Why should I confess my sins to a priest?

I get this objection a lot from non-Catholics. It is actually an obstacle for many non-Catholics who are considering converting to the Catholic Church. I thought to pose the questions a fresh here.

Why can I just confess to God directly? In the Bible it says that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. So, I don’t need to confess to a priest. A priest is just like any other man.

Is a priest like any other man? What makes him different?

The reason Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance is to assure the penitent that they are forgiven. If you confess to directly to God, the devil will put thoughts in your head and tell you that you aren’t forgiven. This way, you are absolutely certain of God’s forgiveness.

Plus, part of true penitence is the promise to not do it again. If you are say, struggling with masturbation, you will definitely need some spiritual advice to help you avoid sin. Some Protestants will say that they don’t need spiritual advice, but this is a sign of pride.

Also, through the Sacrament of Penance, you receive graces from temptation.

Jesus is the only mediator. But, the priest is representing Jesus. The priest is a direct telephone line to Him. Jesus speaks through the priest.

The Sacrament of Penance isn’t the only way to obtain forgiveness. In situations where you can’t find a priest, you can attempt to make perfect contrition, and that will suffice until you can go to confession.

How can people come to know that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance? Is the only Biblical reference Mark 2 and if so, how can one jump to such conclusions?

Mark 2
Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Try John 20:21-23:

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.”

It is Biblical

John refers to sins that are what we call venial in the Catholic Church. However, he distinguishes them apart from another type of sin that leads to death. He clearly differentiates that there are two classes of sins. One of them, he says prayer is not sufficient
1John 5: 16-17

“16If anyone sees his brother commit asinthat is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, andGodwillgivelifeto this brother – provided that it is not a deadly sin. There issinthat leads to death and I am not saying you must pray about that.17Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not allsin*leads to death.”

They can confess directly to God, but do they?
When we get to go to ‘Jesus with skin on’, it makes us really reflect on our sins and shortcomings, it makes us be aware of our sinfulness, and it really firms our resolve not to come to the confessional again with the same thing over and over. What a great benefit. How sad that our Christian brothers and sisters are missing out on this flood of graces made available to us by Christ.

Yes, in John we see that Jesus, after He resurrected, gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles. However, how can we derive from that, that almost 2,000 years later we are to confess to a man called a priest? Wasn’t it to the apostles that He gave the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins?

It is important to pause here and note that in John 21-23 Jesus clearly gives the authority to a group of ‘men’ to forgive sins. So, the ‘idea’ is not radical nor foreign nor in conflict with ‘Christianity’. The question that remains, for millions of people, however, is: how do you jump from that moment in time to priests in our time having the same authority?

John 20: 19 - 31
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.”

Easiest answer- because it IS Jesus you are confessing to, NOT to the priest.

It has to do with the nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders- when a priest in confecting the Eucharist or absolving sins he is doing it in persona Christi, or “as the Person, Christ”.

How can it be Jesus that I am confessing to? If my eyes do not deceive me, it is a man that I am confessing to. He is not Jesus. This is confusing, because one person is saying that Jesus Himself gave the authority to the apostles to forgive sins as quoted in John, but, you are saying that the priest ***Is ***Jesus. Can you please explain? How exactly is it that the priest has the authority to forgive sins and at the same time it is not he who is forgiving me but Jesus Himself?

Furthermore, what nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders? Where is that in the Bible?

It’s called apostolic succession. We recite it every Sunday in the Mass during the Nicene Creed. The ordained priesthood in the Catholic Church is traced back to the original 12 Apostles. Pope Francis traces his lineage back to St. Peter. That’s where the authority you mention has been handed down from generation to generation. It is instituted in the sacrament of “Holy Orders.”

The priest is the representative of Jesus. It is Jesus who said; whos sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. This was the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I hear the Anglicans and Lutherans are now looking into expanding confession within their churches.

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

He is all the mediator we need. He is also omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient.

Hi “Abba” – I ask a lot of questions, too.

