As a Catholic I myself believe that you as an individual can both confess
your sins directly to God and go to Confession. One is not better than the
other, one needs to support the other and when one is missing then the other cannot replace it - simply one must have both.
My wife believes that you can only go to confession and nothing else is "good enough" and you can only truly be forgiven by going to a Priest and
confessing your sins.
The Church teaches that one is obliged
to receive the sacrament only if they are conscious of having committed
a mortal sin (canon 988.1). However, the Church also encourages
Catholics to confess venial sins as well (canon 988.2).
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church states, that without being
strictly necessary, (n. 1458) confession of everyday faults (venial
sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed, the
Catechism says, the regular confession of evil tendencies, let ourselves
be healed by Christ, and progress in the life of the Spirit. By
celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even when not necessary, we
are spurred to be more merciful as God is merciful.
With this being said, venial sins can be brought directly to God for
forgiveness... We do this at the beginning of each Mass, you can do it
as part of your night prayers, recalling the venial sins you committed
or omitted during the day, or at any other time you choose.
However, mortal sins have to be brought to the Sacrament of
Reconciliation. Any Mortal sin puts a vital break in our relationship
with God and also the community.... In the Sacrament both are restored,
through the Absolution of the Priest, who is mediator between confessor
and God, and confessor and community. Jesus gave authority to His
Apostles says... "What you declare bound on earth, shall be bound in
Heaven, and what you declare loose on earth, shall be loose in Heaven
(Matt 16:19) The Church still teaches that this authority is continued
in the Priesthood ministry.
As a side bar.... Yes Jesus many times did say, "your sins are forgiven,
go in peace" or words to that effect. The people of his day heard those
words.... and it is still good to hear those words today, and in the
Sacrament you do hear those words.... whereas, when you take your venial
sins straight to God, some walk away not really knowing if they are
truly forgiven, because they did not hear "God has freed you of your
sins, go in peace."