What is Confession?

Confession (or Penance or Reconciliation) is the sacrament by which we, repenting and confessing our sins, are absolved of sin through the ministry of a priest.

Why is Confession important?

Confession is important because it is the normal way we can be forgiven serious sin after Baptism. The regular practice of Confession is important because it helps us to deal with our sins quickly, develop a mature conscience and gives grace to resist temptation. The act of confessing itself bestows healing and a sense of release from the burden of sin.

How did Christ establish Confession?

Scripture states that only God can forgive sins (Mk 2:7). However, Jesus Christ gave his power to forgive sins to his apostles. The format of the sacrament has varied over time; however, the requirement for priestly absolution and verbal confession has remained constant. By these means, the mercy that Christ brought is perpetuated until the end of time.

“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


Contrition: being sorry for my sins and having a firm intention to avoid them in future.

Verbal confession of sins: the telling of the kinds of sins I have committed and the number of times I have committed them. I must include all my mortal sins.

Will to make reparation: the intention to repair the damage caused by my sins and to fulfil the penance set by the priest.


After hearing my confession of sins, giving me a penance and hearing my act of contrition, the priest gives me absolution. The key words are, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Confession and Reconciliation

Confession is also called ‘Reconciliation’. Sin damages our relationship with God and with the Church. It is this sacrament that reconciles us once again.

Repairing the damage of sin

The damage caused by sin needs to be repaired even after the guilt of the sin itself has been forgiven by absolution. For this reason the priest will give a penance during Confession. This is generally a prayer, a work of mercy, a sacrifice or an act of self-denial. By the mercy of God, these acts remove the punishment we deserve due to the effects of our sins. Indulgences offered by the Church are another means of remitting this punishment.

A guide to Confession in Practice

This article is originally from ‘CREDO: The Catholic Faith explained’ by CTS.