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Reflections: Sacraments Section (Penance/Basics)


Return to Penance/Confession Rflctns. | Sacraments Sctn.


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Penance / Confession (Basics/Misc.)

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Penance / Confession (Basics / Misc.)



Penance / Confession (Basics / Misc.)

Also See: Penance / Confession (Topic Page)

"(Jesus) said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'" (Jn. 20:21-23)

"Confess all your sins." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"No power can the impenitent absolve." (Dante)

"You should be ashamed to commit sin, but not to repent." 

"For the Lord is close to the contrite of heart." (Second Council of Nicaea)

"You can't hide, but you can confess." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"So long as there is sin in the world so long must there be penance." (Benson)

"Sin is not forgiven unless restitution be made" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Can. 965 A priest alone is the minister of the sacrament of penance." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"To the one who still remains in this world, no repentance is too late." (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"Repentance is the renewal of Baptism and a contract with God for a second life." (St. John Climacus)

"He, who, in repenting of his sins, thinks only of God, has the truest contrition." (St. John Vianney)

"Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Confess your offenses in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience." (Didache, c. 140 A.D.)

"By the authority of Christ our Lord, the priest in Confession acts as 'God's ear' and 'God's voice'."

"Let your love be in proportion to your pardon, and doubt it not: Your sins shall be forgiven." (Gueranger)

"Dost thou not know that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Pope St. Callixtus, c. 220 A.D.)

"It is better for a man to confess his sins than to harden his heart." (Pope St. Clement, 1st century A.D.)

"After we have offended God, the Devil labors to keep the mouth closed, and to prevent us from confessing our guilt." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"[T]he case is not desperate for a person to have been wounded, but for him to neglect the cure of his wounds." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"For if the sick man is ashamed to confess his wound to the physician, medicine will not cure that to which it is not applied." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"A soul does not benefit as it should from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. Pride keeps it in darkness." (St. Faustina Kowalska)

"Mere renouncement of sin is not sufficient for the salvation of penitents, but fruits worthy of penance are also required of them." (St. Basil, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"Nothing is better able to restrain the movements of the soul, better able to subject to right reason the natural appetites, than penance." (Pope Pius XII)

"Can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Repentance is the returning from the unnatural to the natural state, from the devil to God, through discipline and effort." (St. John of Damascus, Doctor of the Church)

"Within the Church sins are forgiven in three ways: by baptism, by prayer, and by the greater humility of penance." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"In almost every case, fallen-away Catholics begin the process of moral disintegration by questioning the need for the Sacrament of Confession." (Clowes)

"Can. 907 The precept of confessing sins is not satisfied by one who makes a sacrilegious confession or one that is intentionally null." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 991 All Christ's faithful are free to confess their sins to lawfully approved confessors of their own choice, even to one of another rite." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 980 If the confessor is in no doubt about the penitent's disposition and the penitent asks for absolution, it is not to be denied or delayed." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 986 §2 In an urgent necessity, every confessor is bound to hear the confessions of Christ's faithful, and in danger of death every priest is so obliged." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Penance is ordained for the destruction of sin." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"We declare it a mock penance if it is not imposed according to the authority of the holy fathers in proportion to the sin." (Pope St. Gregory VII)

"There are many souls stretched out on a psychoanalytic couch today who would be far better off if they brought their consciences to the confessional box." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

"Through the office of priests those should be reconciled to Holy Church by doing penance, who have departed from this society by sinning." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church, 8th century A.D.)

"The minister to whom confession is made the delegate of Christ, Who is the judge of the living and the dead." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is an abuse to confess any kind of sin, whether mortal or venial, without a will to be delivered from it, since confession was instituted for no other end." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"The sorrow of contrition is a hindrance to worldly joy, but not to the joy which is about God" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Do your realize that what the priest does validly is also bound in heaven? So when you are forgiven, God is bound to abide by the decisions of his authorized earthly representatives?"

"Can. 990 No one is forbidden to confess through an interpreter, provided however that abuse and scandal are avoided, and without prejudice to the provision of can. 983 §2." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Properly speaking, there are especially two kinds of compunction: for the soul that thirsts for God is first sorry in his heart from fear, and them from love." (Pope St. Gregory I the Great, Doctor of the Church, 6th century A.D.)

"Can. 870 In the sacrament of penance, through judicial absolution imparted by a legitimate minister, those sins committed after baptism are remitted from the rightly disposed faithful." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 966 §1 The valid absolution of sins requires that the minister have, in addition to the power of orders, the faculty of exercising it for the faithful to whom he imparts absolution." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 906 All members of the faithful of either sex after attaining the years of discretion, that is, the use of reason, are bound faithfully to confess all their sins at least once a year." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Even when one confesses his sins, he ought to do so with praise of God; nor is a confession of sins a pious one unless it be made without despair, and with a prayer for God's mercy." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"[T]he perfection of Penance requires contrition of the heart, together with confession in word and satisfaction in deed." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Our Lord knew the proneness of human infirmity to sin, but because He is merciful, He does not allow us to despair, but rather has compassion, and gives us repentance as a saving remedy." (St. Cyril, Doctor of the Church)

"We should perform our penance overwhelmed with joy at being able to satisfy God, whom we have offended, and at finding such an easy means of effacing our sins which should have earned eternal sufferings for us." (St. John Vianney)

"Let no one then ever put forth so cold an excuse as, I dare not, I am ashamed, I cannot open my mouth. The devils have that kind of fear. The devil would fain close against you every door of access to God." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Remember that when the priest gives you absolution, you have but one thing to think of - that the Blood of the good God is flowing over your soul to purify it and make it as bright as it was made by its Baptism." (St. John Vianney)

"Can. 979 In asking questions the priest is to act with prudence and discretion, taking into account the condition and the age of the penitent, and he is to refrain from enquiring the name of a partner in sin." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 910 § 1 The confessions of women should not be heard outside [the confessional] except in cases of illness or other true necessity, and following the precautions that the local Ordinary decides are opportune." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"The faithful, therefore, are first to be admonished and exhorted to labor strenuously to attain this interior penance of the heart which we call a virtue, and without which exterior penance can avail them very little." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"If any one saith, that in the Catholic Church Penance is not truly and properly a sacrament, instituted by Christ our Lord for reconciling the faithful unto God, as often as they fall into sin after baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is bound personally to fulfil these penances." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"In Holy Church the remission of even crimes themselves, no matter how great they may be, by God's mercy need not be despaired of by those who do penance according to the gravity of their sins." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"If any one saith, that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is no other than the faith whereby they apprehend that Christ has satisfied for them; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Can. 976 Any [validly ordained] priest, even though he lacks the faculty to hear confessions, can validly and lawfully absolve any penitents who are in danger of death, from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 987 In order that the faithful may receive the saving remedy of the sacrament of penance, they must be so disposed that, repudiating the sins they have committed and having the purpose of amending their lives, they turn back to God." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"This carelessness and indifference to one's own welfare sometimes go so far as to lead to neglect even of the sacrament of Penance, which Christ, in his great mercy, has given us as a most timely aid to human weakness." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"For just as fevers are not able to be assuaged when they are deep seated, but offer a hope of cessation when they break, so too the illness of sins burn on while it is hidden, but disappears when it shows itself in confessions." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 385 A.D.)

"If any one, confounding the sacraments, saith that baptism is itself the sacrament of Penance, as though these two Sacraments were not distinct, and that therefore Penance is not rightly called a second plank after shipwreck; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"[T]he Church obliges all to confess once a year; because she commands all to receive Holy Communion once a year, viz. at Easter, wherefore all must go to confession before that time." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"If any one saith, that bishops have not the right of reserving cases to themselves, except as regards external polity, and that therefore the reservation of cases hinders not but that a priest may truly absolve from reserved cases; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"The difficulty and the shame of confessing one's sins could seem heavy indeed, if it were not lightened by many wonderful advantages and consolations which most assuredly are conferred in absolution on all those who approach this sacrament [of Penance] worthily." (Council of Trent)

"The person who turns to good is set free, even if his life is marred by a multitude of mistakes and the sum of his evil deeds seems like a thousand years. It is nothing as far as turning to God is concerned, for his eye always considers the present, not the past." (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

"Do not imitate those who deceive themselves by saying: 'I will sin and then go to confession.' How do you know that you will have time to make your confession? Is it not madness to wound oneself, in the hope that a doctor will be found who will heal the wound?" (St. John Bosco)

"My children, when we have a little stain on our souls, we must do like someone who has a beautiful crystal globe of which she takes great care. If the globe gets a little dusty, when she sees it, she will pass a sponge over it, and there is the globe bright and shining again." (St. John Vianney)

"If any one saith, that the satisfaction, by which penitents redeem their sins through Jesus Christ, are not a worship of God, but traditions of men, which obscure the doctrine of grace, and the true worship of God, and the benefit itself of the death of Christ; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"It is not enough for a man to change his ways for the better and to give up the practice of evil, unless by painful penance, sorrowing humility, the sacrifice of a contrite heart and the giving of alms he makes amends to God for all that he has done wrong." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Let us not then be ashamed to confess our sins unto the Lord. Shame indeed there is when each makes known his sins, but that shame, as it were, ploughs his land, removes the ever recurring brambles, prunes the thorns, and gives life to the fruits which he believed were dead." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"Repeated sickness must have repeated medicine. You will show your gratitude to the Lord by not refusing what the Lord offers to you. You have offended but can be reconciled. You have One Whom you may satisfy, and Him willing." [Tertullian ("an excellent early Christian writer" - although he would ultimately fall into heresy), 3rd century A.D.]

