Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do you rely upon your faith alone for salvation?

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 1 Cor 7:19

Frequently, Protestants accuse Catholics of relying upon our works for salvation. But that isn't true.  And that is easy to prove.  All you have to do is ask a Catholic, any Catholic, "Are you saved?"  What is the answer that he will give? We all know.   

He will answer, "I don't know." 
Protestants harangue us for this response all the time.   Never mind that this is the Biblical answer (1 Cor 4:5).

The fact is, we believe we are saved by our FAITH and works, but we don't rely upon either to be saved.  We rely upon God.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if you ask a Protestant if he is saved, what will he say?

"Yes!" they say, "I am saved by my faith alone! My sins are all forgiven!" Even if we ask them, "What about your future sins?"
McVey wide skyscraper.jpg

That is their answer! What do you say? Do you rely upon your faith alone for salvation?
Which is the more Biblical reply?

1 Corinthians 4:3-5

King James Version (KJV)

 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
 4For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
 5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.


De Maria

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hijacking John 20:23? Say what?

McVey wide skyscraper.jpg

This post is a response to an article I read on Russell's Answering Catholic Claims blog.  It is a long article which seeks to deny that the Catholic Church has the authority to forgive sins in the Confessional.  I actually submitted a partial rebuttal to his blog.  But it has to be approved before it is published.  While I'm waiting, I thought I'd go ahead and begin my rebuttal here.  It's quite long, so as usual, I'll break it up into manageable ideas.  I'll begin, first, though, with an explanation of the Biblical support for the Catholic doctrine and Sacrament.  Russell's comments are in blue.

Biblical Catholic Doctrine:

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the missions which was given the Church.  This is expressly stated in Scripture:
2 Corinthians 5:18
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

This ministry of reconciliation entails all the Sacraments.  Baptism chief amongst them.  But also Confession, Eucharist and Annointing.  Scripture is very clear that God gave men the power to forgive sins:
Matthew 9:5-8
King James Version (KJV)
5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Scripture is also clear that God appointed men to rule over us and to be responsible over our souls to whom we should submit and obey.  Protestants do their best to deny and ignore this teaching:
Matthew 18:17
17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Hebrews 13:17
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Now, we go to the verse which Russell says the Catholic Church has misunderstood.  John 20:23
23Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Now, because Russell has discarded tradition, because he denies the authority of the Church, and because he denies the authority of the men which God appointed to be responsible for his soul, he can't imagine that God could actually have given the Church the authority to forgive sins in confession.  But that is exactly what Scripture says and that is what we see the Tradition of the Church doing, from the beginning.

[A filial method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, "I said, to the Lord, I will accuse myself of my iniquity" (Homilies in Leviticus 2:4 [A.D. 248]).

So, it isn't Catholics who have hijacked John 20:23, but Protestants who have ripped it from the context of Scripture.

Anyway, let us proceed to Russell's article:


If you are a Catholic or if you know many Catholics, then you are probably familiar with the concept of confessing your sins to a priest in a small private room called a “confessional.” While much has been written about the abuses of the Catholic confessional, our focus today will instead be on the Catholic Church’s abuse of John 20:23 (which they claim supports this type of confession). Here is the passage and its context:

19) So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20) And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21) So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22) And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23) If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20:19-23 - NASV)

The Catholic Church tells us that when Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them: if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”… that He was not only giving the disciples the authority to forgive sins, but He also intended to establish the “Sacrament of Penance,” part of which involves the Catholic practice of confessing sins to a priest (also known as “auricular confession”).

So far so good.  I see nothing there with which to disagree.  Although, it may hurt us to hear people say that the practice has been abused by some, it is true.  However, it has been done so, not because of Catholic Teaching, but inspite of it.  Unlike Protestant doctrine which has changed so much through the centuries to the point that many of their denominations accept the vilest of sins condemned in Scripture.


