Lesson 33 – Penance


(Psychoanalysis on its Knees)


Peace be to you.

Essential acts of Penance

Continuing the sacrament of penance, we review the essential acts of penance:

  1. The confession or the telling of sins;
  2. Contrition or sorrow;
  3. Satisfaction for sins.


Thus far, we have treated confession, or the actual telling of sins, though not completely.

It might be asked or objected at this point: There is all kind of telling of sins.

  • There is a literary confession and
  • there is also a psychoanalytic confession.


Literary Confession:

What is the difference between any of these and Sacramental Confession?

Well, let us take literary confession such as John Jacques Russo.  Russo, and also those who write modern confessions, do not confess sins for the same reason that we do in the sacraments.

  • Russo had a great pride in revealing himself.

So also in modern confessions.  There is almost implied such a sentiment as this:  “See what a rogue am I?”.

Not only is there pride but there is also an intent to arouse similar emotions, feelings, urges, concupiscence, and passions in the mind of the reader.  Every disclosure of vice contributes to the increase of pleasure.


  • When St. Augustine wrote his Confessions, there was great shame, not pride, and he did not tell any of his grave sins. One would almost think reading the Confessions of St. Augustine that the worst thing he ever did was to steal an apple. He made that stand for all of his very grave sins.


Then he said that he wrote his Confessions in order that everyone might know the Mercy of God.  If you would ever like to read the finest piece of analysis of soul that has ever been done, read the Confessions of St. Augustine.

Sins in Confession / Sins to a Psychoanalyst:

Now we come to the other objection.  What is the difference between telling one’s sins in confession and telling sins to a psychoanalyst or to a psychiatrist?

There are many differences:

  • In psychoanalysis, there is an avowal of the attitude of mind and particularly an avowal of unconsciousness.
  • Confession, on the contrary, is an avowal not of a state of mind but a state of conscience. It is an avowal of guilt.

Confession is the communion of the conscience and God.

  • The mere revealing of one’s sub consciousness is never very humbling.
  • Most people when they go to a psychoanalyst and tell their state of mind will often end it up by saying, “Doc, did you ever hear a case like that before?” They are very proud of it.

Another difference between the two:

is really everybody naturally wants to do his own telling because he knows better than anyone else his own guilt.

  • “Let me tell it” is a primary right of the human heart.

Confession satisfies that.  Every decent mind resents probing, probing by alien minds.  He wants to swing open the portals of his own conscience.  He wants no one breaking down doors from the outside.

  • The very uniqueness of personality gives him the right to state his own case in his own words, and that is what happens in confession. We are our own witness. We are our own prosecuting attorney.  We are to some extent our own judge.  No soul likes to be studied like a bug.


The person to whom the avowals are always made.

And another difference is that which concerns the person to whom the avowals are made.

  • Confession is always made to a representative of the moral order.
  • The analysis represents not the moral order but the emotional order.


And when you go to a representative of the moral order, you go there to be made better, to have your sins forgiven, not to have them explained away. 


In Confessionrelationships between the confessor and the penitent

In confession, the relationships between the confessor and the penitent are utterly impersonal.  The very structure of the confession protects the penitent from revealing his identity. There is the screen, there is the veil.  Nothing can be passed, the priest cannot see through. So impersonal is this relationship that the penitent may go on indifferently as far as the validity of confession is concerned and he may go indifferently to any priest. It makes no difference to which one he goes.


I say, therefore, that the guilty conscience wants to evolve his guilt not to a theorist of a particular system but to a Mediator of Divinity.

  • That is why the church asks that a priest who absolves the penitent be in the state of grace, a participant himself of Divine Life.
  • Psychoanalysis never raises the question of the moral fitness of the analyst. He may be beating his wife at home.
  • But the church always raises that question and raises it very seriously, too. And we are never made worse by admitting the need for absolution. We are not made worse by admitting that we are all brokenhearted and when we go to confession we are brokenhearted. We face our guilt, we face our sin and because we do,

we have the great advantage of being able to let God in, for God can get in only through a broken heart.


In an actual confession, the penitent is never cited and forced to go.  He receives no summons, he goes of his own accord.  He is not accused, he accuses himself.  There are no outside witnesses, he witnesses against himself as the culprit.  And therefore, there is no question of vindictive justice as there is in civil courts.  The reason one goes to confession is in order to be healed, to be reincorporated to Christ and also to receive His Mercy.

