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CANON IV.If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification; -though all (the sacraments) are not necessary for every individual; let him be Anathema.


Making the Sign of the Cross: There upon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy GhostAmen

He said therefore to them again: Peace be with youAs the Father who sent me, I also send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to themReceive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Gospel of John 20:21-23



The history and the literature of the human race are witnesses to the universality of man’s concern with sin and guilt. The concomitant idea of Penance under some form or other is as ancient as the race itself. By various kinds of Penance men have striven to undo their evil deeds and to set right their wrongs. Penance answers the deep human desire to be rid of personal evil, to be cleansed of sin. 
  The Old Testament is filled with references to Penance, and the idea of atonement and satisfaction was deeply rooted among the Jews. Many of their religious practices were designed to bring about freedom from guild, and the practice of Penance was highly cultivated among them.
Yet withal, there is no such universal record of security in forgiveness. There is no sign of real assurance that the Penance was fruitful and that the sins were truly forgiven. For ultimately sin is an offences  and that the sins were truly forgiven. For ultimately sin is an offense against God, and satisfaction must be made to Him. Only a divine assurance of the acceptability of Penance can bring security for forgiveness. 
   It was Christ who first spoke with authority to say: Your sins are forgiven. And it was precisely for this reason that he came into the world.
 The forgiveness that He directly dispensed was limited by the span of His life, by the extent of His journeys, by the number of people He directly contacted on this earth. The entire number of those He forgave is in finitesimal when compared to all who exit now or who have existed since His death. Yet He promised never to leave us orphans,and He fulfilled that pledge in part in making His divine forgiveness available to all who wish to have it. He instituted the sacrament of Penance, and thus extended the hand of His healing forgiveness beyond the boundaries of time and space. He made the divine assurance of forgiveness available to all. 
   Saint Thomas began a profound analysis of this sacrament of mercy in the  Summa Theologiae But He made a profound analysis of this sacrament to of mercy in the Summa Theologiaebut he made only a beginning. He set up the order of his treatise{which differs somewhat from the customary order we have followed previously} and had finished seven questions of the tract when he experienced some kind of vision or revelation which caused Him to regard all his writing as hopelessly inadequate. Three months later he died.
The unfinished Summa was completed from portions for his earlier work. Most probably the complier was Brother Reginald, a Dominican who had been his Disciple, secretary and companion for many years. The order of the completed tract, which we shall follow, is contained in the outline on the page below.
A. Its Nature
A sacrament of the New Law is an external sign instituted by Christ to give grace. It is evident that penance as practiced in the Church is such a sign, because something sacred is signified both by the acts of the repentant sinner who shows that his heart has renounced sin, and by the act of the priest whose absolution signifies God’s forgiveness of sin. The Council of Trent teaches that Our Lord instituted the sacrament of penance particularly at the time when after rising from the dead, He breathed upon the deciples and said Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained’   (John 20:30). The consent of all the Fathers has always understood that by this striking act and by these unequivocal words there was communicated to the apostles and to their successors the power of remitting and of retaining sins for reconciling the faithful who have fallen from baptism . . . (1)
In penance as in every sacrament, it is possible to disinguish the sacred sign from the interior spiritual reality which it signifies and effects.
The sign or sacred rite itself-the external acts of penitent and priest {sacramentum tantum}.
The sign and the reality signified-the sinner’s repentance {res ET sacramentum}
The reality itself-the forgiveness for sin {res tantrum}
Of these elements, the first causes the second, and the first and second taken together cause the third. In some sacraments the sacred, signifying action involves a material element, a physical object to which the form is applied by an authorized minister. For instance, in baptism the priest applies the form. “I baptize you, etc., to the water which is the  material element of the sacrament. In penance, thee is no such physical object as water. Human actions take the place of matter in penance, and these actions proceed from the internal inspiration of grace. Hence God applies the matter by interior inspiration, and the minister supplies the completion of the sacrament when he applies the form of absolution I absolve you, etc. The elements of the sacrament of penance may be seen in this outline:
(1) Session 14, Chapter 1; Denzinger 894B. 
B Necessity
Absolutely speaking, a man can be saved without receiving the sacrament of penance. The reason is that penance is designed as a remedy for sins committed   after baptism, and no one is compelled to commit sin. But on the assumption that  some of the baptized will commit mortal sins, then penance becomes necessary for their salvation.Cf. Denzinger 894)  
As we have seen, Baptism and the Eucharist are, in different ways, indispensable to salvation for all; penance is indispensable for all who have mortally sinned after baptism. Thus penance becomes a “second plank after shipwreck.” It is absolutely necessary, when one has heedlessly tossed aside the first blank of baptism and the Eucharist which rescued him from sin, lest he should perish in the moral shipwreck of personal sin. (2)
Whereas baptism is a spiritual birth, and thus can occur only once, penance is a spiritual medicine, and thus can be repeated. This is clearly the teaching of Christ, for when Peter inquired how often he should for give those who offended Him, Our Lord answered,  I do not say to thee seven times, but seven times seventy” (Matthew 19:22) 
 (1) This metaphor, first used by Libertarian {On Penance}, and repeated by Saint Jerome{Letter 130 to {Demetrius}, was approved and used by the Council of Trent, Session 6 Chapter 14 (Derringer 87) and Session 14 , Canon 2 (Denzinger 912).
When Christ instructed His disciples in prayer He told them to ask daily forgiveness (Matthew 6:12), and He told them to be merciful in imitation of the infinite mercy of their heavenly Father. (Luke 6:36).
C. Its Definition
From what has been said in the preceding sections, we formulate a definition of this important sacrament, Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in the form of a judgment for the remission of sins committed after baptism through sacramental absolution granted to a contrite person who confesses those sins. To explain the precise meaning of the various elements of the definition will be a major work of this chapter.



When a man repents, he deplores something he has done. This may be nothing more than an emotional reaction to evil, or it may be a deliberate act of the will based upon free choice. Now it is reasonable for men to grieve over evil with due to moderation and for a good purpose. The man who sorrows in this way over his past offenses, with the intention of removing them, performs a good action. Thus Penance is a good act and may be the act of virtue.
Penance is a distinct virtue because it aims at a special objectthe destruction of past sins. Penance is a kind of sorrow for having offended God, and it includes the intention of making amendment. Now to make amendments to offer some kind of repayment; it includes the notion debt and hence pertains to the virtue of justice. While the virtue of penance is properly a species of justice, it is closely related to many other virtues, as Saint Thomas shows:
Although penance is directly a part of justice, it includes what ever pertains to all the virtues. Inasmuch as there is a kind of justice between man and God, it is fittingly a part of the matter pertaining to the theological virtues which have God for their object,  Consequently, penance is exercised with faith in the passion of Christ by which we are free from our sins,  with hope of pardon, and with hatred of vice which is an effect of charity. As a moral virtue,it partakes of the nature of prudence which directs all moral virtue. And from the very nature of justice, penance embraces not only the matter of justice, but extend both  temperance and fortitude, because whatever causes pleasure {which pertains to temperanceand whatever causes fear{which fortitude regulates} have something in common with justice. According, it belongs to justice both to abstain from pleasure, which pertains to temperance, and to sustain hardship, which pertains to fortitude. (3)
The exercise of the virtue of Penance is dependent upon many other virtues. It is not a matter of experiencing some emotion of sorrow, or of being moved to tears. These things may be present as signs of the intensity of penance, but essentially penance is an act if the deliberate will proposing to amend an offense against God. For Christians, penance is a supernatural, infused moral virtue whose object is the destruction of past sins precisely as they are offenses against God. It is part of relative commutative Justice. It pertains to commutative justice because it involves reparation to another, to God; it is a part of relative justice because it is not between equals, but between Creator and creature. According, penance cannot attain the perfect compensation that absolute justice requires, but it represents the habitual will to do whatever can be done to make amends for past sins. As a part of justice, penance is the will, but the exercise of this virtue may be accompanied by feelings of sorrow in the lower appetite. In keeping with his general doctrine on God as the First Cause of all reality. Saint Thomas teaches that God infuses the virtue of penance as the principal cause, but not without man cooperating dispositively by certain acts. The exercise of a particular act of the virtue of penance originates in this order.
1) God turns the heart of the sinner by grace. Convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted (Lamentations 5:21)
2) The Sinner makes and act of faith.
3) The sinner makes an act of servile fear by which he dreads just punishment.
4) The sinner makes an act of hope and proposes amendment in hope of obtaining pardon.
5) The sinner makes an act of charity by which sin becomes detestable itself, and not only because of the punishment.

