Sun. Oct 25th, 2020

I received an email from a wonderful Catholic in Dothan. She asked me to answer two questions. First, why do Catholics believe that we must confess our sins to a priest instead of just speaking directly to God? Second, “How do I answer people who say that Mass is so boring?” I will answer the first question in this issue and will address the second concern in the next issue.
Why do we confess to a priest?
The short and easy answer is that Jesus told us to do so (John 20:22-23). The power to forgive sins belongs naturally to God alone.
However, He certainly has the right to share that power if He so chooses. We see in John 20 that in fact He does share the power to forgive sins. Interestingly, He gives the Apostles two authorities; to forgive sins or to hold them bound (not forgive them). In order to choose which to do (and as an aside the priest virtually always forgives the sin confessed), the priest must hear what the sin is and perhaps the circumstances. By telling the Apostles they can either forgive or not forgive it necessarily implies that the penitent will confess. So we confess to priests who have received the authority, passed down through the bishops since the time of Christ, like Jesus commanded. By what authority to our non-Catholic brethren disregard this?
The more interesting question is, “Why did Jesus command this?” Didn’t He just make it harder for us to be unburdened of our sin? Allow me to quickly list some of the advantages to confessing our sin instead of just going to our rooms and speaking to God in the silence of our hearts.
First, sin is not just between me and God. My sin affects everyone. Talking to God alone hinders us from understanding this reality, while confessing our sins helps to a proper understanding. Along those same lines, Jesus wants us to know that we are not in the battle alone. The Church, the Body of Christ, is a support for me. Going to Confession reminds me of this reality.
Jesus wanted us to hear, “Your sins are forgiven.” We are people who are composed of body and soul. We need to hear, “I love you.” We encounter the world through our senses, and Jesus wants us to encounter His forgiveness through our tangible senses. If we go to our rooms and confess we might find silence in return. Have you ever poured your heart out in prayer and felt like you were alone? God does not want that in the moment of forgiveness.
There are many other reasons why I think it made really good sense for God to give us the Sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins. I am providing a link to this being taught at one of our Be Prepared sessions here in the Archdiocese:
— Pat Arensberg is the Director of the Office for Evangelization and Family Life. Email him at
For more information concerning the events of this office, visit us at

By Editor

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