  • When we go to confession we are apt to forget sins. If we inadvertently forget to mention even a grave sin there is no need to go back to confession. It is forgiven in the intention to confess the sin, but we should mention it explicitly in the next confession.


Great advantage there is in confession as regards character building.

No one seems to realize the great advantage there is in confession as regards character building.

It confers grace, gives power to the will.

  • An unbeliever once wrote, “The custom of monthly confession is a magnificent safeguard to the morals of youth. The shame engendered by this humble confession perhaps saves a greater number than the holiest of natural motives.”


Now assuming the confession is made, we come to the second act of the sacrament, namely contrition or sorrow.

  • Contrition means to break, to crush, from the Latin contere.

Let me tell you what contrition is not

First, it is not a worldly remorse.  There is the remorse of the world.  The remorse of the world is related only to the past.

  • It is not related to a standard,
  • not related to God,
  • not related to the Divine Life of Christ.

It is a wish that what was done be undone. It therefore does not make any references at all either to neighbor or to self.

Judas & Peter:

The great difference between the two is evident in the case of Judas and Peter.

  • Both sinned, our Blessed Lord said that both would sin.
  • He called Peter a devil and scripture says that Judas himself became possessed by the devil.

And yet Peter was forgiven and Judas was not.  Why was that?

Well, it was because Judas repented unto himself.  That is the exact expression of scripture.

Peter repented unto our Lord.  Judas had remorse, Peter had sorrow or contrition.


Contrition is an interior attitude or disposition of the soul.

When it is sincere, it is that. Those who say, and there are many who do, all that a Catholic has to do when he sins is to go to confession and admit sins and he comes out white as snow.  Oh, no he does not!

  • The mere confession of sins without sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment does not make a valid confession.
  • The absolution of the priest is not efficacious unless there is a serious sorrow.

In fact, under certain conditions, which I will explain, one can have remission of sins without the telling of sins.

***Sorrow there must be.  Under no condition is absolution effective without sorrow. ***


Here is a story.

It is only, only a story, but it indicates and reveals how important sorrow is. According to this fiction, a man went to confession and during confession, which happened in the priest’s own room, the man was a pickpocket and stole the priest’s watch. Then at the end of confession, he said, “O, Father, I forgot to tell you I stole a watch.”  The priest said, “You must restore it to the owner.”  The man said, “Father, I will give it to you.”   “No,” said the priest, “I do not want it, you must give it to the owner.”  “Well,” said the man, “the owner won’t take it back.”  “Well, in that case,” said the priest, “You may keep it.”  There was no sorrow.  Sorrow, penance there must be. 


The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Gospel.  

Remember how much our Blessed Lord emphasized it?  “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent, repent and believe the Gospel.”  

  • Our Blessed Lord said that sorrow was so important that He introduced the Kingdom of God with it and repentance. As He put it, “The Kingdom of God is near at hand, repent and believe the gospel.”
  • It was the first sermon of Peter. It was also the sermon of John the Baptist, and penance was the last sermon our Blessed Lord preached.

Sorrow, therefore, is absolutely essential, and why does God insist upon it? 

Why is He not indifferent to sin? Because God is Holy. He makes a distinction between the sinner and the sin. He wants to separate the two, the disease and the patient, the error and the student. Therefore, we must be sorry.


In passing, I might say that a Catholic suffers more when he sins than one who has not the faith.

  • The reason the Catholic suffers more is because of his greater love.
  • He understands better the Love of our Lord in Redemption and in the Church.


Imagine two men marrying two old shrews.  One of the men was never married before. The other was married to a beautiful, kind, loving and devoted wife who died. Which of the two men do you think suffer the more? Obviously, the one who knew the better love.

Catholics, therefore, are in great agony when they sin and not really for any other reason than because they hurt someone they love.

  • But, though we suffer more, we never fall into despair. That is the difference with the world. Our sorrow is not only a grief directed toward our Lord, as I shall explain, it is also a detestation of sin with a purpose of not sinning again.

Sorrow is of two kinds. 

It is imperfect, and it is perfect.

Imperfect sorrow is a sorrow we have because we dread the loss of heaven and we fear hell.

The perfect sorrow is the sorrow we have because we have offended God.

Act of Contrition:

When you go to confession, at the end of it, while the priest is giving you absolution, you recite the act of contrition. Notice that the act of contrition combines both kinds of sorrow.  Now listen to it as I say,

“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen.”

