One of the questions I frequently ask Catholics when I speak with them is if they can pray to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive them of their sins. Most Catholics will affirm that they can do that. I then ask that if they were to pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive them of all of their sins, would all of their sins be forgiven? At this point, the conversations usually don't go very well. I think it's because they see what I'm getting at.
The Roman Catholic Church does not teach its people to go straight to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. It teaches that you must go to the priest who has the authority to forgive sins, and then he gives you something to do (penance) by which grace can be re-infused into your soul so you can spend less time in purgatory before going to heaven. So, after asking a Catholic if he or she can go directly to Jesus, the next question I ask is, "Why do you need the Catholic Church for forgiveness of sins if you can go straight to Jesus?"
The general response is that they need the Catholic Church because it has the authority that has been handed down through the centuries from the apostles. Of course, nothing in Scripture says that, but it's their position nonetheless. So the summation of my points are as follows - with some truths thrown in to build the case for going to Christ according to Scripture.
- According to the Scriptures
- Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9)
- Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
- Jesus is prayed to (Acts 7: 55-60; 1 Corinthians 1:2)
- Jesus forgives sins (Luke 5:20; 7:48)
- Jesus says to ask Him anything in his name and He will do it (John 14:14)
- Can you pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you all of your sins?
- If you pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you of all of your sins, will all of your sins be forgiven?
- If you pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you of all of your sins and all of your sins are forgiven, then why do you need the Roman Catholic Church to grant you forgiveness?
- Have you ever prayed directly to Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all of your sins?
The Roman Catholic Church's claims about itself: documented
- The Catholic Magisterium gets its authority from Christ
- "The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ...," (Catechism of the Catholic Church 88).
- The only priests can forgive sins
- “Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ,” (CCC 1495).
- Forgivness through through priests and sacraments
- "In the forgiveness of sins, both priests and sacraments are instruments which our Lord Jesus Christ, the only author and liberal giver of salvation, wills to use in order to efface our sins and give us the grace of justification," (CCC 987).
- Forgiveness is obtained in penance
- “...obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance,” (CCC 1453).
There is, of course, a lot more that I can document. But the above information should be sufficient to confirm that the Roman Catholic Church points to itself as the means of salvation. This is why, in all my years of asking Roman Catholics if they can pray to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, I've never had a single Roman Catholic actually do it. Sad.
I have found this line of questioning to be very enlightening when witnessing to Roman Catholics. Unfortunately, they are so steeped in the tradition and man-made doctrines, that the average Catholic has never gone directly to Christ and asked Jesus to forgive him. Instead, the Catholic Church teaches that they must go through it, its priests, and its sacraments. So, I try to circumvent all of the Roman Catholic hindrances to the gospel by asking the Catholic to pray to Christ directly and trust in Him alone. I point them to Jesus and forgiveness in him, not by anything we do.