Not only do they claim this, but the Catholic Church also condemns anyone who denies this interpretation. According to the Fourteenth Session of the Council of Trent:

If any one saith, that those words of the Lord the Saviour, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, are not to be understood of the power of forgiving and of retaining sins in the Sacrament of penance, as the Catholic Church has always from the beginning understood them; but wrests them, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, to the power of preaching the gospel; let him be anathema. (Canon III – emphasis added)


If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema. (Canon VI – emphasis added)

Note the anathemas at the end of each Canon. When the Catholic Church declares someone “anathema,” she is pronouncing the gravest form of excommunication possible… one which eternally condemns the person to Hell unless and until he does penance to the Church’s satisfaction (see the online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – under the topic, “anathema”).

Note also the claim that this type of secret auricular confession was “always from the beginning understood” by the Church in this way, and “ever observed from the beginning.” But this is not true, even according to the Church’s own teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that private confession to a priest was a NEW practice introduced in the seventh century:

…During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on [i.e., from the seventh century], the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament… (CCC #1447)

There's a problem with Russell's argument here.  Note the wording of the Catechism statement:
the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church.

This is not about private auricular confession, but about public acts of penance, that is, public demonstrations of repentance.  This is much clearer if we read the entire paragraph rather than the small snippet out of context: 

1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this "order of penitents" (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the "private" practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day.

The bolded sentence provides the context which was previously left out.  This is also found in Scripture, where St. Paul says:

St. Paul said to the Gentiles:
Acts 26:20
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Repentance, otherwise known as acts of penance, were then and are today required in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is commonly known as Confession.  The only thing which was introduced to Europe, according to that paragraph, was the acceptance of private acts of repentance.  Not auricular confession.

And, although, during the early period of the Church, public confessions before a priest were permitted, as they are even today.  Let me pause here to explain something which most Catholics take for granted and as a result most Protestants aren't aware of, the requirement for confession of venial sins, before a priest, is fulfilled in the recitation of the Confiteore, at the beginning of every Mass.  What is the Confiteore?  This prayer:
I confess to almighty God,
and to you, 
my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done, 
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, 
ever virgin, 
all the angels and saints, 
and you, 
my brothers and sisters, 
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

It is also known as the Penitential rite or general confession and is not simply recited for a pleasurable exercise.  Our venial sins are remitted when we pray this prayer in the beginning of the Mass.

St. Thomas Aquinas:
I answer that, As stated above (Article 2), no infusion of fresh grace is required for the forgiveness of a venial sin, but it is enough to have an act proceeding from grace, in detestation of that venial sin, either explicit or at least implicit, as when one is moved fervently to God. Hence, for three reasons, certain things cause the remission of venial sins: first, because they imply the infusion of grace, since the infusion of grace removes venial sins, as stated above (Article 2); and so, by the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, and by all the sacraments of the New Law without exception, wherein grace is conferred, venial sins are remitted. Secondly, because they imply a movement of detestation for sin, and in this way the general confession [i.e. the recital of the Confiteor or of an act of contrition, the beating of one's breast, and the Lord's Prayer conduce to the remission of venial sins, for we ask in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses." Thirdly, because they include a movement of reverence for God and Divine things; and in this way a bishop's blessing, the sprinkling of holy water, any sacramental anointing, a prayer said in a dedicated church, and anything else of the kind, conduce to the remission of venial sins.
Summa Third Part, Q87, art 3

So, private confession to a priest was NOT “ever observed from the beginning,

Yes, in fact it was.  As St. Cyprian said:
The Apostle [Paul] likewise bears witness and says: "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord "[I Cor. 11:27]. But [the impenitent] spurn and despise all these warnings; before their sins are expiated, before they have made a confession of their crime, before their conscience has been purged in the ceremony and at: the hand of the priest . . . they do violence to his body and blood, and with their hands and mouth they sin against the Lord more than when they denied him (The Lapsed 15:1-3 (A.D. 251]).
Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor

BUT Protestants will object.  It doesn't say "in private".  It doesn't say "public" either.  You presume "public" because you want to deny the Catholic Tradition.  But the very fact that the Fathers of the Church are referring to priests whose existence you deny and to their ability to remit sin as taught by the Catholic Church from the earliest time when anyone can remember, well before the advent of Protestantism, speaks volumes about the fact that you are simply trying to introduce another novelty to the Faith of Jesus Christ.

and church history verifies this fact. Remember that these statements above (Canon III and VI) are dogmatic statements from a supposedly “infallible ecumenical council” and must be believed by every Catholic, yet they contradict (and condemn) the Catholic Catechism on this point.