"How inconstant it is to expect pardon of sins to be granted to a repentance which they have not fulfilled. This is to hold out your hand for merchandise, but not produce the price. For repentance is the price at which the Lord has determined to award pardon." [Tertullian ("an excellent early Christian writer" - although he would ultimately fall into heresy), 3rd century A.D.]

"In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the sacrament of Penance." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Baptism blots out all sins together and introduces a new life; whereas Penance does not blot out each sin, unless it be directed to each. For this reason it is necessary to be contrite for, and to confess each sin." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Can. 985 The director and assistant director of novices, and the rector of a seminary or of any other institute of education, are not to hear the sacramental confessions of their students resident in the same house, unless in individual instances the students of their own accord request it." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"See, my children, to receive the Sacrament of Absolution, we need three things: faith, which reveals to us the presence of God in the priest; hope, which enables us to believe that God will give us His pardon; charity, which makes us love God and fills our heart with regret for having displeased Him." (St. John Vianney)

"If any one desires to perform a proper penance, he must needs go back to the origins of his faith and with watchful care keep the promise made at his baptism, namely, to renounce the Devil and all his works and to believe in God, that is, to have the right idea of him, and to obey his commandments." (Pope St. Gregory VII)

"Where punishment for sins is prescribed there ought to be penance; where remission is given to sinners there also is grace. Penance proceeds; grace follows. There is neither penance without grace nor grace without penance, for penance should first condemn the sin so that grace can do away with it." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"Can. 901 Whoever perpetrates a mortal [sin] that has not yet been directly remitted through the keys of the Church [in the sacrament of Penance] must after a thorough in all respects [examination] of conscience confess and explain in confession the circumstances that change the species [e.g. seriousness] of the sin." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Can. 881 § 1 All priests of either type of clergy who are approved for the hearing of confessions in a place, wither so enabled by ordinary or delegated jurisdiction, can also validly and licitly absolve wanderers and travelers from another diocese or parish coming to them, and likewise Catholics of any oriental rite." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 1340 §1 A penance, which is imposed in the external forum, is the performance of some work of religion or piety or charity. §2 A public penance is never to be imposed for an occult [secret] transgression. §3 According to his prudent judgement, the Ordinary may add penances to the penal remedy of warning or correction." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"The custom of never admitting children to confession, or of never absolving them when they have arrived at the use of reason, is to be disapproved entirely. Therefore, the local ordinaries will see to it, even by applying the remedy of the law, that this custom is entirely abandoned." (Congregation on the Sacraments, "Quem singulari", August 8, 1910 A.D.)

"Although the priest may be unable to absolve the penitent from all his sins, yet the latter is bound to confess all to him, that he may know the total quantity of his guilt, and refer him to the superior with regard to the sins from which he cannot absolve him." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Can. 986 §1 All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed, are bound to provide for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them, who reasonably request confession, and they are to provide these faithful with an opportunity to make individual confession on days and at times arranged to suit them." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"But although the absolution of the priest [in the sacrament of Penance] is the granting of a gift that is not his own, nevertheless, it is not merely a simple ministry that consists in announcing the gospel or of declaring that the sins are remitted; but it is like a judicial act whereby the sentence is pronounced by the priest as a judge." (Council of Trent)

"When anyone has really give up his sins, he must not be content simply with bewailing them. He must give up, leave far behind, and fly from anything which is capable of leading him in the direction of them again. In other words, my dear brethren, we must be ready to suffer anything rather than fall back into those sins which we have just confessed." (St. John Vianney)

"The Church's ministers do not remit sin of their own authority as principal efficient causes. Only God can do that... They should not be called givers of grace, for that implies authority, but rather ministers of the granting of Christ's grace." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"How are they to be dealt with who avoid the greater sins but do not hesitate to commit the lesser ones? ... First of all, it must be understood that this distinction has no basis in the New Testament. A single declaration is made against all sins, when the Lord days, 'He that sins is the slave of sin.'" (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 371 A.D.)

"The same rationale is observed in the declaring of one's sins as in the detection of physical diseases. Just as the diseases of the body are not divulged to all, nor haphazardly, but to those who are skilled in curing them, so too our declaration of our sins should be made to those empowered to cure them" (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 371 A.D.)

"If the serpent, the devil, has secretly and without the knowledge of a third person, bitten anyone, and has infused into him the poison of sin; if unwilling to disclose his wound to his brother or master, he is silent and will not do penance, his master, who has a tongue ready to cure him, can render him no service." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"By Church teaching, no sin is merely personal. It is an affront to God and inevitably harms God's creation - one's family, friends, and neighbors. A priest acts in persona Christi, granting forgiveness in Christ's name and admonishing the sinner to sin no more, giving him penance as a means to expiate temporal punishment due to sin." (Crocker)

"We cannot do penance worthily unless we know what penance really is. For to do penance is both to weep for wicked deeds done, and not to do anymore what we would have to weep over. For anyone who deplores some sins but still commits others either dissimulates in doing penance, or does not know what penance is." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church, 6th century A.D.)

"If you wish to be justified, confess your sin. For a shamefaced confession of sins breaks the bond of your crimes. You see what God, your God, demands of you: that you keep in mind the grace you have received that you do not boast as if you had not received it. You see by what a promise of forgiveness He draws you to confession." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 387 A.D.)

"Can. 884 The absolution of an accomplice in a sin of turpitude is invalid, except in danger of death; even in case of danger of death, outside of a case of necessity, it is illicit on the part of the confessor according to the norm of the apostolic constitutions, specifically the constitution of Benedict XIV Sacramentum Poenitentiae of 1 Jun. 1741" (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"I entreat you, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while the satisfaction and remission made by the priests are pleasing to the Lord. Let us turn to the Lord with our whole heart, and expressing our repentance for our sin with true grief, let us entreat God's mercy." (St. Cyprian, 3rd century A.D.)

"Can. 988 §1 A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience. §2 It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church - instructed by Christ and his Apostles - has hitherto professed, observed, and taught; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Boethius says (De Consolatione Philosophiae i): 'If you want the physician to be of assistance to you, you must make your disease known to him.' But it is necessary for salvation that man should take medicine for his sins. Therefore it is necessary for salvation that man should make his disease known by means of confession." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"When we put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3.27), we become in Him an entirely new creature and obtain the full and complete remission of every sin. It is only with great effort and with great compunction on our part that we can obtain the same newness and sinlessness in the sacrament of penance, for such is the stipulation of divine justice. That is why the holy Fathers called penance 'a laborious kind of baptism'." (Council of Trent)

Error CONDEMNED by Pope Leo X in the Bull 'Exsurge Domine': "Sins are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also to believe that there has been forgiveness." (Pope Leo X, This error was condemned in the Bull 'Exsurge Domine', 1520 A.D.)

"The faithful, therefore, will see the great care that each one should take in selecting (as confessor) a priest, who is recommended by integrity of life, by learning and prudence, who is deeply impressed with the awful weight and responsibility of the station which he holds, who understands well the punishment due to every sin, and can also discern who are to be loosed and who are to be bound." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"If any one saith that satisfaction for sins as to their temporal punishment is nowise made to God through the merits of Jesus Christ by the punishments inflicted by Him and patiently borne, or by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntarily undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, almsdeeds, or by other works also of piety; and that therefore the best penance is merely a new life; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Again the priest in hearing a confession takes the place of God, so that confession should be made to him just as contrition is made to God: wherefore as there would be no contrition unless one were contrite for all the sins which one calls to mind, so is there no confession unless one confess all the sins that one remembers committing." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"There are venial sins and there are mortal sins. It is one thing to owe ten thousand talents, another to owe [but a minor amount]. We shall have to give an accounting for an idle word no less than for adultery. But to be made to blush and to be tortured are not the same thing; not the same thing to grow red in the face and to be in agony for a long time... There is a great difference between one sin and another." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, c. 393 A.D.)

"Yet those who do penance in accord with the kind of sin they have committed are not to despair of receiving God's mercy in the Holy Church, for the remission of their crimes, however serious. In the penitential action, however, where the crime committed was such that he who committed it is separated from the body of Christ, it is not so much the length of time as the depths of sorrow that is to be considered." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 421 A.D.)

"Although the entire punishment may be remitted by contrition, yet confession and satisfaction are still necessary, both because man cannot be sure that his contrition was sufficient to take away all, and because confession and satisfaction are a matter of precept: wherefore he becomes a transgressor, who confesses not and makes not satisfaction." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Note well that it is through the Holy Spirit that sins are forgiven. Men make use of their ministry in the forgiveness of sins, but they are not exercising any power that is theirs by right. It is not in heir own name, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit that they forgive sins. They ask and the divinity forgives. The ministration is of man, but the gift bestowed is from the Power on high." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, 381 A.D.)

"If any one saith, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven to him who confesses; provided only he believe himself to be absolved, or (even though) the priest absolve not in earnest, but in joke; or saith, that the confession of the penitent is not required, in order that the priest may be able to absolve him; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"If, therefore, by force or fraud, the penitent has taken any thing from his neighbor, he is bound to restitution. Likewise, if by word or deed he has injured his neighbor's honor or reputation, he is under an obligation of repairing the injury by procuring him some advantage or rendering him some service. Well known to all is the maxim of St. Augustine: The sin is not forgiven unless what has been taken away is restored." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Let confessors remember the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori on a similar matter: 'In general...in such cases the more severity the confessor uses with his penitents, the more will he help them towards their salvation; and on the contrary, the more cruel will he be the more he is benign.' St. Thomas of Villanova called such over-kind confessors: Impie pios - 'wickedly kind'; 'such charity is contrary to charity.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Ad Catholici Sacerdotii", 1935 A.D.)

