WHY CONFESS TO A PRIEST?
Summary vid + full text.
In a previous post, someone wrote the above question. It is a question asked not only by non-Catholics but by Catholics as well. To clarify the Catholic Church’s doctrine on the sacrament of Confession and why we confess to priests, I wrote this Q&A post which I hope will help you all.
We Catholics confess our sins to a priest and receive God’s forgiveness and absolution BECAUSE GOD WANTED IT THIS WAY. God willed that His pardon and mercy pass through His Son, Jesus Christ, who acts in the priest, and hence, instituted the Sacrament of Confession upon giving His Apostles the power and authority to forgive sins or retain them.
2. Where can you find God’s desire to forgive through his chosen ministers in the Bible and the institution of the Sacrament of Confession?
Jn 20:21-23 – “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT. IF YOU FORGIVE THE SINS OF ANY, THEY ARE FORGIVEN; IF YOU RETAIN THE SINS OF ANY, THEY ARE RETAINED.”
- God’s salvific ministry carried out in His Son Jesus Christ wanted to show and perpetrate His loving mercy and reconciliation throughout time through the Apostles and their successors (Bishops, and their collaborators, the priests (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20; Jas 5:14-15).
- This power to “forgive and retain” sins in the name of Jesus is described in other scriptural passages as the authority to “bind and loose” (Cf. Mt 16:19; 18:18).
Yes! Only God can and it is He who forgives sins in the sacrament of Confession and not the priest.
- When the priest gives the absolution or forgives sin in Confession, he lends his voice to Christ: He acts IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST. IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF WHO SAYS: “I ABSOLVE YOU FROM YOUR SINS…”
This fact is in consonance with Jesus’ act of imparting his power to forgive sins to His apostles and his authority to reconcile sinners with His Church. The practice of confessing one’s sins to another has been present since the times when the Apostles were still alive.
- James” 5: 14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore 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.”
- The command in v. 16, “confess your sins to one another” has to be interpreted within the previous context of the anointing rite, where the elders (i.e., presbyter = Greek πρεσβύτερος: priest, the senior, leader of the Christian congregation) presumably hear the confession of the sick person before his sins are remitted through the sacrament (5:14-15). It must be reminded that such confession has its roots in the liturgical practice of Israel (Lev 5:5-6; Num 5:5-10) and is contained in the teaching of Jesus (Jn 20:23).
Dear brethren in Christ, had God willed for us to confess directly to Him, Jesus wouldn’t have given His power and authority to forgive sins to His Apostles and nor had instituted the Sacrament of Confession.
Besides, one advantage of obeying God’s will to confess our sins to His instruments is the absolute assurance of having been forgiven upon receiving the sacramental absolution, a fact which we cannot be absolutely sure if we are to confess our sins directly to God.
By confessing our sins to God’s instruments, who are also sinners for all we are, He also wants us to practice and grow in humility and faith, necessary virtues in order to receive God’s loving mercy.
Let us thank God for giving us the Sacrament of Confession out of His bountiful love and mercy for us. He knows that we are sinners and weak: and since He loves us and longs for us, He gave us this remedy so as to begin again after having fallen.
A blessed week ahead!
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo.
SEE AS WELL:
HOW TO CONFESS? HERE ARE THE EASY STEPS. CONFESSION CHART AND EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE GUIDES in https://catholicsstrivingforholiness.org/how-to-confess-here-are-the-easy-steps-confession-chart-and-examination-of-conscience-guides/
THUMBNAIL CREDIT: L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO CNA
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