Baptism and reparation


I know that reparation is required for sins against justice, but what about those sins (theft, detraction etc.) that were committed before baptism? Does baptism do away with the obligation to repair and make restitution for sins committed before it? If someone could point me to the Church’s teaching I would be grateful!



2454 Every manner of taking and using another’s property unjustly is contrary to the seventh commandment. The injustice committed requires reparation. Commutative justice requires the restitution of stolen goods.


2412 In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner:

Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it - for example, those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods - are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.

Such applies to all persons. Even if the thing was stolen prior to baptism. If I stole a watch the night before my baptism - and repented and was baptized – I still need to give that watch back (though at times this is not possible for various reasons to take place literally)


Detraction may be more difficult to “repair” as the one Saint gave the example of taking a feather pillow and going through the town tearing out the feathers in the wind…

It is rather difficult to put em all back…


Remember that there are some things that are “impossible” or “morally impossible” to do…

Ones confessor can advise one as to particular cases.


Even though the sins are washed away through Baptism,
my response would be that a personal integrity would cause me to wish to make restitution. For instance, if another person has totally forgiven me for offenses,
I still would feel the authentic response would be to do what I reasonably can to make up for any harm or offense caused.
I just feel that personal integrity has a part to play in how we respond to God’s mercy.
The harm I’ve done others through my sins is still harm done to them even if I am forgiven.
I would still feel I need do what I can, in as much as that is possible, even if all that remained possible is to pray for them.
Our response to God’s great mercy should also be generous, I think.


Bookcat… What does “moral impossibility” mean?


Ok this quote seems to say that nothing is required, or am I misunderstanding?

To remove all further doubt on the subject, the Council of Trent, after other Councils had defined this, declared it anew, pronouncing anathema against those who should presume to think otherwise, or should dare to assert that although sin is forgiven in Baptism, it is not entirely removed or totally eradicated, but is cut away in such a manner as to leave its roots still fixed in the soul. To use the words of the same holy Council, God hates nothing in those who are regenerated; for there remains nothing deserving of condemnation in those who are truly buried with Christ by Baptism unto death, “who walk not according to the flesh” but putting off the old man, and putting on the new, who is created according to God, become innocent, spotless, pure, upright, and beloved of God.



One can yes be spotless - indeed a new creation. But still have things yet to say give back…though likely such has already happened before baptism.

One does not get to just keep say what one has stolen prior to baptism.


Basically it is very difficult to do so…it is physically possible but very difficult.

But I do not know that such is really involved with this kind of thing.


I would add though that I do not know to what extent -if any- that “moral impossibility” plays into such -that to stolen goods and the like. But it is a good term to know in other contexts in theology for sure.

But as I noted a confessor can often help with a particular case.

It may be that it is only “impossibility” per se figures into restitution - but then restitution gets done indirectly usually -such as I have not clue who this thing Y belongs to that I stole…so I make restitution by donating to charity…etc.


I only ask because I have scrupulousity and just want to know how far back I should look for things to repair since I DO want to make amends but at the same time I know my scruples can blow things out of proportion and can end up causing more harm than good. I do have a regular confessor who did advise me not to look back on my sins and I obeyed until I became aware of the restitution obligation and now I am doubting if my confessor has the authority to tell me not to make reparation and It seems like I will be sinning whatever way I go (between disobeying my confessor or the Church on this matter).

When I converted I thought all was completely forgiven I didn’t know about the obliation to restitution and didn’t find out until I started trying to learn the faith more. But now I see an almost endless amount of sins from my past that continually pop into my mind and I am very close to despairing. I DO want to apologize for the detractions and such from my past but how can I possibly go back without people thinking I have completely lost my mind?

I can’t even begin to explain how this kind of mindset can be a confusing living hell


Ah I see. Well in that case the question is very very easy to answer for you. Indeed it comes down to one word:


A person with scruples ought to have a “regular confessor” who knows them and who can then direct them and even give him “general principles” for him to follow (he can be in quite a different boat than others). Obedience then to his direction is key. And such is the age old approach in the Church established by Christ on St. Peter. Obedience (except of course manifest sin - such as he tells him it murder his secretary or use contraception! -such is manifest sin. Clear. Certain.)

So bring the matter to your regular confessor who has taken responsibility for you - and lay it at his feet. The age old practice in dealing with scrupulosity is that the responsibility falls then on him (the regular confessor who knows the scrupulous penitent and thus directs him as “his regular confessor”) -even if he makes a mistake - it is his mistake not yours. Discuss this last paragraph with him and indeed all of this post).

