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Apologetics and the Truth about Catholics: Reconciliation

Updated on September 1, 2015


The Sacrament of Reconciliation is perhaps the most misunderstood Sacrament by both protestants and even Catholics. Questions that arise are, if Jesus died once and for all for my sins, why do I need to confess them? And, If Christ is the only mediator between God and Man, then why do I need to go to a priest? Among others of course.

This hub is specifically in answer to JThomp42's question, "In Catholicism, why must you confess to a priest. Can you not confess to God?" Therefore, as with the rest of this series, I am here to give you the true account of Catholicism, to challenge myths, to promote ecumenism, and to at least attempt to quell some Anti-Catholic hate. In the process I desire to have great discussion, expect to make a few enemies, and hope to make a few friends as well. It is my firm belief that understanding breeds love, so let the love begin.

Consequences of Sin

Yes, Jesus died once and for all so that we may go to heaven. This is called redemption. It enabled our sins to be forgiven, and they ARE, but our sins still have effects.

When someone throws a baseball through a window, the window becomes broken. You may knock on the door, apologize to the owner, and they may forgive you. But the window is still broken, reparations still need to be made. Likewise, if you get in a car accident, someone needs to pay to fix the cars.

Now some people think that Jesus' sacrifice pays every debt of each and every sin ever committed and that will always be committed. This doesn't make sense, because though God is merciful, he is first and foremost Just. Where is the accountability, the call to become better and holier persons, and the wages of sin? If Jesus has already forgiven every sin, and if that forgiveness automatically enables our salvation, then there is no consequence when we sin, our salvation cannot be lost, and we need not be concerned with how we live our lives.

Rather, the sacrifice of the Cross enabled the forgiveness of each and every sin should the person desire the forgiveness and take the appropriate means of asking it. This should be done in the way that God wants, in obedience and humility, because we are sinning against him.

But not only we sin against him, but because we are one body in Christ, when we sin against God we sin against the entire Church. Because this is the case, we need to be accountable to people and the Church, as well as to God.

Biblical Basis

James 5:16--Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Here is an explicit exhortation to confess your sin out loud to another, the effect of which is healing.

1 Cor 26--If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

This shows that our actions and spiritual status affect the entire Church. If we are responsible for hurting the Church, should we not ask for forgiveness from the Church, at least from a "representative" of the Church.

John 20:23--Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

Christ breathed the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles and gave them the power to forgive sins in his name? Was this just a pointless gift on the part of Jesus, or did he intend it to be used?

God Alone Forgives Sins

The Catholic Church believes, teaches, and upholds that God alone can forgive sins. It not the purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to make the recipient think it is the priest doing the forgiving. Rather, the Church teaches that the Priest, as in all Sacraments, is acting "In the person of Christ"... or rather, the person of Christ, through the nature of the Priest being ordained, is acting and speaking through the priest and imparting the grace that comes with the sacrament. Therefore, and this cannot be emphasized enough, IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF WHO FORGIVES SINS THROUGH THE SACRAMENT.

But why would Christ choose to have us come through a sacrament rather than just ask him for forgiveness? Well the first is that, because it is a Sacrament, reconciliation imparts grace. Thereby giving the recipient the means to avoid sin in the near future. Some of these graces include advice from the priest about how to avoid the sin, an increase in love for God, and a strengthening of fortitude and a desire to avoid the sin in the future. Furthermore, its an exercise in cultivating the human virtues of humility and obedience, as well as the theological virtue of Love. Finally, it fulfills the need to make amends with the Church who was wounded by your sin.

© 2013 rdlang05


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    • profile image

      Larry Wall 4 years ago

      Thank you. I do not know how wise I am, but I try to look at all sides.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Well said. You are a wise man.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 4 years ago

      "Rdlang05, you said, "I don't think that is how Jackie was intended on using it."

