Note that proper disposition in the reception of the sacraments are essential elements in receiving the grace that they confer! For example, in the sacrament of Confession, one must approach with faith, humility, sincere contrition, and gratitude for the forgiveness received!
Below is a brief but accurate definition of this sacrament, including the effects that it has on its recipients. It certainly addresses some misconceptions about what some non-Catholics have heard or believe about the sacrament, not to mention many Catholics whom have not aken the time to learn enough about their faith to adequately defend it.
I found this definition on the following website belonging to St. Bartholomew Parish, located in Long Beach, CA. http://www.sblb.org/
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul. By way of further explanation it is needful to correct certain erroneous views regarding this sacrament which not only misrepresent the actual practice of the Church but also lead to a false interpretation of theological statement and historical evidence.
From this it should be clear:
• that penance is not a mere human invention devised by the Church to secure power over consciences or to relieve the emotional strain of troubled souls; it is the ordinary means appointed by Christ for the remission of sin.
• No Catholic believes that a priest simply as an individual man, however pious or learned, has power to forgive sins. This power belongs to God alone; but He can and does exercise it through the ministration of men.
• It is not true that for the Catholic the mere "telling of one's sins" suffices to obtain their forgiveness. Without sincere sorrow and purpose of amendment, confession avails nothing, the pronouncement of absolution is of no effect, and the guilt of the sinner is greater than before.
• While this sacrament as a dispensation of Divine mercy facilitates the pardoning of sin, it by no means renders sin less hateful or its consequences less dreadful to the Christian mind; much less does it imply permission to commit sin in the future.