Confession to a Priest

Q. Why do Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest instead of praying straight to God?

A. In obedience to Christ.

John 20:19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

After His resurrection, Jesus, appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday evening. He conferred the power to forgive sins by breathing on them. This corresponds to God breathing life into Adam. And so, Jesus breathes life giving power to forgive sins into his disciples. Note that this is before Pentecost and the general bestowal of the Holy Spirit. This is a special and unique pouring out of the Holy Spirit for the disciples, the first priests and bishops of the Christian Church.

And the purpose of this special dispensation of the Holy Spirit is to empower the apostles with the authority to forgive or not forgive sins in the name of Christ. This specific action cannot mean some sort of general power such as that by the preaching of the Gospel sins are forgiven or not depending upon the hearer. Jesus says, “If you forgive….if you do not forgive…” It would be impossible for the disciples to obey Jesus without audibly hearing the confessions of men and women, boys and girls.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Now this verse can be interpreted in a Protestant way to mean salvation by the preaching of the Gospel. However, we see this verse as further proof for the sacrament of reconciliation/confession. Also, James points out that

James 5:13-16 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

The Greek word for elders is presbuterous. This is the Greek etymological root from which we get our English word for priest. So, James is saying to call the priests to pray for healing both physical and spiritual. Why would James specify the calling of the elders/priests for those who are sick if they had no more authority than the average Christian?

Confession and the abuse scandal.

27 Responses

  1. after the recent church scandals in Canada:
    stay away from our children. Multi-generational epidemics of sanctioned and church protected pedophilia proves religion and children should not mix

    Stay out of our bedrooms. Work on correcting your own dysfunctional sexual urge

  2. fma7
    I too am outraged by the abuse of authority exercised by our disordered priests who succumbed to EVIL. From what I have heard, these priests may have used the confessional as an opportunity to indulge their disordered lusts. Others may have used the confessions to pinpoint who might be susceptible to their overtures. Others simply abused trust. Sacrilege! Abominable! I really can’t think of words to express my indignation at the desecration of this beautiful sacrament instituted by Christ. And the spiritual and moral mutilation visited upon these trusting young people and their families.

    However, we must remember that by far the majority of priests have been perfectly honorable, noble, and chaste. I have to admit that I am shocked by the prejudice of your comment. We would never lump all black people together and call them all criminal because some are, so that black people and “children should not mix.” Or lumping all Germans into the category of genocical maniacs because Hitler and his people tried to exterminate the Jews sixty years ago, so therefore all Germans should be forbidden to have any access to Jewish people. This response to the priest scandal is not fair minded. Children have been sexually molested by their teachers. Should we ban all adults from teaching school? Of course this is absurd. Why does it only seem good and right to discriminate against priests?

    The answer is because this is the influence of Our Enemy. We must remember that this life is all about where each soul will spend eternity. Our Enemy can kill the lives of many more souls by aiming his big guns at bishops and priests rather than your average men on the street. These priests will have to answer to God for their crimes but please, remember they may very well have undergone much more tempation focused upon them by the Enemy. Still they should have been prepared for these attacks and resisted unto death….but many failed. What we don’t know is how many priests have persevered and persevered to the end against these exact same tempations.

    One correction is needed here. This was not an epidemic of pedophilia. In nearly every case these victims were adolescent boys. So, it was actually an epidemic of homosexual abuse of boys. But the press wants very much to attack the church but avoid putting homosexuality in a bad light. It found a way to this. Nearly every report characterized the priest scandal as a pedophile problem when in reallity it is a homosexual problem. And still, five years later, when it is clear that the majority of victims were boys, the homosexual roots of the abuse are being covered up in the media. And even though this is true, I still do not believe that all homosexuals molest boys.

    And finally, we also need to remember that the Christian religion is all about love and forgiveness. Otherwise, we suffer with the bitterness of unforgiveness. We also need to remember that Our Father loves these priests just as much as anyone else. And just like a any good father He will discipline these men through the civil government and/or Purgatory if they are repentant or Hell if they are not repentant.

    gods love, forgiveness, homosexual, satans attack

  3. how can one not have prejudice when in this case one hears the same tired excuse about a few bad apples when the Canadian Gov’t and 8o,000 Aborigonals are citing a national epidemic of Church Pedophilia. The Church has scurried to avoid moral and financial accountability. This is amolst half a century of systemized abuse. Nuns were involved also according to testimony with babies born, murdered and buried on residential school grounds. Enemy?…Temptation? Hey these were innocent children.These Children and their families and Indigenous culture has been forever destruyed. You don’t get to go off on tangents about everlasting and Heaven.

