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Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1499-1505, 1526 – The Anointing of the Sick

clock April 9, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections begin the explanation of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Article 5


1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ."97

I. Its Foundations in the Economy of Salvation

Illness in human life

1500 Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death.

1501 Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

The sick person before God

1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing.98 Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing.99 It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer."100 The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others.101 Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness.102

Christ the physician

1503 Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people"103and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins;104 he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.105 His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me."106 His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.107 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,108 mud and washing.109 The sick try to touch him, "for power came forth from him and healed them all."110 and so in the sacraments Christ continues to "touch" us in order to heal us.

1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases."111 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world,"112 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.


1526 "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (⇒Jas 5:14-15).

In the “Summa Theologica”, the Sacramental nature of the Anointing of the Sick is examined.

Article 1. Whether Extreme Unction is a sacrament?

Objection 1. It would seem that Extreme Unction is not a sacrament. For just as oil is used on sick people, so is it on catechumens. But anointing of catechumens with oil is not a sacrament. Therefore neither is the Extreme Unction of the sick with oil.

Objection 2. Further, the sacraments of the Old Law were figures of the sacraments of the New Law. But there was no figure of Extreme Unction in the Old Law. Therefore it is not a sacrament of the New Law.

Objection 3. Further, according to Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. iii, v) every sacrament aims at either cleansing, or enlightening, or perfecting. Now Extreme Unction does not aim at either cleansing, or enlightening, for this is ascribed to Baptism alone, or perfecting, for according to Dionysius(Eccl. Hier. ii), this belongs to Confirmation and the Eucharist. Therefore Extreme Unction is not a sacrament.

On the contrary, The sacraments of the Church supply man's defects sufficiently with respect to every state of life. Now no other than Extreme Unction does this for those who are departing from this life. Therefore it is a sacrament.

Further, the sacraments are neither more nor less than spiritual remedies. Now Extreme Unction is a spiritual remedy, since it avails for the remission of sins, according to James 5:15. Therefore it is a sacrament.

I answer that, Among the visible operations of the Church, some are sacraments, as Baptism, some are sacramentals, as Exorcism. The difference between these is that a sacrament is an action of the Church that reaches to the principal effect intended in the administration of the sacraments, whereas a sacramental is an action which, though it does not reach to that effect, is nevertheless directed towards that principal action. Now the effect intended in the administration of the sacraments is the healing of the disease of sin: wherefore it is written (Isaiah 27:9): "This is all the fruit, that the sin . . . should be taken away." Since then Extreme Unction reaches to this effect, as is clear from the words of James, and is not ordained to any other sacrament as an accessory thereto, it is evident that Extreme Unction is not a sacramental but a sacrament.

Reply to Objection 1. The oil with which catechumens are anointed does not convey the remission of sins to them by its unction, for that belongs to Baptism. It does, however, dispose them to receive Baptism, as stated above (III, 71, 3). Hence that unction is not a sacrament as Extreme Unction is.

Reply to Objection 2. This sacrament prepares man for glory immediately, since it is given to those who are departing from this life. And as, under the Old Law, it was not yet time to enter into glory, because "the Law brought nobody [Vulgate: 'nothing'] to perfection" (Hebrews 7:19), so this sacrament had not to be foreshadowed therein by some corresponding sacrament, as by a figure of the same kind. Nevertheless it was somewhat foreshadowed remotely by all the healings related in the Old Testament.

Reply to Objection 3. Dionysius makes no mention of Extreme Unction, as neither of Penance, nor of Matrimony, because he had no intention to decide any question about the sacraments, save in so far as they serve to illustrate the orderly disposition of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, as regards the ministers, their actions, and the recipients. Nevertheless since Extreme Unction confers grace and remission of sins, there is no doubt that it possesses an enlightening and cleansing power, even as Baptism, though not so copious.


