for anyone other than the first person of the trinity. Rather, it was a prohibition against the misuse of the title.


Why is the Pope called “Holy Father”?

Michelle Arnold asks, Why do many Protestants call their ministers “Reverend,” an adjective that means “revered”? On the basis of your friend’s argument, shouldn’t the only one worthy of reverence be God himself? Why do many Protestants impart on their seminary students the title “Master of Divinity” to denote that this person has completed a step many Protestants deem necessary to being ordained to the clergy? How can any man master the Divine?

I point this out, not to ridicule your friend’s deeply-held convictions, but to demonstrate that many Protestants apparently do not think through their objections to Catholic titles of honor for clergy. They too use titles that, if subject to the same semantic scrutiny to which they subject Catholic titles, would have to be rejected on the same grounds.

Catholics call the pope “Holy Father” as a mark of respect because they recognize his call by Christ to image the holiness and Fatherhood of God. The term draws its power from, is dependent upon, and shares in a subordinate manner in the holy Fatherhood of God; it in no way supercedes it or denies the unique holiness and paternity of God alone.


For more on the titles of priests and the Pope, check out this article: catholic.com/library/Call_No_Man_Father.asp

The Bible also says concerning confession:

(James 5:16 RSV) 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.

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

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