From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1422 Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”
1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.” It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”
We sin. We turn away from God. We use things intended for good in a bad way, or in a manner for which they were not prescribed. Whether it is a person, a place, or a thing, the way in which we use them can be for good or for ill. In choosing to do ill, we sin.
A relationship has been harmed. Our relationship with God, because we turned away from Him; with His Church because we violated Her precepts and rules, and with others because when we sin, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, when one part is sick, the Body is wounded.
As alcoholics we have harmed ourselves by abusing our bodies and minds with liquor. We have harmed ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically. There is nothing moral or immoral about alcohol, it is a substance that can be used for pleasure and conviviality if not abused. The use of it can be immoral if that use is contrary to the intent. Something which can be pleasurable in the company of others becomes an exercise in selfishness when used in excess. Because in excess we are seeking to pleasure ourselves in a manner that is irresponsible.
In our drinking we have harmed others, whether family, friends, co-workers and employers. Relationships need to be healed and that will take time. Trust cannot be built quickly, it has to be earned over time. But the primary relationship that needs to be healed is with God.
In coming to Confession we acknowledge our sinful nature, our sins, and our humility. We go to a priest not just because it is required, but because the priest, acting in the person of Christ, is the only person that God can work through in the remission of the harmful effects of the sin to one’s self.
One can confess directly to God, but inasmuch that is a prayer, there is no guarantee that the prayer is answered to the penitent’s satisfaction. No absolution of sins is given with surety, and no penance is granted. It is much like committing a crime, then confessing one’s guilt to the judge, and then sentencing oneself. Only through the priest will one receive absolution and penance, and the sacramental graces that heals the soul harmed by sin.
Even 12 Step Programs acknowledge the need to go to another in confessing the misdeeds of the past. Step Five is “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. Perhaps in admitting to another person our sins or misdeeds we are not just facing someone else with our wrongs, but facing our wrongs themselves, and acknowledging the harm they’ve done. Once we admit and recognize that, we are on the road to our healing. The sacramental graces strengthen our conversion and assist us in getting closer to God, and to others. Where were were spiritually sick, we are now healing.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"