Why do we have to go to confession to receive God's forgiveness?



Why do you have to go to Confession? Why can’t we just go to God for forgiveness?

Because God wants to reach us through the Church, the community of believers (1 Thess. 5:12–13). He wants us to be a family (1 Tim. 3:15). So He gave us spiritual fathers in the priesthood. The priests have the authority to administer His forgiveness to us (CCC 1461). “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you retain, they are retained,” Jesus told the apostles (Jn. 20:23).

Actually, we can go “directly” to God, but also through His Church. God sees the two as linked (Lk. 10:16, CCC 858). Our sin, even if we suppose it is only “against God,” robs our fellow believers of something — of our being in communion with God and them. It diminishes the power of the Church because sin cuts us off from full communion together in the Holy Spirit (CCC 953). We become like a dead limb, just barely hanging on. Dead limbs can be harmful to the tree (Rom. 11:20–22).

The Church, you see, is like a body (Eph. 5:23, CCC 817). When one member suffers, the whole body suffers. To be reconciled, we must not only repent before God, we must also have reconciliation with the Church. That’s the way God wants it (CCC 1469).

Remember what Jesus said we must do if we’re making an offering to God and we recall that someone has a grievance against us? He said we should be reconciled with our brother first, then make our offering to God (Mt. 5:21–26). Why is that? Because reconciliation with God and with His people are tied together.

Confession also helps build the virtue of humility. Humility is the first step towards true repentance (Mt. 23:12). Because pride is the root of all sin, an act of humility such as confessing to a priest will help push out the pride in our lives (Ez.16:49–50). St. Teresa of Avila described humility as “honesty.” We are able to honestly focus on our faults. In addition, the priest can keep us more objective about our sins. The priest can also give you a concrete “plan of action” to avoid sin in the future. If we go directly to God in the privacy of our own home, we can deceive ourselves. We can either be too harsh or lenient.



Matthew Pinto "Why do we have to go to confession to receive God's forgiveness?" Apologetics: "Question of the Week" Ascension Press.

Reprinted with permission of Matthew Pinto and Ascension Press.


Matthew Pinto is a co-founder of CatholicExchange.com, a premiere Internet portal for Catholics. He is also a co-founder and former president of Envoy Magazine, which received the 1st Place award for General Interest Catholic magazines in 1998 and 1999 from the Catholic Press Association. The co-author of Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer(Ascension Press, 2002) and Did Adam and Eve have Belly Buttons?… and 199 other questions from Catholic Teenagers (Ascension Press, 1998) and creator and co-author of the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, Matt is a well-known speaker whose work has focused primarily on youth and young adults.

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