Much of religion is based upon faith. The religious believe that something is real or important and thus it has meaning and validity in their minds. The ritual, ceremony, and bureaucracy that has evolved around such intangibles is monumental in scope. How about confessional? A Catholic person may believe that there is a need to go tell a person about the naughty things that they did. They go to a fancy box and reveal their transgressions to a mere mortal with some training that says he knows how to dole out appropriate pennance. The believer goes home, does the “time” and feels better about themselves. The transgression was still done (be it against Gor or fellow man), yet a demonstration of sincerity is enough to appease and salve.
Unless the priest taking confession is not a priest. Yep. A fake priest was caught taking confessions in the holy of holies, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. He was caught and stopped (he’d done it before, too). The people who gave their secret confessions to this priest did not know he was a fake. They did their pennance believing their transgressions would be absolved based upon faith. The faith did not change. The confessioners sincerity was not changed. An offering was probably made and a candle was probably lit. The only thing that was different was that the secret dude wasn’t really a Catholic priest. Does it matter?