Why Should I Confess My Sins to a Priest? 15

It is the season of conversion. If you need a little push, turn to the sacraments, because that is what they are for. In the sacrament of confession Christ himself forgives and gives the grace to continue our Lenten pilgrimage with courage, hope, and joy.

Biltrix

Have you ever asked or been asked,”Why should I confess my sins to someone else, If I can just confess them to God directly?”

Of course, you can confess your sins to God anytime you want. And God forgives you if you are truly sorry.

When you confess your sins to a priest, however, you are not just telling some guy what you did wrong. In order to understand why confessing your sins to a priest is different (and important), you need to exercise your faith in the teaching of the Church.

The following video explains this clearly and effectively:

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15 comments

  1. One matter here I can never by in to. Whatever the theology and explanations given almost all Catholics I know feel they are actually forgiven and walk out the booth with cleansed assurance. No man can grant that and I am sure the faith does not say that but that’s how people feel when they walk out of that booth. It may be an incorrect assumption but most Catholics feel the priest has these magical powers and is a sin not to subjugate one’s self to the clergy.

    If one is lead by the Calvin positions there can never be a meeting of minds on this one despite earnest explanations. Of course I am a real heretic within the Protestant line. I feel as a father/parent it is more appropriate for me to baptize my children instead of a clergyman.

    • “It may be an incorrect assumption but most Catholics feel the priest has these magical powers and is a sin not to subjugate one’s self to the clergy.”

      I really don’t see it that way and don’t know any Catholic who does. Sacramental Theology differs from denomination to denomination, so it’s kind of like you said, difficult to express except within the context of that broader theology. Priests are servants to the people of God, not above them.

      • If you don’t know any Catholics that do it seems you live among a population of very educated and sophisticated people. And naturally their understandings on the matter are sensible. Miami has changed a great deal. Over 50% foreign born now. All the old Catholic European ethnics are gone now and those people understood things as you posit. But these third world people of the present here are at that very basic Level I(for lack of better term) . I think they are ministered to with a sense of keeping them in awe and in unquestioning containment. I suppose the mechanics of confession should not be a stickler from me as I look at the bigger picture. Any form or ritual of connection with Christ has only positive results.

        One aside that is remarkable is that huge segments of traditional Catholic Hispanic and Caribbean Black have left the RCC and here the JWit, 7thD, Pentecostal, and independent store front churches are flourishing. Traditional Protestant(Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptists and Methodists) have evaporated as well.

      • I am kicking myself right now because I cannot remember the title of a book I read 2 years ago. I thought the author was John Allen Jr., but it wasn’t. I hope I think of it soon.

        Anyway, in that book, the author takes what we are calling third world (as opposed to first world), calls it “the South” (as opposed to the European and US North), and breaks down the religious trends and phenomena. You kind of touched on the core of his analysis.

        His take is on trends facing the Catholic Church, where he views the South as the future trend of the Church, being more charismatic and akin to the pentecostal style of evangelization. I do not know if I agree with his conclusions, and his analysis is myopically focused on dying fervor in his Northern sphere as it grows in the Southern Sphere (i.e., Latin America and Africa). I don’t deny either phenomenon, but I also see opposite trends in both spheres.

        Localization is an issue. If you visited Churches in the rustbelt, especially in Pennsylvania, you would see 4 ethnic Catholic Churches on one intersection (French, Irish, Slovak, and Polish) all of which are virtually empty on any given Sunday. The Catholic Church is a relic, one might think. If you visit parts of the Bible Belt in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, you’d find a burgeoning of Catholic Churches and standing room only on Sunday — most of them with Spanish and English Masses. Here in Atlanta, we have two new Vietnamese Parishes that are bursting at the seams…

        Exactly what is going on??? Anyone’s guess but the Holy Spirit’s. The wind blows where it will…

  2. “And I say also unto thee, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19
    The New American Bible (NAB) footnote to Matthew 16:19 explains,’…That the keys are those to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that Peter’s authority in the Church on earth will be confirmed in Heaven, shows an intimate connection between, but not an identification of the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven.’
    Sadly, Catholics often even confess venial sins already forgiven at Holy Mass, in order to earn grace.
    God Forgives us our sins the moment we truly repent. (Luke15:11 -32.)
    Confession should be encouraged for those who and are in deep depression.