Two kinds of sorrow

Perhaps I can illustrate these two kinds of sorrow by telling you about two children.  Presume they are twins.  They both disobey their mother in an equal way.

  • One of the children goes to the mother and says, “Oh, mommy, I am sorry. Now I can’t go to the picnic, can I?” That is imperfect contrition. 
  • The other one throws her arms around the mother and begins to cry and says, “Oh, mommy, forgive me, I love you!” That is perfect contrition.


Imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive absolution in sacramental confession. But suppose you are in a state of sin and you cannot go to confession.  Suppose you are in a plane that is falling, or you are a soldier who is going into battle or you are in any state of grievous sin and there is no way of going immediately to confession. What should you do? You make an act of perfect contrition. A perfect contrition will remit sins provided that you have the intent to go to sacramental confession at the earliest opportunity.



Along with this sorrow, there is the purpose of amendment because we say we promise to amend. Now the purpose of amendment is not the certitude of amendment. That would be presumption. St. Paul says, “If any man thinks he can stand, let him take heed, lest he fall.” What is meant by a firm resolve not to sin is the sincere desire now to do all in our power with the help of God’s grace not to fall again.

So, we examine ourselves and we think up ways of avoiding the fall. I find an illustration of that in this very lesson.


Avoiding the fall

In the first part of it as I was talking to you about confession in general, there was a kind of a tick. I looked about to see if it was my clock, my stopwatch. I stuck it in my pocket and still the little tick went on. Maybe you heard it.  And then I finally discovered it was the electric typewriter I left on. I had been doing some typing and, lo and behold, the tick got in behind the voice. Now that’s a confession to you, is it not, and with it sorrow?  I am telling you and also a firm purpose of amendment.  I just shut off the typewriter.

Firm purpose not to sin again

  • So, too, when we are in the state of sin, when we are absolved as a result of Sacramental Confession, we take the firm purpose not to sin again.
  • And the way to make up for sin is to do away with many of the occasions of sin and to make up for the sin as soon as possible. If we are nasty, sarcastic, we must make up for it.

Make up for the sin as soon as possible

Many people will cut others, cut them to the quick with nasty remarks, never, never once ask pardon. They just let it pass. They forget it. And such a disposition certainly does not indicate a very firm purpose of amendment. If you have stolen something, you have to return it. If you have been guilty of calumny, you rectify it and, as I say, you avoid the occasions of sin. It might be certain readings, it might be certain companionship, it might be certain visits.

All of these are avoided in order to prove the sincerity of our sorrow.


Sorrow in a certain sense is Eros in tears.  Eros is the God of Affliction.

Sorrow is an intent to abandon the ego.

It is hard.  Sometimes it is like being skinned alive.  Have you ever had an old plaster peeled off your body?

  • Well, that’s the way it is, too, to peel away sins, to get rid of some of them and take a firm purpose of amendment.


Conclude the subject of sorrow

But, to conclude the subject of sorrow.  You might ask me which is more common in confession, perfect or imperfect contrition?  I would say perfect contrition.  That is my experience.  I believe that most people are sorry for their sins not just because they dread the loss of heaven and fear hell.  It is because they have hurt our Lord. 


  • After all, it is the Cross that reveals the dimension of sin.

No one ever thoroughly sees sin in its utter nakedness until he understands Redemption.


Take the errors and the stupidity and the crimes of everyday. People summarize them by saying, Oh, what a fool I made of myself.” There is a world of difference between that and, “Oh, what a sinner am I”


And when we go to confession, there is always a Crucifix in the confession box.  And as we kneel there, we see Goodness  nailed to the Cross. 

Incidentally, I should have told you, too, when I answered the objection why go to confession to a priest, remember that we priests have to go.  We are sinners too and we have to go every week.

When we see the Crucifix before us, we see our own biography

There is no need of anyone writing my life.  There it is, nailed to a cross. I can read my thoughts in that crown of thorns. The nails are like so many pens, the parchment the skin. There I am as I really am.

  • Far be it, therefore, for any of us to say, “Oh, we are not as bad as the Romans or Jews who crucified our Blessed Lord.” Let us not forget that they did not crucify our Lord except physically.


Sin crucified Him and in that we are all equal

Sin crucified Him and in that we are all equal.  We are all representatives.