97 LG 11; cf. ⇒ Jas 5:14-16; ⇒ Rom 8:17; ⇒ Col 1:24; ⇒ 2 Tim 2:11-12; ⇒ 1 Pet 4:13.
98 Cf. ⇒ Pss 6:3; ⇒ 38; ⇒ Isa 38.
99 Cf. ⇒ Pss 32:5; ⇒ 38:5; ⇒ 39:9, ⇒ 12; ⇒ 107:20; cf. ⇒ Mk 2:5-12.
100 ⇒ Ex 15:26.
101 Cf. ⇒ Isa 53:11.
102 Cf. ⇒ Isa 33:24.
103 ⇒ Lk 7:16; cf. ⇒ Mt 4:24.
104 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:5-12.
105 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:17.
106 ⇒ Mt 25:36.
107 Cf. ⇒ Mk 5:34, ⇒ 36; ⇒ 9:23.
108 Cf. ⇒ Mk 7:32-36; ⇒ 8:22-25.
109 Cf. ⇒ Jn 9:6-7.
110 ⇒ Lk 6:19; cf. ⇒ Mk 1:41; ⇒ 3:10; ⇒ 6:56.
111 ⇒ Mt 8:17; cf. ⇒ Isa 53:4.
112 ⇒ Jn 1:29; cf. ⇒ Isa 53:4-6.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1480-1484, 1497 – The Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance

clock April 8, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the rite of penance. Supporting material comes from the Code of Canon Law.

XI. The Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance

1480 Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest's absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.

1481 The Byzantine Liturgy recognizes several formulas of absolution, in the form of invocation, which admirably express the mystery of forgiveness: "May the same God, who through the Prophet Nathan forgave David when he confessed his sins, who forgave Peter when he wept bitterly, the prostitute when she washed his feet with her tears, the Pharisee, and the prodigal son, through me, a sinner, forgive you both in this life and in the next and enable you to appear before his awe-inspiring tribunal without condemnation, he who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen."

1482 The sacrament of Penance can also take place in the framework of a communal celebration in which we prepare ourselves together for confession and give thanks together for the forgiveness received. Here, the personal confession of sins and individual absolution are inserted into a liturgy of the word of God with readings and a homily, an examination of conscience conducted in common, a communal request for forgiveness, the Our Father and a thanksgiving in common. This communal celebration expresses more clearly the ecclesial character of penance. However, regardless of its manner of celebration the sacrament of Penance is always, by its very nature, a liturgical action, and therefore an ecclesial and public action.90

1483 In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution. Grave necessity of this sort can arise when there is imminent danger of death without sufficient time for the priest or priests to hear each penitent's confession. Grave necessity can also exist when, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors to hear individual confessions properly in a reasonable time, so that the penitents through no fault of their own would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a long time. In this case, for the absolution to be valid the faithful must have the intention of individually confessing their sins in the time required.91 The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist.92 A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity.93

1484 "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession."94 There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: "My son, your sins are forgiven."95 He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them.96 He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.


1497 Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church.

The Code of Canon Law describes the laws of the Church regarding the Sacrament of Confession.


Can.  960 Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility excuses from confession of this type; in such a case reconciliation can be obtained by other means.

Can.  961 §1. Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to many penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

1/ danger of death is imminent and there is insufficient time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2/ there is grave necessity, that is, when in view of the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available to hear the confessions of individuals properly within a suitable period of time in such a way that the penitents are forced to be deprived for a long while of sacramental grace or holy communion through no fault of their own. Sufficient necessity is not considered to exist when confessors cannot be present due only to the large number of penitents such as can occur on some great feast or pilgrimage.

§2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop to judge whether the conditions required according to the norm of §1, n. 2 are present. He can determine the cases of such necessity, attentive to the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the conference of bishops.

Can.  962 §1. For a member of the Christian faithful validly to receive sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required not only that the person is properly disposed but also at the same time intends to confess within a suitable period of time each grave sin which at the present time cannot be so confessed.

§2. Insofar as it can be done even on the occasion of the reception of general absolution, the Christian faithful are to be instructed about the requirements of the norm of §1. An exhortation that each person take care to make an act of contrition is to precede general absolution even in the case of danger of death, if there is time.

Can. 963 Without prejudice to the obligation mentioned in ⇒ can. 989, a person whose grave sins are remitted by general absolution is to approach individual confession as soon as possible, given the opportunity, before receiving another general absolution, unless a just cause intervenes.

Can.  964 §1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.

§3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.


90 Cf. SC 26-27.
91 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 962 #1.
92 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 961 # 2.
93 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 961 # 1.
94 OP 31.
95 ⇒ Mk 2:5[ETML:C/].
96 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:17.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1471-1479, 1498 – Indulgences

clock April 7, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss indulgences. Supporting material comes from the Apostolic Constitution, “Indulgentiarum Doctrina”.

X. Indulgences

1471 The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.

What is an indulgence?

"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."81
"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin."82 Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.

The punishments of sin

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.83

1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the "old man" and to put on the "new man."84

In the Communion of Saints

1474 The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God's grace is not alone. "The life of each of God's children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person."85

1475 In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things."86 In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

1476 We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church's treasury, which is "not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the 'treasury of the Church' is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ's merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their effficacy."87

1477 "This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body."88

Obtaining indulgence from God through the Church

1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.89

1479 Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.


