Clarification: Perfect contrition and intention to go to Confession ASAP


Which of the following is necessary for making an act of perfect contrition?
(I am not asking what is necessary for a person to become eligible to receive Holy Communion. I am focusing on the act of perfect contrition in-and-of-itself).

  • intention to confess one's mortal sin(s) as soon as possible
  • intention to confess one's mortal sin(s) the next time he receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

I have found conflicting answers on the internet.

However, a Catholic is obliged to confess his or her grave sins at the earliest opportunity and may not, in norma circumstances, receive Communion before he or she has been absolved by a priest in the sacrament of penance.]

One who seeks the pardon of mortal sin through perfect contrition must have the intention of confessing that sin the next time he receives the sacrament of Penance — not necessarily as soon as possible.


Baltimore Catechism No.3 Confraternity Edition, by Fr. Connell (same as author of above article)

403 A person in mortal sin can regain the state of grace before receiving the sacrament of Penance by making an act of perfect contrition with the sincere purpose of going to confession.

In order to regain sanctifying grace by perfect contrition, it is sufficient that we intend to go to confession the next time we are obliged to do so.


the Catechism says "as soon as possible". That trumps all else. This is the Catechism sanctioned by the church and it replaces all others including the Baltimore Catechism. So that would mean that as soon as it is possible for you to go to confession. It also says you have to have the intention. It doesn't say you actually have to do it. Since with perfect contrition you have already received forgiveness before confession the intent is what matters. Not that you shouldn't go to confession.

I would also point out that perfect contrition, and the act of perfect contrition are two seperate things. To have perfect contrition one must be repentant out of love of God and intend to confess asap. (cat. 1452) The act of perfect contrition is a pray meant to foster perfect contrition.


Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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.51

(note too that venial sins can be forgiven in various ways....prayer etc)


The Council of Trent in session 14 proclaimed to the entire church what was necessary.

Contrition, which holds the first place among the aforesaid acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of mind and a detestation for sin committed with the purpose of not sinning in the future.[16] This feeling of contrition was at all times necessary for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and thus indeed It prepares one who has fallen after baptism for the remission of sins, if it is united with confidence in the divine mercy and with the desire to perform the other things that are required to receive this sacrament in the proper manner. The holy council declares therefore, that this contrition implies not only an abstention from sin and the resolution and beginning of a new life, but also a hatred of the old,[17] according to the statement: [18] And certainly he who has pondered those lamentations of the saints: [21] and others of this kind, will easily understand that they issued from an overwhelming hatred of their past life and from a profound detestation of sins. The council teaches furthermore, that though it happens sometimes that this contrition is perfect through charity and reconciles man to God before this sacrament is actually received, this reconciliation, nevertheless,*** is not to be ascribed to the contrition itself without a desire of the sacrament, which desire is included in it***. As to imperfect contrition, which is called attrition, since it commonly arises either from the consideration of the heinousness of sin or from the fear of hell and of punishment, the council declares that if it renounces the desire to sin and hopes for pardon, it not only does not make one a hypocrite and a greater sinner, but is even a gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Ghost, not indeed as already dwelling in the penitent, but only moving him, with which assistance the penitent prepares a way for himself unto justice.

And though without the sacrament of penance it cannot per se lead the sinner to justification, it does, however, dispose him to obtain the grace of God in the sacrament of penance. For, struck salutarily by this fear, the Ninivites, moved by the dreadful preaching of Jonas, did penance and obtained mercy from the Lord.[22] Falsely therefore do some accuse Catholic writers, as if they maintain that the sacrament of penance confers grace without any pious exertion on the part of those receiving it, something that the Church of God has never taught or ever accepted. Falsely also do they assert that contrition is extorted and forced, and not free and voluntary.


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