Why Do Catholics Confess Sins to a Priest?

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In our personal relationship with God, we may approach Him at any time seeking forgiveness and confessing our sins to Him.

He has given us a beautiful gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, more commonly known as: confession.

Jesus said to the Apostles, the first priests, in John 20:21~23, “Peace be with  you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  He then breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

How would they know what sins to forgive or retain unless people were confessing their sins to them?

Clearly, in the above passage, Christ has bestowed upon His first priests, the power to forgive sins in His name. God has the power, the ONLY power, to forgive sins…but He has given this power to certain men on earth to exercise in His Name.

Many people say that a human mediator is not needed to confess sins.

However, there is no Christian denomination where a believer may baptize himself. In ALL denominations, it is required that there be human mediation for baptism to take place. Why then, is it so odd to think of this same process for the confessing of sins?

#1440, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with Him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.”

#1441 STATES: “Only God can forgive sins. Since He is the Son of God, Jesus says of Himself, “The Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.”..and exercises this divine power, “Your sins are forgiven”. Further, by virtue  His divine authority, he gives this power to men to exercise in His name.”

Christ wishes the Church to be a sign of forgiveness and reconciliation, and has entrusted that power to the priests, who are the successors of His Apostles. They have been “sent out” on behalf of Christ, into an Apostolic Ministry of Reconciliation, and therefore, as mediators and intercessors, beckon to us, “be reconciled to God”.

Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.

Personal thoughts:

This is a beautiful Sacrament, a gift that God has given us on earth, that we may humble ourselves by confessing to human ears our sins, that those ears may listen, and then offer, in the name of Jesus, God’s forgiveness and absolution to us in our contrition.

We understand that a priest has, by himself, no power to forgive a person’s sins…but by the power bestowed upon them as successors of the Apostles, Jesus comes to us in the Sacrament…and through the hands of His priest…He heals us.

Copyright 2011 Judy Dudich

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