1498 Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.

The Apostolic Constitution, “Indulgentiarum Doctrina” explains the Church’s role in indulgences.

5. Indeed Christ "committed no sin," "suffered for us,"(14) was wounded for our iniquities, bruised for our his bruises we are healed."(15)

Following in the footsteps of Christ,(16) the Christian faithful have always endeavored to help one another on the path leading to the heavenly Father through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation. The more they have been immersed in the fervor of charity, the more they have imitated Christ in his sufferings, carrying their crosses in expiation for their own sins and those of others, certain that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God the Father of mercies.(17) This is the very ancient dogma of the Communion of the Saints,(18) whereby the life of each individual son of God in Christ and through Christ is joined by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brothers in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ till, as it were, a single mystical person is formed.(19)

Thus is explained the "treasury of the Church"(20) which should certainly not be imagined as the sum total of material goods accumulated in the course of the centuries, but the infinite and inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ Our Lord have before God, offered as they were so that all of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. It is Christ the Redeemer himself in whom the satisfactions and merits of his redemption exist and find their force.(21) This treasury also includes the truly immense, unfathomable and ever pristine value before God of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, who following in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have sanctified their lives and fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by the Father. Thus while attaining their own salvation, they have also cooperated in the salvation of their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.

"For all who are in Christ, having his spirit, form one Church and cleave together in him" (Eph. 4:16). Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by a communication of spiritual goods. For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to building it up evermore (1 Cor. 12: 12-27). For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), through him and with him and in him they do not cease to intervene with the Father for us, showing forth the merits which they have won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5), by serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for his Body which is the Church (Col. 1:24). Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened.(22)

For this reason there certainly exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth a perennial link of charity and an abundant exchange of all the goods by which, with the expiation of all the sins of the entire Mystical Body, divine justice is placated. God's mercy is thus led to forgiveness, so that sincerely repentant sinners may participate as soon as possible in the full enjoyment of the benefits of the family of God.


81 Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1.
82 Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; Cf. Norm 3.
83 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712-1713; (1563): 1820.
84 ⇒ Eph 4:22, 24.
85 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.
86 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.
87 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.
88 Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.
89 Cf. Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1468-1470, 1496 – The Effects of the Sacrament of Penance

clock April 6, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the effects of confession. Supporting material comes from the Apostolic Exhortation, “Reconciliation et Paenitentia”.

IX. The Effects of This Sacrament

1468 "The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship."73 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation "is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation."74 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true "spiritual resurrection," restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.75

1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members.76 Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:77

It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.78

1470 In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin.79 In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and "does not come into judgment."80


1496 The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are:
- reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
- reconciliation with the Church;
- remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
- remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
- peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
- an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.

The Apostolic Exhortation, “Reconciliation et Paenitentia” (31, 5) mentions the effects of the Sacrament of Penance.

V. Second, it must be emphasized that the most precious result of the forgiveness obtained in the sacrament of penance consists in reconciliation with God, which takes place in the inmost heart of the son who was lost and found again, which every penitent is. But it has to be added that this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations which repair the breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his own true identity. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way attacked and wounded. He is reconciled with the church. He is reconciled with all creation.

As a result of an awareness of this, at the end of the celebration there arises in the penitent a sense of gratitude to God for the gift of divine mercy received, and the church invites the penitent to have this sense of gratitude.

Every confessional is a special and blessed place from which, with divisions wiped away, there is born new and uncontaminated a reconciled individual-a reconciled world!


73 Roman Catechism, II, V, 18.
74 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1674.
75 Cf. ⇒ Lk 15:32.
76 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 12:26.
77 Cf. LG 48-50.
78 John Paul II, RP 31, 5.
79 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 5:11; ⇒ Gal 5:19-21; ⇒ Rev 22:15.
80 ⇒ Jn 5:24.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1461-1467, 1495 – The Minister of Penance: the Priest

clock April 5, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the priest as the minister of the Sacrament of Penance. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

VIII. The Minister of This Sacrament

1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation,65 bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

1462 Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God, but also with the Church. Since ancient times the bishop, visible head of a particular Church, has thus rightfully been considered to be the one who principally has the power and ministry of reconciliation: he is the moderator of the penitential discipline.66 Priests, his collaborators, exercise it to the extent that they have received the commission either from their bishop (or religious superior) or the Pope, according to the law of the Church.67

1463 Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them.68 In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication.69

1464 Priests must encourage the faithful to come to the sacrament of Penance and must make themselves available to celebrate this sacrament each time Christians reasonably ask for it.70

1465 When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God's merciful love for the sinner.

1466 The confessor is not the master of God's forgiveness, but its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ.71 He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord's mercy.