"Still more pernicious is the fault of those who, yielding to a foolish bashfulness, cannot induce themselves to confess their sins. Such persons are to be encouraged by exhortation, and are to be reminded that there is no reason whatever why they should fear to disclose their sins, that to no one can it appear surprising if persons fall into sin, the common malady of the human race and the natural consequence of human infirmity." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Doing penance for one's sins is a first step towards obtaining forgiveness and winning eternal salvation. That is the clear and explicit teaching of Christ, and no one can fail to see how justified and how right the Catholic Church has always been in constantly insisting on this. She is the spokesman for her divine Redeemer. No individual Christian can grow in perfection, nor can Christianity gain in vigor, except it be on the basis of penance." (Pope John XXIII, 1962)

"If you want God to forgive, you must confess. Sin cannot go unpunished. It were unseemly, improper, and unjust for sin to go unpunished. Since, therefore, sin must not go unpunished, let it be punished by you, lest you be punished for it. Let your sin have you for its judge, not its patron. Go up and take the bench against yourself, and put your guilt before yourself. Do not put it behind you, or God will put it in front of you." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 5th century A.D.)

"When your heart has fallen, raise it gently, humbling yourself greatly before God, and acknowledging your fault, but without marveling at your fall; since it is no marvel that infirmity should be infirm, weakness weak, and frailty frail. But nevertheless heartily detest the offence of which you have been guilty in God's sight, and with hearty courage and confidence in his mercy, begin once more to seek that virtue from which you have fallen away." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"If any one saith, that the confession of all sins, such as it is observed in the Church, is impossible, and is a human tradition to be abolished by the godly; or that all and each of the faithful of Christ, of either sex, are not obliged thereunto once a year, conformably to the constitution of the great Council of Lateran, and that, for this cause, the faithful of Christ are to be persuaded not to confess during Lent; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Now this sacrament, namely the sacrament of Penance, consists...in the removal of a certain matter, viz. sin, in so far as sins are said to be the matter of Penance... This removal is expressed by the priest saying: 'I absolve thee': because sins are fetters, according to Proverbs 5:22. 'His own iniquities catch the wicked, and he is fast bound with the ropes of his own sins.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"If any one saith, that the keys are given to the Church, only to loose, not also to bind; and that, therefore, priests act contrary to the purpose of the keys, and contrary to the institution of Christ, when they impose punishments on those who confess; and that it is a fiction, that, after the eternal punishment, has, by virtue of the keys, been removed, there remains for the most part a temporal punishment to be discharged; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Can. 978 §1 In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is at once both judge and healer, and that he is constituted by God as a minister of both divine justice and divine mercy, so that he may contribute to the honor of God and the salvation of souls. §2 In administering the sacrament, the confessor, as a minister of the Church, is to adhere faithfully to the teaching of the magisterium and to the norms issued by the competent authority." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 964 §1 The proper place for hearing sacramental confessions is a church or oratory. §2 As far as the confessional is concerned, norms are to be issued by the Episcopal Conference, with the proviso however that confessionals, which the faithful who so wish may freely use, are located in an open place, and fitted with a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor. §3 Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 888 § 1 Priest, in hearing confessions, shall remember that they sustain in their person equally judges and physicians, constituted by God, to look after the divine honor and the welfare of souls. § 2 Let them in all respects avoid inquiring about the names of accomplices as well as useless or curious questions, particularly about the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, and particularly when they inquire about such things with young people ignorant of them." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Mighty is the Lord who pardons one man for the good deed of another, and while he approves of the one, forgives the other his sins. Why, O man, with you does not your fellowman prevail, when with God a servant has both the liberty to intercede in your behalf, and the power of obtaining what he asks? If you despair of the pardon of heavy sins, bring the prayers of others, bring the Church to pray for you, and at sight of this the Lord may pardon what man denies to you." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"For anyone who has been wounded in a battle ought not be reluctant to put himself in the care of a wise physician, because he was overcome and lost the battle. And when he has been healed, he will not be rejected by the king, but will again be counted and reckoned in his army. So also he that has been struck by Satan ought not be ashamed to bewail his folly, and to give it up, and to seek a remedy in repentance... [If] anyone is ashamed, he will not be able to be cured, since he does not wish to make his ills known to the physician" (St. Aphraates, c. 336-345 A.D.)

"If any one saith, that those words of the Lord the Savior, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, are not to be understood of the power of forgiving and of retaining sins in the Sacrament of penance, as the Catholic Church has always from the beginning understood them; but wrests them, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, to the power of preaching the gospel; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Who of us can now despair about not having his sins forgiven, when they, who crucified the Dispenser of pardon, experienced such abounding kindness? My soul, though you may be guilty of many crimes, do not despair. You may be caught in the web of your evil passions and may be subject to many severe temptations, nevertheless, disheartened one, you still have the hope of life. The bowels of mercy are available to you, and the cross, nails, lance, and Jesus' many blood-covered wounds are witnesses of that mercy." (Kempis)

"The Synod teaches furthermore, that so great is the liberality of the divine munificence, that we are able through Jesus Christ to make satisfaction to God the Father, not only by punishments voluntarily undertaken of ourselves for the punishment of sin, or by those imposed at the discretion of the priest according to the measure of our delinquency, but also, which is a very great proof of love, by the temporal scourges inflicted of God, and borne patiently by us." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"Since you know that after the first bulwarks of the Lord's baptism there still remains for you in confession a second reserve of aid against hell, why do you desert your own salvation? Why are you tardy to approach what you know heals you? Even [creatures without reason] recognize in their time of need the medicines which have been divinely assigned them... Shall the sinner, knowing that confession has been instituted by the Lord for his restoration, pass that by which restored the Babylonian king to his realms?" [Tertullian ("an excellent early Christian writer" - although he would ultimately fall into heresy), 3rd century A.D.]

"His Holiness...condemned and forbade as false, rash, and scandalous the proposition, namely, 'that it is lawful through letters or through a messenger to confess sins sacramentally to an absent confessor, and to receive absolution from that same absent confessor,' and orders in turn that that proposition thereafter not be taught in public or private gatherings, assemblies, and congresses; and that it never in any case be defended as probable, be given the stamp of approval, or be reduced in any way to practice." (Pope Clement VIII, 1602 A.D.)

"[W]hen you hear a man confessing his sins, he has already come to life again; when you hear a man lay bare his conscience in confessing, he has already come forth from the sepulchre; but he is not yet unbound. When is he unbound? By whom is he unbound" 'Whatever you loose on earth,' He says, 'shall be loosed also in heaven.' Rightly is the loosing of sins able to be given by the Church, but the dead man cannot be raised to life again except by the Lord's calling him interiorly; for this later is done by God in a more interior way." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 5th century A.D.)

"If any one denieth that for the entire and perfect remission of sins there are required three acts of the penitent, which are as it were the matter of the sacrament of penance, to wit, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, which are called the three parts of penance; or saith that there are two parts only of penance, to wit, the terrors with which the conscience is smitten upon being convinced of sin, and the faith, generated by the gospel or by the absolution, whereby one believes that his sins are forgiven him through Christ; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"In confession we should employ all that care and exactness which we usually bestow upon worldly concerns of great moment, and all our efforts should be directed to the cure of our soul's wounds and to the destruction of the roots of sin. We should not be satisfied with the bare enumeration of our mortal sins, but should mention such circumstances as considerably aggravate or extenuate their malice. Some circumstances are so serious as of themselves to constitute mortal guilt. On no account whatever, therefore, are such circumstances to be omitted." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Error CONDEMNED by the Council of Constance: "Oral confession to a priest, introduced by Innocent III, is not as necessary to people as he claimed. For if anyone offends his brother in thought, word or deed, then it suffices to repent in thought, word or deed." [Council of Constance, This proposition was condemned in the sentence condemning 260 articles of Wyclif, 'This holy synod, therefore, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, repudiates and condemns, by this perpetual decree, the aforesaid articles and each one of them in particular; and it forbids each and every Catholic henceforth, under pain of anathema, to preach, teach, or hold the said articles or any one of them.']

"And if, inasmuch as the Lord is merciful and kind, we find that none of those imploring and entreating His mercy should be prohibited from doing penance, then peace is able to be extended through His priests. The groans of those who mourn must be taken into account, and the fruit of repentance must not be denied to the sorrowful. And since among the dead there is no confession, nor in that place can a confession of sin be made, those who have repented from the bottom of their heart and have besought it, must after a time be received into the Church, to be preserved therein for the Lord." (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 251 A.D.)

"And, therefore, the penitent should not so flatter himself on his own faith as to think that even though he have no contrition, and that the intention of acting earnestly and absolving effectively be wanting in the priest, nevertheless he is truly and before God absolved by reason of his faith alone. For faith without penance effects no remission of sins, and he would be most negligent of his own salvation, who would know that a priest was absolving him in a jesting manner, and would not earnestly consult another who would act seriously." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"If any one saith, that the contrition which is acquired by means of the examination, collection, and detestation of sins - whereby one thinks over his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering on the grievousness, the multitude, the filthiness of his sins, the loss of eternal blessedness, and the eternal damnation which he has incurred, having therewith the purpose of a better life - is not a true and profitable sorrow, does not prepare for grace, but makes a man a hypocrite and a greater sinner; in fine, that this (contrition) is a forced and not free and voluntary sorrow; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Iniquity, however, sometimes makes such progress in men that even after they have done penance and after their reconciliation to the altar they commit the same or more grievous sins... If, therefore, it be a careful and salubrious provision that the place of that most humble penance in the Church is granted only once, lest that medicine, by becoming too common should thereby become less useful to the sick, which now is the more healthful as it is the more respected - who, on that account, would dare to say to God: 'Why do You pardon this man a second time when after his first penance he is caught again the snares of his inequities?'" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 413 A.D.)

