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Catholic Essentials
"Not Believing" is not an Option!


Penance - Penitence or repentance, a virtue disposing a sinner to hatred of his own sin because it is an offence against God and prompting him to a firm purpose of amendment.

Sacrament of Penance - A sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which the absolution of a priest, acting as judge, sins committed after Baptism are forgiven to a person who confesses them with sorrow and a purpose of amendment.

(Definitions from A Catholic Dictionary, 1951)

References in Scripture to Penance:

  • "No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3
  • "And God indeed having winked at the times of this ignorance, now declareth unto men, that all should every where do penance. Because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in equity, by the man whom he hath appointed; giving faith to all, by raising him up from the dead" Acts 17:30-31
  • "But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38

References in Scripture on the Sacrament of Penance:

  • "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity." 1 John 1:8-9
  • "He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." John 20:21-23
  • "But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins; and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation" 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Church Teaching on the Sacrament of Penance:

  • "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 baptised." Catechism of Council of Trent, Sacrament of Penance
  • "The faithful must be fully aware that sin and its eternal punishment are remitted by the Sacrament of Penance if one makes proper use of it; however the entire temporal punishment is very seldom taken away. This must be removed either by satisfactory works in this life or by the fire of Purgatory after death" Encyclical On Preparation for the Holy Year by Pope Benedict XIV, 1749
  • "Q: Why is a penance imposed in confession?
    A: A penance is imposed because, after sacramental absolution which remits sin and its eternal punishment, there generally remains a temporal punishment to be undergone, either in this world or in Purgatory." Catechism of St. Pius X, The Sacrament of Penance
  • "Q: Is it a sin to transgress a Precept of the Church?
    A: Knowingly to transgress a Precept of the Church in grave matter is a mortal sin
    Q: Name the Precepts of the Church.
    A: The Precepts of the Church are:
    1. To hear Mass on all Sundays and on Holy days of obligation.
    2. To fast during Lent, on Ember Days and appointed Vigils, and not to eat meat on forbidden days.
    3. To confess our sins at least once a year, and to receive Holy Communion at Easter each one in his own parish.
    4. To contribute to the support of the Church, according to local custom.
    5. Not to solemnize marriage at forbidden times, that is, from the first Sunday in Advent until the Epiphany, and from the first day of Lent until Low Sunday" Catechism of Pius X, The Precepts of the Church

Church Teaching on Penance:

  • "And so, out of that ardent and zealous charity with which all Christians are bound to love the Catholic Church, they should address their prayers to heaven, but they should also offer interior acts of penance, works of virtue, sacrifices, inconveniences, and all the pains and hardships under which we labor, of necessity, in this mortal life, but which we should occasionally, take upon ourselves voluntarily, in a spirit of generosity" Encyclical On Prayers for the Persecuted Church by Pope Pius XII, 1958
  • When the Apostles asked the Savior why they had been unable to drive the evil spirit from a demoniac, Our Lord answered: "This kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting."[39] So, too, the evil which today torments humanity can be conquered only by a world-wide crusade of prayer and penance. We ask especially the Contemplative Orders, men and women, to redouble their prayers and sacrifices to obtain from heaven efficacious aid for the Church in the present struggle. Let them implore also the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Virgin who, having crushed the head of the serpent of old, remains the sure protectress and invincible "Help of Christians."
    Encyclical On Atheistic Communism by Pope Pius XI, 1937


There is no doubt that penance in general must be practiced by all Catholics as much as possible if we are to make up for our earthly offenses and attain Heaven. This has been a basic practice of the Catholic Church since Christ founded it.

As for the Sacrament of Penance, for those that sin after Baptism, it is our lifeline to Heaven. Since in some cases it is difficult to know whether we are truly in the state of grace, the Sacrament of Penance should be utilized very frequently (i.e. monthly or even more frequently)!



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