      This is a problem we all share. We try to use scriptures to support or beliefs. Perhaps it is time we all agreed that the scriptures can be viewed in many different ways. Maybe Jackie would not accept my view. That is certainly her right, and I think no less of her. Many Catholics feel unworthy to speak directly to God, which is why they ask for Intercession from Jesus, Mary and all the Saints. People pray on behalf of others all the time. There is nothing wrong with that.

      I offered my explanation of the passage in question to show that you can find evidence that we cannot judge ourselves but must ask God for forgiveness. I think all true Christians realize that. Catholics have a more formalized approach. Many Catholics do not go to confession. I think no less of them than I do of other Christian religions that do not have a confession process. We are all God's children. As a Baptist, I found it easy to skip church on Sunday. My former pastor used to say people were attending Bedsprings Baptist Church. As a Catholic, I never miss Mass, unless I am ill or taking care of someone who is sick or needs assistance. That does not happen very often.

      There are more debates and discussions about God on Hub Pages than I care to count. I have been told on two occasions, I was told that I was doomed to Hell because I became a Catholic.

      I am not a Biblical expert or scholar. I have not read the Bible cover to cover and probably never will. I can link creationism and evolution together without any conflict. I know God exists. I cannot prove it. I know Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of his only son. Catholics believe this is because that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. Other churches do not recognize that, but they agree Mary was the mother of Jesus, so by any standard; she is important to all Christians. I believe Jesus died on the Cross for my sins, so I could one day enjoy eternal salvation. There are so many passages that can be argued, taken out of context or just not accepted for what they say.

      In my case, I just believe.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 4 years ago from Minnesota


      Thanks for the comment! I agree that that is an adequate interpretation of that passage in the context of this discussion. We cannot adequately judge ourselves, and our sin keeps us from communion with the church and others. However, I don't think that is how Jackie was intending on using it.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 4 years ago

      1 Corinthians 11:28-32

      New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      "But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number [a]sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

      I think the passage is saying that if you judge yourself, we might not be judging ourselves, but instead finding an excuse for our actions. When we confess to God, through a priest, who might ask questions, we are likely to get a better picture and understanding of our transgression and thus forgiveness by God.

      I am not a Bibical scholar. That is how I see the passage. Undoubtedly, others will tell me I am wrong and I am not going to enter into a debate.

      Accepting the rite of confession is hard--it was hard for me as I converted from a Baptist to a Catholic. I go to confession once or twice a year and could probably take hours to explain all my "sins" but God is not looking for a list, he is seeking acceptance of the gift that was given us when Jesus died on the cross. Unfortunately, with discussions about religions, there are those who try to make the issue more difficult than it has to be. God loves you. In accepting that love, you commit to living righteously, knowing you will fail and fail often, thus you seek forgiveness and move forward, doing a little better each day.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 4 years ago from Minnesota

      From Pope Francis "One might say: I confess only to God. Yes, you can say to God "forgive me" and say your sins, but our sins are also committed against the brethren, and against the Church. That is why it is necessary to ask pardon of the Church, and of the brethren in the person of the priest. 'But Father, I am ashamed...' Shame is also good, it is healthy to feel a little shame, because being ashamed is salutary. When a person feels no shame, in my country we say that he is 'shameless'; a 'sin verguenza'. But shame too does good, because it makes us more humble, and the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness and forgives us on God's behalf. Also from a human point of view, in order to unburden oneself, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things which weigh so much on my heart. And one feels that one is unburdening oneself before God, with the Church, with his brother. Do not be afraid of Confession! When on is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of Confession!"

      I am also not sure what that passage from Corinthians has to do with this discussion... can you elaborate?

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I personally think we are far enough from God as it is and if we can't ask Him for forgiveness why trust someone else? God has scripture about what happens if we continue in our sin. Many are sickly and weak among you, and many die. I wouldn't want to trust this to no third party. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 Besides that our God is a jealous God and he says so. No sirs, I will take my sin straight to God. I know He saw it anyway!

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thank you very much rademe!

