Why exactly do Catholics confess their sins to a Priest?
The Church requires all who are able to do so, to go for confession at least once a year. Confession is also compulsory for all mortal sins, as these sins are the most serious and can lead to loss of salvation.
In as much as the church does not deny forgiveness of sins can be gained outside the confessional (for example by direct prayer), it encourages confession for the following reasons:
- Penance (now more commonly known as ‘Reconciliation’) is a Sacrament, and like all Sacraments, it is considered to be a channel of God’s grace. The Priest does not himself forgive sins, rather he is said to act in the person of Christ and with his power gives absolution.
- Confession before a Priest helps the penitent to receive guidance and advice.
- A Penitent who make a good confession through an ‘Act of Contrition’ can receive assurance of forgiveness of sin.