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Confession and Confession to a Priest

Q. Why do we have confession?

We have confession because we are sincerely sorry for our sins against God and our brothers and sisters. The Gospels tell us that when Jesus walked this earth not only did He forgive people of their sins, He told them that they were forgiven. If He had not told them so,

they would not have had certainty that their sins had in fact been forgiven. After His death and resurrection, on that first Easter Sunday, the first commission that Jesus specifically gave to his Apostles was the responsibility and authority to forgive men's sins:

"Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" (John 20:21-23, NIV).

How was Jesus sent? With full power and authority from His Father to bring about reconciliation between mankind and God, including the power to forgive individual sins. Jesus has begun the process of reconciliation and has appointed individuals to continue His work as His ambassadors. How are they to know which sins to forgive and which to retain? They must hear them in order to decide. The person seeking forgiveness will know that they have been forgiven when they have been told.

Q. Why do you confess sins to a priest?

Q. Why must we confess our sins to a priest and how can he forgive us our sins?

Q. If Jesus will forgive the truly repentant, why confess to a priest?

Our sins are confessed to a priest because that's the way the Bible tells us that our sins are forgiven by God. In the answer to the preceding question we saw that Jesus commissioned the apostles with the authority and responsibility to forgive sins. When they forgave sins it wasn't they who were doing the forgiving, it was Jesus.

"He that heareth you heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16, KJV)

Of the fact that this authority and responsibility was passed on to others by the apostles is not in question because we are told

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." (James 5:14-15, NIV)

This is what we call the sacrament of the anointing of the sick for those with a physical illness but the next verse clarifies this even more. This verse starts with the word "therefore" which should cause us to look to see what it is "there for": it is providing a summary of the teaching just concluded.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16, NIV)

Who are these "each other?" None other than the sick person and the elder of the church (some translations use "presbyter" rather than elder, the Greek is presbyteros from which the word "priest" is derived). When the spiritually ill, those who have sinned, confess their sins to the priest the sins are forgiven and the healing process begins.

Recommended reading:

  • ●  Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1461-1467

  • ●  Drummey, James J., Catholic Replies, C. R. Publications, Norwood, MA 02062, 1995, pages 196-197

  • ●  Rumble, Rev. Dr. Leslie & Carty, Rev. Charles Mortimer, Radio Replies, First Volume, TAN Books & Publishers,

    Rockford, IL 61105, 1979, paragraphs 824-840

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