"The apostle admonishes that those who sin publicly are to be reproved openly. When, therefore, any one has, publicly and in the sight of many, committed a crime, whereby there is no doubt that others have been offended and scandalized; there must needs be publicly imposed upon him a penance suitable to the measure of his guilt; that so those whom he has allured to evil manners by his example, he may bring back to an upright life by the testimony of his amendment. The bishop, however, may, when he judges it more expedient, commute this kind of public penance into one that is secret." (Council of Trent, 1563 A.D.)

"Let every one then abhor sin, which defiles the mystical members of our Redeemer; but if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love, and let eager charity see in him a weak member of Jesus Christ. For, as the Bishop of Hippo remarks, it is better 'to be cured within the Church's community than to be cut off from its body as incurable members.' 'As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943 A.D.)

"Hence it is evident that the debt of punishment incurred by a subsequent sin need not always be equal to that of previous sins; but it must be in proportion thereto, so that the more numerous or the greater the sins previously pardoned, the greater must be the debt of punishment incurred by any subsequent mortal sin whatever... He whose forgiven sins return to him on account of subsequent ingratitude, incurs the debt for all, in so far as the measure of his previous sins is contained proportionally in his subsequent ingratitude, but not absolutely, as stated above." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Just as in the case of those sins which cannot themselves be permanent, because they pass away as soon as they are committed, but their guilt remains, and if not remitted, will remain in eternity, so too with concupiscence; when remitted, guilt is taken away. For not to have sin means not to be guilty of sin. If anyone, for example, committed adultery, even if he never does it again, he is guilty of adultery until it be remitted... He has the sin, therefore, although that which he committed no longer exists because it passed away along with the passing of time at which he committed it." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 419 A.D.)

"If any one saith, that priests, who are in mortal sin, have not the power of binding and of loosing; or, that not priests alone are the ministers of absolution, but that, to all and each of the faithful of Christ is it said: Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven; and, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained; by virtue of which words every one is able to absolve from sins, to wit, from public sins by reproof only, provided he who is reproved yield thereto, and from secret sins by a voluntary confession; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"Penance is to deplore past sins, and, while deploring them, not to commit again, either by act or by intention, those which we have to deplore. Because a man is a mocker and not a penitent, who, while doing penance, does what he repents having done, or intends to do again what he did before, or even commits actually the same or another kind of sin. But if a man sin afterwards either by act or intention, this does not destroy the fact that his former penance was real, because the reality of a former act is never destroyed by a subsequent contrary act: for even as he truly ran who afterwards sits, so he truly repented who subsequently sins." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Why should the sinner be ashamed to make known his sins, since they are already known and manifest to God, and to His angels, and even to the blessed in heaven? Confession opens the door to heaven. Confession brings hope of salvation. Because of this the Scripture says: 'First, tell thy iniquities, that you may be justified' (Is 43:26). Here we are shown that the man will not be saved who, during his life does not confess his sins. Neither will that confession deliver you which is made without true repentance. For true repentance is a grief of heart and sorrow of soul because of the evils a man has committed. True repentance causes us to grieve over them with a firm intention of never committing them again." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"We read in Leviticus bout lepers, where they are ordered to show themselves to the priest, and if they have leprosy, then they are to be declared unclean by the priest. It is not that the priests make them lepers and unclean; rather, it is the priests who separate the leper from the one who is not a leper, and they can distinguish the clean from the unclean. Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop binds or looses not those who are innocent or guilty, by reason of their office, when they have heard various kinds of sins, they know who is to be bound and who is to be loosed." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, c. 398 A.D.) [Note: In contrast to the priests of the Old Testament, however, the priests of the New Testament - in addition to distinguishing the unclean from the clean - actually have the power to make sinners 'clean'.]

"Can. 7. If anyone says that in the sacrament of penance it is not necessary by divine law for the remission of sins to confess each and all mortal sins, of which one has remembrance after a due and diligent examination, even secret ones and those which are against the two last precepts of the decalogue, and the circumstances which alter the nature of sin; but that this confession is useful only for the instruction and consolation of the penitent, and formerly was observed only for imposing a canonical satisfaction; or says, that they who desire to confess all their sins wish to leave nothing to be pardoned by divine mercy; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins: let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"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 intrusted... 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." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Ignorance of the law does not excuse, because it is a sin by itself: but ignorance of fact does excuse. Therefore if a man omits to confess a sin, because he does not know it to be a sin, through ignorance of the Divine law, he is not excused from insincerity. On the other hand, he would be excused, if he did not know it to be a sin, through being unaware of some particular circumstance, for instance, if he had knowledge of another's wife, thinking her his own. Now forgetfulness of an act of sin comes under the head of ignorance of fact, wherefore it excuses from the sin of insincerity in confession, which is an obstacle to the fruit of absolution and confession." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"We are bound to confession on two counts: first, by the Divine law, from the very fact that confession is a remedy, and in this way not all are bound to confession, but those only who fall into mortal sin after Baptism; secondly, by a precept of positive law, and in this way all are bound by the precept of the Church laid down in the general council (Lateran iv, canon 21) under Innocent III, both in order that everyone may acknowledge himself to be a sinner, because 'all have sinned and need the grace of God' (Romans 3:23); and that the Eucharist may be approached with greater reverence; and lastly, that parish priests may know their flock, lest a wolf may hide therein." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is written (Psalm 34:5): 'Come ye to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be confounded.' Now he who confesses all the sins of which he is conscious, approaches to God as much as he can: nor can more be required for him. Therefore he will not be confounded by being repelled, but will be forgiven. Further, he that confesses is pardoned unless he be insincere. But he who confesses all the sins that he calls to mind, is not insincere through forgetting some, because he suffers from ignorance of fact, which excuses from sin. Therefore he receives forgiveness, and then the sins which he has forgotten, are loosened, since it is wicked to hope for half a pardon." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"As soon as a man falls into sin, charity, faith, and mercy do not deliver him from sin, without Penance. Because charity demands that a man should grieve for the offense committed against his friend, and that he should be anxious to make satisfaction to his friend; faith requires that he should seek to be justified from his sins through the power of Christ's Passion which operates in the sacraments of the Church; and well-ordered pity necessitates that man should succor himself by repenting of the pitiful condition into which sin has brought him, according to Proverbs 14:34: 'Sin maketh nations miserable'; wherefore it is written (Ecclesiasticus 30:24): 'Have pity on thy own soul, pleasing God.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is not to be wondered at that Satan should envy man this gift, and strive to throw such doubts and difficulties in the way as to prevent his profiting by it. What has not heresy said against this sacrament? It began by teaching that it takes from the glory of holy baptism; whereas on the contrary, it honors that first sacrament, by repairing the injuries done to it by sin. Later on, it exacted, as absolutely necessary for the sacraments, such perfect dispositions, that absolution would find the soul already reconciled with God. It was by this dangerous snare of Jansenism that so many were ruined, either by pride or by discouragement. And lastly, it has set up that Protestant dictum: 'I confess my sins to God': just as through God had not the right to lay down the conditions for pardon." (Gueranger)

"The holy synod doth furthermore teach, that the form of the sacrament of penance, wherein its force principally consists, is placed in those words of the minister, I absolve thee, &c: to which words indeed certain prayers are, according to the custom of holy Church, laudably joined, which nevertheless by no means regard the essence of that form, neither are they necessary for the administration of the sacrament itself. But the acts of the penitent himself, to wit, contrition, confession and satisfaction, are as it were the matter of this sacrament. Which acts, inasmuch as they are, by God's institution, required in the penitent for the integrity of the sacrament, and for the full and perfect remission of sins, are for this reason called the parts of penance." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"In prescribing medicine for the body, the physician should know not only the disease for which he is prescribing, but also the general constitution of the sick person, since one disease is aggravated by the addition of another, and a medicine which would be adapted to one disease, would be harmful to another. The same is to be said in regard to sins, for one is aggravated when another is added to it; and a remedy which would be suitable for one sin, might prove an incentive to another, since sometimes a man is guilty of contrary sins, as Gregory says (Regulae Pastoralis iii,3). Hence it is necessary for confession that man confess all the sins that he calls to mind, and if he fails to do this, it is not a confession, but a pretense of confession." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"O folly of sinners! If you purchase a house, you spare no pains to get all the securities necessary to guard against the loss of your money; if you take medicine, you are careful to assure yourself that it cannot injure you; if you pass over a river, you cautiously avoid all danger of falling into it; and for a transitory enjoyment, for the gratification of revenge, for a beastly pleasure, which lasts but a moment, you risk your eternal salvation, saying: I will go to confession after I commit this sin. And, when, I ask are you to go to confession? You say: On tomorrow. But who promises you tomorrow? Who assures you that you shall have time for confession, and that God will not deprive you of live, as he has deprived so many others, in the act of sin?... You cannot be certain of living for another hour" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"Baptism is administered but once, and cannot be repeated; Penance may by administered and becomes necessary, as often as we may have sinned after Baptism. Hence the Council of Trent declares: For those who fall into sin after Baptism the Sacrament of Penance is as necessary to salvation as is Baptism for those who have not been already baptized. This saying of St. Jerome that Penance is a second plank, is universally known and highly commended by all subsequent writers on sacred things. As he who suffers shipwreck has no hope of safety, unless, perchance, he seize on some plank from the wreck, so he that suffers the shipwreck of baptismal innocence, unless he cling to the saving plank of Penance, has doubtless lost all hope of salvation." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The manifold mercy of God so assists in the event of human lapses, that not only by the grace of Baptism, but even through the medicine of Penance the hope of eternal life is restored, so that those who have violated the gifts of rebirth, when they have condemned themselves by their own judgment, may obtain the forgiveness of their crimes, the safeguards of the divine goodness having been so ordained that the forgiveness of God cannot be obtained except through the prayers of the priests. For the Mediator of God and men, the man [and God] Christ Jesus gave this power to those placed in charge of the Church, that they might grant a course of penance to those who confess, and admit to the communion of the sacraments through the gate of reconciliation those who have been cleansed by salutary satisfaction" (Pope St. Leo I the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 452 A.D.)

