Learn what Catholics believe about confession. What are the differences between Catholics a Protestants concerning confession?
Virtually all Protestants deny that Christ gave His disciples the power to forgive sins. To discuss the sacrament of confession well, you need to know Jn 20:19-23.
When Jesus bestowed on the disciples the power to forgive sins, He did it on Easter Sunday. This is significant because of the connection of the Resurrection with spiritual life. Notice that He conferred the power by breathing on the Apostles. The only other time that God breathed on anyone was when He breathed life into the first human being. Ask Fundamentalists to think about these powerful symbols and how they signify an awesome life-giving power given the disciples. Note that Jesus gives the disciples the authority to forgive, and not to forgive. This means a priest has to hear the sins in order to know whether to forgive them or hold them bound.
Fundamentalists say they confess their sins to God while Catholics confess their sins only to priests. Dead wrong. Catholics always confess their sins to God. They do it directly as well as through His ministers because that is what God requires, as clearly taught in Scripture.
Know 2 Cor 5:17-20. St. Paul explains how the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ’s work of reconciliation. What does this mean but that they share in the ministry of Christ and forgive sins in His name? Also know James 5:13-16. James makes clear that the sins of the sick are forgiven in this sacrament of anointing. He specifies that the presbyters (priests) must be called. They obviously had a power the ordinary Christian did not: the power to forgive sins. Otherwise, why didn’t James simply ask ordinary, fellow Christians to pray over the sick as is the case innumerous other passages?
Many Protestants believe that sins are wiped away in Baptism. This means they believe that their ministers are used by God as His instruments in the forgiveness of sins through a sacrament, Baptism, which they administer. Catholics believe that the priest is used by God as His instrument for the forgiveness of sins in three sacraments: Confession, Anointing, and Baptism. The disagreement here is not in principle. It is true that most Fundamentalists do not believe that sins are wiped away through Baptism. However, we can point out that they all believe that God can use their ministers as instruments in His physical healing. Why wouldn’t God do the same with spiritual healing? Which is more important?
Finally, return to John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Apostles are to continue the mission of Christ. The essence of that mission is THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. Jesus knows our human nature. He provided sacramental confession to give us several important gifts: humility, the certainty of forgiveness, spiritual direction, and help to overcome self-deception and rationalization in matters of sin.
Clearly, Christ gave His disciples the power to forgive sin. This power was intended to be passed on, since Christ knew people would sin until the end of time. Early Church history confirms that Christians believed this power was passed on to the Apostles’ successors.
What are your thoughts on confession?