6)The sinner makes and act of reverential fear and offers to amendment to the God who has loved Him so much. In concrete cases, most of these acts are implicit and not easily distinguished, but all are necessary, and they furnish a practical guide for increasingly fruitful exercise of the virtue and reception of the sacrament of Penance.
(3) Summa. III, q. 85 , a. 3, ad 4


In general, it may be said that the effect of penance is the destruction or forgiveness of past sins. But this is not sufficiently detailed answer any questions. Does penance affect the different kinds of sins in the same way? In other words, are the effects of  penance the same on venial sins as on mortal sins ? If sins are once forgiven do they ever revive and plaque the repentant sinner with new guilt ? Can penance remove all the effects of sinWill penance restore to the repentant the virtues they lost though sin? Can on merit by penance ?

A. Penance and Mortal Sin

Mortal sin is the ” perfect  type of sin. It consists in deliberately turning away from God to seek happiness in some thing or in some way that is opposed to the divine will. It results in the supernatural death of the soul. No man can repair the disorder of mortal sin by himself, any more than he could bring his dead body back to life. The restoration of man divine friendship must be a divine work. By the virtue of penance, man performs certain acts to obtain God’s pardon for his sins. These acts, taken together, are the matter of the sacrament of penance. To these acts of the penitent the priest applies the from, I absolve you, etc, From the union of the matter and form the sacrament is perfected, and it is the effect of this sacrament to restores the sinner to God’s friendship by forgiving his mortal sins. The acts of the virtue of penance are subordinate to the form of the sacrament, and have their efficacy in blotting out sin precisely because of their relation to the sacrament. Consequently, for the forgiveness of mortal sin, both the acts of the virtue of penance and the sacrament itself are necessary, but in different ways.

(1) The Virtue and the Sacrament

A man may forgive his enemy without thereby making him his friend, but God’s forgiveness acts differently. It brings about a change in the sinner who receives it, causing him to desire God’s friendship, to seek divine pardon. Thus there is never forgiveness without the acts of penance, because the divine grace of pardon is the principal cause of forgiveness, and it moves the sinner to repent freely.The necessity of virtue of penance is expressed by the Council of Trent : “Penance has been necessary at all times to obtain grace and justification for all men who have stained themselves with mortal sin. (4) In other words, the exercise of the virtue of penance is absolutely necessary for forgiveness, and this applies to everyone who commits mortal sin, whether he be pagan, Jew or Christian. Without the will to repent, there can be no divine pardon. Forgiveness may be granted; it is never imposed. This bears out the remark of Saint Augustine that God made us without ourselves, but He will not save us without our co-operation. Now for the baptized, God provides the sacrament of penance, and for them, this is also necessary for the forgiveness of mortal sin. It may sometimes happen that the baptized cannot approach the sacrament, as for example, when there is no priest available. In such cases, their repentance must include the desire to receive the sacrament; otherwise their sins are not forgiven. For the exercise of penance by the baptized, there must be an actual reception of the sacrament, or, if this is not possible, there must be a sincere desire and intention of receiving it.
(4) Session XIV, Chapter 1; Den zinger 894
For the faithful, then, penance includes the exercise of the virtue in union with the sacrament. Hereafter the word used in this sense.
(2) The Sins Forgiven By Penance
There is no sin which cannot be pardoned by penance in this life. While the wills of the damned remain fixed in the evil they have freely embraced, the will of the living remain flexible to good and evil. In this regard it is true that where there is life there is life there is hope, both because the will remain free to repent and because God’s grace can move it freely to repent. The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; whither so ever he will he shall turn it (Proverbs 2:21). Moreover, if there were some unforgivable sin. its existence would frustrate the power of Christ’s passion through which penance has it effect, for he is a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world”.(I John 2:2)
Penance cannot remove on mortal sin while another remains. No sin can be forgiven without divine grace, and every mortal sin excludes grace. Neither could a man renounce on sin and not another, because all mortal sins are opposed to God. A penitent must reject sin because it is contrary to his loving God above all else, and no one can both reject and
embrace at the same time what is contrary to God’s love. Finally, it is contrary to God’s perfection that he should pardon one sin and not another, for thus His forgiveness would be imperfect.
(3) The Extent of Forgiveness
How complete is the forgiveness obtained throughTo answer the question, the doctrine of the nature of mortal sin must be recalled. There are two elements in every mortal sinthere is a turning away from God and inordinate turning to some creature. Now whoever turns away from God turns away from eternal goodness, and he justly contracts a debt of eternal punishment for this. By turning his heart inordinately to some creature, man incurs a debt of temporal punishment, for selfindulgence is undone only by some measure of selfdenial. As much as she glorified herself and gave herself to wantonness, so much torment and mourning give to her. ” (Apocalypse 18:7)
Penance remits the debt of eternal punishment, but the debt of temporal punishment remains in varying degrees, depending upon the circumstances. Adam and Eve were afflicted with sorrow and labor; Moses was denied entrance to the promised land; the innocent son of David’s iniquity perish for his father sin; all these penalties befell after the guilty had repented and had been delivered from the debt of eternal punishment. (5) Every act tends to be repeated. This principle holds true of mortal sins, and is verified particularly in habitual sins. The repentant drunkard is absolved of guilt, but he is not freed of his inclination to drink. Penance involves a turning of the will from evil, and this conversion of the will destroys the essence of the bad habit which is in the will. But the tendency to the habit remains. Clearly, renewed repentance will diminish the strength of evil inclinations, but the healing of the wounds of sin must be completed by many acts of self–denial. One who writes with the right hand could learn to write with his left, and the beginning can be traced to an act of his will. But how long will it take him, and how much effort will he expend, before he is freed of the inclination to reach for a pen with his right hand? Old dispositions must be broken down and a contrary habit must be built up. That is generally a long and painful process.
(5) Cf. Genesis 3:16 ff.; Numbers 20:11 f,; II Kings 12:13B. Penance and Venial Sin
A woman’s beauty may be impaired in either of two ways: she may be permanently disfigured, for example, by being scalded; or she may suffer some temporary setback in her appearance, for example, by being drenched with rain. Similarly, the soul may lose the beauty of grace all together by the disfigurement of mortal sin; or the radiance of its grace may be obscured by the disordered affections that manifest in venial sin. All sin separates man from God in some degree. Mortal sin effects a total separation from God, because by it the will acts against the love of God and turns away from him completely. Venial sin, of the other hand, causes an incomplete separation, because by it the will does not turn completely from God but rather becomes sluggish in seeking God through dawdling with disordered affections for some creature or pleasure.


(1) The Need for Penance

Neither mortal sin nor venial sin can be forgiven as long as the will remains attached to the sin, because sin separates man from God, and as long as the cause remains, the effect remains. But it is the effect of penance to reunite man to God after sin. Consequently, penance is required for the forgiveness of venial sin. It is important to note, however, that the penance required for the forgiveness of mortal sin must be more perfect because the separation is greater. There can be no forgiveness of mortal sins without actually detesting each one of them each one of them as far as possible.

This detestation must always be united to the sacrament of penance, either by actual reception, or, if this is impossible, by the intention to receive it. Venial sin can be forgiven without receiving the sacrament of penance. An exercise of the virtue of penance suffices to forgive venial sin. It is not necessary for this that the sinner recall and detest each venial sin actually. It is enough if he should arouse a desire to seek God and divine things that is strong enough to make him detest what ever may hinder him from reaching God, even if he does not recall each specific venial sin. To this desire there should be joined the intention of taking practical steps to commit fewer venial sins, because if a man does not make progress in the spiritual life, he necessarily falls back. Among those who live habitually in the state of grace, the lack of strong will to remove the obstacles to spiritual progress which arise from venial sins is the greatest cause of mediocrity.


(2) Grace and Sin

All forgiveness of sin is traceable in divine grace. A man in the state of venial sin remains supernaturally alive, he remains in the state of grace. Consequently, the forgiveness of venial sin in such a man does not require a new infusion of sanctifying grace, because that principle of divine life is not nullified by venial sin. With the aid of a movement of actual grace, the venial sinner is able to perform an act of supernatural sorrow, and thus venial sins can be forgiven. The movement of actual grace impels the sinner to turn away from the obstacle of venial sin which slows his progress to God. What of the man who is guilty of both mortal and venial sinCan venial sin be forgiven while mortal sin remains? In view of the fact that sanctifying or habitual grace is the principal for forgiveness, and because the mortal sinner is not supernaturally alive with such grace, there cannot be any forgiveness of venial sin while mortal sin remains. Such a one would have to receive the sacrament of penance in order to regain the state of grace; only then could his venial sins be forgiven.