According to your misunderstanding of what that Catechism teaching says.  But not when understood correctly, in its complete context and in the light of Tradition and Catholic Teaching.

It seems that the Council of Trent, in a knee-jerk reaction to the Reformation, made false claims,

None whatsoever.  It was and remains an infallible council.

forcing today’s Catholic to have to do damage control.

The only damage control we are having to do is the correction of the misinformation being introduced by folks like you.


Quick answer.  Yes.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking here about when someone sins against you personally and you need to forgive him for it. This is about someone officially absolving (forgiving) all your sins, giving you a clean slate. So, in light of this, what about the Catholic Church’s interpretation of John 20:23? Is it really speaking of auricular confession to a priest?

It is speaking about all the Sacraments, especially Baptism, Confession, Eucharist and Annointing.

Did Jesus actually give anyone the power to forgive sins (like He does)?

Yes.  John 20:21
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

On the surface, it may look like it,

It looks like it through and through.

but no, there is something else going on here. The Catholic interpretation is not valid for several reasons…

First of all, although there were “ministerial” priests in the Old Testament, there are NONE in the New Testament,
You don't recognize the Priesthood which is everywhere depicted in the New Testament because you don't accept the Traditions of Jesus Christ.

First, the Priesthood is here explicitly mentioned:
1 Timothy 4:14
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

Here it is explicit in the original Greek, which loses something in the translation to English:
1) to minister in the manner of a priest, minister in priestly service
a) of those who defend the sanctity of the law by undergoing a violent death
b) of the preaching of the gospel
Romans 15:16
King James Version (KJV)
 16That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

contrary to what the Catholic Church claims.

There is still more.  But again, you don't recognize it.  Here is Jesus telling you that He has established a ministerial priesthood:
Matthew 12:
1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
6But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Have you ever wondered why the Disciples are guiltless?  They ate bread on the Sabbath day and were guiltless because they were the equivalent of the Levites, the ministerial priests of the Old Testament.  The Levites were in the Temple, eating and working on the Sabbath.  But there is one greater than the Temple and His ministerial priests are free to eat and work on the Sabbath, because He is Lord of the Sabbath.

Not enough for you?  Here's another:
Luke 22:25-26
King James Version (KJV)
25And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.  26But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Have you ever heard it said that the Catholic Priests are the servants of the servants of God.  That is the basis of that saying.

According to the Bible, all Christians are considered to be priests (1 Peter 2: 5, 9; Revelation 1:6). So this special class of ministers does not exist anymore.<

According to Scripture, all Jews were priests also:
Exodus 19:6
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Yet they also had a ministerial priesthood. 

See this article on the priesthood:

Wow!  What a gold mine!  I get to debunk another article.  But, one at a time.  Let me get through this one first.  

Just this point alone destroys the foundation of the Catholic concept of auricular confession.

Neh.  It's just another point to debunk.

Second, there are absolutely no New Testament examples of anyone having his sins absolved by confessing to a designated person (unless that Person was Jesus).
Sort of.  But first, lets speak of an Old Testament example.  Let us go to Job.  Here God says to Job's friends:
Job 42:8
Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.

This is very close to what we see happening in the Confessional, where the Priest prays for us and God accepts his prayer.