When we go to Confession, we gather up all the rubbish of our lives, the kind of rubbish that we have thrown down into the cellar of our lives, as we throw rubbish down into the cellar of our house.  And we take it all up and we lay it at the foot of our Lord

If you have ever walked on a Saturday afternoon or evening to a large city church with rows of confessionals on either side, you have seen feet protruding from the little curtains of the confessionals, big feet, little feet, male feet, female feet. These feet look like wriggling little worms. They belong to people who have finally come to disown their sins by disowning them. And the only part of them, which is revealed to the world, which sticks out from under the curtain, is the feet, the lowliest part, the symbol of the absence of pride.


When a Catholic goes to Confession, instead of putting his best foot forward, he puts his worst foot forward, and every penitent who has ever made a confession, as he enters that box, has said, “I may fool others, but what a fool am I to fool myself, and what a sinful fool I am to think I can fool God.”


God love you. 

1. In today’s lesson on – Penance – what stood out the most to you?

2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “Psychoanalysis on its Knees” to this lesson?

3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of Sacrament of Confession?

4. Now that you have learned more about – Sacrament of Confession
– what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?

1427. “Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.'[Mk 1:15 .] In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism[Cf. Acts 2:38 .] that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.”
1428. “Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, ‘clasping sinners to her bosom, (is) at once holy and always in need of purification, (and) follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.'[LG 8 # 3.] This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a ‘contrite heart,’ drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.[Ps 51:17 ; cf. Jn 6:44 ; Jn 12:32 ; 1Jn 4:10 .]”
1429. “St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.[Cf. Lk 22:61 ; Jn 21:15-17 .] The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord’s call to a whole Church: ‘Repent!'[Rev 2:5, 16.]
St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, ‘there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.'[St. Ambrose, ep. 41, 12: PL 16, 1116.]”

1430. “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.[Cf. Joel 2:12-13 ; Isa 1:16-17 ; Mt 6:1-6 ; Mt 16-18 .]”
1431. “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).[Cf. Council Of Trent (1551) DS 1676-1678; 1705; Cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4.] ”
1432. “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart.[Cf. Ezek 36:26-27 .] Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: ‘Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!'[Lam 5:21 .] God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:[Cf. Jn 19:37 ; Zech 12:10 .]
Let us fix our eyes on Christ’s blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.”
1433. “Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved ‘the world wrong about sin,'[Cf. Jn 16:8-9 .] i.e., proved that the world has not believed in him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.[Cf. Jn 15:26 ; Acts 2:36-38 ; John Paul II, DeV 27-48.]”

1434. “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,[Cf. Tob 12:8 ; Mt 6:1-18 .] which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity ‘which covers a multitude of sins.'[1 Pet 4:8 ; Cf. Jam 5:20 .]”

1435. “Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,[Cf. Am 5:24 ; Isa 1:17 .] by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.[Cf. Lk 9:23 .] ”
1436. “Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. ‘It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.'[Council Of Trent (1551) DS 1638.]”
1437. “Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father – every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins. ”

1438. “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.[Cf. SC 109-110; CIC, cann. 1249-1253; CCEO, Cann. 880-883.] These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). ”

1439. “The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:[Cf. Lk 15:11-24 .] the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way. ”


1451. “Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is ‘sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.'[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676.]”
1452. “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.[Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1677.]”
1453. “The contrition called ‘imperfect’ (or ‘attrition’) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.[Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1678; 1705.]”
1454. “The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.[Cf. Mt 5-7 ; Rom 12-15 ; 1 Cor 12-13 ; Gal 5 ; Eph 4-6 ; etc.] ”
The confession of sins
1455. “The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible. ”
1456. “Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: ‘All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.'[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.]
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.'[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl.]”
1457. “According to the Church’s command, ‘after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.'[Cf. CIC, Can. 989; Council of Trent (1551): DS 1683; DS 1708.] 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.[Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1647; 1661; CIC, can. 916; CCEO, can.] Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.[Cf. CIC, can. 914.]”
1458. “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.[Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1680; CIC, can. 988 # 2.] Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:[Cf. Lk 6:36 .]
Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ – this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made …. When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.[St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 12, 13: PL 35, 1491.]”

1459. “Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.[Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712.] Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance.'”
1460. “The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, ‘provided we suffer with him.'[Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.]
The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of ‘him who strengthens’ us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth ‘fruits that befit repentance.’ These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.]”

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