Why do Catholics confess to a person instead of simply confessing to God?

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Why do Catholics confess to a priest instead of simply confessing their sins to God in prayer?

-- Anonymous, May 17, 1998



We do go to God, then we do what God has set up and commanded in the bible. God gave his church a distinct order and Hierarchy, and we Catholics still follow what was setup by the Apostles today.

First Jesus told the Apostles that he would give them the power over sin:

Matthew 16:13-19

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The Revised Standard Version, (New York: The National Council of Churches) 1997, c1994.

First I like Simon, he tends to shoot from the hip, and this is why God was going to use him, he wasn't afraid to say what came to mind. He tells Christ that he is the son of the living God and the Messiah. Christ blesses him for it. "Blessed art thou Simon bar-jona" Blessed are you Simon Son of Jona! You are Peter [Petros: Greek] [Cepha: Aramaic] (Both in the Greek and Aramaic mean rock) and upon this rock [Petra: Greek] [Cepha: Aramaic] I will build my Church [singular]. 1) Christ has changed Peters name from Simon to Cephas or Petros just like God Changed Abram's name to Abraham and Jacob's name to Israel. When God renames you it means that you are very important.

2) He gives Peter the promise that the powers of hell will not prevail against it.

3) He gives him the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. He is making Peter and Officer in his Church, reference Isaiah 22:22 where God Oracle Isaiah tells that God will tear down a bad Prime minister and put in his place a good one. The key is a symbol of authority.

4) He give peter the power to bind and loose in heaven in earth, he gives Peter singular this power before ANY other of the apostles. This power is authority in the Church, and in the Authority of binding and loosing sins a power that he will later give to the other Apostles. Remember the Peter alone is given the full deck, the changing of the name, the promise that the powers of hell will not overcome the Church, and the symbol of authority. The other apostles later on will get the Power to bind and loose sins.

Mathew 18:15-18

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 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. The Revised Standard Version, New York: The National Council of Churches) 1997, c1994.

Look at the context of this passage. If you have a brother who sins against you; you are commanded to go to that brother and work it out, if it doesn't work then you bring two or three others and speak with him. This is very important. Jewish Law required two or three witnesses in order to condemn. Without those two or three, and the testimony must be the same, you cannot get a conviction. If your brother doesn't recant with two or three witnesses then you take it to THE CHURCH (notice the singular here, Christ founded ONE church, not 30,000 denominations) If the sinner will not even listen to THE CHURCH then the CHURCH shuns him or her. This power is given to the Apostles, in the form of Binding and Loosing of sins, Binding and Loosing is a Rabinnic form authority based in the Old Testament. Therefore Christ conferred the power of Binding sins (excommunication) and Loosing sins (forgiveness) to the Apostles.

-- Anonymous, May 18, 1998

Now John 20:19-23

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." The Revised Standard Version, (New York: The National Council of Churches) 1997, c1994.

Christ comes to the Disciples, breaths on them, gives the Holy Spirit and then gives them the Power to forgive (loosing) sins and Retain (binding) sins.

Please notice that Christ didn't give the Apostles ESP. They don't go around reading minds and telling the person that their sins are forgiven. For this power to work the Apostles must know what sins have been committed, therefore people must confess their sins to the Apostles so that the power can be exercised.

Later on in the bible in James there is a wonderful passage that tells us:

Jas 5:14-16

14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders (Greek: Prebysters) of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

1) James is talking about the elders or Presbyters (Greek) where we get the English word for Priest

2) The context of the phrase Therefore relies on the verse before it, it does me that we walk up to just anyone and confess our sins, but in context to the Priests or Elders. you cannot remove it from the context because the verses message is enhanced by the verse before it.

In Acts 15 we see at the council of Jerusalem where the Dietary laws are deleted for the gentiles that the decision is made with the Elders (Presbyters) and the Apostles.

In the letters of Timothy and Titus, Paul is talking about the Hierarchy of the Church. This isn't some thing that was pulled out of thin air 700 years after Christ died, but something that was from the beginning.

Titus 1:5-9

5 This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you, 6 if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate. 7 For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; 9 he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it. The Revised Standard Version, (New York: The National Council of Churches) 1997, c1994.

Titus was ordained by Paul and most like two others (we have writings from the early church that state the way to ordain a bishop is with three bishops), and Titus was told to go from town to town to appoint Elders (Presbyters: Greek/ Priests: English). Notice the top down authority here?

Finally we must realize that human beings are very good and wiggling out of things that make them uncomfortable. By going to our Priest it makes sure that we don't gloss over it i.e. just tell ourselves that it has been forgive. We must be repentant and the other person makes that possible. It ain't easy, but it very scriptural and I believe it is one of the best deals around. The reason it is a great deal is that I have sure knowledge that Christ has forgiven my sins, because the Priest, through the gift of Apostolic Succession, has been given the authority to bind and loose sins. The fact is that the power comes from Christ and it is actually Christ doing the forgiving.

Many people have a problem with the idea of confessing their sins to a person, but the wonderful part about this is that the Priest requires no details, simply the number and times that sin was done. He may ask for further details if he sees a pattern. But you must realize that he is doing this so that he can help you break a pattern of sin.

Many will say that they can go directly to God to confess their sins, but when pushed cannot remember the last time that they did it. People who don't go to Church make the same argument and their excuse is that they can worship God anywhere. That is, perhaps, right but many of them do not worship God, for he gets forgotten on the weekend while they are out doing yard work, or the other chores that come to mind. When we enter Church we enter ready to participate in the corporate body of Christ where all members raise their voices in supplication to our Lord and Savior who died on the cross that we may live. We are there for the express purpose of worshiping our God and hopefully we will not be distracted from that singular purpose.

The same idea goes for confession of sins, we are there for the express purpose of confessing our transgressions against God's laws. We are not distracted by the outside world. We confess our sins, we are granted absolution by Christ through the Priest and we try to do better each and every day. If we slip up again then we can always turn back to our Lord and Savior who have given us such a wonderful sacrament in order to keep ourselves from falling back into the clutches of the evil one.

Your Brother in Christ

John Gibson

-- Anonymous, May 18, 1998

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