When I sin – when I do something wrong – I offend Almighty God, and when I am sorry God forgives me – always. But when I sin, I also hurt other people – those I harm – but also those who make up the church. That is because I let them down, I give bad example, I betray them and the faith that I profess. So I somehow need to ask their forgiveness too – that is why confession is something I do in a visible way. Also when I seek forgiveness I need to ask for it and hear that I am forgiven. We do that to God of course, but I can always fool myself and so I need to admit aloud my failings, and hear aloud my forgiveness. For these reasons the Catholic Church has long practised the sacrament of Penance – going to confession to a priest. Just as the priest baptises in the name of Jesus and celebrates Mass in the name of Jesus, so he also pronounces Jesus’ words of forgiveness in Confession. The priest is strictly bound never to divulge the sins of any penitent, and never would – but he is always aware of the huge privilege of being able to tell people that God loves them despite their sins and to tell them that they are indeed forgiven.

God the Father of mercies
Through the death and Resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself, and sent the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.
Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you of all your sins,
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.