  4. Well, I can’t comment on the Canadian scandal. I really have heard little about it except that there was one. It is all just worse than words can express. Yes, all the innocent children sacrificed on the altar of selfish sexual pleasure. But it is ironic, is it not, that all the innocent chilren murdered through abortion are totally ignored by the media….

    In my diocese all the priests with credible evidence against them are on the diocesan website. Our hall had to be renamed because it was named after one of the priests on this list.

  5. it is a totally different issue and far from irony.

  6. Furthermore this is not about homosexuality. You can’t redirect responsibility away from the church and instesd target gays.This is about abusing children placed with trust in the care of the Catholic Church. This is called pedeophilia and this is what most of the world calls having sex with children.

  7. I was not redirecting blame away from the guilty priests and bishops. I was clarifying the sin and pointing out the ulterior motives of the press. But, I am actually extremely pleased that regardless of their motives God is using this whole affair all over the world to clean house and punish the wicked. He is purifying the Church.

    And remember Jesus promised that this sort of thing would happen in the world:

    Matthew 13:24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
    27″The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    28” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

    29” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’

    36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
    37He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

    40″As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

    So, we see that Jesus predicted this sort of thing and we can trust Him and His True Church to triumph in the end.

  8. thanks for the discourse

  9. As I read the questions addressed on this website I understand that I indeed can/must “work” my way to heaven and Christ did not pay the whole price for my sin. And I am reminded of people all around us like my own mother (now deceased) who could read but there is no way on this earth my dear uneducated uncomplicated mother could have gotten to heaven in the Catholic church. She could not have understood all this..your info on this site sounds like “hopelessness” for a mear human being….am at a loss for words-satan couldn’t defeat me today but I daresay your website has come near to doing just that.

  10. Dear Brighteyes,

    I am sorry felt defeated after reading my website. But let me assure you, you have misunderstood. The Catholic Faith does not teach that we must work our way to Heaven. That is what some who are mininformed say we teach. But they are wrong.

    The minimum requirements for salvation in the Catholic Church are very easy and full of mercy and grace with the safety net of Confession. They are called the Precepts of the Catholic Church. CCC


    2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

    2042 The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.”) requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.[82]
    The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.[83]
    The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.[84]

    2043 The fourth precept (“You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.”) completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.[85]
    The fifth precept (“You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.[86]
    The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities

    The hardest one is to actually get to Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. The good works required of us, “Faith without works is dead” James 2 help in our purification and reparation for our sin. But you don’t have to understand all the theology to follow the precepts and do good works. It is really pretty easy. We are not save by how much theology we know but by our Obedience of Faith as St. Paul opens and closes Romans. This website is to explain Catholic theology to those who are interested. But it is not necessary to be saved.

  11. Confess your sin at least once a year? You have to be kidding! Do you realize what a brick wall of separation (unconfessed sin) would have built up between me and My Lord in A YEAR?? If I waited months to repent of sin I would be so cold and hardened and I cannot even imagine what God would have to allow in my life that would break down that wall..

  12. Dear Brighteyes,

    The precept refers to sacramental confession, to a priest. Hey, it is the bare minimum. This is not recommended practice. Recommended practice from the holiest priests is to go to sacramental confession once or twice a month and to do an examination of conscience at noon and at bedtime. But this is not required to be a Catholic. These are recommended to those actively in pursuit of holiness.

    We confess, or should confess our sins every day or at least at every mass straight to God. There are several places in the mass to confess our sins and be forgiven of venial sins.
    If we have mortal sin we must go to confession before receiving the Eucharist.