1467 Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives.72 This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the "sacramental seal," because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains "sealed" by the sacrament.


1495 Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Supplement, 8, 1), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the minister of the Sacrament of Penance: the Priest.

Article 1. Whether it is necessary to confess to a priest?

Objection 1. It would seem that it is not necessary to confess to a priest. For we are not bound to confession, except in virtue of its Divine institution. Now its Divine institution is made known to us (James 5:16): "Confess your sins, one to another," where there is no mention of a priest. Therefore it is not necessary to confess to a priest.

Objection 2. Further, Penance is a necessary sacrament, as is also Baptism. But any man is the minister of Baptism, on account of its necessity. Therefore any man is the minister of Penance. Now confession should be made to the minister of Penance. Therefore it suffices to confess to anyone.

Objection 3. Further, confession is necessary in order that the measure of satisfaction should be imposed on the penitent. Now, sometimes another than a priest might be more discreet than many priests are in imposing the measure of satisfaction on the penitent. Therefore it is not necessary to confess to a priest.

Objection 4. Further, confession was instituted in the Church in order that the rectors might know their sheep by sight. But sometimes a rector or prelate is not a priest. Therefore confession should not always be made to a priest.

On the contrary, The absolution of the penitent, for the sake of which he makes his confession, is imparted by none but priests to whom the keys are entrusted. Therefore confession should be made to a priest.

Further, confession is foreshadowed in the raising of the dead Lazarus to life. Now our Lord commanded none but the disciples to loose Lazarus (John 11:44). Therefore confession should be made to a priest.

I answer that, The grace which is given in the sacraments, descends from the Head to the members. Wherefore he alone who exercises a ministry over Christ's true body is a minister of the sacraments, wherein grace is given; and this belongs to a priest alone, who can consecrate the Eucharist. Therefore, since grace is given in the sacrament of Penance, none but a priest is the minister of the sacrament: and consequently sacramental confession which should be made to a minister of the Church, should be made to none but a priest.

Reply to Objection 1. James speaks on the presupposition of the Divine institutions: and since confession had already been prescribed by God to be made to a priest, in that He empowered them, in the person of the apostles, to forgive sins, as related in John 20:23, we must take the words of James as conveying an admonishment to confess to priests.

Reply to Objection 2. Baptism is a sacrament of greater necessity than Penance, as regards confession and absolution, because sometimes Baptism cannot be omitted without loss of eternal salvation, as in the case of children who have not come to the use of reason: whereas this cannot be said of confession and absolution, which regard none but adults, in whom contrition, together with the purpose of confessing and the desire of absolution, suffices to deliver them from everlasting death. Consequently there is no parity between Baptism and confession.

Reply to Objection 3. In satisfaction we must consider not only the quantity of the punishment but also its power, inasmuch as it is part of a sacrament. In this way it requires a dispenser of the sacraments, though the quantity of the punishment may be fixed by another than a priest.

Reply to Objection 4. It may be necessary for two reasons to know the sheep by sight. First, in order to register them as members of Christ's flock, and to know the sheep by sight thus belongs to the pastoral charge and care, which is sometimes the duty of those who are not priests. Secondly, that they may be provided with suitable remedies for their health; and to know the sheep by sight thus belongs to the man, i.e. the priest, whose business it is to provide remedies conducive to health, such as the sacrament of the Eucharist, and other like things. It is to this knowledge of the sheep that confession is ordained.


65 Cf. In 20:23; ⇒ 2 Cor 5:18.
66 Cf. LG 26 # 3.
67 Cf. ⇒ CIC cann. 844; ⇒ 967-969; ⇒ 972; CCEO, can. 722 ## 3-4.
68 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 1331; ⇒ 1354-1357; CCEO, can. 1431; 1434; 1420.
69 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 976; CCEO, can. 725.
70 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 486; CCEO, can. 735; PO 13.
71 Cf. PO 13.
72 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1388 # 1; CCEO, can. 1456.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1450-1460, 1491-1494 – The Acts of the Penitent in the Sacrament of Penance

clock April 4, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the acts of the penitent in the Sacrament of Penance. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

VII. The Acts of the Penitent

1450 "Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction."49


1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."50

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51

1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.52

1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.53

The confession of sins

1455 The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."54

When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."55

1457 According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year."56 Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.57 Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.58

1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.59 Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:60

Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear "man" - this is what God has made; when you hear "sinner" - this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made .... When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.61


1459 Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.62 Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance."

