Living in the midst of various Christian Churches, we Catholics are haunted by the question, “Why should we go and confess our sins to a priest? Why can’t we directly seek pardon from God, who is merciful and compassionate?” Sometimes the protestant Christians cite the Scripture saying, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Then why is it required another mediator, the priest, be positioned between me and God?
If one is confused with such a message from inside or outside the Christian community, the person has to remember that it is The Lord who gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. Jesus gave the Apostles authority over unclean spirits, the authority to heal (Cfr. Matthew 10:8), the authority also to forgive sins: “… Receive the Holy spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). It is clear that Christ has delegated his authority to the Apostles to be the mediators of reconciliation.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… So, we are ambassadors for Christ …” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
If Jesus has set up a way for us to get reconciled with Our Father in heaven and receive his grace, we have no authority to question. Hence, we Catholics believe that the Church has inherited the ministry of reconciliation from God through the Apostles and the priest, as the minister of Christ, perpetuates this ministry in the person of Christ. It is not the priest, but it is Christ, who forgives sins; and the priest represents and acts in the person of Christ.
God bless you,
Fr. Arul Joseph