Hi, Anonymous —
Let me attempt to explain Confession and Sacraments,
You are quite right that only God can forgive sins
and that is exactly what happens in the Sacrament
of Confession. The priest acts
"in the person of Christ."
Before we can discuss the priest's authority, we
must first understand our authority as Christians.
Jesus told us that whatever we do or ask "In His Name", He shall do or grant. First
of all, what we do and ask must be according to His
"Doing something in His name" does not just mean
tagging the action or prayer with the ending
"in Jesus name we pray". No, it is acting
with the power of attorney. Mark 16:17 says:
"in my name they will drive out demons."
This authority is given to those that believe. In
Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to baptize in the name
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Notice,
Jesus does not say, "tell people to baptize
themselves." No, God uses a third party to be the
minister of Baptism, even though
there are always exceptions. There are many that
come to Christ and can't get baptized, or don't know
the need for baptism, and so on. This does not mean
that Jesus can't give them a Spiritual Baptism (what
we call a Baptism of Desire). But under normal
circumstances, Baptism is needed and must be
administered by a third party.
The point here is that Jesus is doing the Baptism through the minister. So, as you can see, God uses
people to mediate or dispense His grace, even if
this simply takes the form of sharing the Gospel.
God could have just revealed Himself to every individual,
just as He did to Paul on the road to Damascus, but instead,
He uses people like me and you and, in particular,
His Church (which is His Body) as a means
by which most people will hear and believe in the
So now we've established this principle of mediation.
Let us deal with the sacrament of Confession.
Here are some Scriptures:
8 Wherefore I beseech
you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end also
did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive
any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any
thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes I forgave
it in the Person of Christ;
2 Corinthians 2:8-10
Here we see Paul forgiving in the person of Christ
15 "If your brother
sins against you, go and show him his fault, just
between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won
your brother over. 16 But if he will not
listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every
matter may be established by the testimony of two or three
witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to
listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he
refuses to listen even to the Church, treat him
as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Here we see the authority to forgive being given
to the Church.
13 Is any among you
afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him
sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among
you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise
him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall
be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults
one to another, and pray one for another, that
ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer
of a righteous man availeth much. [helps a lot.]
In verse 14 we see that the "elders" are
to be called. This Greek word for elder is
Presbyter, which was eventually shortened
to prest or priest. So the person who is sick or
sin should call for the Priest and confess his sins.
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."
There is no getting around this text. Some would
like to write this off by saying;
"Well, the Apostles are just to announce, that folks who
accept Christ, have their sins forgiven".
Well, that is a stretch and a half. The text is
clear. In order to be able to forgive sins, the Apostles would have to hear a Confession. Because
they were also given the authority to retain them,
as well, the Apostles were required to ascertain
if the person had an intention to continue in that
sin or not.
This would require a lot more then leading some
one in the "sinners prayer" and sending
As Catholics, we believe (and can prove from history
and Scripture) that our Bishops are descendants of
the Apostles. Today's Bishops, and the priests under
their authority, continue this same mission of Reconciliation
some 2000 years after Pentecost.
Now Let's talk about the advantages of Confession.
On a purely psychological level, it is one thing
to ask for forgiveness, and quite another to hear
the words "I absolve you" [of your sins.]
More importantly, any Sacrament is a supernatural
encounter with Christ. Christ guaranteed that He
would act in the Sacrament, and therefore, the person
receives grace from Confession.
Allow me to explain further:
- Most of us know that
we sin and repent, but our repentance is not always
a full repentance.
- In other instances, we may actually
repent but our "feelings" deceive us; we
may feel like we really don't feel bad about our
- Other times, we know we need to have remorse,
but we don't. Therefore repentance is an act of faith
only. We do it out of obedience but it is half-hearted.
all these cases, Jesus — through His Church
and the priest — make up what is lacking in
our contrition in order to absolve us. This has a
- It absolves us, giving us a fresh slate,
in spite of our inadequate Confession. This
is possible because we are obediently acting
in faith to, at least, admit our sin and with
an act of the will, resolve to amend our lives.
Further, we are willing to humble ourselves
by submitting to Holy Mother Church.
- The grace, which we receive in the Sacrament,
strengthens us in our attempt to amend
Essentially going to a priest for Confession is
very much like going to a Doctor when you are sick.
God is ultimately The Great Physician: "by His
stripes we are healed". (Isaiah 53:5) All healing comes from
- God heals our body physically through medical doctors.
- Well, the exact same thing is true for Confession:
God, Himself, directly heals our souls spiritually through
Hope this clarifies the issue for you and your friends.