Are we required to make restitution for all our sins?

Whenever we commit a sin, even if venial, are we required to make restitution for it?

How immediate does our restitution have to be?

On a bit of a side note, when making restitution for the damage of others’ reputation, do we have to admit our guilt to the damaged party, or can we simply fix things up with the people we’ve talked to?

Yes, we do. Every single sin.

If we fail to make restitution here on earth, we will spend time in Purgatory (temporal punishment) for those sins.

There is no absolute requirement, but generally it is better to make restitution as soon as possible.

It is acceptable to just make amends without verbally admitting guilt. However, if you can bring yourself to it, it is much more virtuous and humble to verbally admit guilt and profess your apologies.

The latter option certainly brings you a better opportunity to grow in grace and virtue, but if you can’t bring yourself to it (though I encourage you very much to try), it is good to at least attempt the former option.

And I might add that in cases where you damaged another’s reputation, it is important not just to make amends to them, but also to go to the other people to whom you spoke badly of them, and try to fix the damage there too.

I’m assuming restitution can often be done through simply (but genuinely) wanting to avoid the sin in the future in most cases, aside from thievery?

I’m not sure what you mean by “aside from thievery”.

Actually, restitution must take place in the form of actual penance or sacrifices, aside from simply avoiding the sin in the future.

If you steal 10 dollars, repent, and vow to never steal again, that doesn’t mean you’re absolved from the debt of repaying 10 dollars. The mere fact that you don’t intend to sin again doesn’t absolve the need for restitution.

I probably should have worded that more generally, rather than just using theivery.

What I meant to inquire was if restitution for certain sins could be fulfilled by acting on a genuine want to avoid the sin. For example, if we sinfully insult someone that we never come into contact again, obviously we can’t apologize directly to them. In this case, would we achieve restitution by genuinely wanting to avoid acting like this - and putting that into effect by cleaning up our verbal communication?

By “aside from thievery”, I meant that thievery is a sin that has a very clear way to fulfill restitution for. As you said, we are to repay if we steal; it’s not something we can simply want to avoid in the future.

Actually, restitution must take place in the form of actual penance or sacrifices, aside from simply avoiding the sin in the future.

What exactly do you mean by actual penance?

Ah, thanks for the clarification. In cases where it is impossible or not easy to directly make restitution, such as the example you proposed, it is appropriate to do some act of penance (which I’ll explain below) as restitution. This must be done to satisfy God’s Justice. Genuinely wanting to avoid acting like this, and putting that into effect by cleaning up our verbal communication, is good, and a virtue, but it does not count as restitution itself.

Penance takes place in the form of sacrifices; a synonym is “denial of self”.

Common forms of penance are prayer and mortification. Mortifications are little sacrifices of legitimate goods, such as giving up meat on Fridays, or choosing to give up other things that you enjoy for periods of time.

You can also do active meritorious acts which are indulgenced by the Church, such as going to Mass, saying prayers such as the Rosary, spending time in meditation, reading the Scriptures, giving alms, etc. The list is seemingly endless. All of these acts contain merit, which can be counted against the temporal punishment due to sins.

At the end of your life, if there are sins for which more temporal punishment is required, your final penance is Purgatory. You will stay there until all sins are atoned for.

Alright, I’m starting to understand now.

When undergoing prayer as an act of penance, does the prayer have to be intensive (praying the Rosary, reading Scripture), or can it simply involve us discussing and confessing our sin with God?

Bringing up Purgatory also made me realize that I didn’t know this: is it another sin itself to not make restitution for a sin?

Some relevant passages from the Catechism:

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)…

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.

2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.

Either. Preferably both, at different times.

It isn’t a sin in itself. However, if a person were to refuse to make restitution for a sin out of scorn or something, that could be a sin.

But no worries. Sins you fail to make restitution for will simply add to time in purgatory.

Many thanks to the both of you.

So, let’s say that I am very jealous of someone in my art class who is slightly more talented than me. There is a college scholarship that we are both competing for.

Out of jealousy I destroy her set of 64 crayolas and her artwork. She is unable to submit her project and no one knows who did this. I win the scholarship.

I know that I would not have won without the sin of destroying her things. Soon, I have a case of the guiltys.

It’s not enough for me just to tell her I’m sorry. It’s not enough for me to tell her I’m sorry and buy her a new set of 64 crayolas.

I need to confess to the art teacher and the scholarship awarding body. I need to expound her great works and why she really deserves the scholarship. I need to surrender the scholarship and put myself at everyone’s mercy.

Longwinded but we need to repair harm. I always see it better with some sort of example. I appreciate feedback.

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