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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why can't Catholics confess their sins directly to God?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

He is risen!  Alleluia!!

Question:  Why can't Catholics confess their sins directly to God?

Answer: Because it's the way Jesus set it up--we need to confess our (mortal)* sins to a priest.  It is, as Bishop Daniel Walsh says, "The oil change for the soul".
From this Sunday's Gospel, we see that Jesus, after His Easter triumph came and stood before His disciples:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”--John 20:22

This implies that the disciples needed to hear the Christian's confession, in order to know whether to "retain" or "forgive" the sin.

That is, the Christian must confess her sins to a man who has received the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

So that's why we must confess our mortal sins to a priest.

Additionally, God knew that spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, the human creature would need to aurally and orally (via hearing and speaking) confess our sins.  That is, we benefit profoundly from saying our sins out loud, and from hearing, out loud (not just in our heads), authoritatively:  "May God give you pardon and peace; I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".

I found this article quite trenchant: "Confession is Cheaper than Therapy".   True, dat!

"The psychological difference between a silent and a spoken confession is like night and day.

Lots of Christians are a part of accountability groups, of course. The biblical writer James (5:16) recommended people confess their sins to each other, after all. Such groups could in theory function as confessionals, but they lack the ability to convey confidence about forgiveness, since there’s no authority vested in a small group of one’s peers."
(Please note:  I am not saying that psychotherapy is unnecessary if one goes to confession.  All I am positing, along with the author above is:  perhaps the demand for psychotherapy would diminish greatly if more Catholics utilized the free, and free-ing, gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation).

How magnificently liberating, cathartic, cleansing and relieving is it to our psyches to hear the words of absolution, spoken by the priest acting In Persona Christi!  We ought to be doing this every time we leave the confessional!

*venial sins are normatively absolved during Mass, or any time we repent and ask for forgiveness:  

"Since venial sin is an imperfection in our seeking of God, like an arrow that is a little off target, whenever we piously turn our heart and mind back to God venial sins are absolved, so this can occur on all the occasions you mention. It depends only our interior disposition. The external circumstance is the setting that brings us to that. Within the Mass, especially the penitential rite and at Holy Communion, we have a certain claim on the actual graces necessary to attain that disposition. But in fact, we can do so at any time by a pious act (with the help of grace, of course). source
"Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins 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

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

"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  

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