"[St. Ambrose] rejoiced also with those who rejoiced, and wept with those who wept. For whenever anyone confessed his sins to him to receive a penance, he so wept that he forced the penitent too to weep. For he considered that he was himself in a state similar to that of the penitent. But when case of crimes were confessed to him, he spoke of it to none but the Lord alone, with whom he interceded; and thus he left a good example to later priests, to be intercessors with God rather than accusers among men. For even according to the Apostle, love is to be confirmed in dealing with a person of this kind; for he has become his own accuser who does not wait for but anticipates the accuser; and thus, by confessing, he lightens his own sin, lest he have something of which the adversary [i.e. the devil] might accuse him." ('Life of St. Ambrose', c. 420 A.D.)

"The fourth sacrament is penance, the matter of which is, as it were, the acts of the penitent, which are divided into three parts. The first of these is contrition of heart, to which pertains grief for a sin committed together with a resolution not to sin in the future. The second is oral confession, to which pertains that the sinner confess integrally to his priest all sins of which he has recollection. The third is satisfaction for sins according to the decision of the priest, which is accomplished chiefly by prayer, fasting, and alms. The words of absolution which the priest utters when he says: Ego te absolvo etc., are the form of this sacrament, and the minister of this sacrament is the priest who has either ordinary authority for absolving or has it by the commission of a superior. The effect of this sacrament is absolution from sins." (Pope Eugenius IV, "Exultate Deo", 1439 A.D.)

"Penance regards every kind of sin in a way, but not each in the same way. Because Penance regards actual mortal sin properly and chiefly; properly, since, properly speaking, we are said to repent of what we have done of our own will; chiefly, since this sacrament was instituted chiefly for the blotting out of mortal sin. Penance regards venial sins, properly speaking indeed, in so far as they are committed of our own will, but this was not the chief purpose of its institution. But as to original sin, Penance regards it neither chiefly, since Baptism, and not Penance, is ordained against original sin, nor properly, because original sin is not done of our own will, except in so far as Adam's will is looked upon as ours, in which sense the Apostle says (Romans 5:12): 'In whom all have sinned.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Now it belongs to penance to detest one's past sins, and to purpose, at the same time, to change one's life for the better, which is the end, so to speak, of penance. And since moral matters take their species from the end...it is reasonable to distinguish various species of penance, according to the various changes intended by the penitent. Accordingly there is a threefold change intended by the penitent. The first is by regeneration unto a new life, and this belongs to that penance which precedes Baptism. The second is by reforming one's past life after it has been already destroyed, and this belongs to penance for mortal sins committed after Baptism. The third is by changing to a more perfect operation of life, and this belongs to penance for venial sins, which are remitted through a fervent act of charity" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Some say that when a man remembers a sin which he had previously forgotten, he ought to confess again the sins which he had confessed before, especially if he cannot go to the same priest to whom his previous confession was made, in order that the total quantity of his sins may be made known to one priest. But this does not seem necessary, because sin takes its quantity both from itself and from the conjunction of another; and as to the sins which he confessed he had already manifested their quantity which they have of themselves, while as to the sin which he had forgotten, in order that the priest may know the quantity which it has under both the above heads, it is enough that the penitent declare it explicitly, and confess the others in general, saying that he had confessed many sins in his previous confession, but had forgotten this particular one." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"A twofold power is required in order to absolve from sins, namely, power of order and power of jurisdiction. The former power is equally in all priests, but not the latter. And therefore, when our Lord (John 20:23) gave all the apostles in general, the power of forgiving sins, this is to be understood of the power which results from receiving orders, wherefore these words are addressed to priests when they are ordained. But to Peter in particular He gave the power of forgiving sins (Matthew 16:19), that we may understand that he has the power of jurisdiction before the others. But the power of orders, considered in itself, extends to all who can be absolved: wherefore our Lord said indeterminately, 'Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them,' on the understanding that this power should be used in dependence on the power given to Peter, according to His appointment." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"We acknowledge that penance is being denied the dying and no assent is given to the ardent wishes of those who at the time of their death desire to come to the assistance of their souls with this remedy. We are horrified, I confess, that anyone is found of such great impiety, that he despairs of the love of God, as if He were not able at any time whatever to hasten to the aid of the one who runs to Him for help and to free from his burden a man endangered by the weight of sins, from which he longs to be liberated. For what else is this, I ask, than to add death to the dying and to kill his soul with one's own cruelty, that it may not be able to be absolved? Since God, most ready to succor, inviting to repentance, thus promised: In whatever day, He says, the sinner shall be converted, his sins shall not be imputed to him [cf. Ezech.. 33:16] ... Since therefore the Lord is the examiner of the heart, penance must not be denied at any time to one who asks for (it)" (Pope St. Celestine I, 428 A.D.)

"It is necessary that each and every Christian hold a trial of his own conscience, lest from day to day he defer being converted to God, and choose the difficulties of that time when neither the confession of the penitent nor the reconciliation of the priest can take place. But, as I have said, the need even of such should be served, so that neither the action of penance nor the grace of communion may be denied them, even if the function of speech has been lost, and they ask it through the signs of a sound sense. But if they are so oppressed by some violent illness, that what they asked a little while before, they are not able to signify in the presence of the priest, the testimonies of the faithful standing about ought to be advantageous to them, that they may gain simultaneously the benefit of both penance and reconciliation, the regulation of the canons of the Fathers, however, being observed regarding the persons of those who have sinned against God by deserting the faith." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, 452 A.D.)

"In what way, then, and by what reason does the Savior bestow upon His own disciples the dignity which belongs to the divine nature alone? Certainly the Word, who is in the Father, would not err in what is seemly, and what He does is right and proper. He considered that those who already had in themselves the Divine and Lordly Spirit ought to be lords also of forgiving the sins of some, and of retaining those of others if they wished, the Holy Spirit indwelling in them forgiving or retaining according to their own will, even through the matter is executed directly through men. Bearers of the Spirit, they forgive sins or retain them, or so it seems to me, in two ways: for either they call to Baptism those who are worthy, men already tested for the faith by the sobriety and constancy of their lives, or they prohibit and exclude from divine grace those who are not yet worthy; or in still another way they forgive and retain sins when sons of the Church conquer their sins, and confessing them, reform their lives." (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, c. 431 A.D.)

"In the first place, however, it will be well to explain why it is that Christ our Lord was pleased to number Penance among the Sacraments. One of His reasons certainly was to leave us no room for doubt regarding the remission of sin which was promised by God when He said: If the wicked do penance, etc. For each one has good reason to distrust the accuracy of his own judgment on his own actions, and hence we could not but be very much in doubt regarding the truth of our internal penance. It was to destroy this, our uneasiness, that our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Penance, by means of which we are assured that our sins are pardoned by the absolution of the priest; and also to tranquilize our conscience by means of the trust we rightly repose in the virtue of the Sacraments. The words of the priest sacramentally and lawfully absolving us from our sins are to be accepted in the same sense as the words of Christ our Lord when He said to the paralytic: Son, be of good heart: thy sins are forgiven thee." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Penance is twofold, internal and external. Internal penance is that whereby one grieves for a sin one has committed, and this penance should last until the end of life. Because man should always be displeased at having sinned, for if he were to be pleased thereat, he would for this very reason fall into sin and lose the fruit of pardon. Now displeasure causes sorrow in one who is susceptible to sorrow, as man is in this life; but after this life the saints are not susceptible to sorrow, wherefore they will be displeased at, without sorrowing for, their past sins, according to Isaiah 65:16. 'The former distresses are forgotten.' External penance is that whereby a man shows external signs of sorrow, confesses his sins verbally to the priest who absolves him, and makes satisfaction for his sins according to the judgment of the priest. Such penance need not last until the end of life, but only for a fixed time according to the measure of the sin." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"I also decree that that presumption against the apostolic regulation, which I recently learned is being committed by some through unlawful usurpation, be banished by all means. With regard to penance, what is demanded of the faithful, is clearly not that an acknowledgement of the nature of individual sins written in a little book be read publicly, since it suffices that the states of consciences be made known to the priests alone in secret confession. For although the fullness of faith seems to be laudable, which on account of the fear of God is not afraid to blush before men, nevertheless since the sins of all are not such that those who ask for penance do not dread to publish them, so objectionable a custom should be abolished ... For that confession is sufficient, which is first offered to God, then also to a priest, who serves as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents. For then, indeed, more will be able to be incited to penance, if the conscience of the one confessing is not exposed to the ears of the people." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, 459 A.D.)

