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I. Reconciliation - Confession
Index of the following paragraphs:
2. The Confession of Sins.
4. The Minister of This Sacrament.
5. The Effects of this Sacrament.
6. General Norms & Specific Norms.
1. Contrition.Among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies the first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul” and detestation of the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again. When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect”. Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible. The contrition called “imperfect” is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the penalties threatening the sinner. By itself, however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave (mortal) sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance. The reception of the sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God.
2. The Confession of Sins. Through admission, the disclosure of sins, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a future possible. Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents, after diligent self-examination, are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue (you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife - you shall not covet your neighbor’s goods); for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly. When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.” According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of reason, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must NOT receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion the first time.
Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, lets ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.
3. Satisfaction. Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.” The penance the confessor imposes takes into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patent acceptance of the cross we must bear.
4. The Minister of this Sacrament. Since Christ entrusted to His Apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors and priests, the bishop’s collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed, bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
5. The Effects of this Sacrament. “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with Him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament - for those with contrite hearts and religious disposition; reconciliation is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation. It must be recalled that… this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliation’s, which repair the other breaches caused by sin.
6. General Norms & Specific Norms. During Lent and in preparation for Christmas, Pentecost and the Holy Trinity, additional opportunities are scheduled for the parish to receive the sacrament of Penance. Parents and guardians are reminded of their duty to encourage their children to confess regularly. Penitents have the option of either anonymous or face-to-face celebration of the sacrament.
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