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'Quick Help' Page: Perfect Contrition/Confessing Sins

 

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Perfect Contrition

Confession of Sins

Sacrament of Penance

Confessing to a Priest

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"When someone has perfect contrition, like my friend, does he still need to go to a priest to confess his sins? Can he confess his sins to his sponsor even though his sponsor is not a priest? I don't understand when you confess your sins to a priest then you're healed because you realized what you did in front of God?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

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Regarding your query, please note the following...

* I don't see how you could be absolutely certain that someone has "perfect contrition", as this relates to an interior disposition. Also, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent states...

"Contrition, it is true, blots out sin; but who does not know that to effect this it must be so intense, so ardent, so vehement, as to bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crimes which it effaces? This is a degree of contrition which few reach; and hence, in this way, very few indeed could hope to obtain the pardon of their sins (through contrition alone)."

* Even if someone who committed a mortal sin has 'perfect contrition', they would still need to have a sacramental Confession if it was possible to do so...

"Perfect contrition will obtain pardon for mortal sin without the Sacrament of Penance when we cannot go to confession, but with the perfect contrition we must have the intention of going to confession as soon as possible, if we again have the opportunity." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Perfect sorrow does not obtain us pardon of our sins independently of confession, because it always includes the intention to confess them." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"The Council teaches, furthermore, that though it sometimes happens that this contrition is perfect because of charity and reconciles man to God, before this sacrament [of Penance] is actually received, this reconciliation nevertheless must not be ascribed to the contrition itself without the desire of the sacrament which is included in it." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

In fact, we should always desire to have perfect contrition, even when going to Confession...

"Imperfect contrition is sufficient for a worthy [sacramental] confession, but we should endeavor to have perfect contrition." (Baltimore Catechism)

* A lay sponsor can NOT forgive a person's sins only priests have the authority & power to do that.

* One is NOT forgiven for one's sins (or "healed") because they "realized what they did in front of God". One is forgiven in Confession via the power of the priesthood (see Jn. 20:21-23), assuming the person is truly sorry & properly disposed. It is true that forgiveness can also be achieved via perfect contrition, but again the Catechism of the Council of Trent indicates that "very few" can hope to obtain pardon through contrition alone, and a sacramental Confession would still be required, if it was possible.

For more information on confession, please try here.


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