"Because there is one thing that conspicuously causes great disturbance to holy church, namely, false penance, we warn our brothers in the episcopate and priests not to allow the souls of the laity to be deceived or dragged off to hell by false penances. It is agreed that a penance is false when many sins are disregarded and a penance is performed for one only, or when it is done for one sin in such a way that the penitent does not renounce another. Thus it is written: Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point, has become guilty of all of it; this evidently pertains to eternal life. Therefore, just as a person who is entangled in all sins will not enter the gate of eternal life, so also if a person remains in one sin. False penance also occurs when the penitent does not resign a position at a court or in business which cannot be carried on without sin, or if hate is harbored in his heart, or if the person does not make amends to whomever he offended, or if an injured party does not pardon the offender, or if anyone unjustly carries arms." (Second Lateran Council)

"This is the medicine for sins, established by God and delivered to the priests of the Church, who make diligent use of it in healing the afflictions of men. You are aware of these things, as also of the fact that God, because He greatly cares for us, give us penitence and showed us the medicine of repentance; and He established some men, those who are priests, as physicians of sins. If in this world we receive through them healing and forgiveness of sins, we shall be delivered from the judgement that is to come. It behooves us, therefore, to draw near to the priests in great confidence and to reveal to them our sins; and those priests, with all diligence, solicitude, and love, and in accord with the regulations...will grant healing to sinners... [They] will not disclose the things that ought not be disclosed; rather, they will be silent about the things that have happened, as befits true and loving fathers who are bound to guard the same of their children while striving to heal their bodies." [Theodore of Mopsuestia (a friend & fellow student of St. John Chrysostom and a bishop - although he would ultimately be condemned for Nestorianism), c. 5th century A.D.)]

"A thing is necessary for salvation in two ways: first, absolutely; secondly, on a supposition. A thing is absolutely necessary for salvation, if no one can obtain salvation without it, as, for example, the grace of Christ, and the sacrament of Baptism, whereby a man is born again in Christ. The sacrament of Penance is necessary on a supposition, for it is necessary, not for all, but for those who are in sin... But 'sin, when it is completed, begetteth death' (James 1:15). Consequently it is necessary for the sinner's salvation that sin be taken away from him; which cannot be done without the sacrament of Penance, wherein the power of Christ's Passion operates through the priest's absolution and the acts of the penitent, who co-operates with grace unto the destruction of his sin. For as Augustine says... 'He Who created thee without thee, will not justify thee without thee.' Therefore it is evident that after sin the sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation, even as bodily medicine after man has contracted a dangerous disease." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Confession together with absolution has the power to deliver from punishment, for two reasons. First, from the power of absolution itself: and thus the very desire of absolution delivers a man from eternal punishment, as also from the guilt. Now this punishment is one of condemnation and total banishment: and when a man is delivered therefrom he still remains bound to a temporal punishment, in so far as punishment is a cleansing and perfecting remedy; and so this punishment remains to be suffered in Purgatory by those who also have been delivered from the punishment of hell. Which temporal punishment is beyond the powers of the penitent dwelling in this world, but is so far diminished by the power of the keys, that it is within the ability of the penitent, and he is able, by making satisfaction, to cleanse himself in this life. Secondly, confession diminishes the punishment in virtue of the very nature of the act of the one who confesses, for this act has the punishment of shame attached to it, so that the oftener one confesses the same sins, the more is the punishment diminished." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"There is nothing that should be better known to the faithful that the matter of this sacrament (of Penance); hence they should be taught that Penance differs from the other Sacraments in this, that while the matter of the other Sacraments is some thing, whether natural or artificial, the matter, as it were, of the Sacrament of Penance is the acts of the penitent, - namely contrition, confession and satisfaction, - as has been declared by the Council of Trent. Now, inasmuch as these acts are by divine institution required on the part of the penitent for the integrity of the Sacrament, and for the full and perfect reemission of sin, they are called parts of penance. It is not because they are not the real matter that they are called by the Council the matter as it were, but because they are not of that sort of matter which is applied externally, such, for instance as water in Baptism and chrism in Confirmation. As regards the opinion of some who hold that sins themselves are the matter of this Sacrament, it will be found, when carefully examined, that it does not really differ from the explanation already given. Thus we say that wood which is consumed by fire is the matter of the fire. In the same way, sins which are destroyed by Penance may properly be called the matter of Penance." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Confession is all of this, so that it may excite repentance; so that it may honor God by fear of danger; so that it may, by its own pronouncement against the sinner, stand in place of God's indignation; and so that it may by temporal mortification, I will not say frustrate, but rather expunge the eternal punishments. Therefore, while it abases a man, it raises him; while it covers him with squalor, the more it does cleanse him; while it condemns, it absolves. In so far as you do not spare yourself, the more, believe me, will God spare you! Most men, however, either flee from this work, as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness... 'But it is a miserable thing thus to come to confession!' Yes, evil leads to misery. But where there is repentance misery ceases, because it is thereby turned to salvation. If you are inclined to draw back from confession, consider in your heart the hell which confession extinguishes for you... Why do you hesitate to approach what you know will heal you?" [Tertullian ("an excellent early Christian writer" - although he would ultimately fall into heresy), c. 203 A.D.]

