12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer
by Deal Hudson
#5. “You don’t need to confess your sins to a priest. You can go straight to God.”
As a former Baptist minister, I can understand the Protestant objection to confession (they have a different understanding of priesthood). But for a Catholic to say something like this...it’s disappointing. I suspect that, human nature being what it is, people just don’t like telling other people their sins, and so they come up with justifications for not doing so.
The Sacrament of Confession has been with us from the beginning, coming from the words of Christ Himself:
“Jesus said to them again, ‘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.” (John 20:21-23)
Notice that Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sins. Of course, they wouldn’t know which sins to forgive if they weren’t told what sins were involved.
The practice of confession is also evident in the Letter Of James:
“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; 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. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:14-16)
It’s interesting that nowhere does James (or Jesus) tell us to confess our sins to God alone. Rather, they seem to think that forgiveness comes through some means of public confession.
And it’s not difficult to understand why. You see, when we sin, we rupture our relationship not just with God, but with His Body, the Church (since all Catholics are interconnected as children of a common Father). So when we apologize, we need to do so to all parties involved — God and the Church.
Think of it this way. Imagine you walk into a store and steal some of their merchandise. Later, you feel remorse and regret the sinful act. Now, you can pray to God to forgive you for breaking His commandment. But there’s still another party involved; you’ll need to return the merchandise and make restitution for your action.
It’s the same way with the Church. In the confessional, the priest represents God and the Church, since we’ve sinned against both. And when he pronounces the words of absolution, our forgiveness is complete.
Next: Myth 6
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