   On the other hand, mortal sin, could be forgiven while venial sin remained, in someone who would cling to the attachment for venial sin. For instance, a man can repent of having deliberately missed Mass without being sorry for a habit of lying by exaggeration. In this case, the mortal sin would be forgiven, but not the venial sins, because his will remained attached to it.3) Extra-sacramental Forgiveness Practically speaking, there are many ways to insure the forgiveness of venial sins apart from confession. The Principal requisite is to make some act which proceeds from grace and which involves a turning away from the sin. Consequently, the following acts will forgive those venial sins for which one is truly sorry:

1) The fruitful reception of any sacraments. Every reception of a sacrament implies an infusion of sanctifying grace, and this will remit the venial sins for which there is sorrow.
2) The devout recitation of the Our Father, the Confiteor, the Act of Contrition, and similar prayers can occasion the forgiveness of venial sin because they express a detestation of sin.
3) Any action that implies an impulse of reverence towards God can occasion the forgiveness of venial sin. Thus the use of sacramental like holy water, or receiving the priest’s blessing, can evoke a movement of grace in the soul which draws it to God and away from venial sin.

C. Return Of Sins Already Forgiven

Is it possible for past sins to revive when new sins are committed? Do man’s present sins renew the guilt and the debt of punishment once due to past sins which have been forgiven? These are simply inquiries into the extent and the perfection of the divine forgiveness. It is common for men to treat offenders in the light of their former crimes, even in case where the past and the present are separated by sincere repentance and satisfaction. But is the same true God? This is surely a matter of great importance for every sinner who ever lived.

1) The Perfection of God’s Forgiveness

Each sin, like every human act, is distinct from all others by reason of some circumstances or other. Each is marked with its own malice or ignorance or weakness; each seeks its own goal. Considered in terms of their distinctive qualities, no sin ever returns once it is forgiven, for the gifts and the call of God are without repentance(Romans 11-29).
Indeed, God forgives the repentant sinner more perfectly that the sinner can forgive himself. I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more

For God’s sake forgiveness is complete and perfect penetrating deeply into the soul of the sinner to work a radical change in him. This is not just an attitude or pose on God’s part, nor for man is only a superficial change in appearances. Rather is it a change in the very being of a man, because God’s friend is a different kind of person than God’s enemy. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool(Isaias 1:18)

(2) The Danger of Sinning Again
Yet the man who sins seriously after repeating forgiveness surely adds the gravity of ingratitude to his recent sins. All mortal sins turn man away from God. Sins that follow forgiveness are worse that former sins, and are more deserving of punishment, because they imply a contempt for the divine mercy. The more numerous or the greater the sins previously pardoned, the greater must be the debt of punishment incurred by all subsequent mortal sins.
Saint Thomas points out that their are four sins which contempt for a past pardon and which are specially of punishment because of their ingratitude:

1) Persisting hatred, which refuses to others to share in the forgiveness which the sinner has received from God.
2) Apostatizing 
from Faith in God whom the sinner formerly approached for forgiveness.
3) Regret for having repented of past sins.
4) Rejecting a previous intention of confessing one’s sins.
D The Revival of Virtues through Penance
We have seen that mortal sin destroys charity and sanctifying grace in the soul. It renders the soul spiritually dead, so that a mortal sinner can no more perform meritorious works in the sight of God than a corpse can speak. As long as one remains in the state of mortal sin, he can do nothing that merits salvation. Moreover, mortal sin is a kind of spiritual bankruptcy that wipes out all previous assets. By mortal sin man rejects God and embraces something other than God as the goal of his life. In so doing, he destroys the principle of his union with God; he passes, so to speak, out of the light of divine love into the darkness of some kind of disordered self love In this state, all of his past as by which he merited the divine favor lose their value. There is nothing left upon which he may fall back. He is a spiritual suicide.
(1) Grace and the Virtues


While he is unable to restore himself to divine friendship. Almighty God can impel him to repent freely by divine grace. When the sinner repents and is restored to divine favor through the sacrament, do any of his past deeds revive so that they become once again his title to a divine reward?

To answer this problem, we must first recall that mortal sin is forgiven only by an infusion of divine grace. Grace is to the soul what the soul is the body. Just as the soul is equipped with certain faculties, like the intellect and will,through which it operates, so does sanctifying grace bring with it an array of virtues and gifts through which man is enabled to lead a supernatural life. Through penance, then, the repentant sinner recovers all of the infused virtues and gifts, he is restored fully to spiritual life.

Grace, however, is recovered in proportion to the devotion of the penitent. Those who repent with greater fervor, whose wills move toward God and away from sin with greater devotion, will receive a greater; measure of grace. Thus the repentant sinner may arise to a degree of equal to, less than, or greater than what he possessed before. The same is true of the perfection of the infused virtues which are regained together with grace.

(2) The Penalties of Sin

Like the returned prodigal son, the repentant sinner regains his dignity as a child of the heavenly Father. But no penance can remove the experience of sin, not destroy its memory. It is incompatible with divine wisdom that what has been done should be undone. Innocence lost is not regained in the order of experience, but sometimes something greater can be recovered, as Saint Gregory explains. Those who admit they have strayed from God may recover their previous losses subsequent gains. Therefore, there is more joy in heaven over such as these, just as a general in battle regards more highly that soldier who, after deserting, returns to attack more bravely, that some other who never turned his back but who never did anything courageously. (6) Certain public and scandalous sins bring special penalties provided by canon Law. For example, the commission of certain crimes will bar a man from holy orders. These penalties are not removed by simply repenting. They are provided to deter sinners and also to safeguard the holiness of certain offices. They pertain more to the province of law than to the domain of grace.
(6) Homily 34 on the Gospels.

(3) The Revival of Merit


Every good deed done by one in the state of grace establishes a claim to the eternal reward of heaven; all such deed are meritorious. But when man commits a mortal sin, he prevents his past meritorious acts from actual earning heaven for him. The works remain worthy of eternal life, but the worker has made himself unworthy of that reward by his sin. He is like a criminal whose assets are impounded by the government which will not restore them until he has paid the penalty for his crimes. When the impediment of sin is removed by penance, the meritorious works revive, they come back to life, so to speak. Now that they exist once again in a worthy man, they again establish his title to eternal life.

(4) Good Deeds without Merit

On the other hand, good deeds performed by one in state of mortal sin are supernaturally dead from the beginning. Such works never were quickened by life of divine love, they never were meritorious. Once a deed is done, that same deed cannot be repeated. No amount of penance can infuse life into deeds which never had it. And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing”  (I Corinthians 13:3)

Each man is allotted a certain time to work out his salvation, to merit an eternal reward by good deeds. Each moment of that time spent in mortal sin is wasted for all eternity. Every such moment is so completely beyond recall that not even a miracle or mercy could restore it, for this would involve the contradiction of having something both dead and alive at the same time under the same circumstances. It is for this reason that a sinner can place himself outside the pale of divine mercy by obstinately rejecting grace and clinging to his sins. The tragedy is magnified when we consider the wonderful power of grace, though penance, to wipe life’s slate clean, and the measureless mercy of God that impels him to offer that grace to every one who needs it.

V The Parts of the Sacrament of Penance

We have seen that the acts of the penitent are proximate matter of the sacrament of penance, as anointing what chrism is the confirmation and washing with water in baptism. The form is the sacramental absolution of the priest. Penance seeks the re-establish the balance of justice and to reconcile the sinner to God. Sins are not atoned simply by fulfilling the sentence of a judge; the discretion of the sinner and the will of an offended God must be considered in penance. In view of this, three acts are required of the penitent:

1. He must have the to atone for his sins, and this done by contrition.
2. He must submit to the judgment of the priest who stands in God’s place and this is done by confession.
 He must make amends according to the decision of God’s minister, and this is done by satisfaction.
These are the parts of the sacraments, and each will be studied separately.