1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent's personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."63

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of "him who strengthens" us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth "fruits that befit repentance." These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.64


1491 The sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.

1492 Repentance (also called contrition) must be inspired by motives that arise from faith. If repentance arises from love of charity for God, it is called "perfect" contrition; if it is founded on other motives, it is called "imperfect."

1493 One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. The confession of venial faults, without being necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.

1494 The confessor proposes the performance of certain acts of "satisfaction" or "penance" to be performed by the penitent in order to repair the harm caused by sin and to re-establish habits befitting a disciple of Christ.

In the “Summa Theologica” (4, 90, 2), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the parts of the Sacrament of Penance.

Article 2. Whether contrition, confession, and satisfaction are fittingly assigned as parts of Penance?

Objection 1. It would seem that contrition, confession, and satisfaction are not fittingly assigned as parts of Penance. For contrition is in the heart, and so belongs to interior penance; while confession consists of words, and satisfaction in deeds; so that the two latter belong to interior penance. Now interior penance is not a sacrament, but only exterior penance which is perceptible by the senses. Therefore these three parts are not fittingly assigned to the sacrament of Penance.

Objection 2. Further, grace is conferred in the sacraments of the New Law, as stated above (62, 1,3). But no grace is conferred in satisfaction. Therefore satisfaction is not part of a sacrament.

Objection 3. Further, the fruit of a thing is not the same as its part. But satisfaction is a fruit of penance, according to Luke 3:8: "Bring forth . . . fruits worthy of penance." Therefore it is not a part of Penance.

Objection 4. Further, Penance is ordained against sin. But sin can be completed merely in the thought by consent, as stated in I-II, 72, 7: therefore Penance can also. Therefore confession in word and satisfaction in deed should not be reckoned as parts ofPenance.

On the contrary, It seems that yet more parts should be assigned to Penance. For not only is the body assigned as a part ofman, as being the matter, but also the soul, which is his form. But the aforesaid three, being the acts of the penitent, stand asmatter, while the priestly absolution stands as form. Therefore the priestly absolution should be assigned as a fourth part ofPenance.

I answer that, A part is twofold, essential and quantitative. The essential parts are naturally the form and the matter, andlogically the genus and the difference. In this way, each sacrament is divided into matter and form as its essential parts. Hence it has been said above (60, 5,6) that sacraments consist of things and words. But since quantity is on the part of matter,quantitative parts are parts of matter: and, in this way, as stated above (Article 1), parts are assigned specially to the sacrament of Penance, as regards the acts of the penitent, which are the matter of this sacrament.

Now it has been said above (85, 3, ad 3) that an offense is atoned otherwise in Penance than in vindictive justice. Because, in vindictive justice the atonement is made according to the judge's decision, and not according to the discretion of the offender or of the person offended; whereas, in Penance, the offense is atoned according to the will of the sinner, and the judgment of Godagainst Whom the sin was committed, because in the latter case we seek not only the restoration of the equality of justice, as in vindictive justice, but also and still more the reconciliation of friendship, which is accomplished by the offender making atonementaccording to the will of the person offended. Accordingly the first requisite on the part of the penitent is the will to atone, and this is done by contrition; the second is that he submit to the judgment of the priest standing in God's place, and this is done inconfession; and the third is that he atone according to the decision of God's minister, and this is done in satisfaction: and socontrition, confession, and satisfaction are assigned as parts of Penance.

Reply to Objection 1. Contrition, as to its essence, is in the heart, and belongs to interior penance; yet, virtually, it belongs to exterior penance, inasmuch as it implies the purpose of confessing and making satisfaction.

Reply to Objection 2. Satisfaction confers grace, in so far as it is in man's purpose, and it increases grace, according as it is accomplished, just as Baptism does in adults, as stated above (68, 2; 69, 8).

Reply to Objection 3. Satisfaction is a part of Penance as a sacrament, and a fruit of penance as a virtue.

Reply to Objection 4. More things are required for good, "which proceeds from a cause that is entire," than for evil, "which results from each single defect," as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. iv). And thus, although sin is completed in the consent of the heart, yet the perfection of Penance requires contrition of the heart, together with confession in word and satisfaction in deed.

