Question:
Why do Catholics have their sins forgiven by a priest?

Answer:
Bishop Clark explains:
God so honors the human condition that he became like us so that we can become more like God. If we accept the enfleshment of Godís love and mercy, to enjoy Godís mercy as a human being, itís appropriate to connect with another human being for the expression of the need for forgiveness and for the granting of forgiveness. Remember it is to Christ we are confessing and from Christ comes the forgiveness through his representative in the sacrament of reconciliation. The priest is never the source of the forgiveness. It is Christ acting in the priest as pastor. This is a powerful, consoling, and confirming sense of being forgiven.

In addition, the sacrament of reconciliation also recognizes and addresses our capacity for self-deception, rationalization, and flight from reality.

If a person is wise in the administration of the sacrament of reconciliation, even in human terms, he can offer an affirmation, a challenge, or a word of consolation that helps people appreciate the limit of our humanity and our ongoing need for conversion. Bishop Clark goes on to say, ďIt gives a sense of wholeness, of restoration that I donít achieve when I just simply say, ĎGod, please forgive me.í Thatís important and I mean it. And I know the grace of it. But there is something when your humanity is stamped like that. Itís very potent.Ē

From the Commonly Asked Questions section of The Spiritual Pilgrim website, spiritualpilgrim.dor.org