Protestant view on sacrament of reconciliation : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

My wife and I are going through RCIA now. We both have protestant backgrounds. One of the hardest things to believe (and we want to) concerns the sacrament of penance. Why can't we go directly to god? We do in prayer. The man on the cross next to Jesus went directly to him as did numerous other people. I am familiar with John 20 and the other verses that catholics use to justify this sacrament (and convincingly so), but I am sure the protestants quote and believe various verses that support their view. In fact I would be hard pressed to believe that Billy Graham will not go to heaven (though nobody knows for sure) and he has never confessed through a priest. Please somebody help on this. It is a real stumbling block. If possible provide some of the verses the protestants use "against" this sacrament with the corresponding catholic view. We DO want to find the fullest version of revealed truth.



-- SNC (, January 28, 2004


SNC, I am likewise a protestant in RCIA. The best place by far to find the answer to your question is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sections 981-983 and 1441-1467 deal with this issue and biblical references are included in the footnotes. John 20 is sited as well as Mt 16:19 and 18:18.

The Billy Graham question is answered in passages 836-838. Non- christians are addressed in 839-845. God is merciful and the Church feels there are many people who will be reunited with Jesus in Heaven. The Church insists that She holds the full truth and provides the best chance of reaching sainthood throught the seven sacraments.

Welcome to the forum and the Church.

-- David F (, January 28, 2004.

Just in case you dont have a catechism here is the online link.

-- David F (, January 28, 2004.


When a person committed a sin, he not only committed a sin against (1) God but he also committed a sin against (2) the Church. His sin affected the entire Church. Therefore, it is appropriate to ask forgiveness (1) from God and (2) from the Church. The priest represents not only God but also the Church. It's like "killing two birds with one stone." Confession cleanses a person of his sin against God and the Church.

-- Sean (, January 28, 2004.

All Catholics are required as a condition existing in the sacrament, SNC; to make a sincere act of contrition before God. It isn't as if a priest is taking God's place as an offended party. The procedure in reconciliation presupposes we are sorry before God and his Holy Church, for all our sins.

When we comply then, with Christ's own conditions for our forgiveness, God is hearing our confession. He is forgiving us in the person of His minister. Jesus is forgiving you and me, while before us His holy priest is absolving us. This forgiveness is absolute when our contrition is absolutely truthful.

It goes without saying that directly upon committing some sin, we ask God's forgiveness immmediately in prayer. But our soul must also hunger after the true and absolute forgiveness that God prepared for us BEFOREHAND in His Church. Why do I say so?

Because it pleased the Son of God to command his Church to forgive us our sins. (John 20, :22-23). For no other reason. He is our Head, we are the obedient members of his Mystical Body.

-- eugene c. chavez (, January 28, 2004.

Dear SNC:
Let me just add; in Billy Graham's case, God will be Just as well as Merciful. Billy's great faith will save him, I'm sure. That is material for a different thread. I am sure God loves those who love Him in this life, despite having believed a deficient or insecure Gospel. Dr. Graham is a wonderful man. Let God have His own way with him. His sins will be forgiven; let's pray for him & all non- Catholic ministers.

-- eugene c. chavez (, January 28, 2004.

But the most important thing about the Church's gift of penance is the cleansing effect of hearing the words "You are forgiven" by a minister of the Church. Just think, an ordained, successor to the apostles is speaking the words in your ear! This is a great gift from God!

So many times Protestants are taught how horrid it is to have to go to a priest, how humiliating, how embarassing, how unnecessary, but they don't understand! Sure, our flesh does not want to have to do this. Our flesh would just as soon keep our little indiscretions to ourselves. Our flesh does not want any human being to know what we have done. And yes, it is humbling, it is embarassing, as it should be, but more than that confession effects REAL, ABSOLUTE, CLEANSING . . . a real reckoning with sin's aweful snare, and Bless God, a real and complete reconciliation with God our Savior!

Confession is good for the soul. Repentence is a REQUIREMENT of our salvation. So why-oh-why, should our ministers not walk with us in it?


-- Gail (, January 28, 2004.

Gail's response is so right-on! As a convert myself, this Sacrament did initially present a little stumbling block but, as someone on this forum told me, we could just dunk ourselves in a river to baptize ourselves, or we could just stand in a field to marry each other. We accept the priest or minister performing these Sacraments for us, why is it not OK to have him lead us through our Sacrament of Reconciliation? It is indeed a wonderful gift from God.

-- Dee (dee@none.sorry), January 29, 2004.

This is a great ongoing disussion.

I just want to add that the sacrament of reconciliation is technically only required if one has committed a mortal sin which kills supernatural life within us and separates us from God. Our venial sins are wiped away by Christ when we receive the Eucharist, as long as we truly repent. Either way, one receives grace from the sacrament of reconciliation that strengthens us and helps us to persevere.

I think it's also Catholic teaching that someone who truly repents, but has not had the physical opportunity to go to confession (e.g., someone dies in a car wreck on the way to church) is still forgiven. The sacraments are there to aid us and strengthen us, but God's grace is not restricted to the sacraments. Be that as it may, a Catholic who has committed a mortal sin and has the opportunity to confess that sin to a priest and receive absolution must do so as soon as possible. God knows our heart. If we are truly repentant, why would we want to avoid such a gift that Christ provides us through his priest?

