Why confess to a priest? - Catholic Courier
Father Timothy J. Mockaitis, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Salem, Ore., and penitent Ethan K. Alano of Salem demonstrate how a confession is conducted May 3, 2019. (CNS photo by Chaz Muth)

Father Timothy J. Mockaitis, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Salem, Ore., and penitent Ethan K. Alano of Salem demonstrate how a confession is conducted May 3, 2019. (CNS photo by Chaz Muth)

Why confess to a priest?

Q: Why must I confess to a priest, when I can just talk to God? (Newark, New Jersey)

A: Jesus told his Apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). Our bishops are the direct successors to the Apostles and, together with their priests, they share the same mission and sacramental powers given to the original Twelve.

However, while Jesus gave priests and bishops the authority to forgive sins, he didn’t also give them the ability to read minds. In order to offer sacramental absolution, it is necessary for priest-confessors to be made aware of the penitent’s sins. This typically happens through a spoken confession. Additionally, one requirement for absolution within the sacrament of reconciliation is true sorrow for our acts and a resolve to avoid sin in the future. Confessions spoken aloud give the penitent the opportunity to express real contrition.

That being said, while we know for sure that sins are forgiven through the sacrament, God is of course free to extend his grace beyond even what he has promised. If circumstances prevent you from getting to the sacrament of reconciliation in person, you can always directly, prayerfully petition God for the forgiveness of your sins in the meantime.

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Jenna Marie Cooper, J.C.L, is a consecrated virgin and a canonist whose column appears weekly at OSV News. Send your questions to CatholicQA@osv.com.

Tags: Catholic Beliefs
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