Is Catholic Confession Biblical?

ReformedWiki Post


  • Catholic confession to priests lacks biblical support; true confession is directly to God.
  • The practice of priestly absolution contradicts the biblical teaching of Christ as the only mediator.
  • Scriptural emphasis is on repentance and faith in Christ alone for forgiveness.
  • The New Testament church modelled confession as a personal, direct act towards God, not through human mediators.

Introduction to the Biblical Perspective on Confession

The concept of confession in Christianity holds significant importance, especially in the context of sin and seeking forgiveness. In many Catholic traditions, confession involves admitting sins to a priest who then offers absolution. However, from a conservative Christian perspective, this practice raises important theological and biblical questions. A central question is whether the practice of Catholic confession, as mediated by priests, aligns with the teachings of the Bible.

Biblical Analysis of Priestly Absolution

The role of a priest in granting absolution, as practiced in Catholicism, stands in contrast to the biblical portrayal of Jesus Christ as the sole mediator between God and humans (1 Timothy 2:5). In the New Testament, there is a clear emphasis on the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9), suggesting that every Christian has direct access to God through Christ. This access negates the necessity of a human intermediary for the forgiveness of sins.

Furthermore, the concept of a human being granting absolution for sins is not supported by biblical precedent. In Mark 2:7, it is stated that only God can forgive sins, a principle that is central to the Christian faith. Jesus, being both fully God and fully man, had the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:10), but this authority is not extended to other human beings, including priests.

Scriptural Emphasis on Personal Confession to God

The Bible emphasizes the importance of confessing one’s sins directly to God. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This verse clearly encourages individual confession to God, not through a human intermediary. Additionally, Psalm 32:5 exemplifies personal confession: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

The focus in these passages is on a personal, direct relationship with God, where confession is a matter of the heart, not a ritualistic practice mediated by a priest.

New Testament Church Model of Confession

The practice of the early church, as recorded in the New Testament, provides valuable insights into the biblical approach to confession. In Acts 19:18, many who became believers came confessing and divulging their practices. James 5:16 encourages believers to confess their sins to one another, which fosters accountability and mutual support within the Christian community, but does not imply a need for priestly intermediaries.

The model of the New Testament church underscores a communal, transparent approach to confession, which contrasts with the private, priest-mediated confession in Catholicism. This difference points to a more direct, personal engagement with God and with fellow believers in the process of confession and repentance.


In conclusion, the practice of Catholic confession, particularly the aspect of priestly absolution, does not find strong support in the Bible. The scriptural emphasis is on a direct, personal relationship with God, where confession and forgiveness are accessible through Jesus Christ alone. The New Testament model reflects a community-based, transparent approach to confession, differing significantly from the Catholic practice.

Read More

  1. “The Priesthood of the Believer” by John Owen – A Reformed perspective on the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
  2. “Confession and Forgiveness: Exploring the Biblical Basis” by R.C. Sproul – This book delves into the scriptural teachings on confession and forgiveness, offering a Reformed theological viewpoint.

Related Posts