I’m quoting from the Catholic Cathechism. Since this is a catholic thread and catholics believe in Tradition and Scripture as you know. I will continue to appeal to both.
“First of all, having once been a catholic, now a protestant, I will say that you should not feel as though you have to do a “pennance” or “spiritual chores- such as so many hail-marys, so many prayers, or so many good works” to be forgiven. Jesus is the price paid for all your sins.. if you’ll believe that, and trust in Him for that… reguardless of your works.. good or bad”
I’m glad that you brought this up because this is one of he most misunderstood things about penance.
Penance is given after absolution. Now there are certain criteria for a valid confession and absolutin wich I will not get into right now.
Like I said in my first sentence absolution is given then penance. We can conclude that penance is not Sin atonement since absolution has been given. In other words there are no sins to atone for. In conclution penance is not atonement for sin.
Rather it is putting out the old and putting on the new. It’s comming back into a state fo grace.
An example from scripture is Peter denying Jesus and then Jesus asking Peter to feed His sheep. Peter was forgiven but he still had to cast off the old and put on the new.
You also wrote:
“secondly, you do not need to go to a priest to get your sins forgiven.. You can go directly to God and ask for forgiveness”
This is also another common misunderstanding. The preist has no power of his own to forgive sins. He is acting as a vessel for Jesus to forgive or retain sins. “Whos Sins you forgive are forgiven who’s sins you retain are retained”.