Yes, Catholics do go to Confession!

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently, one of our local television stations did a feature on how often Catholics receive the Sacrament of Penance – commonly called Reconciliation or Confession.  I am happy that our local media takes an interest in the Catholic Church, and the spiritual life of her members.

Indeed the only thing that made me sad was that all the people they interviewed were people who do not go to Confession, when I am sure it would have been easy for them to speak to some of the tens of thousands of Catholics in our Archdiocese who regularly receive this beautiful Sacrament.  Therefore, so that none of the faithful be confused, I wish to remind everyone of the following:

It is the clear teaching of the Catholic Church that it was Christ, Our Lord, who established the Sacrament of Penance when he gave His priests the power to forgive sins in His name.  The outward Confession of sins to a priest is not some human invention,1 but rather a command given us by God Himself.2 John Chapter 20, Verse 23)

All mortal sins not yet confessed, which a careful examination of conscience brings to mind, must be brought to the Sacrament of Penance.  Many people today in our secular culture have lost a sense of serious sin.  Missing Mass on Sunday through our own fault, sexual sin such as internet pornography and hatred of our neighbors are but a few of the sins we must confess. The Confession of serious sins is the only ordinary way to obtain forgiveness.3

Each of the faithful who have reached the age of reason is bound to confess his or her mortal sins at least once a year and always before receiving Holy Commuion.4

Any Catholic who thinks that the Sacrament of Penance is optional, or that he or she does not need to ever go to Confession, is seriously mistaken.  Such persons are depriving themselves of one of the greatest sources of grace, and indeed, may be putting their very souls into danger.

However, my dear friends, while we must be aware that going to Confession is a duty, we must never forget that it is first and foremost a gift, a privilege and a grace.  This is why frequent Confession, if even only for venial sins, in encouraged by the Church and is a great aid in spiritual growth.  For every time we make a good Confession, sin is forgiven, and we are reconciled with the Church.  In this Sacrament the state of grace, if lost, is recovered, the eternal punishment of our sins merit is wiped away and our temporal punishment is lessened.  In this Sacrament we gain peace of heart, serenity of conscience, inner consolation and new strength in spirit for the struggle of Christian living.5  What a treasure Our Lord has given us in this Sacrament of mercy!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe

1          Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church 298, 307
2          Council of Trent DS 1680
3          Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church 304
4          Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church 305
5          Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church 310