John 20:19-23 “Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
The Letter of James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (5:16).
If I’m supposed to forgive my brother 70×7, then how does a layman ‘retain’ someones sins; there is an intermediary here, given by God – in this instance the disciples; he didn’t offer this to the people who gathered by the thousands on the mountains to hear him preach; such as the Beatitudes, or when feeding the thousands with loaves and fish; so he must have wanted a SPECIAL group that He ANOINTED with the breath of the Holy Spirit–priests who would have the faculties to forgive or retain sins.
So we point to this as the institution of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). OK, you cradle Catholics know what I’m going to say next at least I HOPE so: sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace. whew I’m glad we got that over. now I’m going to sound like a nerd, with your permission.
As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, “confession”, and it is said to take place in the “tribunal of penance”, because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence. The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification. Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitents heart nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the “power of the keys”, i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church.