A. Contrition
Contrition is deliberate sorrow for sins which includes the purpose of confessing and of making satisfaction for them. The Council of Trent declares; Contrition is a profound sorrow and detestation for sin committed, with a resolution of sinning no more” (7)Contrition is an act of the virtue of penance whereby the hardness of man’s attachment to sin is crushed or broken. It is so called from the Latin contrition or contrition, which signify a crushing, breaking or undoing something.
(7) Council of Trent, session XIV, Chapter 4, 1551; Deszinger 897(1) Kinds of Sorrow
One can be sorry for sin on several grounds, very unequal in value. These give to this division: Natural sorrow or remorse is not sufficient for the sacrament of penance, which pertains to the supernatural order. Attrition, however, combined with the reception of penance is sufficient for the forgiveness of sin (8) Such sorrow is a morally good act, even when based upon fear of hell. While this is the least noble of supernatural motives, it is undeniably supernatural, because the existence of hell is accepted on divine faith. Further, attrition includes a detestation of sin, which is a means of avoiding hell; finally, it directs this detestation of sin toward the avoidance of hell. This sorrow for sin is familiar to the fear of a slave; contrition is like the reverent fear of a devoted child. Perfect contrition suffices to remit all sins, even when confession is impossible, provided that the desire for the sacrament is included in the contrition. For contrition breaks the attachment of the will to sin. Consequently, the proper object of contrition is man’s actual sins, each of which is an act of his will, and it affects only sin actually committed. But it does not extend to original sin {his is not an act of the individual’s will}, nor to future sins which may or may not be committed, nor sins of others. Contrition can and should extend to each personal actual sin. No sin can be forgiven without itin  sacramental penance attrition becomes contrition through the power of the sacramentfor this would mean that the will would both cling to and detest the same sin at the same time. This is clearly impossible.
(8) Ibid., Chapter 5; Derringer 898
(2) The Qualities of Contrition
It is generally taught by theologians that the contrition or attrition required for penance must have four qualities.
1) It must be true and formal sorrow, not something external and pretended, imagined or implicit.
2) It must be supernatural. This means that it must originate with the inspiration of grace and not through natural effort, and it must be motivated by some consideration known by the light of faith, and not by some natural realization of guilt.
3) It must be supreme in the sense that the penitent must regard sin as the greatest evil, and must be prepared to endure any evil rather that lapse into it again and again. This does not require an intense feeling of sorrow, but rather a conviction of the evil of sin.
4) It must be universal, extending to all mortal sins without exception which the penitent has committed. It is fruitless to confess venial sins without contrition.
(3) Purpose of Amendment
Implied in all true contrition is the purpose of amendment, which is the resolve not to sin again. On the one hand, the purpose of amendment is not merely a wish to avoid sin; on the other hand, it is not a promise or vow never sin again. Sometimes a penitent proposes amendment by a distinct act of the will; more often, his purposes of amendment by a distinct act of the will; more often, his promise of amendment is contained in his act of sincere contrition. True contrition and the purpose of amendment are like the two sides of the same coin and are just as inseparable.
Without a purpose of amendment, there can be no true contrition. Without true contrition or attrition, there can be no forgiveness of sin. While an implicit purpose of amendment is sufficient, it is better for the penitent to make an explicit intention to amend, one which is centered on some special sin. Any intention is more efficacious in proportion to its particular determination.

Theologians generally list three qualities of the purpose of amendment:
1) It must be firm regarding the present determination of the will, although it may be weak regarding the future. It is not the same as a constant or persevering  determination, nor is it a guarantee against sin. Many who measure the future in terms of their own strength betray a serious lack in God’s providence.
2) It must be efficacious, that is, it must include the sincere will to employ the ordinary safeguards against sin, (example) prayer and caution. Further, it must include the will to avoid the free, proximate occasions of sin. Finally, it must include the will to repair the damage done by sin, as far as this is possible.
3) It must be universal, (example) including a resolve to avoid all mortal sins. In cases where a penitent confesses only venial sins, or even mortal sins which have been absolved previously, the purpose of amendment is as essential for the validly of the sacrament as is true sorrow. In these cases, the purpose of amendment must embrace at least on of these possible resolutions.
a) To avoid all venial sin.
b) To avoid one specific venial sin.
c) To correct one kind of sin., (example ) lying.
d) To avoid all deliberate venial sin.
e) To diminish the number of venial sin.Perhaps the most common cause of failure to overcome habits of venial sin is lack of due attention to the purpose of amendment.
The second act of the penitent is the telling of his sins, or confession. Confession is the telling of the personal sins one has committed after baptism to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining absolution. When Christ instituted the sacrament of penance, he gave His priests power to forgive and to retains sins. This means the He instituted the sacrament in the form of a judgment, and a judgment requires the hearing and weighing of evidence. Thus, the act of confessing is an integral part of the sacrament. This is evident in the Scriptures (cf. Jonas)- (John 1:9)–(Luke 17:14), and it has been declared a matter of divine law by the Council of Trent. (9)
(1) Obliging Of Confession
Confession, then is necessary for salvation for any who after baptism have the misfortune to fall into mortal sin. This general obligation which arises from divine law is made more  specific by the law of the Church: ” Every one of the faithful of either sex, upon reaching the age of discretion; (example the) use of reason, is bound to confess sincerely all sins all least one a year. ” (Canon 906)This law refers specifically to mortal sins. This is quite distinct from the obligation to receive Holy Communion during Easter tide (Canon 859). but in practice, the two are generally fulfilled at the same time. A sacrilegious or in valid confession does not fulfill the obligation. (Canon 907).
While it is clear the ecclesiastical law of confession binds only once each year. {most practically computed from one Easter until the next}, we may well inquire if the divine precept to confess binds at such as the following.
1) Whenever someone in mortal sin wishes to receive Communion.
2) Whenever a mortal sinner, is required to be in the stat of grace, and he cannot morally be certain of evoking perfect contrition; for instance, before marriage or confirmation
3) When it becomes morally impossible to overcome a great temptation without the special of grace of penance; for instance, in the face of temptation to a seriously evil habit.
While the time of fulfilling the ecclesiastical law of confession is fixed within the limits of one year, there is no set time fixed for the fulfillment of the divine precept in itself. As already explained, this divine obligation may begin to bind by reason of some special necessity for being in the state of grace at a particular time. In general, however, it seem

best to say that none are bound to confess as soon as they fall into serious sin, although delay in these matters is very dangerous. 

(9) Session XIV Chapter 5; Derringer 899

(2) The Qualities of Confession

Saint Thomas selects from the writings of saints and theologians sixteen qualities which should characterize a perfect confession, and explains the meaning of each: Confession should be:
1: Discreet  prudent discretion give greater weight to graver sin.
2: Free  confession must always be a voluntary act.
3: Sincere  it should proceed from a right intention.
4: Courageous  truth must not be forsaken through shame.
5: Marked by shame  it must not be a boastful account of sin.
6: Sorrowful  it must spring from interior penance.
7: Humble  it must be an acknowledge of misery and weakness.
8: Truthful  it must be free from lies and deception.
9: Open  it must be free of ambiguity and vagueness, yet free of coarse and of offensive language.
10: Simple  It must be free of superfluous words and comments especially about others.
11: Entire  nothing pertinent should be omitted.
12: Accusatory of the penitent it should not be an excuse for sinning.
13: Manifestive of a readiness to obey  the confessor’s advice should be followed.
14: Secret  confession in the present discipline of the Church is not public, and no one is obliged to use an interpreter in confessing. (Canon 903).
15: Frequent  confession should be used to preserve the life of grace in the soul, and not only to recover it.
16: Prompt  no one should remain freely in the state of sin. Saint Gregory remarks that he who promised forgiveness to penitent did not promise tomorrow to sinners.

(3) Integrity of Confession

Integrity means completeness or wholeness. With reference to confession, integrity means the telling of all mortal sins. There are two:


Formally integralwhen it includes all the mortal sins which the penitent can and should confess here and now, when all circumstances are taken into consideration.

Confession is:

I Formally integralwhen it includes all the mortal sins which the penitent can and should confess here and now, when all circumstances are taken into consideration.


II Materially integralwhen it includes each and every mortal sin committed after baptism and not yet directly forgiven.