  13. Why do you need to confess to a priest?

  14. Q. Why do you need to confess to a Priest?

    A.For several reasons:

    1. The one who goes to Confession seeks forgiveness in the way our Lord prescribed instead of laying down his own conditions.
    2. By confessing to a priest the Catholic benefits by an act of Christian humility not obtained by private confession.
    3. By Confessing to a Priest the Catholic receives many Sacramental Graces that are not received outside of Confession that help him overcome his sin.
    4. The Catholic has an objective and solid assurance of forgiveness by the audible words of absolution from the priest.
    5. The Catholic can secure sound advice about his or her spiritual life and the will of God concerning reparation or restitution to be made, while the other is left to uninstructed self-guidance.

    Our confessor is the doctor of our soul. He assists us with overcoming the arrows of sin, from our enemy, that found their mark .

  15. This website tells me that I can lose my salvation; that I won’t go to heaven if I have commited sin(and not yet repented) at the moment when I die; So what I take from this is that The Gift of Salvation, the price paid for my sin…wellllll it sounds like the Gift was not complete..was not a perfect Gift? Right?

  16. The gift was indeed perfect. But it requires a proper reception from us. Otherwise everyone would be saved regardless of how they lived. There would be absolutely no use for Churches. Of what use would they be? It would not matter, since everyone was going to Heaven anyway, simply because of Jesus’ perfect Git.There are people who believe this way–it is called Indifferentism. And, yes, you certainly can lose your salvation if you die with mortal sin unconfessed. See Ez. 18:24
    And my post Can We Lose Our Salvation?

  17. You are telling me that I as a born again christian with a real relationship with my Lord and in a moment of weakness I commit a particular sin and the next instant was “hit by a truck” (so to speak) or a “bomb” BEFORE I could respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess my sin…my salvation would be nil..I’d spend eternity in Hell. That’s what I am understanding from your website.

  18. I cannot say. The Church warns her children to avoid sin. I can only say what Scripture says about sin that is unto death I Jn and St. Paul in several lists of deadly sins. Did you read Ezekiel 18? The Catholic Church does not say anyone is in Hell or make that sort of judgment so neither will I.

    But any born again Christian with a real relationship with Christ would be an even greater traitor,than your average Joe, if after a life of blessing and grace to willfully sin mortally. It would be slap in the face of Our Lord. But in the last instant of life you might receive a further grace from God to repent with your dying breath. We don’t teach what tickles the ear but the truth and leave all to the mercy of Jesus.

  19. I want to ask you something. If you personally, as a Catholic, had parents who were born again practicing christians in a protestant church, how would you as a Catholic be praying for them ..and how would you handle their death?

  20. Dear Brighteyes,

    Well, both of my parents were very committed “born again” Christians and my father died two years after I was received into the Catholic Church.

    I pray(ed) for their conversion to the Catholic Church. Because it is the fullness of Truth and so beautiful and deeply satisfying. But they really didn’t want to hear about it. They were filled with misconceptions about the Catholic Church. They loved me and respected by decision but it grieved them. Nevertheless, they both came to the Easter Vigil at which I received my sacraments and was received into the Catholic Church. And they came again the next year when our four youngest children entered the Church. I feel confident of their salvation but I still pray for them. I trust them to the mercy of God and am at peace.

  21. Please explain to me why you “still” pray for them?

  22. For my mom that she would persevere to the end and for conversion to the Catholic Church. For my dad’s comfort/release from Purgatory.

  23. So you are telling me that when I as a protestant die my child & her family, catholic, can have no peace about where their mom/m-inlaw /grandmother will spend eternity?

  24. No, we can be reasonably sure and at peace; as i said I was regarding my dad. Purgatory is on the way to Heaven. If you make it to Purgatory you know you will be in Heaven once you have been purified.

  25. how does one get out of purgatory?

  26. Release from Purgatory is determined by God. When the soul is sufficiently purified for the Vision of God they are admitted to Heaven. No one knows when this occurs, unless God gives a special revelation, which is unusual.

  27. ezekiel means he might actually die, not go to hell. Look at the hebrew.

    1 John 5:13 , and 6:37-44 its pretty clear if you are truly saved you cannot lose it. But we need to test ourselves to make sure were truly saved from time to time.

    To say you will go to hell if you die sinning is heresy, unless you were never saved to begin with. In that case it makes no difference if you were sinning or not.

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