    • radame7 profile image

      radame7 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for elucidating this terrible misunderstanding about Reconciliation! Very well-argued.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      @John and Olog--Thanks!

      @Larry--Thanks again for reading. I enjoy hearing about your post-conversion experiences because I feel it can really contribute some validity in dialoging with non-Catholics.

      @Cynth--Thanks for another insightful comment. When I speak of hurting the Church, I don't mean the building, I mean the body of believers that are united in Christ through a common faith. I guess I would say that the priest himself doesn't impart grace, only God can do that of course, but rather he facilitates the grace giving event of the Sacrament. But praise be Jesus that he gives us abundance of graces in many many ways, not only through the sacraments, but in everyday life.

      Thank you all for reading.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I believe that the "church" represents the faith we have in our hearts, as when Peter acknowledged Christ as the Son of God and Christ replied, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt:16:18) and that the church as a building is representative of this but it is entirely spiritual. It is good to confess from the heart to find reconciliation with God but I do not believe that it is essential the religion be part of that. You aptly quoted 1 Cor 26--If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

      I believe this represents the Holy Spirit and the body, but not the Church as a building. The Church to me is the "faith" we hold in our hearts. There are and is no means by which we convince others of our faith in God or our "goodness." God is the only one who can look at the heart. I also do not believe a priest imparts "grace" or has anything to do with grace from God, since the spiritual life that we take with us is something no other person can know except God. Jesus' parables also speak to one's conscience and "heart". Person's who believe they are hoodwinking their fellow men can never hoodwink God. I believe the Church's role in the future should be more "spiritual" than "religious;" however I have respect for the sacraments because they are "representative" of the ways in which God looks upon the countenance of every human soul. But the "church" is a body of believers and ought not be confused with a mere "building" or "religion" but rather that inward conviction shared or experienced. One can be alone and still be part of God's "church" through grace by the Holy Spirit. Please do not think I do not respect the church. I do immensely but the deeper message of "inwardness" behind the sacraments is more important. It's like people think that if they go to church once a week or confession they can go out and hurt others without changing by the renewing of their mind. Mind, heart, soul. The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. Great hub, as always. You're a good writer and I always look forward to your hubs.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 5 years ago

      This is an excellent Hub and explanation about the Sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church. As a former Baptist who converted to Catholicism, I have learned to benefit from this Sacrament and not to dread it or feel that I am trying to bypass God. The priest serves as an intercessor, giving advice as to how you can avoid the sins you may confess, giving you suggestions on the impact of that sins and sometimes pointing out that what you may be confessing is not a sin, but just a thought or an emotion.

      Taking part in this sacrament or going to confession, as it is usually called is usually in the church, where it is quiet, and you can connect with God while reading the passage of scriptures the priest may have assigned for your penance. Seldom, does a priest tell a person to say the rosary every day for a week, or to say five Hail Mary's and Six Our Fathers like you see in movies. At one time, that may have been a common practice, that is not so common today. I touched on this subject in my Hub, "Understanding the Catholic Church and What It Does.". That Hub was more about intercessory prayer and the role of Mary in the Catholic Church. It drew its share of critics. The primary point, and I do not want to speak for the author, is that Catholics are Christians. They believe in God. They do not believe the priests, Mary or any of the Saints can replace God or grant any wishes or requests. In the Baptist church we were taught about intercessory prayer, where you ask someone to pray for you or you pray for someone in need. The Catholic Church is no different. It just may be a little more formal about it sometimes..

      Finally, the Church is very accepting. When I became a Catholic, the church accepted the Baptism I received when I joined the Baptist Church as a child. I heard a priest once say we were all brothers and sisters, separated for the moments, but brothers and sisters and believers. Again, this was an excellent Hub. I urge other readers to look for the understanding it provides and do not dwell on minor points where you may disagree.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 5 years ago from USA

      Great explanation of why Catholics go to confession. Thanks for writing this.

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      John Connor 5 years ago

      Thank you for this most wonderful and comprehensive hub...