1. Formal integrityFormal integrity is absolutely essential for the validity and lawfulness of confession. This clear from the teaching of the Council of Trent that penitents must disclose in confession all the mortal sins of which they are conscious after a diligent examination of conscience, even if these sins must be hidden and committed against the last two commandments only. Moreover, even those circumstances which change the species of the sin must be mention in confession.” (10) Council of Trent
The following must be confessed in order to have formal integrity.
a) The specific kind of mortal sin committed. This is called technically the ultimate moral species. (Example) fornication, not  impurity “; blasphemy, not  vulgar language detraction, not ‘ unkind speech “; etc.
b) The number of mortal sins, as far is normally possible. (Example) if the exact number is forgotten, a close approximation will do  about 7 ” would indicate something between 5 and 9 ), or the duration of a habit with the number of falls per day or per week.
c) The circumstances which change the kind of sin. (example) that one stole from the poor, sinned with another who was married, etc.
d) The external act of sinning. (example) it does not suffice for a thief to confess  intended to steal or for a fornicate to say  I entertained impure desires.
e) Any external evil effect which was foreseen or intended as the result of the sin.  (example)  I lied about someone and seriously damaged his reputation, ” “I read an obscene book and committed a sin of Chasity by myself.” Material integrity For legitimate reasons material integrity may sometimes be lacking. The reason is that material integrity is sometimes impossible, and Christ does not bind anyone to what impossible. The reasons excusing from material integrity and physical or moral impossibility.
1) Physical impossibility is considered to exist in these and similar cases :

a) extreme sickness;
b) lack of speech, (example) in mutes or in those whose language the confessor cannot understand;
c) lack of time for confession.(exampleduring wartime;
d) Invincible ignorance or forgetfulness;
2) Moral impossibility exists when a complete recital of mortal sins would result in some grave moral inconvenience. This inconvenience must be extrinsic to confession, and only accidentally associated with the confession that must be made here and now. Difficulties intrinsic to confession, like shame, or the loss of the confessor’s esteem, do not excuse from material integrity. Moral impossibility is considered to exist in these and similar cases
a) danger of violating the seal of confession; (examplein a crowded hospital ward, others could easily overhear the penitent;
b) grave danger to life resulting accidentally from this confession; (example) ., in time of an epidemic the life of the penitent, the confessor or some third party may be jeopardized by the contact needed for confession. If formal integrity was lacking, it must be repeated in its entirety, because sins are not forgiven by invalid confession. If material integrity was lacking, the sin or sins inculpable omitted must be mentioned in the next confession.
C. Satisfaction
Satisfaction is the final part of penance. To make satisfaction is itself and act of virtue that pertains to justice, for it implies a voluntary compensation for an injury inflicted. In making satisfaction for sin, the compensation is not quantitatively, but only proportionately equal. Yet when man makes whatever satisfaction he can, God accepts this as sufficient to regain the divine friendship. Mortal sins partake of infinity because the are offenses against an infinite God. Man’s satisfaction also shares in infinity, because it is dependent upon the infinite mercy of God and because it is inspired by the infinite power of divine grace. Grace gives infinite value to human satisfaction. Clearly, then, no one remaining in the state of mortal sin can make any satisfaction for his past sins.The Council of Trent teaches that “ it befits divine mercy that sins not be forgiven us without any satisfaction, lest having thus found an occasion for thinking sins to be light, we fall into graver sins (such and insulting and contemning the Holy Ghost), storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of the wrath.  (11) That this is the plan of divine justice is clearly indicated in many passages of the Scripture.
(cf Geneses 3:16 ff.) ;
(Numbers 12:14-20:11)
(II Kings 12:13.)
(11) Session XIV, Chapter 8; Denzinger 904.
For any Human activity to be satisfactory for sin, two things are required:
1) It must be good, (examplecapable of procuring God honor:
2) It must be penal, (exampleinvolving some loss to the sinner.
Satisfaction may be made in God’s sight through the grace Christ in several ways:
1) By freely undertaking penance for sin.
2) By patiently bearing the temporal punishment sent by God.
3) By doing the penance assigned by the priest in confession.
The three principal acts of penance are Alms giving, fasting and prayer. Each of these
produces a distinctive result, and each is aimed at uprooting one of the principal causes of sin. This made clear in the following graph:

