I'm not a theologian. I'm just a woman striving to live my life in such a way that I am more often than not a force for good. Nonetheless, as a Catholic, I do have to think about these things at least a little.
It seems to me that in Matthew 9 when Jesus forgives the paralytic, the crowd recognizes that human beings (as Jesus was in a human form) have the power to forgive sins. [Of course, in the Gospel of John (chapter 20), the risen Christ explicitly empowers the Disciples with the responsibility to forgive sins (or to not forgive them).] This recognition by the witnesses sets the foundation for the Rite of Reconciliation. The precedent was set.
I so value the rite. I think there is great richness in sitting before another human and saying aloud the ways in which I have fallen short. It re-humanizes me. I need that opportunity to examine my own shortcomings; I am so quick to see them in others.
The added value then, is absolution. Without it, it would still be a valuable exercise --has not many a person confessed her sins to her friend?--but the true value is the priest's role.
I confess. My confidant then carefully considers and weighs my transgressions as an un-involved arbitrator. He then counsels me to right recourse; this too is of immense value. Someone -- a wise and compassionate someone -- has carefully considered my sin and has offered advice as to appropriate next steps. (It is a rare and precious friend who can do the same.) Then, standing in for Jesus, so as a to offer me a human face, my confessor absolves me of my sin and offers the opportunity to accept the full forgiveness of God. What a rare and amazing gift this is! The whole process works together to invite me forward as a new creation. And once I have done my penance and made my recompense, that is how I go emerge.
Is it possible to go forth as a new creation without confession and reconciliation? Perhaps . . . but this process was so beautifully crafted as to make the transformation as streamlined and as simple as possible. I love it. I thought, prior to conversion, that it was an unnecessary act. I did not believe I needed that "intermediary." Now after years of experience, I can see that I get a big benefit form not only the process itself, but also from the "forced" necessity of the rite. As with so many things in life that I do not want to do, what began for me as a necessary (and somewhat dreaded) act --a requirement of my conversion--has become a gift.
Someday I will be able to go to confession more often, but for now I relish my quarterly act and look forward to my next opportunity. Advent is a season of preparation. As I am in the act of creation, Reconciliation has a major role to play and I am very grateful for the privilege.