"By sin, man loses a twofold dignity, one in respect of God, the other in respect of the Church. In respect of God he again loses a twofold dignity. One is his principal dignity, whereby he was counted among the children of God, and this he recovers by Penance, which is signified (Luke 15) in the prodigal son, for when he repented, his father commanded that the first garment should be restored to him, together with a ring and shoes. The other is his secondary dignity, viz. innocence, of which, as we read in the same chapter, the elder son boasted saying (Luke 15:29): 'Behold, for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandments': and this dignity the penitent cannot recover. Nevertheless he recovers something greater sometimes; because as Gregory says (Hom. de centum Ovibus, Hom. 34 in Evangelia), 'those who acknowledge themselves to have strayed away from God, make up for their past losses, by subsequent gains: so that there is more joy in heaven on their account, even as in battle, the commanding officer thinks more of the soldier who, after running away, returns and bravely attacks the foe, than of one who has never turned his back, but has done nothing brave.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"This truth is clearly conveyed by our Lord Himself, when, by a most beautiful metaphor, He calls the power of administering this Sacrament, the key of the kingdom of heaven. Just as no one can enter any place without the help of him who has the keys, so no one is admitted to heaven unless its gates be unlocked by the priests to whose custody the Lord gave the keys. This power would otherwise be of no use in the Church. If heaven can be entered without the power of the keys, in vain would they to whom the keys were given seek to prevent entrance within its portals. This thought was familiar to the mind of St. Augustine. Let no man, he says, say within himself: 'I repent in secret to the Lord. God, who has power to pardon me, knows the inmost sentiments of my heart.' Was there then no reason for saying 'whatsoever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven'; no reason why the keys were given to the Church of God? This same doctrine is taught by St. Ambrose in his treatise On Penance, when refuting the heresy of the Novatians who asserted that the power of forgiving sins belonged solely to God. Who, says he, yields greater reverence to God, he who obeys or he who resists His commands? God commands us to obey his ministers; and by obeying them, we honor God alone." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Jerome says (Ep. 130) that 'Penance is a second plank after shipwreck.'... Now some sacraments are, of themselves, ordained to man's salvation, e.g. Baptism, which is the spiritual birth, Confirmation which is the spiritual growth, the Eucharist which is the spiritual food; whereas Penance is ordained to man's salvation accidentally as it were, and on something being supposed, viz. sin: for unless man were to sin actually, he would not stand in need of Penance and yet he would need Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist; even as in the life of the body, man would need no medical treatment, unless he were ill, and yet life, birth, growth, and food are, of themselves, necessary to man.. Consequently Penance holds the second place with regard to the state of integrity which is bestowed and safeguarded by the aforesaid sacraments, so that it is called metaphorically 'a second plank after shipwreck.' For just as the first help for those who cross the sea is to be safeguarded in a whole ship, while the second help when the ship is wrecked, is to cling to a plank; so too the first help in this life's ocean is that man safeguard his integrity, while the second help is, if he lose his integrity through sin, that he regain it by means of Penance." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"In using the keys, the priest acts as the instrument and minister of God. Now no instrument can have an efficacious act, except in so far as it is moved by the principal agent. Wherefore, Dionysius says (De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia cap. ult.) that 'priests should use their hierarchical powers, according as they are moved by God.'... Moreover, since satisfactory punishments are medicinal, just as the medicines prescribed by the medical art are not suitable to all, but have to be changed according to the judgment of a medical man, who follows not his own will, but his medical science, so the satisfactory punishments appointed by the canons are not suitable to all, but have to be varied according to the judgment of the priest guided by the Divine instinct. Therefore just as sometimes the physician prudently refrains from giving a medicine sufficiently efficacious to heal the disease, lest a greater danger should arise on account of the weakness of nature so the priest, moved by Divine instinct, some times refrains from enjoining the entire punishment due to one sin, lest by the severity of the punishment, the sick man come to despair and turn away altogether from repentance...in the remission of the due punishment, there is need for discretion." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"One may forget a thing in two ways, either so that it escapes the memory altogether, and then one cannot search for it; or so that it escapes from the memory in part, and in part remains, as when I remember having heard something in general, but know not what it was in particular, and then I search my memory in order to discover it. Accordingly a sin also may be forgotten in two ways, either so as to remain in a general, but not in a particular remembrance, and then a man is bound to bethink himself in order to discover the sin, because he is bound to have contrition for each individual mortal sin. And if he is unable to discover it, after applying himself with due care, it is enough that he be contrite for it, according as it stands in his knowledge, and indeed he should grieve not only for the sin, but also for having forgotten it, because this is owing to his neglect. If, however, the sin has escaped from his memory altogether, then he is excused from his duty through being unable to fulfill it, and it is enough that he be contrite in general for everything wherein he has offended God. But when this inability is removed, as when the sin is recalled to his memory, then he is bound to have contrition for that sin in particular, even as a poor man, who cannot pay a debt, is excused, and yet is bound to, as soon as he can." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is impossible for Penance to take one sin away without another. First because sin is taken away by grace removing the offense against God. Wherefore it was stated...that without grace no sin can be forgiven. Now every mortal sin is opposed to grace and excludes it. Therefore it is impossible for one sin to be pardoned without another. Secondly, because...mortal sin cannot be forgiven without true Penance, to which it belongs to renounce sin, by reason of its being against God, which is common to all mortal sins: and where the same reason applies, the result will be the same. Consequently a man cannot be truly penitent, if he repent of one sin and not of another. For if one particular sin were displeasing to him, because it is against the love of God above all things (which motive is necessary for true repentance), it follows that he would repent of all. Whence it follows that it is impossible for one sin to be pardoned through Penance, without another. Thirdly, because this would be contrary to the perfection of God's mercy, since His works are perfect, as stated in Deuteronomy 32:4; wherefore whomsoever He pardons, He pardons altogether. Hence [it is written], that 'it is irreverent and heretical to expect half a pardon from Him Who is just and justice itself.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Contrition, which holds the first place amongst the aforesaid acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future. This movement of contrition was at all times necessary for obtaining the pardon of sins; and, in one who has fallen after baptism, it then at length prepares for the remissions of sins, when it is united with confidence in the divine mercy, and with the desire of performing the other things which are required for rightly receiving this sacrament. Wherefore the holy Synod declares, that this contrition contains not only a cessation from sin, and the purpose and the beginning of a new life, but also a hatred of the old, agreeably to that saying; Cast away from you all your iniquities, wherein you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. And assuredly he who has considered those cries of the saints; To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee, I have labored in my groaning, every night I will wash my bed, I will recount to thee all my years, in the bitterness of my soul, and others of this kind, will easily understand that they flowed from a certain vehement hatred of their past life, and from an exceeding detestation of sins." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"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 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. That imperfect contrition [can. 5] which is called attrition, since it commonly arises either from the consideration of the baseness of sin or from fear of hell and its punishments, if it renounces the desire of sinning with the hope of pardon, the Synod declares, not only does not make a person a hypocrite and a greater sinner, but is even a gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Spirit, not indeed as already dwelling in the penitent, but only moving him, assisted by which the penitent prepares a way for himself unto justice. And though without the sacrament of penance it cannot per se lead the sinner to justification, nevertheless it does dispose him to obtain the grace of God in the sacrament of penance. For the Ninivites, struck in a salutary way by this fear in consequence of the preaching of Jonas which was full of terror, did penance and obtained mercy from the Lord [cf. Jonas 3]. For this reason, therefore, do some falsely accuse Catholic writers, as if they taught that the sacrament of penance confers grace without any pious endeavor on the part of those who receive it, a thing which the Church of God has never taught or pronounced." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"Moreover, it is clear that this sacrament differs in many respects from baptism. For aside from the fact that in the matter and form, by which the essence of a sacrament is effected, it differs very widely, it is certainly clear that the minister of baptism need not be a judge, since the Church exercises judgment on no one who has not first entered it through the gateway of baptism. 'For what have I to do,' says St. Paul, 'to judge them that are without?' [1 Cor. 5:12]. It is otherwise with those of the household of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of baptism has once made 'members of his own body' [1 Cor. 12:13]. For these, if they should afterwards have defiled themselves by some crime, He did not now wish to have cleansed by the repetition of baptism, since that is in no way permitted in the Catholic Church, but to be placed, as it were, as culprits before the tribunal, so that by the sentence of the priests they may be freed not only once, but as often as they, repentant for the sins committed, have had recourse to Him. Furthermore, the fruit of baptism is one thing; that of penance is another thing. For by putting on Christ by baptism [Gal. 3:27], we are made an entirely new creature in Him, obtaining a full and complete remission of all sins, to which newness and integrity, however, we can in no way arrive by the sacrament of penance without many tears and labors on our part, for divine justice demands this, so that penance has justly been called by the holy Fathers, 'a laborious kind of baptism.' This sacrament of penance, moreover, is necessary for the salvation of those who have fallen after baptism, as baptism itself is for those as yet not regenerated." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"As regards those who, by sin, have fallen from the received grace of Justification, they may be again justified, when, God exciting them, through the sacrament of Penance they shall have attained to the recovery, by the merit of Christ, of the grace lost: for this manner of Justification is of the fallen the reparation: which the holy Fathers have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of grace lost. For, on behalf of those who fall into sins after baptism, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of Penance, when He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Whence it is to be taught, that the penitence of a Christian, after his fall, is very different from that at (his) baptism; and that therein are included not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation thereof, or, a contrite and humble heart, but also the sacramental confession of the said sins, at least in desire, and to be made in its season, and sacerdotal [priestly] absolution; and likewise satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers, and the other pious exercises of a spiritual life; not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is, together with the guilt, remitted, either by the sacrament, or by the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment, which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who, ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, have grieved the Holy Spirit, and have not feared to violate the temple of God. Concerning which penitence it is written; Be mindful whence thou art fallen; do penance, and do the first works. And again; The sorrow that is according to God worketh penance steadfast unto salvation. And again; Do penance, and bring forth fruits worthy of penance." (Council of Trent, 1547)

"Wherefore, since the nature and order of a judgment require this, that sentence be passed only on those subject (to that judicature), it has ever been firmly held in the Church of God, and this Synod ratifies it as a thing most true, that the absolution, which a priest pronounces upon one over whom he has not either an ordinary or a delegated jurisdiction, ought to be of no weight whatever. And it hath seemed to our most holy Fathers to be of great importance to the discipline of the Christian people, that certain more atrocious and more heinous crimes should be absolved, not by all priests, but only by the highest priests: whence the Sovereign Pontiffs, in virtue of the supreme power delivered to them in the universal Church, were deservedly able to reserve, for their special judgment, certain more grievous cases of crimes. Neither is it to be doubted, seeing that all things, that are from God, are well ordered - but that this same may be lawfully done by all bishops, each in his own diocese, unto edification, however, not unto destruction, in virtue of the authority, above (that of) other inferior priests, delivered to them over their subjects, especially as regards those crimes to which the censure of excommunication is annexed. But it is consonant to the divine authority, that this reservation of cases have effect, not merely in external polity, but also in God's sight. Nevertheless, for fear lest any may perish on this account, it has always been very piously observed in the said Church of God, that there be no reservation at the point of death, and that therefore all priests may absolve all penitents whatsoever from every kind of sins and censures whatever: and as, save at that point of death, priests have no power in reserved cases, let this alone be their endeavor, to persuade penitents to repair to superior and lawful judges for the benefit of absolution." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"The fact that a sin cannot be taken away by Penance may happen in two ways: first, because of the impossibility of repenting of sin; secondly, because of Penance being unable to blot out a sin. In the first way the sins of the demons and of men who are lost, cannot be blotted out by Penance, because their will is confirmed in evil, so that sin cannot displease them as to its guilt, but only as to the punishment which they suffer, by reason of which they have a kind of repentance, which yet is fruitless, according to Wisdom 5:3: 'Repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit.' Consequently such Penance brings no hope of pardon, but only despair. Nevertheless no sin of a wayfarer can be such as that, because his will is flexible to good and evil. Wherefore to say that in this life there is any sin of which one cannot repent, is erroneous, first, because this would destroy free-will, secondly, because this would be derogatory to the power of grace, whereby the heart of any sinner whatsoever can be moved to repent, according to Proverbs 21:1: 'The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever He will He shall turn it.' It is also erroneous to say that any sin cannot be pardoned through true Penance. First, because this is contrary to Divine mercy, of which it is written (Joel 2:13) that God is 'gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil'; for, in a manner, God would be overcome by man, if man wished a sin to be blotted out, which God were unwilling to blot out. Secondly, because this would be derogatory to the power of Christ's Passion, through which Penance produces its effect, as do the other sacraments, since it is written (1 John 2:2): 'He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.' Therefore we must say simply that, in this life, every sin can be blotted out by true Penance." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is impossible for a mortal actual sin to be pardoned without penance, if we speak of penance as a virtue. For, as sin is an offense against God, He pardons sin in the same way as he pardons an offense committed against Him. Now an offense is directly opposed to grace, since one man is said to be offended with another, because he excludes him from his grace. Now, as stated in the FS,Q110,A1, the difference between the grace of God and the grace of man, is that the latter does not cause, but presupposes true or apparent goodness in him who is graced, whereas the grace of God causes goodness in the man who is graced, because the good-will of God, which is denoted by the word grace, is the cause of all created good. Hence it is possible for a man to pardon an offense, for which he is offended with someone, without any change in the latter's will; but it is impossible that God pardon a man for an offense, without his will being changed. Now the offense of mortal sin is due to man's will being turned away from God, through being turned to some mutable good. Consequently, for the pardon of this offense against God, it is necessary for man's will to be so changed as to turn to God and to renounce having turned to something else in the aforesaid manner, together with a purpose of amendment; all of which belongs to the nature of penance as a virtue. Therefore it is impossible for a sin to be pardoned anyone without penance as a virtue. But the sacrament of Penance, as stated above (Q88,A3), is perfected by the priestly office of binding and loosing, without which God can forgive sins, even as Christ pardoned the adulterous woman, as related in John 8, and the woman that was a sinner, as related in Luke vii, whose sins, however, He did not forgive without the virtue of penance: for as Gregory states (Hom. 33 in Evangelia), 'He drew inwardly by grace,' i.e. by penance, 'her whom He received outwardly by His mercy.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"If such, in all the regenerate, were their gratitude towards God, as that they constantly preserved the justice received in baptism by His bounty and grace; there would not have been need for another sacrament, besides that of baptism itself, to be instituted for the remission of sins. But because God, rich in mercy, knows our frame, He hath bestowed a remedy of life even on those who may, after baptism, have delivered themselves up to the servitude of sin and the power of the devil, the sacrament to wit of Penance, by which the benefit of the death of Christ is applied to those who have fallen after baptism. Penitence was indeed at all times necessary, in order to attain to grace and justice, for all men who had defiled themselves by any mortal sin, even for those who begged to be washed by the sacrament of Baptism; that so, their perverseness renounced and amended, they might, with a hatred of sin and a godly sorrow of mind, detest so great an offence of God. Wherefore the prophet says; Be converted and do penance for all your iniquities, and iniquity shall not be your ruin. The Lord also said; Except you do penance, you shall also likewise perish; and Peter, the prince of the apostles, recommending penitence to sinners who were about to be initiated by baptism, said; Do penance, and be baptized every one you. Nevertheless, neither before the coming of Christ was penitence a sacrament, nor is it such, since His coming, to any previously to baptism. But the Lord then principally instituted the sacrament of penance, when, being raised from the dead, He breathed upon His disciples, saying Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. By which action so signal, and words so clear, the consent of all the Fathers has ever understood, that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was communicated to the apostles and their lawful successors, for the reconciling of the faithful who have fallen after baptism." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"For it came to our attention not so long ago that some confessors of those parts, allowing themselves to be seduced by a false idea of zeal, but straying far from the zeal 'according to knowledge' [cf. Rom. 10:2], have begun to bring in and to introduce a certain evil and pernicious practice in hearing the confessions of the faithful of Christ, and in administering the very saving sacrament of penance: namely, that if by chance they should happen upon penitents who have an associate in their sin, they demand at times from these penitents the name of such an accomplice or companion, and they attempt to induce them to reveal this to them not only by persuasion, but what is more detestable, they directly force and compel them to reveal it, under a threat of denying them sacramental absolution; nay more, they demand that not only the name of the accomplice be made known but also the place of residence, and this intolerable imprudence they do not hesitate to disguise by the specious pretext of procuring the correction of the accomplice and of accomplishing other good effects, nor to defend it by falsifying the opinions of learned men, when, in truth, by following false and erroneous opinions of this sort, or by making a bad application of true and sound principles, they bring destruction not only to their own souls but also to those of their penitents, and, besides, they render themselves guilty before God, the eternal judge, of many serious evils which they ought to have foreseen would easily follow from their action... Moreover, in order that we may not seem to be lacking in our apostolic ministry to any degree in so great a danger to souls, and so that we may not permit our mind on this matter to be obscure or ambiguous to you, we wish you to know that the practice mentioned above must be entirely repudiated, and this same practice is reproved and condemned by Us through our present letters in the form of a brief, as scandalous and dangerous, and as harmful to the reputation of one's neighbor as it is to the sacrament itself, and tending to the violation of the most sacred sacramental seal and alienating the faithful from so advantageous and necessary a use of this same sacrament of penance." (Pope Benedict XIV, 1745 A.D.)