PRINCIPAL PENANCES                    RESULT                                     UPROOTS

                                                                                               (I John 2:16)
Almsgiving                        Surrenders possessions            Concupiscence of the eyes
Fasting                              Surrenders pleasures                  Concupiscence of the flesh  
Prayer                             Surrenders mind and heart of God                        Pride of life
(1) The Sacramental Penance
  The sacramental penance imposed by the confessor is a means whereby the penitent
satisfies for the temporal punishment due to his sins by freely performing good acts that are penal. It is to be noted that the external punishment due to mortal sin is forgiven by the sacrament itself; the penance is designed to remit temporal punishment. The penance assigned in confession produces four good results according to the teaching of the Council of Trent :
1) It reminds the penitent that sin is a serious evil deserving heavy penalties.
2) Its puts the sinner on his guard against falling into the same sins again.
3) It serves as a remedy to heal the weakness resulting from past sins and helps to break down evil habits
4) It associates the penitent in the satisfaction that Christ made for all, and gives renewed assurance that if we suffer with Christ we shall also be glorified with Him.(12)
  Under ordinary circumstance, confessors are bound to exercise their power and to assign a penance to all who confess. The penance imposed should be proportionate to the kind sins confessed and to the ability of the penitent. There are cases in which no penance is assigned because none could be fulfilled, (example), when the penitent is in danger of death. There are also certain cases in which the penance is considerably lightened, (example) when the penitent is infirm, or when the confessor willingly undertakes to perform part of the penance himself.
(12) Council of Trent, col. cit.
(2) Acceptance and Fulfillment of the Penance
  Just as the confessor is obliged to assign a penance, so the penitent is obliged to accept and fulfill any reasonable penance that may be imposed. Satisfaction is an integral part of the
sacrament, and whoever wishes to receive it must fulfill its essential requirements.Should a penitent forget what penance was assigned, it becomes impossible to fulfill, unless he can conveniently return to the same confessor. If the confessor imposes a time limit for the penance, it must be observed. If no limit is set, the penance should be said as soon as conveniently possible. While there is no special obligation to fulfill the penance
before receiving Holy Communion, this is certainly the best course to follow in practice.
  It is most unwise to treat sacramental penances lightly or to run the risk of forgetting them. No amount of privately undertaken penance has the same efficacy in satisfying for the temporal punishment due to sin as the sacramental penance has enjoys. The sacramental penance a unique power in this regard, Other voluntary penances will contribute to satisfaction, but they do not substitute for the penance assigned by the confessor.
   To answer the question as to who are capable of receiving the forgiveness of sins, the virtue of penance must be distinguished from the sacrament.
The sacrament of penance may be received by any baptized Christian who has
committed some personal sin, either mortal or venial, after his baptism, and who is capable of performing the three essential acts of:
a) contrition,
b) confession and
c) satisfaction.
The virtue of penance extends beyond those who have committed actual sins. Like other virtues, penance is infused into the soul at baptism along with sanctifying grace. Even those among the baptized who have not committed personal sins {infants, for example} have both the power and the habit of penance. (13) They cannot actually exercise penance,
however, because sin, which is the material upon which penance works, is lacking. It must not be thought that the habit of penance in the innocent is useless, because it endows them
with a special perfection and makes them radically capable of sorrow and satisfaction should the need ever arise through the commission of actual sin.
Penance is present among the blessed in heaven, but it operates differently than in this life. Among the blessed the act of penance consists ingratitude for the mercy God shows for forgiving sin.
Strictly speaking there can be no penance among the angels. Good angels are
innocent of sin and their wills are fixed in goodness. Fallen angels cannot be forgiven because their wills are fixed in evil. The virtue of penance can exist only when there I the possibility of forgivable sin; it can be exercised only where there is sin to be forgiven.(13)It should be recalled that Christ, being absolutely impeccable, did not possess this virtue, nor would it be found, according to many theologians,in Our Lady.
Under this heading , we will examine three important considerations; the power of the keys, excommunication and indulgences.
The gates of heaven were closed to mankind by the sin of our first parents. There are three keys to these gates.
a) first is the key of authority possessed by the Blessed Trinity;
b) second is the key of excellence possessed by Jesus Christ;
c) third is the key of ministry, possessed by the ministers of Christ’s Church who are the dispenses of His sacraments.
(Cf. Matthew 18:17 f.;) (John 20:23).
In order to administer the sacrament of penance validly and lawfully, two things are required in the minister; holy orders and jurisdiction.
(1) Holy Orders
The minister of penance must be ordained to the priesthood. This is required by divine law and is contained in the official teaching of the Council of Trent. (14) Thus no deacon, sub deacon, cleric in minor orders, nor any layman has the power to absolve from sin
validly. In absolving from sin, the priest acts as a minister of Christ who judges and pronounces sentence. The absolution he grants is not his own but Christ’s. Therefore, the personal worthiness of the priest does not affect the validly of his absolution. That power
is conferred by the Holy Spirit at ordination, and it operates independently of the personal sanctity, or lack thereof, of the priest.
(2) Jurisdiction
The sacrament of penance was instituted in the form of a judgment requires that the judge have jurisdiction over his subjects. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction is the power of ruling, judging and coercing baptized persons in matters pertaining to their spiritual welfare and supernatural happiness. Jurisdiction allows the priest to exercise validly the power to
forgive sin which he received at ordination. Without jurisdiction, then, the absolution of a
priest is of no avail. (15)
(14) Session XXIII, Chapter 1; Dezinger 957.
(15) Session the Church’s doctrine as enunciated by the Council of Trent, Session XIV Chapter 7; Denzinger 903.
There are two kinds of jurisdiction regarding the sacrament of penance ordinary and delegated.
1) Ordinary jurisdiction is annexed to some duly obtained ecclesiastical office, {example} the episcopacy. The Holy Father and the Cardinals have ordinary jurisdiction over all the faithful. The Holy Father may limit the jurisdiction of everyone else. Local Ordinaries, such as bishops, have ordinary jurisdiction in their territories and dioceses, and over their
own subjects even outside their territories. Parish priest and those who serve in their place have ordinary jurisdiction over their parishioners, both within and outside their parishes.
2) Delegated jurisdiction is granted either by law or by an authority individual, without  being annexed to any ecclesiastical office. Cardinals and parish priest may not delegate their  jurisdiction to others. The law delegates jurisdiction to any priest to absolve validly and lawfully any penitent who is in danger of death. Military personnel mobilized for war are considered to be in danger of death, and they may be absolved by any priest anywhere. The Local Ordinary may delegate jurisdiction to priest who are not his own diocesans and
to religious, provided they are known to be competent in theology. Delegated jurisdiction may cease in various ways,  {example} it may be revoked, or it may expire when it is limited to certain  times.
  It is just easy to understand that, a priest when traveling will often not have jurisdiction in the dioceses through which they are passing. Should a layman request such a traveler to hear his  confession, the priest would have to refuse, not because of any impairment of his priestly powers, but simply because he had not sought facilities to hear confession from Ordinary of that place.
Jurisdiction may be limited in various ways. Faculties to hear confessions may exclude certain penitents from the confessor’s jurisdiction; {example}  special jurisdiction is required
to hear the confession of nuns. Jurisdiction may be limited to a certain place; thus a retreatmaster may be limited to hearing confessions in the college where he conducts the retreat.
Jurisdiction may be limited to a certain time, as when facilities are granted for six months. Jurisdiction may also be limited with regard to certain sins.
This last type of restriction a brief explanation.
(3) Reservation
   Reservation is the limitations of a case to some special tribunal so that absolution from such cases may be granted only by the authority who made the reservation, or by his successor, superior or delegate (Cf. Canon 893)The purpose of reservation is to preserve
discipline in the Church and to create a greater barrier against certain sins. There is a parallel in civil law where certain crimes are tried only before special tribunals. All
reservation of cases involving the laity comes from either the Holy Father or from the Local
Ordinary. A bishop, for example, could reserve to himself absolution from the sin of attending   some specific antiCatholic motion picture, or of sending children to some school
doctrines were taught. Reserved cases are quite rare, and confessors are made aware of
them so thy know exactly how to guide the penitent who may have been involved in these
difficulties When anyone is in danger of death, all reservations ceases, and any confessor
may absolve him.
An ecclesiastical penalty is a punishment inflicted by the Church for some offense. These
penalties are attached to external and sinful violations of certain laws, and not to internal
acts. Thy are inflicted both for the reparation of harm done to the social order and for the correction of those who break the law. The entire matter of ecclesiastical penalties is a complex in moral theology and canon law. Here we present only a summary of basic
considerations with particular reference to penalties which may be incurred by laymen. The more common type of ecclesiastic penalties are known as censures. These are medicinal
penalties by which, because of obstinate violation of some law of the Church, a baptized person is deprived of certain benefits which are either spiritual or connected therewith, until he repents and obtains absolution (cf. Canon 2241). It is a teaching of faith that the
Church has the power to inflict censures. (16)
(16) The Council of Constance condemned the errors of John Wcylif, the English heretic, which denied
this power to the Church. See Session VIII (1415), n . ll ff.;
(1) Excommunication
Excommunication is a censure by which a person is deprived of communion with
the faithful of the Church. (cf. Canon 2257). An excommunicated layman may not lawfully receive the sacraments; he is excluded from sharing in the prayers offered by the Church for all the faithful, and from indulgences; he may not act as a sponsor at baptism or
confirmation; if under condemnatory or declaratory sentence by Church authority, the excommunicate is also deprived of ecclesiastical burial.
   Absolution from most kinds of excommunication is reserved to different courts from the Local Ordinary to the Holy See itself. Confessors are aware of these technical matters and are able to offer competent advice to any who may be excommunicated.
   Excommunication of varying degrees of gravity is attached to these
a) Profanation of the Blessed Sacrament.
b) Embracing of heresy, schism,
c) A apostasy which includes the profession of Communism
d) Joining the Freemasons and other similar societies.
e) Marrying before a nonCatholic minister;
f) Marrying after obtaining a civil divorce;
g) Entering marriage with an agreement to rear children in a nonCatholic religion.
h) Deliberately having children baptized by a nonCatholic minister.
i) Educate in a nonCatholic sect.
j) Effectively procuring an abortion.
(2) Interdict
Interdict is a censure by which the faithful, while remaining in communion with the Church, are forbidden the use of certain sacraments and other sacred things (cf. Canon 2268, § 1). The effects and extent of interdicts are usually fixed in each case by the superior who inflicts them, but the following rules apply generally.
1) Local interdict : forbids the celebration of divine offices and the administration of
sacred rites in the place under interdict. Certain great feasts are usually excepted. All
solemnity and special functions are forbidden. However, the sacraments are available
