Other churches don’t make people go to confession. Why does the Catholic Church require this?
The Catholic Church believes that any sin harms not only the person who committed the sin but the one against whom the sin was committed, and indeed, the entire Church community. Confessing our sins to a member of the community who has been given the power of absolution helps us see the communal nature of sin. A sincere act of confession brings us back in good standing, “reconciles us”, with the community and heals its wounds.
Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? Can’t I go straight to God?
We can go “straight to God” for forgiveness. There are many opportunities for this – during Mass and in private prayer. However, only a priest has the power to forgive serious sin. Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive sins and this power has been passed on through the generations to the priests of the Church.
The advantage of confessing our sins to a priest is that it gives us the opportunity not only to acknowledge our sins humbly but to receive advice on how to avoid this sin in the future. Anytime we get “a load off our shoulders” we feel free. What more freedom we experience when not only have we been heard but forgiven as well!
How do I prepare for this Sacrament?
The best way to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation is to prayerfully review your life since you last received the sacrament. Consider using an Examination of Conscience (link to this
) to help you see areas where you need forgiveness.
What are mortal and venial sins?
To sin means to “miss the mark,” to be less than perfect. None of us is perfect. We all sin to one extent or another.
A “mortal” sin is considered a serious and grave offense because the person has purposely and intentionally disregarded the laws of the Church and harmed himself or another person, and by extension, the Church community. Only a priest can forgive these serious offenses.
A “venial” sin is considered a less serious or grave offense. Although we do not need to confess these sins to a priest to receive forgiveness, the Church encourages us to do so to receive absolution from the priest, grace to strengthen our lives, and reconciliation with the community.
Are my sins really forgiven?
If you have sincerely confessed your sins and the priest speaks the words of absolution, you have been forgiven! You are free to start fresh!
Can the priest tell anyone my sins?
No! This is called the “seal of confession.” A priest is not permitted under any circumstances to reveal what has been told to him in the confession.