Granting that priests do have the power to forgive sins in the name of God, what advantage does confessing one’s sins to a priest have over confessing directly to God in private prayer?
Catholics see several advantages in confessing their sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance. First, there is the Church’s guarantee of forgiveness, which private confessions do not provide; secondly, there is the sacramental grace which private confessions do not provide; and thirdly, there is the expert spiritual counseling which private confessions do not provide. With the Apostles, Catholics recognize that the Church is, in a mysterious way, the Body of Christ still living in the world (Col. 1:18); therefore they recognize that God will receive their pleas for mercy and forgiveness with far greater compassion if their pleas are voiced within the Church, in union with the Mystical Body of His Divine Son, than if they are voiced privately, independent of the Mystical Body of His Divine Son.
Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961