“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37
Question: Why do Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest? Can't you go directly to God?
Short answer: because this is the ordinary way that God has set up the forgiveness of our sins.
"When Catholics confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by . He forgives sins through the priest...it is God's power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest." source
In Scripture the apostles (and therefore their successors, our bishops and priests) are given authority to bind and loose. The power to bind and loose includes administering and eliminating the temporal penalties due to sin. (The Jews understood this reference to "binding and loosing" as it was part of their rabbinic tradition.) Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.--Matt
And in the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes on his apostles and gives them this power to forgive sins. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the . Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.-John . And how would they know a person's sins? Because they were confessed to them! I don't understand how non-Catholic Christians interpret this verse in John without seeing the Sacrament of Confession.
Another reason to confess before a priest: it demonstrates that our sin is not just a personal breach between God and myself, but also a sin against the .
"Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the and Reconciliation."-1440 Catechism of the Catholic Church
Finally, confessing before a priest gives us a chance to practice humility, and to experience the human need to receive CONCRETE EVIDENCE of a reality (i.e. hearing the confessor say, "I absolve you from your sins". Psychologically, what could be better for our mental health than hearing those 6 words affirming what we may feel in our hearts and know in our heads!)
"Is the Catholic who confesses his sins to a priest any better off than the non-Catholic who confesses directly to God? Yes. First, he seeks forgiveness the way Christ intended. Second, by confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility, which is avoided when one confesses only through private prayer. Third, the Catholic receives sacramental graces the non-Catholic doesn’t get; through the sacrament of penance sins are forgiven and graces are obtained. Fourth, the Catholic is assured that his sins are forgiven; he does not have to rely on a subjective "feeling." Lastly, the Catholic can also obtain sound advice on avoiding sin in the future.
During his lifetime Christ sent out his followers to do his work. Just before he left this world, he gave the apostles special authority, commissioning them to make God’s forgiveness present to all people, and the whole Christian world accepted this, until just a few centuries ago. If there is an "invention" here, it is not the sacrament of penance, but the notion that the sacramental is not to be found in the Bible or in early Christian history." source
Note: Catholics are obligated to confess only mortal (serious) sins.
"Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful" 1458 Catechism)
"According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a , even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession." 1457 Catechism must not receive
For more in-depth study visit these websites:
Catholic Bible online
Catechism of the Catholic Church online
Confession: The "Oil Change for the Soul"
Examination of Conscience
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15