“persona Christi” would be suggesting that the priest is equal to the Godhead. As has been commented – the priest is a human being – just like the rest of mankind. Having said That – there Are spiritual gifts that all born-again believers are given. One of those many gifts would be that of teacher/ over-seer. But that person would Not be seen as equal to the Godhead.

I can pray with my pastor or a deacon or my best friend – asking forgiveness for a sin – God sees our heart – knows whether we are praying with a sincere heart. God’s grace is sufficient or a person would Not have forgiveness of sins. And we Do have inner peace from having confessed to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus was tempted by satan – He used God’s Word to resist. So the problem is Not being tempted – but how we respond To the temptation. James 4:7 “Submit yourselves , then, to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

And our problem with temptations is that Sometimes we simply don’t want to resist – Satan knows our weaknesses – he can make sin look Very good – so when we realize what is happening with us – we ask God for 'help – Now". God Does give us strength to resist. But He Won’t take the cigarette , alcoholic beverage, magazine, or ‘scramble our computer keyboard’ out of our hand.
So, yes, we Have to make the conscious decision to Resist the temptation.

From the Catechism on Holy Orders~

1563 "Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head."45

You will find many of the answers to your questions in the catechism. It can be difficult for some to read due to style, so I also suggest the US Catholic Catechism for Adults with the actual Catechism as a reference.

So… How do you explain Jesus granting His Apostles the ability/authority to forgive sins in John 20:23? This gift/authority that has been handed down through valid Catholic priestly ordination through the centuries (the Catholic Church was founded by Christ Himself 2,000 years ago; your Baptist church was founded less than 400 years ago by John Smyth).

First of all, a priest is not an ordinary man. A priest has a special vocation to serve God and His Church.

Second, The New Testament clearly gives priests the power sins by Jesus. As He said to Peter “I give the keys to heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loose in heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall remain bound on earth”.

You may always, always God for forgiveness, because one of the perks about being God is that you are bound by the Sacraments.

However, you are at a disadvantage for not confessing your sins.

To being with, not confessing sins at least once a year can be a grave matter, and you’re setting yourself up for a long haul in purgatory (or worse) without confession.

Priests hear confession because that is what Jesus told His disciples to do. God breathes on man only twice first in Genesis and second is in John chapter 20 verse 22 and in verse 23 right after he breathes on them giving them the Holy Spirit, He gives them the power to forgive or not to forgive sins the fact that God breathes on man only twice shows how important the Sacrament of Reconciliation is and Catholics still do what Jesus establishes in these verses. We confess our sins and then the Priests give us sound advice on combatting sins especially if they are particularly heinous the Priest gives plan of action on how to over come the sin or get people the help they need. Talk to a priest everyone of them will tell you they have had times when Jesus via the Holy Spirit takes right over while they are hearing a confession and things have come out of their mouth that were not their own thoughts.

Yes!!! :slight_smile:

And, we want to scream it out from a mountain top! How to practically and effectively do this? Well, right here we have an audience. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity and as freely we have received freely give. If we only help one person here to understand better - there will be rejoicing in heaven. :thumbsup:

PennyinCanada, it is not only the non-Catholics who are not confessing. There are many Catholics in the periphery of the Church who do not confess ‘directly’ to God.

When I lived in the periphery of the Church I practiced my faith with my very limited understanding and thought I was fine with God. I was out in the periphery not because I was a so-called 'Cafeteria Catholic" - (what ever that means) or a “Holidays Catholic” by choice, but due to my particular circumstance in life. Specifically, my Catholic upbringing abruptly stopped when I was nine years old. I had not yet received my first communion. I was sent to live with people who were non-practicing Catholics and I could not even go to church. The years went by and I ended out in the periphery. There are a variety of reasons why people live out there. I missed out on the Sacrament of Confession and I don’t recall necessarily confessing directly. If I committed a sin, I would think that at some point I would have asked God to please forgive me and that I would try not to sin again… but… this is really way out there. There is no sense of commitment nor obligation when everything can be rationalized and the person keeps 100% percent control of the practice of the faith.