Although, in the New Testament, there are no examples of an actual confession as we are accustomed.  However, St. Paul was sent to St. Ananias by Jesus for the remission of his sins, in Baptism.  And of course, St. James says we should call the elders and confess our sins to one another.  AND more importantly, for Sola Scripturists, Scripture does not forbid it and Scripture positively and explicitly says that God gave men the power to forgive sins.  And then there's St. John the Baptist, whom you mention below.

And when we take this to the Tradition of the Fathers, we see that they were writing about the practice of auricular confession in the 3rd century.  And they didn't talk about it as though it were recently introduced, but as something which they took for granted.  Something commonplace.

There are examples of public confession (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:4-5; Acts 19:18-19), but we find no special person whose “job” it was to hear confessions (as in the Catholic Church).
Well, that was actually St. John the Baptist to whom they were confessing their sins:
Matthew 3 1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…. 5Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mark 1:4-5
King James Version (KJV)
4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

Actually, it doesn't say one way or another whether they confessed to anyone in particular. You simply assume they didn't.  Which is strange seeing that every other example you've provided shows people confessing to a designated individual.

Acts 19:18-19
King James Version (KJV)
8And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.  19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Third, we DO have examples of those who prayed (or were instructed to pray) directly to God for forgiveness (Matthew 6:9,12;
Which we do.  That verse is the instruction to pray the Our Father, which is one of our staple prayers.  Second only to the Mass.

Acts 8:20-22;
This verse however, does not depict that which you claim.  Or at least, not when taken in context.  It is a man, Simon Magus, begging St. Peter to pray to God to forgive his sin.

Acts 8:18-24
King James Version (KJV)
18And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

Luke 18:13-14).

Luke 18:13-14
King James Version (KJV)
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.  14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

This is an example of Judaic practice, which although they had a ministerial priesthood authorized to make atonement for sins of the people(Lev 4), the sinner is also expected to pray directly to God for forgiveness.

Something else though.  This is also an example of the Protestant mindset.  Here, the Protestant assumption is that this man came to the Temple only to pray directly to God.  Without it ever occurring to them that although it is not mentioned in Scripture, it is very possible, in fact highly probable, that this man was returning from offering his sacrifice, was in the process of offering his sacrifice or was en route to offering his sacrifice.  

Fourth, the structure of the Greek grammar in John 20:23 is rare, and important to recognize. The first pair of verbs (“forgive” and “retain”) are present tense. But the second pair of verbs, ("are forgiven" and "are retained") are both perfect tense, indicating a continual state that began before the action of the first verbs. In other words, the grammar indicates that God’s forgiving or retaining comes first, and then man’s PROCLAIMING of it afterward (based on what the person has chosen to do).

You're reading a great deal into Scripture.  The grammar, even as you have stated it, shows that what the Church forgives is perfectly forgiven and what the Church retains is perfectly retained.  Where you get the man's proclamation of it afterward is from your own psyche which is conditioned against Catholic doctrine found in Scripture.

Jesus’ dying on the cross gives us direct access to God, without a ministerial priesthood.

And through one as well.  As He Himself said:
John 20:21
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

And the Father sent Jesus with the power to forgive sins.

Many scholars will admit that the literal meaning of this verse, although awkward, is more accurately, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins HAVE ALREADY BEEN forgiven,” or … “SHALL HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.” 

And the awkward sense fits right in to Catholic teaching as well.  Again, it is the Church to whom Jesus is speaking and men to whom He is giving the power to remit and retain sin.  So, if God said, if you forgive someone's sin, their sin has already been forgiven, then that means that it is because that person to whom God gave the power forgave the penitent his sin, that the penitent's sin was forgiven.  It still conforms to Catholic Teaching.

>So, Jesus was simply giving the disciples authority to announce forgiveness to people that God had forgiven already.<
After they confessed to the priest.

Lol!  But that is perfect.  It is precisely Catholic Teaching.  Since the priest speaks in PERSONA CHRISTI.  That means the priest is merely passing on God's message of forgiveness.