privately, Mass is offered once each day, and the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It is
the solemn celebration of these things which is forbidden.
2) Personal interdict: is similar in effects excommunication.    
(3) Conditions of Censures In order to incur a censure, the sin to which they are attached must be mortal both objectively and subjectively,{example} it must be grave and the sinner must know and intend it as such. It must be certain and not doubtful; it must be an external sin, because censures are not attached to internal sins, as, {example}  the desire to embrace heresy. Also, the sinner must be aware that a special penalty is attached to his crime. In general, whatever would excuse from grave fault will also excuse from grave fault will also excuse from censure.
C Indulgences
An indulgence is a remission in the sight of God of the temporal punishment due for
sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. It is granted by ecclesiastical authority from the spiritual treasury of the Church outside the sacrament of penance. To the living, it is granted in the form of absolution from temporal punishment; to the faithful departed, it is granted in the form of suffrage.
(cf Canon 911).
Indulgences do not remit wither mortal or venial sin. They affect only sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, either in the sacrament of penance or in other ways. Indulgences remit temporal punishment in the sight of God, so that it need not be endured
again either this life or purgatory.
In previous section we saw that temporal punishment may be remitted in various
ways. Indulgences area among these. Their efficacy is derived from the satisfactory merits of Christ and the saints, which are stored in the spiritual treasury of the Church. The existence of the spiritual treasury, and the possibility of vicarious satisfaction {by which one member of the Church must pay part of anther’s debt through the union of charity}, are the two doctrinal foundations of the teaching of indulgences. The Church enjoys direct jurisdiction over her living members. Just as she absolves them from eternal guilt in the sacrament of penance, so does she absolve them from temporal punishment by indulgences. Lacking jurisdiction over the faithful departed, she offers indulgences for them by way of suffrage applied to their needs. In terms of their effects there are two kinds of indulgences:
 1) Plenary indulgences remit all the temporal punishment due to sin when received by one
having the necessary dispositions.
2)Partial indulgences remit some portion of the temporal punishment due to sin. It is commonly taught that partial indulgence of seven years remits the temporal punishment that would be satisfied by canonical penance of that duration in the practice of the early
The following are the conditions necessary for gaining indulgences.
1) An intention for gaining the indulgence. A habitual intention suffices to gaining the indulgences personally; at least a virtual and explicit intention is required to apply them to the souls of others.
2) The state of grace and perfect union with the Church. The unbaptized, the
excommunicated and mortal sinners cannot gain indulgences.
3) The prescribed work, (example)  visiting a particular church or altar; saying certain prayers; These must be performed exactly personally, and not when it comes under some obligations. Thus visit to some church is not fulfilled by attending Mass there on Sunday; another visit would be required.
4) When confession is prescribed, it must be made even by those guilty of venial sin. It may be made within eight days before or after the day on which the indulgence is granted.  One confession suffices for all indulgences to be gained in that period.
5) The same rules as in the preceding paragraph apply to there required, those that are required reception of Holy Communion.
6) When, to the prayers or good works prescribed for gaining an indulgence, there is added the condition of praying to the intention of the Supreme Pontiff, “ it suffices to recite the
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be once for the intention of the Holy Father. When the seconditions are not required, those that are required are stated.
7) All prayers prescribed for gaining indulgences must be said orally   ({example} with at least the movement of the lips forming the words, though not necessarily audibly}, except in the case of mutes who may offer mentally, and of ejaculatory prayers.
Before concluding our study, something should be said concerning the history of the sacrament of penance. It may seem strange, both that the history of this sacrament should be treated after the theological study has been completed, and this sacrament shouldreceive a special historical treatment at all. To explain adequately the reasons for taking its
history after having compounded its theological aspects would require a discussion of the role of the history of dogmas; this is manifestly impossible here. However the direction of the answer can and should be pointed out. Penance, like the other sacraments, is an object of faith. Belief in this sacrament has
always existed in the Church. Aside from all history questions concerning it, we believe that Christ established the sacrament of penance to forgive sin. Theology studies what the Church has proposed as revealed with regard to this sacrament. The historian may then
search for evidence of this belief in the early Church, for indications of a developing understanding, and for information concerning the practice of the Church in various places and at different times. In this way the historian can help us to understand our faith and our theology better. Penance requires a special historical treatment because there is great historical difficulty with regard to it. Those who do not accept this sacrament on faith attempt to justify their rejection of it by arguing that the priestly power to absolve was unknown in the primitive
Christians communities and is not mentioned in any early patriotic text. They say that the reconciliation penitents was concerned only with the external forum and had nothing to do
with a purification of conscience, and that priestly intervention in the forgiven of was in the form of prayer or intercession, not in the form of a declaration of forgiveness.. These assertions in no way distress the historian of dogmas. He knows that the
sacrament of penance has been part of Christian teaching since the beginning, whether historical evidence can be discovered to prove it, or not. He knows that no historical evidence has been nor ever can be produced to prove the contrary. Yet because of his desire
to know and manifest the truth, even the particular truths of history, he sets out to see what history does have to say about the theory and practice of this sacrament. As a good historian he is well aware of the fact that historical events cannot be isolated. Because a historical event is no longer historical if taken out of context, he realized that the
sacrament of penance cannot be studied apart from the totality of Christian life. Today the confessional is an integral part of every church. It was not so in the beginning. The fact that the sacrament of penance was not administered then as it is now, that it did not play the same role in the life of the Christian, was due to the fact that
circumstances were different then from what they are today. The sacrament of penance is essentially then from what they are today. The sacrament of penance is essentially a juridical tribunal. Judges reasonably judge more harshly or more easily depending upon the conditions of society. In the early Church most Christians were adult converts of mature stability of disposition, and were filled with the enthusiasm of recent conversion.
Anyone who acted on his convictions and professed Christianity in those days of cruel persecution knew that his goods and even his life were in peril. Men and women of such supernatural outlook did not look upon sin lightly. By baptism they were cleansed of all sins of their youth. But what did the Church do about them, if they did not sin seriously
after their baptism ?
Penance in the New Testament
There are clear and unmistakable instances in the New Testament of Christ’s forgiving sins. It is also clear that Christ gave this power to the apostles, the power to bind and to
loose bring plainly conferred in the eighteen chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel. To argue that this refers only to ecclesiastical faults is refuted by Saint John’s gospel (21:21-23), where Christ clearly confers upon the apostles the power to forgive or to retain sin. First, Christ makes evident that the power being conferred is the power He Himself has exercised:  As the Father has sent me so I send you “ . Then He grants this power by conferring His Spirit. It is not a case of granting mi administrative authority. He is giving a real supernatural power. ” When He had said this, He breathed upon them, and said to them.  Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’  Therefore, He adds to the commission to preach penance, long
since clearly given, the special mission for the forgiveness of sins. The apostles are made capable of  doing for sinners what they had seen their Master do. What He did by His proper power, they would do as delegated ministers. But although He could see into souls and discern their dispositions, His ministers would have to learn the dispositions of penitents from their sincere manifestation of conscience. The reality of the pardon granted by the apostles and their successors {the objective elementalways remains related to the dispositions of penitent {subjective element}. But
the pardon granted to those rightly disposed is the true cause of divine forgiveness. What is done on earth is accepted in heaven. If the pardon granted by the ministers of Christ was merely an ecclesiastical reconciliation which would give no assurance of internal
reconciliation, and would have nothing directly to do toward effecting in internal reconciliation, then there could be no significance attached to the acceptance of the reconciliation in heaven . Here, too, is made plain the necessity of submitting serious sins to the power of the keys, the necessity, that is confession. This power is not to be used arbitrarily. A judgment is to be made, and judgment requires knowledge. The judge must know the faults which
are either to be forgiven or not forgiven, and the disposition of the culprit. It is certainly unfitting to forgive someone who retains an affection for his evil ways. In this act of
judgment which is essential to the sacrament of Christian initiation, baptism. The Scriptures give no instance where the apostles exercised their power to forgive sins This is not to be wondered at, because the Acts of the Apostles are not greatly concerned
with the daily life of the Christian continuities but rather with the expansion of Christianity. Furthermore, the epistles are devoted to specific points few doctrine and to certain local incidents. Despite the great role penance was to play later, it was given but a
small part in the life of the early Church.
C Penance in the Infant Church
However, the historians, even abstracting from his faith, can safely presume the
presence of the sacrament of penance in the earliest life of the Church, although in a les developed form than our present sacramental rite. We do not expect that the Church came forth from the Cenacle as fully developed as Minerva issuing from the brain of Jupiter; but the sudden emergence from its infant side of completely new limb would have certainly
shocked the faithful. Before the year 180, there is practically not textual evidence of the existence of a real penitential discipline. (17) There are however, texts which date from the
end of the second century until the middle of the third century which clearly manifest a penitential discipline functioning in regular fashion. (18) In these written documents, there is neither discussion of its beginning, nor is any complaint against it as an innovation.
That an ecclesiastical function of this kind was the result of some kind of spontaneous generation about the year 180 seems improbable to the historian and impossible to the theologian. On the other hand, there is no reason to conclude that a welldeveloped
discipline existed earlier despite the lack of texture evidence for it. It is reasonable, however, to conclude that some embryonic form of penitential discipline did exist and that it developed as circumstances demanded. The important point is that the exercise of the power to absolve {as it begins to appear in documentsnever gives the impression of being a novelty.
(17) There may possibly be reference to sacramental penance in the didache, “Doctrines of the Apostles” (c. 70-90,
120-150?) , Chapter 4, n,, 14 1, and in Saint Clement’s Epistles to the Corinthians (c96-98), Chapter 51-53; but these allusions are so vague and incomplete that little can be deduced from them.
(18) The Shepard of Mermas (c150) contains a whole series of instructions on the necessity and efficacy of penance, although it is a difficult work to interpret; his doctrine is echoed by Clement of Alexandria (+ c. 216). Origen’s (+ c. 255) teaching on penance is especially valuable for information concerning the Church’s early
