What’s up with confessing to a priest?

Written by Laura Kramer

We recently received the question: Why do Catholics need to confess to priests rather than to God?


Hm last time I check, we did need to confess to God.


In fact, within the first 5 minutes of Mass on Sunday the whole congregation recites together The Penitential Rite which goes like this:


I confess to almighty God,

and to you, my brothers and sisters,

that I have sinned through my own fault,

in my thoughts and in my words,

in what I have done,

and in what I have failed to do;

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,

all the angels and saints,

and you, my brothers and sisters,

to pray for me to the Lord our God.


Again, during the Sacrament of Confession after I have admitted my sins I say the Act of Contrition:


O my God,

I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,

and I detest all my sins,

because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell;

but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,

Who are all good and deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,

to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.



Yes we do confess to God.


Now let’s talk about the role of the priest. Some make the mistake of thinking that the priest forgives sins, but a few quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) should clarify that:


Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.” Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name. (CCC #1441)


In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “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.” (CCC #1444)


When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner. (CCC #1465)


The priest is truly instrumental in bring us back into communion with God and the Church.


Now sometimes when people ask this questions about confessing to a priest, I wonder what’s beneath the surface. (Yeah I was a psychology major…) Inherent in the question “Why confess to a priest?” there seems to be an aversion to priests as if to say “Why waste my breath?” What is our attitude toward priests? Are priests not our brothers? Our fathers? Our elders? Our mentors? Our pastors? Are they not here to pray for, support, guide, and teach us?


What’s so strange about opening up to another person, trusting him, and receiving support and prayer from him? I don’t think it’s strange at all when you think about it on a human level. Actually I think trust, support, and prayer as we strive to amend our lives is something we could all use a lot more of!


Haven’t been to confession in a while? Contact one of the priests on this blog! With trust, support, and prayer they will guide you through the Sacrament of Confession and bring you back into a life of grace in God’s merciful love!






4 Replies to “What’s up with confessing to a priest?”

  1. I agree with you, however, we can not dismiss the fact that many, through no fault of their own, have been hurt in confession and have lost a lot of trust in this wonderful sacrament of the church. We need more priest like Msgr Pope and others on this blog site to help restore this wonderful gift God has given to his church and especially to those who have been hurt in this sacrament.

    1. Thank you. Please pray for priests that, when we hear confessions it is always with the heart and mind of Christ. It is tragic that some have been hurt in the very sacrment meant to bring healing. I know that we all have good days and bad ones, even priests in the confessional, but your prayers will surely support us in this sensitive task.

  2. I think this sacrament is most important, without it how can we receive Jesus on Sunday mornings. You are right Laura, there is an underline reason why most Catholics find reasons not to confess there sins. One is the secular world believes among many other things, believe its there sin and disregard even what the church teaches “I can just say Lord forgive me and my sins and my sins are forgivin.” Most Catholics are more ashame to tell their sins to a Priest, then the shame for the sin itself. Just in general most people have a hard time confessing verbally when they do wrong. I believe that they trust the Priest, but they feel that the priest recognizes there voice and will remember what was said. Surely it becomes very easy to confess the worst of worst things to your therapist! I said to a person who loves the Lord very much who is uncomfortable confessing to a priest, ” We are all called to be saints and grow in holiness and that Priest is your direct vessel in you receiving God’s grace here on earth”

  3. The underlying reason why those outside the Catholic church ask about confessing to a priest is because they do not want to put a man in the place of Christ. They are very concerned that Catholics are praying to a man instead of Jesus…who is our intercessor. Opening up to a person and asking them to Save our Sins are two very different things. The big misconception is that the priest is the only person in the confessional at that time of confession. Most protestants do no know that Catholics pray to Jesus during the confession. They don’t know that the priest, who forgives sin, is acting in good faith that the confessor is truly sorry for their sin and that the priest knows full well that Jesus has the last and final word on the matter no matter what the priest “forgives.”

    I am a Protestant who is learning so very much about the Catholic faith from my friends. I posted about the Catholic church twice on my blog. If I am in error, please let me know. Here are the posts.


    The one thing that really makes me sit up and take notice is that most protestants believe that Jesus will work through a man to heal a person of illness but they can’t understand that the Priest is here to help with our physical well-being and help us pray to Jesus at the same time.

    My only “new” question to you is this…

    Can a Catholic pray straight to Jesus? These verses in the Bible seem to indicate that we “should” be able to do that without a Priests help. Please let me know without using the Catechism. I cannot take that specific leap yet. :o) I say this with all respect.

    In the book of Acts, a man named Simon came to the first pope, Peter, wanting to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter told him to repent and confess his sin to God and ask God to forgive him. (Acts 8:18-22)

    “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” Mark 2:7

    “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” 1 Timothy 2:5

    I respect your faith and religion. I’m a seeker.

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