Quick Apology: Why confess to a priest?
Today’s “Quick Apology” concerns a very common objection heard by Catholics from Protestants…
“Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest? He’s just a man. Why not confess your sins to God directly?”
Obviously, a question like this truly deserves thorough theological treatment. However, since these are quick apologies, these are the points I typically try to make:
1. Nowhere in the Bible is confession to God through a priest explicitly forbidden. In fact, Scripture explicitly encouraged to confess to other humans (James 5:16).
2. In the Old Covenant, God set up a priesthood for the forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 5).
3. Following this pattern, in the New Covenant Jesus grants His apostles the particular grace and authority to forgive sin:
“He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whoever’s sins you forgive they are forgiven, whoever’s sins you retain, they are retained'” – John 20:20-23
Why grant this power unless it is to be used? Through exercising this gift, Church leaders are entrusted with a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) and to act “in persona Christi” (2 Corinthians 2:10).
However, in addition to these points, when answering the above objection, I try to include a little testimony about the healing I’ve received through the Sacrament Confession. I’ve often found this more effective and lead to more productive conversations than simply giving above the arguments.