The Reply to the Fifth Objection is clear from what has been said.


49 Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673.
50 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676.
51 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1677.
52 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1678; 1705.
53 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5-7; ⇒ Rom 12-15; ⇒ 1 Cor 12-13; ⇒ Gal 5; ⇒ Eph 4-6; etc.
54 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; ⇒ Mt 5:28.
55 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl. 10, 11: PL 23:1096.
56 Cf. ⇒ CIC, Can. 989; Council of Trent (1551): DS 1683; DS 1708.
57 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1647; 1661; ⇒ CIC, can. 916; CCEO, can. 711.
58 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 914.
59 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1680; ⇒ CIC, can. 988 # 2.
60 Cf. ⇒ Lk 6:36.
61 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 12, 13: PL 35, 1491.
62 Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712.
63 ⇒ Rom 8:17; ⇒ Rom 3:25; ⇒ 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.
64 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. ⇒ Phil 4:13; ⇒ 1 Cor 1:31; ⇒ 2 Cor 10:17; ⇒ Gal 6:14; ⇒ Lk 3:8[ETML:C/].

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1440-1449 – The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

clock April 3, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the ministry of the Church in the forgiveness of sins. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

VI. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

1440 Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.38

Only God forgives sin

1441 Only God forgives sins.39 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven."40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.41

1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation."42 The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."43

Reconciliation with the Church

1443 During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God's forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.44

1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."45 "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head."46

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.

The sacrament of forgiveness

1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."47

1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this "order of penitents" (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the "private" practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day.

1448 Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God's action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion.

1449 The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church:

God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.48

In the “Summa Theologica” (3, 84, 7), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the institution of the Sacrament of Penance.

Article 7. Whether this sacrament was suitably instituted in the New Law?

Objection 1. It would seem that this sacrament was unsuitably instituted in the New Law. Because those things which belong to the natural law need not to be instituted. Now it belongs to the natural law that one should repent of the evil one has done: for it is impossible to love good without grieving for its contrary. Therefore Penance was unsuitably instituted in the New Law.

Objection 2. Further, that which existed in the Old Law had not to be instituted in the New. Now there was Penance in the oldLaw wherefore the Lord complains (Jeremiah 8:6) saying: "There is none that doth penance for his sin, saying: What have I done?" Therefore Penance should not have been instituted in the New Law.

Objection 3. Further, Penance comes after Baptism, since it is a second plank, as stated above (Article 6). Now it seems that our Lord instituted Penance before Baptism, because we read that at the beginning of His preaching He said (Matthew 4:17): "Dopenance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Therefore this sacrament was not suitably instituted in the New Law.

Objection 4. Further, the sacraments of the New Law were instituted by Christ, by Whose power they work, as stated above (62, 5; 64, 1). But Christ does not seem to have instituted this sacrament, since He made no use of it, as of the other sacramentswhich He instituted. Therefore this sacrament was unsuitably instituted in the New Law.

On the contrary, our Lord said (Luke 24:46-47): "It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day: and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all nations."

I answer that, As stated above (1, ad 1, ad 2), in this sacrament the acts of the penitent are as matter, while the part taken by the priest, who works as Christ's minister, is the formal and completive element of the sacrament. Now in the other sacramentsthe matter pre-exists, being provided by nature, as water, or by art, as bread: but that such and such a matter be employed for asacrament requires to be decided by the institution; while the sacrament derives its form and power entirely from the institution of Christ, from Whose Passion the power of the sacraments proceeds.

Accordingly the matter of this sacrament pre-exists, being provided by nature; since it is by a natural principle of reason that manis moved to repent of the evil he has done: yet it is due to Divine institution that man does penance in this or that way. Wherefore at the outset of His preaching, our Lord admonished men, not only to repent, but also to "do penance," thus pointing to the particular manner of actions required for this sacrament. As to the part to be taken by the ministers, this was fixed by our Lord when He said to Peter (Matthew 16:19): "To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven," etc.; but it was after Hisresurrection that He made known the efficacy of this sacrament and the source of its power, when He said (Luke 24:47) that "penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all nations," after speaking of His Passion and resurrection. Because it is from the power of the name of Jesus Christ suffering and rising again that this sacrament is efficacious unto the remission of sins.

It is therefore evident that this sacrament was suitably instituted in the New Law.