Scruples are to be dismissed - not dialogued with or argued with.

Lay the matter at the feet of your confessor - he will tell you what to do or not to do.

A classic quote: *Contra scruplos agendum est, et fixo operis pede certandum
(Act contrary to scruples and with a firm foot overcome them) -with the direction of ones regular confessor.

When scruples arise - turn to God and let them pass by (forget the source of the quote).

And finally to borrow an image from a Carthusian Monk from centuries ago - treat scruples (or even unwanted thoughts of blasphemy) like one would a barking dog or a hissing goose -one does not stop to argue with a barking dog or a hissing goose does one?


Thank you Bookcat, but what about scruples about very real obligations… Just having scruples doesn’t automatically exempt one from following Church teaching right?


Same answer :slight_smile:

Those with scruples can yes scruple about “following Church Teachings”…about “very real obligations” and the application of such…


Thanks Bookcat, I will bring this to my confessor… I also just received an answer from the apologist that says that Baptism does in fact remit all obligation to make restitution. I thought it sounded strange because it seems one cannot be both forgiven through baptism but unforgiven until restitution is made… Either one is totally forgiven and all temporal punishment is washed away or it isnt… but thats not to say out of becoming a “new creation” in Christ one shouldnt try to repair the harm, just that there isn’t a BINDING obligation to.

I think I am understanding this more as well upon reflecting on it. It seems all sins against justice require restitution but there are venial obligations and also mortal ones. Obviously a mortal sin theft done with all the conditions is a GRAVE obligation to restore, but something like saying something out of anger about someone without reflecting on it and it ends up causing a huge fight between people would be a GRAVE sin against justice but since the reflection was lacking it would only be a venial sin and thus the obligation to repair the harm is also venial?


What he noted is yes correct:

1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.

But that is not about restitution as has been discussed here. That is about temporal punishment due for sin.

So what I noted above (one cannot just say keep stolen goods…) especially what I noted about Scruples and a regular confessor - I note here again :slight_smile:

With special emphasis on that last part regarding scruples. Those who struggle with such can scruple about obligations they think they have when they do not or take them too far…and even it can be the case that their scruples remove certain obligations others would have (their regular confessor would direct them in such matters).


Ack! Now I’m confused again! LOL!

Ok let me see if I can make sense of this…

A person commits a grave sin of detraction, she is then converted and baptized and her sins are washed away. If she died she would go immediately to heaven. So say one day she remembers this grave sin committed before her baptism. Obviously a virtuous person goes back and tries to make amends regardless but if she for some reason chose not to that would not mean the previously washed away sin would come back, but perhaps she would commit a NEW grave sin by not making amends? Because after baptism how could she automatically become guilty again of a sin that had just been removed entirely?

I guess I’m not seeing how one can be forgiven of all sin and punishment on one hand but still have a binding obligation under pain of sin to repair said previously forgiven and washed away sin

I hope we were talking about the same restitution and not just going around in circles! Can you clarify what kind you were talking about?

Thank you again this is giving me lots to ponder! Especially with regards to being wholly obedient to my confessor :slight_smile:


Theft is the easiest to see. (and quite often what is meant when discussing restitution)

I steal a very expensive book from someone (worth thousands of dollars). I hear the Gospel believe, repent and am baptized. That sin is yes washed away and both eternal and temporal punishment.

One day I remember I stole that book. It still remains stolen. Still remains in my possession - that offense against justice needs to be amended. I cannot “just keep that book”. I may be able to return it somehow. Or I may not be able to return it for various reasons so I might say intend to give money to the poor etc. Many things can come into play due to the circumstance. A confessor can guide me - even though this is not yet any sin for confession for I was just baptized.

If I just willie nillie keep the book - that well yes can be a new sin done with full knowledge and deliberate consent. A new theft.

Now as to other kinds of reparation - it would depend on what the matter is. Some things even can “make matters worse” if one seeks to “repair” things and might be better left alone. Some things may not call for reparation where the person thought they did. A* confessor* can guide one -such is part of his vocation.

One is not to approach such scrupulously and if one struggles with scruples - ones *regular confessor *is the key. He can tell you “no you need to nothing there” or 'do this and only this" etc.

Good! And your welcome ( any time - you know where I am)

Print and save perhaps and read again what I wrote above on scruples. And take it with you to see him to.

A person with scruples can as I noted scruple about these things and will go in circles with their scruples and fears and doubts. They age old way is obedience (see above for details of what I mean) to their regular confessor. Dismissing scruples that come to knock and nag. Refusing to argue with the hissing goose.


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