Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Confess My Sins to a Priest? Heavens, NO!

by Pam Williams

Upon discovering we were Catholic and were now going to confession with a priest, a friend wrote me.
Dear Pam, 
I would never confess my sins to a mere man when I can go straight to the Lord. N.D.

Dear N.D.,

The truth is that I felt the same way before becoming Catholic.

In terms of confession, may I suggest that you begin with the Scripture
“confess your sins one to another.” (James 5:16) But more significantly, in the upper room after Jesus’ resurrection he tells the disciples that “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23)  That’s where Jesus gave the Apostles the charge & authority as his Church on earth, to “bind on earth, [and it] will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18)

These words were not spoken to all believers (as I had thought as a Protestant Christian).  They were spoken to the Apostles, and Jesus claimed he would build his Church on the “foundation of Peter and the Apostles,” (Matt 16:18, Eph 2:20, Rev. 21:14) and that “the Holy Spirit would lead you (his audience is the Apostles again) into all truth.” (John 16:13) 

We need to submit ourselves to the Magisterium of the Church today to understand all the truth God has for us. I Timothy 3:15, says that “the pillar and foundation of truth is... [the Bible? No. ...the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and us? No, that would be proclaiming ourselves as Pope.] ...the Church!  Read it for yourself.  I about fell over when I read that in my own Bible.  How did I pass over that so many times?

The Church (which was only the Catholic Church back then) is the pillar and foundation of the Truth!!!  In fact, there is not ANY place in the Bible that claims that Holy Scripture is the foundation of the Truth or the only Authority.  In fact, the Church selected the Canon of the Scripture with the Holy Spirit’s infallible guidance).

There are many places in the Bible where the Church is given the authority or spoken of as the authority here on earth to represent the Authority of God in Heaven. If you want proof in the Bible of the teachings of the Church, I have it for:

        1.  The Infallible Church
        2.  The Authoritative Church
        3.  The Apostolic Church
        4.  The Primacy of Peter
        5.  Apostolic Succession of Priests
        6.  The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
        7.  Regenerative Baptism
        8.  Mary
        9.  Purgatory
        And much, much more

I love you so much.

Love and prayers,

P.S. Stan wants to jump in and contribute....

Hi N.D., Stan here.

Priests are mere men in one sense. But through the laying on of hands by a bishop, they are also set apart for Holy Office (ordination) and given powers to do certain things in Christ’s place. They are Christ’s representatives on Earth and mediate from man to God. This is the opposite of what a prophet does who mediates from God to man.

One of the problems with sin is that it isn’t just a private thing between God and us. It also separates us from all other Christians. While asking God privately for forgiveness is valid and does work on one level, it does not heal the breech that our actions have caused between those that we have sinned against. If we’ve sinned directly against another person, even though we ask God for forgiveness we also must make repentance and restitution to that person. Don’t you agree? It has to be done, preferably face-to-face. People we sin against have to see the sorrow in our eyes...and they have to see a change in our future behavior in order for our repentance to take hold and our restitution to breach the gap that our sinful actions have caused.

But whenever we sin we also sin against all other Christians. We have breached the promise we made to them when we became Christians to obey God in all things. We need the whole church’s forgiveness as well. But since it is impossible to go to all believers and ask their forgiveness, Christ established the priest as the intermediary.

So, when we humbly confess our sins to a priest and ask for forgiveness, there are a number of things going on:

(1) We follow Christ’s command to do so (see Pam’s notes below on Scripture)
(2) We ask God through Christ to forgive our sins
(3) We ask to be reconciled not just with God, but with all believers against whom we have also sinned—the Church.

And with the priest’s absolution of our sins we receive:

(4) God’s forgiveness for our sins through Christ
(5) The Church’s forgiveness for our sins against all Christians.

And when we follow through by performing the penance the Priest gives us:

(6) We make physical restitution for our earlier actions, and
(7) We give physical substance to our spiritual faith (James 2:17).

There are many Scriptures in the N.T. that establish the priesthood as a separate calling apart from the “priesthood of all believers.” See, for a few examples: Eph 4:11, Acts 1:20f, 1 Tim 4:14, Acts 14:23, and Titus 1:5.)

Now, as Pam points out below, there are some special powers that God gives to the priesthood (in the person of Christ) that mere man does not have.

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