    • Of course, it is not necessary to confess venial sins. However, the practice is still encouraged, not simply for the sake of storing up extra graces, but to assess sinful habits by opening them up in this forum and receiving the priest’s council. The idea is to grow in humility before God, work to conquer the roots of sin (like our inordinate passions and vices, such as pride, greed, envy, lust, sloth, anger…), and to receive the grace to grow stronger in the struggle against those tendencies. It is not just about getting added graces, but more specifically the certain kind of grace which allows us to grow in fortitude and other virtues in the face of sin, which of course is something we can all use. This is not necessary in order to maintain a life of grace, but it helps. Thanks for your comment, Denis.

  3. I have one friend that attends mass regularly.HE COMMITTED A VERY GRAVE AND VIOLENT SIN full knowing the nature of the act was against God and did it anyway. He was confident of his forgiveness via the priest. Well I don’t know about how God accepts that and this man certainly may not understand the nature of confession/forgiveness but I remain astonished that he feel’s he can spit in God’s face with acts and that God will still give him an “I love you sonny boy” kiss of love.

    I know you will explain how he is wrong in his thinking but despite that I know far too many people that think they get away with it in the confession box and that a wave of the hand and a sprinkle of water gives them a clean slate.

    • Abuse of a good thing does not take away its proper use. Also, forgiveness alone does not always satisfy the requirements of justice, nor does it necessarily mitigate punishment for crimes committed. A priest will give penance for sins in confession, however, the Church does not pretend that the penance from the priest wipes everything clean. Only God, who is merciful and just knows what must be done in each case to make full reparation, because he is the ultimate judge; just as he is the only one who sees exactly what is in each person’s conscience and knows their intentions. So a lot if it is left in God’s hands. Ultimately, everything is in God’s hands and we accept this in faith. At least, for those who are sincere, there is the opportunity to make amends in a specific way within a specific forum. And for those who are not sincere, there is an opportunity to convert.

      Would I rather have God as my judge or a human being? Maybe it depends… We know God knows all and we know his punishment can be more severe than anything any human being can deliver. Since we also know that God is the first and the last judge, we have to live our lives as if that is the case, because if we don’t, we’ve lived as though there isn’t a God. And that’s the worst sin.

    • Carl, if your friend committed this sin intentionally, knowing that he could get absolution during confession, that in itself is a sin. It’s called presumption. Maybe someone needs to educate him on this…perhaps a friend? 🙂

  4. This was another post which I recall quite clearly from the first time I saw it, James, and it answers a topic of discussion I had with my wife waaaaaay back prior to our wedding.

    Great post and delighted to see you bring it back for a 2nd time.

    This is worth reading/seeing once a year, at the very least…

  5. I think the sacrament of Reconciliation is the most underappreciated of them all. I love Confession, and I try to go regularly (every 2-4 weeks). Most of my sins are venial, and I find it important to include them in your confession. It makes you more aware of your sins, and you will find yourself trying to avoid those sins in the future. And, whether your sin is big or small in the eyes of the world, wouldn’t you want to avoid them?

    Also, I definitely don’t believe that the priest has any magical powers; I am fully aware that my forgiveness comes from God directly, along with any graces I may be given. With that being said, I do appreciate whatever advice that the priest gives in order to help me prevent the temptation of sin again. Some of the best advice given to me has been in the Confessional.

    Like I said, I personally try to make it a habit to go to Confession often. Chalk it up to “Catholic guilt” if you’d like, but if it makes me a better person (which I believe it does), then what does it matter?

    • People who go to confession frequently, every one or two weeks like you said, often share your experience. Regarding “Catholic guilt,” there may be such a thing, because there is such a thing as scrupulosity and there are two things to consider here.

      First, faith formation needs to be pastoral, balanced, and clear, so as to not place unnecessary burdens on people’s shoulders. Second, people themselves must learn to be balanced and purify their intentions when they might be misguided (that should be part of the conscience examination too). I find that most people who go to confession frequently are balanced and healthy in mind, and the sacrament is actually the biggest cause of of their peace of mind, because as you say, the benefits of confession — the grace, the council, and the deeper self awareness — all aim toward helping us to be happier persons and better Christians.

      So, again regarding Catholic guilt, I’d like to note that there is also such a thing as cynicism. If there is one thing I don’t tolerate well, it is cynicism, especially regarding people who are trying to live a virtuous life. Instead of being cynical, people should judge more wisely or not judge at all, because cynicism in some way reflects back on the one who sets himself up as a judge.

      I feel I have to say these things, because we ought to think well of people or at least try to. Those who invoke the words Catholic guilt when the topic of confession comes up, may need to look more deeply at themselves before they suggest such a thing about another person, whose heart they cannot see.

      In this passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus denounces cynicism sternly (Matthew 12:24-28):

      But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

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