Confession and Penance
Introduction to The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 2
The Law of God for this Dispensation addresses the needs of the entire human family. There are laws in the Kitab-i-Aqdas which are directed primarily to the members of a specific section of humanity and can be immediately understood by them but which, at first reading, may be obscure to people of a different culture. Such, for example, is the law prohibiting the confession of sins to a fellow human being which, though understandable by those of Christian background, may puzzle others.
The kissing of hands hath been forbidden in the Book. This practice is prohibited by God, the Lord of glory and command. To none is it permitted to seek absolution from another soul; let repentance be between yourselves and God. He, verily, is the Pardoner, the Bounteous, the Gracious, the One Who absolveth the repentant.
Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 30
Notes to The Kitab-i-Aqdas, pp. 193-194
Baha'u'llah prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one's sins from, a human being. Instead one should beg forgiveness from God. In the Tablet of Bisharat, He states that "such confession before people results in one's humiliation and abasement", and He affirms that God "wisheth not the humiliation of His servants".
Shoghi Effendi sets the prohibition into context. His secretary has written on his behalf that we
...are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person's forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.
The Universal House of Justice has also clarified that Baha'u'llah's prohibition concerning the confession of sins does not prevent an individual from admitting transgressions in the course of consultations held under the aegis of Baha'i institutions. Likewise, it does not preclude the possibility of seeking advice from a close friend or of a professional counsellor regarding such matters.
The ninth Glad-Tidings
When the sinner findeth himself wholly detached and freed from all save God, he should beg forgiveness and pardon from Him. Confession of sins and transgressions before human beings is not permissible, as it hath never been nor will ever be conducive to divine forgiveness. Moreover such confession before people results in one's humiliation and abasement, and God--exalted be His glory--wisheth not the humiliation of His servants. Verily He is the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 24