This is not a situation where a man DECIDES to forgive or retain your sins – it is a situation in which a man simply declares / proclaims / confirms what God has already clearly stated in His Word, concerning your response to the gospel.

What's So Great About Being Catholic?

After the person has confessed his sins to that priest.  Yes.

Forgiveness depends on whether a person is repentant and how he reacts to the gospel, not on some special formula that the “priest,” rabbi, or minister uses.
Again, Catholic teaching.  The Sacraments are effective only according to the faith of the person.  Someone who has no faith is doing himself more harm than good in partaking of the Sacraments.  Therefore Scripture says:
Mark 16:16
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

1 Corinthians 11:29-31
King James Version (KJV)
29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

By the way, a very similar type of Greek construction is found in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 concerning “binding” and “loosing.” Here again, it is NOT a case of a man deciding something and afterward, God being obligated to give His seal of approval. It is simply a proclaiming of what God has already done.
I prefer the straightforward Scripture to your twisting.  Let me show you:
Matthew 16:19
King James Version (KJV)
 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

That's pretty direct.  What you bind, will be loosed.  Now, if you want to say, What you bind, shall have been bound.  Well, its a bit awkward, but acceptable.  What the Church binds, shall have been bound.

For those who may not be quite sure what we mean when we use the term “the gospel,” it means “good news” and is simply the message that God loves us enough to have sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. He paid our penalty. It is a gift that none of us deserve and the payment of a debt that we could never pay. So, we don’t have to try and earn it… all we need to do is believe / trust Him for it. This is indeed good news.

Indeed!  It is, in fact, Catholic Teaching.  

Now, let me ask you, since we don't have to earn salvation, does that mean that you don't have to keep the Commandments?  Lets see what Scripture says:
Revelation 22:13-15
King James Version (KJV)
13I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

Apparently, Scripture expects we should keep the Commandments.

Now, let me ask you something else.  Since we don't have to earn salvation, does that mean that you can sin all you want without repentance and Jesus has paid the price for your salvation?

What does Scripture say:
Hebrews 5:9
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Romans 6:14-16
King James Version (KJV)
14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Fifth, when it comes to absolving (i.e., forgiving all of a person’s sins), it is impossible to do unless you first know with absolute certainty what’s in the person’s heart. That’s why only God can absolve, and He doesn’t need a “middle man” to do it.
A.  There's no question of need here.  God established a system which you are expected to obey.  That is all.
B.  It is Catholic Teaching that God absolves of sin, through the Priest.  The Priest does not absolve.  God does.

Let us say that a man comes to confession and lies to the Priest.  The Priest will go through the ritual as he is supposed to do, but the man goes home just as full of sin, even moreso, since he has added blasphemy to his sins.

If you think a man is absolved of sin who really has not repented of his sins, you are simply confused.  Here is the Catholic teaching on reconciliation:
1491 The sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.

It is possible for a Catholic in the confessional to fool a priest into thinking that he is genuinely sorry for his sins, when he is not. And if the priest is convinced, he will mistakenly declare that the person is forgiven. In this case, we would agree with Catholics that this person is certainly not forgiven, since he is not fooling God.
Thank you.  Already explained above.

On the other hand, the priest could also retain the person’s sins when he is actually repentant.
I doubt it.

The job of the Catholic priest here is (supposedly) to forgive or retain sins.
Correct.  Forgive the sins of a repentant man and retain the sins of an unrepentant man.

Yet, he cannot faithfully and “accurately” do it because he does not positively know the person’s heart.
It is the penitent's duty to reveal his heart.

The priest is dependent on the honesty of the penitent (the one confessing).
Correct.  And if the man is confessing a sin, he is presumed to be repentant.

But only God really knows the heart of man, therefore, only He can absolve sins.  Even the pompous scribes and Pharisees recognized this. (Luke 5:21)
God has given to man responsibility over our souls:
Hebrews 13:17
King James Version (KJV)
 17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

It follows that He also gave certain men the power to absolve our sins:
Matthew 9:5-8
King James Version (KJV)
5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

The pompous Scribes and Pharisees could not accept it.  Nor can the Protestants.  But it is true.