I have a cousin that lives way out yonder and her reason is the marriage and remarriage situation. She can not receive the Eucharist and so, long ago, stopped attending Mass and participating. She, like many so-called ‘Non-Practicing Catholics’ has rationalized many things and particularly has condensed all the teachings of the Church to the commandments of Jesus:

(Matthew 22:37–40).
Love the Lord
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).

Love Your Neighbor
“And the second [commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.

According to my cousin, as long as she loves God and her neighbors she’s good to go. To say that even Catholics who live in the periphery can rationalize doing without
confession not only to a priest but totally.

Although as noted in this thread by bben15 we read in Sacred Scripture about Confession in John 21-23 and as noted by Crochet Lady in I John 1:9 and I myself noted Mark 2; the desire of Jesus that we should confess doesn’t seem to pop for some people from the scripture. So, that not only non-Catholic/non-Orthodox christian do not have it integrated as an important practice of their faith but also Catholics who are out in the periphery can just disregard it.

The only non-Catholic/non-Orthodox faith that I can think of right now that has confession integrated as a part of the practice of the faith is the Jewish faith.

Many people misunderstand God’s Mercy. They think that God is Love and is Mercy and will forgive them. However, Paul tells us that the time of mercy is now and then comes judgement.

Not at all! Let’s take everyone’s favorite: Paul. Paul had a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11, 5:18). He urged those who were already Christians (the Corinthians) to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). He forgave sins in the person of Christ (2 Corthinaints 2:10), as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is not equality in any sense of the word, but is a ministry clearly spelled out in the scriptures.

Both Peter and Paul raised the dead. Peter’s shadow healed. Kerchiefs touched to Paul healed others. Were they equal to God? No! But, they had a special ministry, given them by God. Since the bible does not say that those ministries ended, but rather that they were passed on, why doubt the bible?

Good for you! Yet, you have never heard our Savior’s words of absollution (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:48). Jesus told each sinner that their sins were forgiven, then gave that same authority to the Twelve (John 20:23). We cannot and must not assume that God has forgiven us, simply because we want to be forgiven. Before we confess, we must examine our conscience. What if our heart was not properly disposed, or was unrepentant? What then? Catholics and Orthodox hear the actual words of Christ, as spoken through His ambassadors - whether binding or loosing sin (Matthew 18:18, John 20:23)

And who was it that twisted those same scriptures in order to tempt Christ? We know, inerrantly, that man twists and distorts the scriptures just as the devil does (Matthew 4:6, Luke 4:9-11, 2 Peter 3:16). We are not able to resist as Christ did - else we would be equal to God.

James? The same James who inerrantly wrote "confess your sins to one another? James 5:16 Yes! Catholics and Orthodox confess their sins to one another - but not simply for drill - we confess to him who has authority to bind or loose our sins (John 20:23). This ministry was practiced before a single line of the New Testament was ever written.

How utterly tragic that one of the fruits of the reformation was the rejection and elimination of Paul’s ministry of reconciliation!

Well first the Bible talks about how we should confess our sins to one another.

Then we find out that Jesus breathed on the Apostles
and said that whose ever sins they forgive are forgiven
while those they retain are retained.

So on the one hand, we are told to confess, on the other,
we are made known that there are certain individuals with
the authority to forgive/retain sins.

Who today has this authority? Obviously the successors of the Apostles, those
who are charged to watch over and minister to the Church and the people in her.

Also, recall what I said earlier**:** “Jesus breathed on the Apostles.” That’s
very much like when God gave Adam the Breath of Life. Oh Also, Jesus
told the Apostles to “receive the Holy Spirit.”

So confession involves everything I said above and probably a lot more,
Christ-given authority to the Apostles, authority handed down from the
Apostles to today, instructions to confess to one another, “receive the
Holy Spirit…”

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