"Finally, as regards satisfaction, which as it is, of all the parts of penance, that which has been at all times recommended to the Christian people by our Fathers, so is it the one especially which in our age is, under the loftiest pretext of piety, impugned by those who have an appearance of godliness, but have denied the power thereof, the holy Synod declares, that it is wholly false, and alien from the word of God, that the guilt is never forgiven by the Lord, without the whole punishment also being therewith pardoned. For clear and illustrious examples are found in the sacred writings, whereby, besides by divine tradition, this error is refuted in the plainest manner possible. And truly the nature of divine justice seems to demand, that they, who through ignorance have sinned before baptism, be received into grace in one manner; and in another those who, after having been freed from the servitude of sin and of the devil, and after having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have not feared, knowingly to violate the temple of God, and to grieve the Holy Spirit. And it beseems the divine clemency, that sins be not in such wise pardoned us without any satisfaction, as that, taking occasion therefrom, thinking sins less grievous, we, offering as it were an insult and an outrage to the Holy Ghost, should fall into more grievous sins, treasuring up wrath against the Day of wrath. For, doubtless, these satisfactory punishments greatly recall from sin, and check as it were with a bridle, and make penitents more cautious and watchful for the future; they are also remedies for the remains of sin, and, by acts of the opposite virtues, they remove the habits acquired by evil living. Neither indeed was there ever in the Church of God any way accounted surer to turn aside the impending chastisement of the Lord, than that men should, with true sorrow of mind, practice these works of penitence. Add to these things, that, whilst we thus, by making satisfaction, suffer for our sins, we are made conformable to Jesus Christ, who satisfied for our sins, from whom all our sufficiency is; having also thereby a most sure pledge, that if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified with him. But neither is this satisfaction, which we discharge for our sins, so our own, as not to be through Jesus Christ. For we who can do nothing of ourselves, as of ourselves, can do all things, He cooperating, who strengthens us. Thus, man has not wherein to glory, but all our glorying is in Christ: in whom we live; in whom we merit; in whom we satisfy; bringing forth fruits worthy of penance, which from him have their efficacy; by him are offered to the Father; and through him are accepted by the Father. Therefore the priests of the Lord ought, as far as the Spirit and prudence shall suggest, to enjoin salutary and suitable satisfactions, according to the quality of the crimes and the ability of the penitent; lest, if haply they connive at sins, and deal too indulgently with penitents, by enjoining certain very light works for very grievous crimes, they be made partakers of other men's sins. But let them have in view, that the satisfaction, which they impose, be not only for the preservation of a new life and a medicine of infirmity, but also for the avenging and punishing of past sins. For the ancient Fathers likewise both believe and teach, that the keys of the priests were given, not to loose only, but also to bind." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

"From the institution of the sacrament of penance as already explained the universal Church has always understood that the complete confession of sins was also instituted by our Lord, and by divine law is necessary for all who have fallen after baptism, because our Lord Jesus Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, left behind Him priests as His own vicars, as rulers and judges, to whom all the mortal sins into which the faithful of Christ may have fallen should be brought, so that they in virtue of the power of the keys may pronounce the sentence of remission or retention of sins. For it is evident that priests could not have exercised this judgment without a knowledge of the matter, nor could they indeed have observed justice in imposing penalties, if the faithful had declared their sins in general only, and not specifically and one by one. From this it is gathered that all mortal sins of which they have knowledge after a careful self-examination must be enumerated in confession by the penitents, even though they are most secret and have been committed only against the two last precepts of the decalogue, sins which sometimes wound the soul more grievously, and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly. For venial sins, by which we are not excluded from the grace of God and into which we fall more frequently, although they may rightly and profitably and without any presumption be declared in confession, as the practice of pious persons indicates, may be passed over in silence without guilt and may be expiated by many other remedies. But since all mortal sins, even those of thought, make men children of wrath and enemies of God, it is necessary to ask pardon for all of them from God by an open and humble confession. While, therefore, the faithful of Christ strive to confess all sins which occur to their memory, they undoubtedly lay all of them before the divine mercy to be forgiven. While those who do otherwise and knowingly conceal certain sins, lay nothing before the divine bounty for forgiveness by the priest. 'For if one who is ill is ashamed to make known his wound to the physician, the physician does not remedy what he does not know.' Furthermore, it is gathered that those circumstances also must be explained in confession, which alter the species of the sin, because without them the sins themselves are neither honestly revealed by the penitents, nor are they known to the judges, and it would not be possible for them to judge rightly the gravity of the crimes and to impose the punishment which is proper to those penitents. Hence it is unreasonable to teach that these circumstances have been conjured up by idle men. or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely up by idle men, or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely to have sinned against a brother. But it is also impious to say that a confession, which is ordered to be made in this manner is impossible, or to call it a torture of conscience; for it is clear that in the Church nothing else is exacted of the penitents than that each one, after he has carefully examined himself and searched all the nooks and recesses of his conscience, confess those sins by which he recalls that he has mortally offended his Lord and God; moreover, the other sins which do not occur to him after diligent thought, are understood to be included in a general way in the same confession; for these sins we trustingly say with the Prophet: 'From my hidden sins cleanse me, O Lord' [Ps. 18:13]. But, truly, the difficulty of such confession and the shame of disclosing the sins might appear a burdensome matter indeed, if it were not alleviated by so many and such great advantages and consolations which are most certainly bestowed by absolution upon all those who approach this sacrament worthily." (Council of Trent, 1551 A.D.)

Also See: Penance / Confession (Gen'l. Info.) | Penance / Confession (Catechism of the Council of Trent) | Praise / Benefits of Confession / Penance | God's Mercy to Sinners / All Sins Can Be Forgiven | Confession of Venial Sins / Frequent Confession | The Obligation of Confession | Seal of Confession | General Absolution | There is No Confession After Death | Priests & The Sacrament of Penance (Priests & Vocations Reflections) | Baptism / Penance | Eucharist / Penance | Sin / Sorrow for Sin / Mercy / Deliverance (Prayers) | Sin & Vice (Catholic Basics Section) | Confession / Penance (Topical Scripture) | Fear of God / Fear of the Lord (Topical Scripture) | Tough Love in the New Testament | Sin (Topical Scripture) | Catholic Basics Section

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