Apologetics and the Truth about Catholics: Reconciliation
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.
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