Reply to Objection 1. It is a natural law that one should repent of the evil one has done, by grieving for having done it, and by seeking a remedy for one's grief in some way or other, and also that one should show some signs of grief, even as the Ninevitesdid, as we read in Jonah 3. And yet even in their case there was also something of faith which they had received through Jonas'preaching, inasmuch as they did these things in the hope that they would receive pardon from God, according as we read (Jonah 3:9): "Who can tell if God will turn and forgive, and will turn away from His fierce anger, and we shall not perish?" But just as other matters which are of the natural law were fixed in detail by the institution of the Divine law, as we have stated in I-II, 91, 4; I-II, 95, 2; I-II, 99, so was it with Penance.

Reply to Objection 2. Things which are of the natural law were determined in various ways in the old and in the New Law, in keeping with the imperfection of the old, and the perfection of the New. Wherefore Penance was fixed in a certain way in the Old Law--with regard to sorrow, that it should be in the heart rather than in external signs, according to Joel 2:13: "Rend your hearts and not your garments"; and with regard to seeking a remedy for sorrow, that they should in some way confess their sins, at least in general, to God's ministers. Wherefore the Lord said (Leviticus 5:17-18): "If anyone sin through ignorance . . . he shalloffer of the flocks a ram without blemish to the priest, according to the measure and estimation of the sin, and the priest shallpray for him, because he did it ignorantly, and it shall be forgiven him"; since by the very fact of making an offering for his sin, a man, in a fashion, confessed his sin to the priest. And accordingly it is written (Proverbs 28:13): "He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper: but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy." Not yet, however, was the power of the keysinstituted, which is derived from Christ's Passion, and consequently it was not yet ordained that a man should grieve for his sin, with the purpose of submitting himself by confession and satisfaction to the keys of the Church, in the hope of receiving forgiveness through the power of Christ's Passion.

Reply to Objection 3. If we note carefully what our Lord said about the necessity of Baptism (John 3:3, sqq.), we shall see that this was said before His words about the necessity of Penance (Matthew 4:17); because He spoke to Nicodemus about Baptismbefore the imprisonment of John, of whom it is related afterwards (John 3:23-24) that he baptized, whereas His words aboutPenance were said after John was cast into prison.

If, however, He had admonished men to do penance before admonishing them to be baptized, this would be because also beforeBaptism some kind of penance is required, according to the words of Peter (Acts 2:38): "Do penance, and be baptized, every one of you."

Reply to Objection 4. Christ did not use the Baptism which He instituted, but was baptized with the baptism of John, as stated above (39, 1,2). Nor did He use it actively by administering it Himself, because He "did not baptize" as a rule, "but His disciples" did, as related in John 4:2, although it is to be believed that He baptized His disciples, as Augustine asserts (Ep. cclxv, ad Seleuc.). But with regard to His institution of this sacrament it was nowise fitting that He should use it, neither by repenting Himself, in Whom there was no sin, nor by administering the sacrament to others, since, in order to show His mercy and power, He was wont to confer the effect of this sacrament without the sacrament itself, as stated above (5, ad 3). On the other hand, He both received and gave to others the sacrament of the Eucharist, both in order to commend the excellence of that sacrament, and because that sacrament is a memorial of His Passion, in which Christ is both priest and victim.


38 Cf. LG 11.
39 Cf. ⇒ Mk 2:7[ETML:C/].
40 ⇒ Mk 2:5, ⇒ 10; ⇒ Lk 7:48.
41 Cf. ⇒ Jn 20:21-23.
42 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:18.
43 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:20.
44 Cf. ⇒ Lk 15; ⇒ 19:9.
45 ⇒ Mt 16:19; cf. ⇒ Mt 18:18; ⇒ 28:16-20.
46 LG 22 # 2.
47 Tertullian, De Paenit. 4, 2: PL 1,1343; cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1542.
48 OP 46: formula of absolution.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1434-1439 – Penance in Christian Life

clock April 2, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Penance in Christian Life. Supporting material comes from “Sacrosanctum Concilium”.

V. The Many Forms of Penance in Christian Life

1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,31 which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins."32

1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,33 by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.34

1436 Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. "It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins."35

1437 Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.

1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:37 The fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” discusses the penitential season: Lent.

109. The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. Hence:

a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some of them, which used to flourish in bygone days, are to be restored as may seem good.

b) The same is to apply to the penitential elements. As regards instruction it is important to impress on the minds of the faithful not only a social consequences of sin but also that essence of the virtue of penance which leads to the detestation of sin as an offence against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.

110. During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions, and according to the circumstances of the faithful; it should be encouraged by the authorities mentioned in Art. 22.