Sixth, we must look to other verses that pertain to the same topic to get a fuller understanding of a passage. Jesus’ words in John 20:23 can be understood in a non-Catholic way when reconciled with the other three gospels.
Your mention of a non-Catholic way is very important.  We don't read or understand Scripture the same way.  You claim to go by Scripture alone and you discard everything else.  But in fact, you also set Scripture aside.

For instance, Scripture says:
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

But you discard the Traditions.  And it is only by the Traditions that you will understand the New Testament, because the New Testament was written from the Traditions of Jesus Christ.

Scripture also says:
Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

But you deny the Church which Scripture also calls the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15) and lean upon your own understanding.

And finally, Scripture says to understand the Spirit of the Word, but you kill the Spirit with the letter:
2 Corinthians 3:6
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

So, yes, non-Catholics read and understand Scripture very differently than do Catholics.  We understand Scripture the way God intends for us.  In light of the Traditions according to Church Teaching.

Let’s be sure not to miss the fact that this passage is unmistakably connected to the “Great Commission,” to the preaching of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” He was sending them to preach the gospel. When He breathed on them, He was empowering them by the Holy Spirit to do exactly that.

What of miracles?  Did Jesus come performing signs and miracles?  How about the Apostles?  How about the Saints of the Catholic Church throughout history?  Yeah, miracles are being performed even today.

Jesus came preaching, forgiving sins and performing miracles.  The Catholic Church continues in His work to this day.

There are three times in the gospels where a specific group is given this Great Commission of preaching the gospel message and being sent out with power. The first time was after Jesus chose His twelve apostles. (Matthew 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-11; Luke 9:1-5) The second was when He sent out the seventy disciples. (Luke 10:1-12) The third was after He arose from the dead, when He addresses His apostles again. (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:19-23). A close look at all these passages in their contexts will tie them all together as a unit, while never suggesting the concept of auricular confession.

To you.  It is however, a part of the Deposit of Faith:
2 Corinthians 5:18
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

You don't recognize it, I understand.  You have discarded all the Traditions which Scripture told you to retain.

John 20:23 must not be interpreted apart from the other three gospel accounts where the Great Commission was issued.
It isn't.  Not by us anyway.

When placing the four gospels side-by-side, you can begin to see how John 20:23 is simply the Great Commission stated another way.
It is simply the Great Commission in greater detail perhaps.  But not much different.

Also, within the gospels, there is a common theme of shaking off the dust from the feet of the preacher of the good news, condemning those who have rejected the message:

And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matthew 10:14-15 - NASV)

This practice was to show those who rejected the gospel that he (the preacher) wanted nothing to do with their evil ways, not even wanting their dust clinging to his feet. The concept of shaking off the dust in protest is also found in Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5; 10:10-11, and Acts 13:50-51. This act is an excellent example of “retaining” one’s sins, and is actually applying the principle of John 20:23 to those who reject the message.
Its another way, yes.

Speaking of rejecting the gospel, notice what Jesus says:

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me. (Luke 10:16 - NASV)

This ties in directly with the concepts of “dusting off the feet” and “retaining one’s sins,” yet, notice that Jesus was speaking here to the seventy disciples, not just the apostles. Both of these concepts are about rejecting the gospel, and those who reject the message / messenger are actually rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, there is a common thread here, a continuous line of thought within the four gospel accounts and when they are viewed together, there is no auricular confession.
That is a non sequitur.  
First, the subject matter is not directly about auricular confession.  But about preaching the Gospel.
Second, it is really more appropriate to apply this to Protestants, who have rejected the true Church and the true Gospel, in so doing, rejecting Christ.
Third, indirectly, it can be about auricular confession, as the Priest represents Christ.  In rejecting him, you reject the one whom he represents. 

