Are sins not forgiven until you complete penance?



A friend of mine went to Confession to confess venial sins. The priest told her that for penance she should read all of the Sapiential Books or Books of Wisdom in the Bible!!!
She started doing it and has been reading a bit every day, but she thinks it is taking her too long to complete the penance and she wonders and worries if there is a time limit to fulfill that obligation. :rolleyes:
She just finished reading Job and is currently reading the Book of Psalms.

She asked me if her sins were not forgiven until she completes the penance, maybe she should confess the same sins to another priest who probably will give her a shorter penance. :stuck_out_tongue:
She says she is enjoying the reading very much but is concerned that she has not been forgiven yet.

I think if her sins were venial she did not need to confess them anyway, with a perfect contrition and participating in Mass they would have been forgiven. But I am not sure if I should tell her that, I do not want to think it is ok no to do a penance given by a priest.

I have also considered advicing her to talk to him, I am sure he did not mean for her to worry like this.

What should I tell her?

I thank you in advance for your sound advice! :tiphat:



No , she was forgiven immediately…the priest says in the confessional " I absolve you from your sins " right before she left the confessional…they are gone. Prior to doing this, the priest asked a condition of her…to read those scriptures. She agreed…and in good faith in the fact that she was willing to do a penance…which is simply a sign of her repentence and willingness to try to change.

So the answer is…she has been forgiven but is under a condition…doing her penance.


Sins are forgiven at absolution so she is clean. The penance is a work to show God you mean to improve yourself


This is one of our regular questions! :slight_smile:

As the above posters have said, all sins are forgiven in the absolution - rather than on the completion of the penance.

If one fails to perform the penance then they may incur a new sin - but the previous sins remain absolved. If one forgot to do the penance, in complete innocence, then there would be no sin. If one fails culpably to do the penance, then that is probably a sin for the next confession. If one is unable to perform the penance, or it is causing undue difficulty, then one can mention it in the next confession and the priest may commute it to another penance.


She was contrite, confessed and received the penance and intended to do it. Absolution forgives the sins at the moment of absolution.

As to the penance - she could also seek to have that penance changed in confession by the Priest who gave it or perhaps by another in confession (she can relate that she received this penance from another Priest - for such and such venial sins and that such seems not to fit the confession).

It may have been that the Priest was giving advice too or only meant say to read the book of Wisdom or parts of things and something was misunderstood.


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