My religion-impaired friends question why not just confess them to God yourself. Well, one reason is that sin offends God and He's the one that set down in (Matt. 8:6) (Jn 20: 21-23) what to do. You can't just make up your own conditions; some people would be too easy on themselves; some too hard. Besides, a confessor does more than just listen; he talks with you and advises and the best part--absolves in the name of Jesus Christ. I remember reading a book about Billy the Kid. He was telling someone that God forgave him. See Billy was one of those who believed in God automatically forgiving. Well Billy was half right. But don't you wonder what kind of spiritual direction God gave Billy. I wonder what his penance was.
Catholics believe that Jesus gave the responsibility to forgive sins to the Apostles and their successors. Yes, God does forgive you the minute you are sorry, but the sure way to know is through the sacrament of Reconciliation because Jesus established the sacrament, Himself. (2Cor. 5:18-20)
I've gotten some dumb questions about Confession. Well, I shouldn't say dumb. It's just that they're so incredulous to me because we Catholics don't do that. I'm talking about the question of cost. I've been asked how much it cost to go to Confession. I guess my religion-impaired friends thought that's why priests encourage Confession--to get money. Confession is free.
Another question, or rather misunderstanding, is that Catholics sin a lot because all we have to do is go to Confession and our sins are wiped away, again, and again.... Don't laugh. The remark was serious, and it was given as a reason why priests sin themselves. The Sacrament does not give permission to go out and commit the same sin, and if the penitent had that intention when he was confessing, then the Confessor's absolution is rendered void.
In my Dominican Study Group, I've read where the Didache, Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, and other early Church Fathers believed in Confession. So if Confession has been practiced since St. Paul, why think that Catholics are wrong? Rather, it's the other way around. My religion impaired friends err in their scripture interpretation, not the interpretations of the early Christians.