As stated before, it is the acceptance (believing) of this gospel message with an attitude of repentance that will cause a person to be forgiven of his sins. The gospel has everything to do with forgiveness. This is because it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

Believing is more than believing that which you can imagine.  It is about believing that which Christ established for you to believe.  Christ said, "hear the Church".  But you refuse.  Therefore, you don't believe.



Perhaps so, but this seems to be somewhat confusing, since the Catechism repeatedly tells us that confessing to a priest is “essential.” (CCC #1424, #1448, #1449, #1456) So, this “freedom” for Catholics to go directly to God for forgiveness is questionable. It is either essential to go through the priest, or it’s not. Which is it?
It is both.  God has His cake and eats it, too.  I know, the Protestant mindset is either/or.  But the Catholic mindset is both/and.  Jesus Christ is both man and God.  Not either/or.

Having made that point, let us proceed to the essential part of Confession.  That is the receiving of Sanctifying grace.  That is not available to anyone except to those who have been born again in Baptism and submit to the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.  

We may confess directly to God, but Sanctifying grace will not necessarily be given you to wash away your sins as you call on the name of the Lord.  And you will have to await the Bema Seat Judgement to know whether God accepted your prayer.


Using this line of reasoning, we could also say that since Jesus came to die on a cross, then every one of the apostles and every one of their “successors” were also expected to be crucified… right?
Yes.  Including us today. It is the loss of the "sacrificial nature" of our faith, which the Protestants have hastened, which is contributed greatly to the culture of pleasure and death which is prevalent today.
Colossians 1:24
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

> Of course not. Did God also expect all the apostles (and “successors”) to be born of a virgin, since this too, was part of Jesus’ mission?
Yes. All of Jesus' brothers are born of Mary:
Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Did He expect each one to be the Messiah, or to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament animal sacrifices? Absolutely not.
Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

These things (including forgiving sins) were specific to Jesus and His ministry, not anyone else’s.
Jesus' ministry is our own:
1 Corinthians 3:9
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

Not everything that applies to Him applies to us. Being fully God and fully human, He is in a different category than we are.
True.  That is why He incorporated us into His body:
Romans 12:5
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Once again, when Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” He was simply referring to the spreading of the gospel.
Nope.  They went forth baptizing, for the remission of sins.  And after, they continued to be responsible for the souls of God's flock.


The very fact that priests are not mind readers weakens the Catholic position. The power to absolve sins would necessarily require infallible knowledge of what’s in the person’s heart and mind. Priests don’t have this infallible knowledge and they can’t be absolutely sure if the person is repentant, so therefore, they can’t absolve sin.

On the contrary, it is God who forgives the sins through the prayer of the Priest. Priests don't need to be mindreaders.


Notice what Matthew 9:8 actually says:

But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (NASV)

What the crowds actually SAW was the miracle of a healing (v. 6-7) – that’s what they were marveling about.

Let us divide the word rightly:
Matthew 9 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?  5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?  6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Jesus performed the sign of healing in order to show that He had the power to forgive sins.  Scripture says, God gave this power to men.

Furthermore, (if we’re going to be consistent with this passage) if “men” have the power to forgive sins today, then shouldn’t they also have the power to heal today? Can the priest say, “…which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk…’” (v. 5) and then back up his claim like Jesus did? Hardly.

Actually, there are a few who can.  However, the healing of the soul is what God considers of utmost importance. As does the Church.  

The whole point of Jesus’ saying, “Which is easier…” was to demonstrate His authority to do BOTH, because He is God. If priests have the authority for one, why not for both?  If the priest can forgive at will (like Jesus), then why can’t he also heal at will (like Jesus)? Because of inconsistent logic, Catholics cannot use this verse to support their claim.

I don't know.  But I do know that Christ also said:
Mark 16:17-19
King James Version (KJV)
17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

How many people have you healed?  If you haven't healed anyone, does that mean you don't believe?  That is the same logic you're applying to the Matt 9 verse.  