I humbly submit that I have found confession and true repentance to be a very real source of grace. I have had serious sin that I have regretted and I have asked God for forgiveness. I used to avoid confessing this sin because of embarrassment. I always thought that God had forgiven me but never confessed to a priest in the sacrament. One Lenten season, I finally went to confess my sin. Words can't describe the weight that was lifted from me. I was moved to tears. It wasn't just a lifting of guilt, because I never really felt guilty about it after asking God for forgiveness and deciding not to commit this sin again. It wasn't anything the priest himself said. He simply spoke the words of absolution. The feeling is difficult to put into words, but seemed to me that the floodgates of grace were opened after the sacrament. This began a journey that has stregthened my faith. Before that, I was a lapsed Catholic. I know this testimony is subjective and who am I that you should believe me. But I truly believe that this sacrament is a great way for Christ to apply His grace to us.

After his ascension into heaven, Jesus left the Church to carry out His work on earth for generations to come. Part of the work He did while on earth was to forgive sins. So it makes sense to me that He would provide a real means for His ministers to heal us through the sacarment of reconciliation.

-- Andy (, January 29, 2004.

SNC, I hate cutting and pasting stuff into posts, but you asked for some Scripture verses and their interpretations for and against the sacrament of reconciliation. I found the following at I paste it as is because I can't say it any better and I want Catholic Answers to get the credit. This covers at least one verse.

Juris engages in verse slinging, listing as many verses as he can find that refer to God forgiving sins, in hopes that the sheer mass of verses will settle the question. But none of the verses he lists specifically interprets John 20:23, and none contradicts the Catholic interpretation.

For instance, he cites verses like these: "Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38–39); "And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’" (Mark 16:15–16).

Juris says that verses like these demonstrate that "all that was left for the disciples to do was to ‘go’ and ‘proclaim’ this wonderful good news (the gospel) to all men. As they proclaimed this good news of the gospel, those who believed the gospel, their sins would be forgiven. Those who rejected (did not believe) the gospel, their sins would be retained." Juris does nothing more than show that the Bible says God will forgive sins and that it is through Jesus that our sins are forgiven—things no one doubts. He does not remotely prove that John 20:23 is equivalent to a command to "go" and to "preach," merely that going and preaching are part of God’s plan for saving people. He also sidesteps the evident problems in the Fundamentalist interpretation.

The passage says nothing about preaching the good news. Instead, Jesus is telling the apostles that they have been empowered to do something. He does not say, "When God forgives men’s sins, they are forgiven." He uses the second person plural: "you." And he talks about the apostles forgiving, not preaching. When he refers to retaining sins, he uses the same form: "When you hold them bound, they are held bound."

The best Juris can do is assert that John 20:23 means the apostles were given authority only to proclaim the forgiveness of sins—but asserting this is not proving it.

Catholic Answers, “Forgiveness of Sins” (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2004)

-- Andy (, January 29, 2004.


I am a former RCIA Director, who used the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible as the sole RCIA texts. Indeed, I approached RCIA largely from a doctrinal perspective - and the plethora of scripture supporting each Catholic doctrine.

Relating to this discussion on confession, I would add, for your consideration, the following verses from scripture (cited in the CCC, by the way):

“If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal”.

1 John 5:13-17 (RSV).

-- A A Macia (, January 29, 2004.

Hello SNC.

Yes, the man on the cross next to Jesus went directly to Jesus and so did many other people while Jesus was still on earth and they did well in doing so. The point is that Jesus Christ knew that he was not going to be in this world physically to forgive mens sins. so he left his Apostles and their successors through the Catholic Church to forgive mens sins and it says so in (John 20; 22-23) which you mentioned you are aware of.

Going to Confession we Catholics know that we confess our sins to a priest also, we are actually going straight to Jesus Christ, for he is present their in the confessional as well.

Regarding Billy Graham, a man who loves God with all his heart, I know. Lets pray for him so that he will come back home to the fullness of the Church as you have come back home. Welcome Home.

May the Holy Family Jesus Mary Joseph, be with you and your family.


-- Lee S. (, February 03, 2004.

What a great thread! It is just beaming with love of this great sacrament. (Eugene I loved your first comment.) As I read along I found that every point I was going to make was already taken (and far better presented than I could have) except one. Here is the one thing that I think is so profound about reconciliation:

It is so very . . . incarnation. It is so much like Jesus' own way of entering into the world (and indeed he is in the confessional). The thing is this, when you sin you don't just sin with your spirit. You sin with your body, your whole being. Praying to God for forgiveness (as grand as it is) doesn't have that 'full' effect. In the confessional we speak the words with our mouth, we feel the kneeler under us (if we are kneeling that is), we hear the words of absolution in our ears. The sacrament of reconciliation (like all sacraments) engages us in our deepest and fullest humanity. It touches us as both spirit and matter (which is what we are and how Jesus came). It is so very powerful to experience forgiveness as those who did go to Jesus experienced it; hearing the words and feeling the power.

Boy, I feel like going to confession. See ya!


-- Dan Garon (, February 03, 2004.

Well put Dano. Now that I think about it, all the sacraments seem to have that "incarnation" theme about them. How great and humble Christ is to provide us means of grace that speak both to our souls and our human senses.

-- Andy (, February 04, 2004.

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