Is the rite of reconciliation, including auricular confession (personal confession into the ear of a priest), as taught by the Catholic Church Scriptural?
Sins that can be forgiven
“The Church has always taught that every sin, no matter how serious, can be forgiven.”—The Catholic Encyclopedia (bearing the nihil obstat and the imprimatur), R. C. Broderick (Nashville, Tenn.; 1976), p. 554.
Heb. 10:26, JB: “If, after we have been given knowledge of the truth, we should deliberately commit any sins, then there is no longer any sacrifice for them.”
Mark 3:29, JB: “Let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
How penance is to be shown
Frequently the confessor directs that the penitent say a specified number of “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys.”
Matt. 6:7, JB: “In your prayers do not babble [that is, utter in a meaninglessly repetitious manner] as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard.”
Matt. 6:9-12, JB: “You should pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, . . . forgive us our debts.’” (Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to pray to or through Mary. See Philippians 4:6, also pages 258, 259, under “Mary.”)
Rom. 12:9, JB: “Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil.”
In the confession box itself the procedure is not in accord with the counsel of Christ, and consequently not conducted by men who show by obedience that they are priests of God. When the penitent enters the confession box she says, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned.” She has been instructed to begin in that way. To whom is she speaking? Ask any Catholic and he will assure you that the priest is being spoken to, of course. Yet Jesus showed that the practice is wrong. He said: “Call none your father upon earth: for one is your father, who is in heaven.” (Matt. 23:9, Dy) Those who ignore his counsel do not act for him.
Where, then, did this practice of auricular (“in the ear”) confession originate? Alexander Hislop shows that in ancient Babylon and Greece secret confession to a priest was required of all who were admitted to the Mysteries, with questions on morals being asked that are comparable to the ones asked in the confessional today. The pretense was that confession was needed to purge the conscience of guilt in order to avoid the wrath of the gods. The fact is that it gave great power to the pagan priesthood over the lives of those who came to them and were required to divulge their inmost thoughts. The doctrine of penance was reconfirmed in the Roman Catholic Church by the Council of Trent in 1551, and again it has served to give the clergy tremendous power over the lives of men.
As to another aspect of confession, perhaps you have read recent headlines, such as, “Vatican Reforms Confessional—Less About Sex, More on Taxes.” As is widely known, Roman Catholics are expected to confess serious sin to a priest authorized to “absolve” sins. The Council of Trent in 1551 decreed “that sacramental confession is of divine origin and necessary for salvation by divine law. . . . The Council emphasized the justification and necessity of auricular [told in the ear, private] confession as practiced in the Church ‘from the beginning.’”—New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 132.