Suffice to say that all these signs continue to follow the Catholic Saints.  Their stories are easy to find and read about.  In the meantime, the Church continues to accept responsibility for our souls, in accordance with Scripture.


First of all, it says to call for the elders of the church, not the “priests.”

We are all priests.  The elders are merely the "elder" priests.

These are two different words in the Greek.


Secondly, if we should “confess to one another,” then why do we never see Catholic priests confessing their sins to a lay person (non-priest)?
Because confession is only valid in the presence of a priest.  A priest can't confess himself.  And you do see all of us confessing to each other in the Penitential rite, in the Mass.

That’s what “confessing to one another” would be, wouldn’t it?
It is that and more.

It means BOTH PARTIES confessing. The confessing is mutual… it is to “each other,” just as this same verse also says to “pray for one another.”
Again, because of your particular tradition, you want to fit Christianity to your presuppositions.  But Catholicism continues the Traditions of Jesus Christ.  It is the Faith of Jesus Christ which She teaches and that includes auricular confession.

Here again, the Catholic argument is inconsistent. If “confessing” is a “one-way” street in this context, then “praying” would have to be also.
It depends on the context.  Confessing has one context, praying another.  

But we know that Catholics expect both sides (priests and “laity”) to pray for each other. So, the Catholic interpretation reduces this verse to nonsense.
No.  Only your presuppositions keep you from understanding the verse correctly.

When the Bible says to “confess to one another” or “forgive each other,” it is simply saying that we must be willing to humble ourselves and admit our faults and shortcomings to our brothers and sisters, in order to reconcile with each other. THAT’S what James 5:16 is about. This verse in no way supports auricular confession.
Reconciliation is with God.  Every sin is against God.  Some sins also affect our brothers and sisters.  But not all.


The apostle Paul, when expressing his deep concern for the souls of men, did not ask, “How will they be forgiven without an ‘official absolver’?” No, he asked, “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) He was most concerned with the spread of the life-giving message of the gospel. Paul knew very well where to find truth and forgiveness.
That's a bit shortsighted.  St. Paul was quite concerned about the forgiveness of sins:
Acts 26:20
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

That is almost an explicit description of confession of sins.

Please don’t be deceived – no one -- no “priest,” no rabbi, no minister… has the power to absolve sins. 
You don't believe it.  Perhaps because of your pride.  But God assigned a group of men to be responsible for our souls (Heb 13:17).

That is reserved for God, alone.
And He chose to do it through His Priests.

God expects men to proclaim the gospel by the authority of His Word. And IF you repent of your sins and trust only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then you are indeed forgiven.
If you believe in Christ, you will obey His Church (Matt 18:17).

We are never told in Scripture to confess our sins to a particular person. 
Although we see examples of that throughout the Scriptures.  See the first part of this message where the matter was addressed.

Again, forgiveness does not depend on a man telling you that you are forgiven, but it depends on your repenting and accepting the gospel.
Just as God would not accept the confession of the friends of Job until Job prayed.  God may or may not accept your confession of sins, until the Church prays for you.
The Healing Power of Confession

The Catholic Church’s attempt to hi-jack John 20:23 and force it (under penalty of anathema, no less) to apply to auricular confession is:

· contradicting many scriptural principles
Not so, as proven above, it is more Biblical than the Protestant stance.

· ignoring the continuity and context of all four gospels as a unit<
On the contrary, since you deny the traditions which hold all of the New Testament together, you don't understand context of the Gospels.

· simply reading a Catholic concept into the passage, and

· attempting to put people in bondage to the Catholic sacramental system.<

It is the Catholic Sacramental system which looses men from their bond to sin.

Yes, we CAN and SHOULD go directly to God for forgiveness. We don’t need a “middle man,” a “professional forgiver” – what we do need is a right relationship with the One Who died on the cross for us… because He is the only one who knows our heart.<
Scripture says that God put this Church here to teach Christ's commandments and to remit and retain sin.  We should all avail ourselves of this great grace given us by God.


De Maria