The Immaculate Conception does not refer to how Jesus was conceived. It refers to the conception of Mary, who came into the world untainted by the effects of original sin.
The Seven Sacraments
The Church celebrates seven sacraments, which are divided into three categories. The Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) form the foundation of every Christian life. The Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick) celebrate the healing power of Jesus. The Sacraments at the Service of Communion (Matrimony, Holy Orders) help members serve the community.
The Church labels important but lesser moral failings as venial sins. On the other end of the spectrum are mortal sins—actions we know are seriously wrong that we freely choose to do anyway. We do have an obligation to “inform our consciences”—to learn what the Church teaches is right or wrong.
It is not your priest who forgives sins. He acts as God’s representative, offering absolution only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation when he told his apostles “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) Confessing to a priest invites us to own up to our wrongdoing and reconciles us with our Church community.
Seal of Confession
The Church doesn’t permit any exceptions to the seal of confession, which binds a priest to absolute secrecy regarding the sins he hears in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents’ lives,” the Catechism says. (CCC 1467)
Receiving the Sacrament
We are expected by the Church to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. If we have committed a mortal sin, we are to receive sacramental absolution before going to Communion. But these are bare minimums. We are encouraged to seek reconciliation any time we are in need of its healing grace.