Nevertheless, let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind.


31 Cf. ⇒ Tob 12:8; ⇒ Mt 6:1-18.
32 ⇒ 1 Pet 4:8; Cf. ⇒ Jas 5:20.
33 Cf. ⇒ Am 5:24; ⇒ Isa 1:17.
34 Cf. ⇒ Lk 9:23.
35 Council of Trent (1551) DS 1638.
36 Cf. SC 109-110; ⇒ CIC, cann. 1249-1253.; CCEO, Cann. 880-883
37 Cf. ⇒ Lk 15:11-24.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1425-1433, 1487-1490 – Reconciliation: Conversion and Interior Penance

clock April 1, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss conversion after Baptism and Interior Penance. Supporting material comes from St. Ambrose’s “Letters”.

II. Why a Sacrament of Reconciliation after Baptism?

1425 "YOU were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."9 One must appreciate the magnitude of the gift God has given us in the sacraments of Christian initiation in order to grasp the degree to which sin is excluded for him who has "put on Christ."10 But the apostle John also says: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."11 and the Lord himself taught us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses,"12 linking our forgiveness of one another's offenses to the forgiveness of our sins that God will grant us.

1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us "holy and without blemish," just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is "holy and without blemish."13 Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.14 This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.15

III. The Conversion of the Baptized

1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."16 In the Church's preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism17 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.

1428 Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, (is) at once holy and always in need of purification, (and) follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."18 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.19

1429 St. Peter's conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus' look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord's resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.20 The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord's call to a whole Church: "Repent!"21

St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, "there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance."22

IV. Interior Penance

1430 Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.23

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).24

1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart.25 Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!"26 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:27

Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.

1433 Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved "the world wrong about sin,"29 i.e., proved that the world has not believed in him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.30


1487 The sinner wounds God's honor and love, his own human dignity as a man called to be a son of God, and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each Christian ought to be a living stone.

1488 To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world.

1489 To return to communion with God after having lost it through sin is a process born of the grace of God who is rich in mercy and solicitous for the salvation of men. One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.

1490 The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God's mercy.

St. Ambrose discusses the two conversions, “water” and “tears” in his Letters (41, 12).

12. And he pours water upon the feet of Christ, who purifies his conscience from the defilement of sin, for Christ walks in the breast of each. Take heed, then, not to have your conscience polluted, and so to begin to defile the feet of Christ. Take heed lest He encounter a thorn of wickedness in you, whereby as He walks in you His heel may be wounded. For this was why the Pharisee gave no water for the feet of Christ, that he had not a soul pure from the filth of unbelief. For how could he cleanse his conscience who had not received the water of Christ? But the Church both has this water and has tears. For faith which mourns over former sins is wont to guard against fresh ones. Therefore, Simon the Pharisee, who had no water, had also, of course, no tears. For how should he have tears who had no penitence? For since he believed not in Christ he had no tears. For if he had had them he would have washed his eyes, that he might see Christ, Whom, though he sat at meat with Him, he saw not. For had he seen Him, he would not have doubted of His power.


9 ⇒ 1 Cor 6:11.
10 ⇒ Gal 3:27.
11  ⇒ 1 Jn 1:8[ETML:C/].
12 Cf. ⇒ Lk 11:4; ⇒ Mt 6:12.
13 ⇒ Eph 1:4; ⇒ 5:27.
14 Cf. Council of Trent (1546) DS 1515.
15 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545; LG 40.
16 ⇒ Mk 1:15.
17 Cf. ⇒ Acts 2:38.
18 LG 8 # 3.
19 ⇒ Ps 51:17; cf. ⇒ Jn 6:44; ⇒ 12:32; ⇒ 1 Jn 4:10.
20 Cf. ⇒ Lk 22:61; ⇒ Jn 21:15-17.
21 ⇒ Rev 2:5, ⇒ 16.
22 St. Ambrose, ep. 41, 12: PL 16, 1116.
23 Cf. ⇒ Joel 2:12-13; ⇒ Isa 1:16-17; ⇒ Mt 6:1-6; ⇒ 16-18.
24 Cf. Council of Trent (1551) DS 1676-1678; 1705; Cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4.
25 Cf. ⇒ Ezek 36:26-27.
26 ⇒ Lam 5:21.
27 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:37; ⇒ Zech 12:10.
29 Cf. ⇒ Jn 16:8-9.
30 Cf. ⇒ Jn 15:26; ⇒ Acts 2:36-38; John Paul II, DeV 27-48.