The doctrine that priests forgive sins as if they were God is a core doctrine of Roman Catholicism.

Roman priests claim to possess the power to make God forgive our sin in the sense that God won’t pardon certain penitents’ mortal sins until the priest says, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” to which the grateful reply is simply, “Amen” (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapters 1, 3, Canon 6, 7 and 9). He says, “I absolve you”. He does it by his own authority. Catholics tell their sins to the priest and say they are sorry and then the priest forgives their sins after giving them something to do as a penance in order to make up for their debt of temporal punishment.

Today, this sacrament is called the sacrament of reconciliation, but the older term, the sacrament of penance, is still occasionally used.

The Church says that Jesus gave priests this power to forgive sins for the gospels say so. But the texts may not mean what Rome would dearly love them to mean.

Here are the lesser ones with their refutations following them:
Matthew 18:18 where we read that whatever the apostles bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and what they unbind on earth shall be unbound in Heaven. Since this passage refers to whatever not whoever it is taken as confirmation that Jesus conferred on his entourage the ability to take sins away.

But there is no reason to suppose that he meant sin. The promise was made in the context of talking about Church discipline. Catholicism should stop taking verses out of context. Jesus promised his disciples the ability to accept only those he approved into his Church and to put the unwanted out of it. This could only be done if they were infallibly inspired by him from Heaven. The apostles needed this gift to keep unity among themselves and the Church and unity is more important than doctrine in the sense that true doctrine is lost to some degree if there is too much schism and it is brought into disrepute. (Rome knows this doctrine but cannot confess it is true for it would mean that she is infallible when she excommunicates and even she admits she is not infallible then.)

Yet the promise may be one of another kind of infallibility, protection from error in order to teach the word of God and to have it written down. The Catholic Church has no right using this text here to justify absolving when she also uses it to persuade folks that she cannot err in her ecumenical councils and when her pope speaks ex cathedra or from the chair of Peter.

The Church assumes that when Jesus gave the Church the power to bind and loose so that what it bound or loosed would be bound or loosed in Heaven he meant it could forgive sin. This is nonsense. The power was given in the present tense before the time after the resurrection when Rome says he gave the power to forgive sins to the apostles. The authority refers only to the power to accept people or excommunicate them. Rome says Jesus forgave sins. Also Jesus didn’t literally forgive sins as if he were God for he only told the man that his sins were forgiven. He said that he had the authority to forgive sins but he doesn’t say he had the authority to forgive sins in the person of God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says that the apostles had the ministry of reconciling people with God. Do marriage guidance counsellors who have a ministry of reconciliation forgive the estranged husband and wife?

The final Catholic proof is the alleged mention of Paul absolving the sins of an incestuous man in his letters (1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2). Paul judging, excommunicating and pardoning this man is hardly the same as giving him the sacrament of penance! Paul never met this man and when he was able to judge him he must have been able to read his mind by the power of the spirit. Catholic absolution demands that the penitent be present for absolution. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul wrote that he forgives in the person of Christ whoever the Corinthians forgive. He means forgive in the matter of Church discipline because if he meant absolution how could he absolve” persons absolved by the Corinthians? Notice too how, “If you Corinthians forgive the sins of any I forgive them” which matches what Jesus said in John “Whoever you forgive I forgive. And Paul is definitely not telling the Corinthians that they can forgive for him as if they were him so how could Jesus be doing that either? The Catholic Church says that distant absolutions are futile for the person has to be near the absolver. A Presbyterian minister could say the same as Paul concerning a reconciled rebel who has broken Church law and he does not absolve.

Here comes THE text.

John 20:23 has Jesus giving the Holy Spirit to the disciples and telling them that if they forgive the sins of any they are forgiven and if they do not forgive they are not forgiven. It does not say that it means they can forgive sins as if they were the ones the sins were against. It makes sense to say that Jesus meant nothing more that if the disciples forgive then God will forgive AS WELL. There are two forgivings not one. The apostles make their decision to forgive and God makes his to forgive along with them. The text does not say that Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins against God. It is against commonsense to imagine that John can forgive you for Eddie when it was Eddie you hurt. The Bible assumes we have the power to think.

When Jesus told the apostles after his resurrection that if they forgave the sins of any they were forgiven he may have had the non-literal interpretation in mind (John 20:23). Just as John can’t forgive Marty for hitting Sean for he is not Sean so priests could not possibly literally forgive as if they were the offended God. Jesus knew that though the paganism of Roman Catholicism has forgotten that. Moreover, the Bible occasionally speaks of declaring an act like it was performing it (Jeremiah 1:10; Isaiah 6:10). The John text could have been using this peculiar method of expression. It may just mean that to successfully declare a person pardoned by God is to forgive.

The Bible seems to teach that God saves you in this life and makes you holy.  Jesus never said he meant forgive as in give sinners salvation. In Protestantism, you need forgiveness from God even if you are saved but it is not about giving you salvation for you already have it. Roman Catholicism has priests giving salvation when they absolve and that is going beyond the text.  The role of the priest is blasphemous.

There is no justification for the Catholic interpretation of the passages. Rome says that baptism forgives sins, that we can all pardon sins for God by baptising. If it does then Jesus could have just been giving it that power in some of the texts or reminding the apostles of that power. Assuming another sacrament is going too far.

It is asserted by a few that since the texts could mean absolution they must mean it. They argue that it is the simplest interpretation and that when a text has more than one meaning the simplest and safest must be taken. It is not safe to start absolving people in case it is nonsense just because a text merely seems to command it and looks can be deceiving.

The Psalms and the Old Testament have people praying straight to God for forgiveness and getting it.
When the Gospel is supposed to be good news it is clear that God could not and would not have changed this structure to make it harder leaving one having to look for a validly ordained priest and remember sins and fight the shame of confessing to that priest.
Jesus told his apostles that they must pray the Our Father which pleads, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The prayers at the start, “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come”, are by implication prayers for pardon too for they ask that God be fittingly praised and his reign of righteousness will come. How could you want the name reverenced and the kingdom to come now as Jesus wanted us to when you mean “forgive me God but not now and wait until I get to confession”?
Rome says the Lord’s Prayer will get venial sins forgiven if you sincerely mean it. The Lord’s Prayer would be meaningless to a person who had no venial sins never mind mortal sins but Jesus wants all to use the prayer. It speaks of no restrictions. The Lord’s Prayer refutes the idea that some forgiveness is the priest’s domain.
The Catholic forgiveness system contradicts the urgency of the New Testament message of conversion and even more so in the past when there were no cars and when there was much persecution of Christians. If a person needed absolution in times of persecution it was very hard to get and caused much terror. St Paul said we could not get married for we had to prepare for the second coming. There was no time for the Catholic system which only slows things. When the Bible never denies that we must go straight it is enough to prove that it wants us to go straight.
Priests forgiving sins is just another Roman Catholic doctrine that emerged from its control freak antics despite being in contradiction to the Bible.  Jesus did not specify that the power to remove sins - if it was a power he was talking about - belonged just to ordained individuals in the Church.  Luther said anybody can absolve but advised against it for it would lead to disorder.  Again that was an error for people forgiving sins does not need regulation.  Jesus however was not giving any power to forgive sins - he was saying he had decided to forgive those who his listeners forgive.  He was doing the absolving not them.

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The Amplified Bible


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