Penitential Discipline in the Third Century
Early in the third century we fined clear reference to penitential discipline in the writing of Tertullian (+ c. 240-250) 
(19) and Hippolytua (+ 235(20) and in the famous {lost} edict of Pope Callistus discussed by both writers. To edit seems to have stated that, after
penance had been performed, the sin of adultery was to be forgiven, Actually to grant forgiveness for this sin {always recognized in theory as pardonable} seems to have been an innovation. Moreover, it is made clear that this forgiveness is granted once. This second point is not, however, anything new; even at the time of Saint Augustine (+ 430the
sacrament of penance was ordinarily received but once in a lifetime. 
(21) The reasoning behind such rigor can be understood only if we remember the points mentioned above concerning life of the early Christians. They felt that no human being could prudently judge a Christian who had seriously sinned, done penance and been pardoned, and then fell again into the same sin, possessed the necessary dispositions for again receiving pardon. This fact clarifies a very important point concerning the sacrament of penance. Even to day no priest may absolve a penitent unless he is morally certain that the one confessing is truly sorry for his sin and has a true purpose of amendment.
Circumstances of time have resulted in authoritative ecclesiastical decisions to the effect that it is possible to be morally sure of such contrition even in one who has sinned repeatedly. This was not considered possible in the early Church. (19) Converted to Catholicism about 195, this brilliant Roman advocate placed his considerable talents at the service of Catholic truth, But his mystical bent attracted him to Montanism, a heretical sect extremely rigorist in its moral teaching, which held that sins committed after baptism were not to be forgiven.  His on Penance on Penance
exposes the Catholic practices, but a work of his Montanist period, On Chasity, is a violent attack on catholic
penitential doctrine in general and Pope Callistus in particular. (20) Hippolytus also attacked Saint Callistus on the grounds of “leniency” in penitential discipline Philosophumena, “The Refutation of all Heresies, Book IX, Chapter 12). But he was a bitter personal enemy of thepope, and a puritan to boot; his reproaches are certainly exaggerated and lack little historical authority.
(21) Cf. the letter to Pope Saint Siricius ( + 399) to Himerius of Tarragona) The earliest documents concerning penitent discipline clearly state the sacramental absolution cannot be granted to those guilty of certain sins, such as:
a) murder,
b) apostasy and
c) adultery.
Those guilty of the of these sins were required to live out their days as penitent, and were in the mercy of God. No one can say whether this discipline was universal or whether it was primitive, but it held sway for many years and in many places. Indeed, no one denied that the Church could forgive these sins in principal, and a fortiori, it was never held that these sins were irremissible in themselves. The question has been raised whether there existed in the early Church some form of private penitential discipline has been found. It is possible, of course, that bishops remitted public penance in some cases and absolved without public penance ritual but there is no evidence of any recognized provisions for private penance before the fifth century. From early writings, especially Saint Hippolytus, Saint Cyprian and Origen, it is
possible to reconstruct the penitential discipline of the third century clearly. The subject was a Christian guilty of a grave sin, either public or secret. If secret, the existence of the sin was publicly known by the absence of the guilty one from Communion; in those days
all Christians except those excluded by sin {excommunicated } partook of the sacred banquet. A voluntary confession was made to the bishop. It seems that in the case of a secret sin, the confession
of the kind of sin was not made public. Since the fact that the Christian had sinned was already known, this public announcement of his reconciliation with God and the Church did him spiritual damage. There is evidence that the sinner often secretly consulted the bishop or a priest concerning the best manner of making his confession. After his confession, the sinner was separated from the Christian community and subjected to public humiliation, fasts, etc. A protracted satisfaction seems always to have preceded reconciliation. Reconciliation was publicly effected by the imposition of hands. Tertuillian, Hipppoytus, Saint Cyprian and Origen do not exhaust the third century
literature on penance, but they do give its tenor, which was one of extreme severity. The fact that for nearly four centuries the Church refused to grant sacramental absolution more
than one in a lifetime conveys forcefully the idea of how far the penitent discipline of the Church has progressed today.
E The Origin of Private Penance
It was never the practice of the Church to remit sin with out confession. Normally when a secret sin was confessed privately, the confession was kept secret. When we speak here of private penance, we refer to private confession, private satisfaction, and private absolution. As early as Saint Augustine a distinction was made between sins of malice and sins of ignorance or weakness. When such distinctions became clearer, priest commonly began to judge that certain sins did not warrant public satisfaction and absolution, but that
satisfaction and absolution could be taken care privately. The practice of repeated reception of the sacrament of penance developer from this, since only public penance was unrepeatable. The practice of private penance developed first in the British Isles and was
first brought to the continent by Saint Columbanus and other Irish monks. From the fact that Saint Augustine of Canterbury ( + c. 604) had no dispute with the British on this question {end of the sixth century}, it is evident that the practice was early known on the
continent, During the Carolingian period, the following principal was evolved; for occult sins, private penance; for public sins, public penance. Private penance came to be accepted as useful to the spiritual life. Alcuin recommends the practice to young people as a means of
overcoming sin. By the ninth century the practice of annual confession had become quite common. All the books on penance of the Carolingian reform make it clear that public and private penance are but different modes of the same sacrament, and that both have the same purposethe remission of sin. The revival of learning and especially of theology in the eleventh century helped the speculative theology of penance catch up with its practice. The law of secrecy of the
confessional came into being, and the Fourth Council of Lateran (1215)legislated annual confession for the faithful. The role that the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon monks played in spreading the custom of private penance was revived by the Friars Minor and the Friars
Preachers, who diffused the custom of frequent confession and confession of devotion.
This brief survey of the history of the development of the doctrine of the sacrament of penance should produce an awareness of two things:
1) Catholic scholars are well acquainted with the difficulties raised by opponents of the Church and can easily show that none of these difficulties are in ant sense conclusive.
2)The confession of one’s to a priest for the purpose of obtaining absolution is a very serious matter. Absolution is not some kind of miracle spotremover to be used in cleaning up for Sunday. It is sacramental forgiveness to be asked for only by a penitent who is truly sorry for his sins and willing to take every reasonable measure to avoid sinning again; it is to be granted only by a priest who is morally certain that the penitent is well disposed to receive the sacrament.
Penance offers the security of divine forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. The sacrament demands the exercise of the virtue of penance, but goes beyond it in its effects. The universality of the efficacy of this sacrament is symbolic of the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart, for any sin whatsoever can be blotted out in penance if only the sinner will be truly sorry. This necessary sorrow must be expressed ordinarily by confession and satisfaction. The true nature of the security of forgiveness is emphasized in the care with which the Church must administer the power of the keys which she received from Christ. Her laws,
seen through the eyes of faith, are intended to guarantee the security of forgiveness to all,and not to withhold it from any who are worthy through sincere sorrow. Extending the saving hand of Christ, the Church brings forth from her treasury an abundance of spiritual merits in the form of indulgences which complete the healing of the wounds of sin. So great is her mercy that she penalizes certain delinquents through excommunication and interdict in order to safeguard the sincere faithful from spiritual contagion and to recall to their spiritual senses her errant children. The sacrament of penance is beautifully symbolized by the figure of Christ who stands at the gate of the sinner’s heart and knocks, asking only for sins which no man should desire to retain, wishing not to punish, but to forgive them.
      A number of practical conclusions derive from the Church’s teaching on penance, but all of them cannot be treated here. However the following is a sampling.
1). When John the Baptist passed through the Jordan valley to prepare the coming of Christ, the Jews to whom he preached were scandalized at his approach. For, although they were steeped in wickedness, they covered themselves with justice. Because of their blindness they considered sin to be linked with the performance of external works alone;
for them, it was only a question of ritual and legal impurity rather than of moral impurity.
In later years Saint Paul tried to shake them from this  artificial selfrighteousness. He remarks: For they, not knowing the justice of God and seeking to establish their own, have
not submitted themselves to the justice of God(Romans 10:3).
John the Baptist came to reprove and replace ignorance; his manner of dress and his manner of preaching were both designed to give mankind an example of repentance and confession. And because the Jews, for the most part, would not turn from their sins, they turned their backs on Christ. If they had pondered over their sins, Christianity would have had an easier beginning, for in seeking forgiveness of sin, they would have sought out the Redeemer from sin.
2.”The omnipotent God sometimes permits His elect to fall into offenses, that He may give hope of pardon to others who lie down despairing in their guilt, if they will but turn to Him with their whole hearts; to such as these He opens the way to justice, because of their tears of repentance
    “Let us then be earnest in our repentance. Let us wash away with tears, and with fruits worthy of repentance, the evil we have committed. Let not that time be lost that is in mercy given to us, for we who see so many healed from their sins, what have we here but a pledge of heavenly mercy, in Jesus Christ our Lord who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth world without end Amen. (22)
3). There is vast difference between the moral and physical evils suffered by man. A broken arm does not affect every bone in the body; it is not a broken leg or back or neck, nor does it set off a chain reaction of similar injuries. Sin, on the other hand,since it is an offense against God, has infinite repercussions in the spiritual order.
Despair arising from one sin can be the fuse which will ignite hundreds of other sins. The challenge offered by Christ to human nature does not consist in  restraining from sin, but in totally   refraining from sin.
4). Never underestimate the power of the priesthood in the confessional. A priest’s ministerial work behind the confessional screen brings him in closer contact with souls than any other duty he may have. His intimate association with the Holy Spirit is never more apparent than he says ” I absolve you …”
5) In the ages before Christ, the history of sin as recorded in the Old Testament was the history of man’s degeneration. Man was created to the image and likeness of God, but time and selfwill marred this likeness. When Christ united human flesh to Himself, He reminded man of his original dignity and at the same time restored man’s right to the title, heir to heaven.
6) Each sacrament is a special remedy for sin. A sincere examination of conscience
before confessing will tell us our predominant faults, and if we confess them aright, with true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment, we will receive through the sacrament the special graces that will enable us to eradicate this barrier between ourselves and God. That is why the frequent of the sacrament comes so highly recommended to us by the Church and by her Saints.
(22) Saint Gregory, Homily, Virgil of the Fourth Sunday of Advent


Intro Bapt Conf Pena HolComm HolOrd ExtUnc Matr Confs Sacr Misc TraSit
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