This week in our study of Psalms in the Twin Cities we spoke of confession, and at each study I read a wonderful answer regarding why we, as Catholics, confess our sins to a priest. The answer was written by my good friend and colleague, Sean Innerst, Academic Dean and Professor at The Augustine Institute, Denver, Colorado. Below is both the question posed and Sean Innerst's answer.
Question: In what way does the fact that we have to confess our sins to another human being increase our accountability to God?
Response: It would be easy to think that we were being honest with ourselves about both the gravity of our sins and our intention to change if we never had to actually manifest our sins to another. God is everywhere, of course, and sees and knows all. But very few of us have the kind of felt sense of His presence that moves us to the kind of remorse for our sin that we will feel when we come before the divine throne for judgment. The reality of His presence doesn't strike us with the kind of immediacy that the physical presence of a priest confessor does. Having to disclose our sins, even when done privately in the confessional, helps us to "hear" our sins in a way that we don't when we are alone and confessing to God. It is good to confess to God in the privacy of our hearts, too, but adding the sacrament of Confession makes it clear to us (He's got it all straight from the start and doesn't really need to hear it!) just how serious our sins are. That we have to tell someone else makes us not less accountable to God but precisely more so.