Why must one confess their sins through a priest? Jacinta Odongo finds out.
At the end of Easter season Catholics were encouraged to confess their sins during that period.
Pope Francis I also encouraged the faithful to be courageous and go for confession since lent is the time for reflection and reconciliation with God. He made this remark in March during the general gathering to the audience at St Peter’s Square.
He further asked Catholics to make frequent acts of contrition, which are prayers in which we tell God that we are sorry for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.
However, the act of confessing one’s sins, a requirement for Catholics, is one of the least understood of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. In reconciling us to God, it is a great source of grace and Catholics are encouraged to often take advantage of it.
Why confess to a priest?
Non-Catholics, however often ask whether they can confess their sins directly to God, and whether God can forgive them without going through a priest.
“I believe that by confessing to a priest, I’m sharing my innermost secret with someone who is closer to God and he will counsel without condemning me, says Patricia Atim, a Catholic at St Carmel Church in Kansanga adding: “My Anglican friends sometimes ask me why we confess to a priest instead of God?”
“Priesta are closer to God than I’m. I feel at peace after confession and I have an assurance of confidentiality no matter how extreme my acts are,” she explains.
The Sacrament of Penance, commonly known as confession, is one of the seven sacraments recognised by the Catholic Church. Catholics believe that all of the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and, in the case of Confession, that institution occurred on Easter Sunday, when Christ first appeared to the apostles after His resurrection.
In the church doctrine, Catholics should go to confession at least once a year, preferably during the Easter season. Those who commit mortal, or serious, sins like adultery and murder should not receive Communion without first going to confession.
Confession depends on someone’s faith although in the Catholic Church we first do contrition then go to the priest.
According to Fr Joseph Buye, the parish priest of Rubaga, many people fear going to the priests becaause they are not sure of the confidentiality of their innermost secrets to a fellow human being. “Our duty is to lure people back by putting out positive messages that confession is about peace and joy and not fear or shame.
People should also know that this human being commonly referred to as an ordained priest is the sacramental presence of Christ in the Church. When someone confesses to the priest, he is confessing to God, thereby healing the fracture which has occurred when someone sins,” explains Fr Buye.
Confession became a lower priority in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council in 1962. The church put more emphasis on forgiveness over punishment, and societal attitudes on sin changed.
The church has also allowed face-to-face confessions in “reconciliation rooms,” a setting that is brighter and less formal than the traditional confession box, where the confessor kneels anonymously before a screen with a priest on the other side.
For those people with a troubled conscience, Fr Bbuye says they should see the sacrament of reconciliation as an opportunity not just forgiveness of sins but for guidance for spiritual growth, guidance for dealing with temptations, guidance for discerning the path God wants them to walk for salvation.
“There is no record of our sins once we have gone to confession. God does not keep records and same applies to us priests. He never brings up our past against us once we are forgiven. That is the beauty of the sacrament and if you are a catholic you should know this doctrine. People should keep in mind that a church is a community which has norms of their faith,” he adds.
Why I cannot confess to a priest
For Erick Kiviri, the recent sex-abuse scandals that erupted in the Catholic Church have made it less appealing to confess sins to priests since their own sins and flaws were being exposed. “I don’t see the point of going to reveal my innermost secrets to a fellow human being who has faults just like me.
When I was in Canada I witnessed a case of a priest who turned around and told people about a certain believer’s crime and the next thing was the police involved.
Besides, I don’t believe confession is a big part in Christianity therefore I can never confess to a priest,” says Kiviri
While Catholics are required to go for Confession, the Church urges the faithful to take advantage of the sacrament often since, by doing so, grace can be restored in their souls and they can once again resist sin.
Steps before confession
Father John Dresko of New England in his journal ‘Why Should I confess to a Priest’ published in March 1995 says, we must recognise our sins first to get holier, to see better how truly awful our life is, how truly estranged we are from God.
Second, he says we must truly be sorry for the sins, and one of the true tests of our sorrow is the ability to confess those sins to another human being. “We can be so prideful that we refuse to confess our sins because we are worried about what someone else might think about us but we should know that they are doing so in Christ’s name,’ he explains.
Finally, once our pride is defeated and the sin confessed, we must try to repent, overcome the sin and live a truly sinless life. Though, the effort is in the struggle, since we cannot actually avoid acts of sin.