Confession and restitution

sorry, sitll a little confused on the subject

i do understand that restitution is not a requirement for being forgiven. but i also don’t think that being forgiven automatically lets you off the hook for any consequences that come from your actions

ex. you stole something. you really should try and return it, or pay monitary value for it.

wha’ts confusing me is what if you don’t do it? would be another, separate sin? and if not, why not?

Failing to make restitution for your sins would be a separate sin, specifically a sin of omission. CCC 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.”

what about other things where restitution is not so easy?

like cheating on a test in the distant past? or telling a lie to someone who’ve you lost contact with?

I would ask what of those who’ve taken a life through abortion?
The woman who procured the abortion?
The ‘doctor’ who performed it?
There is no way to restore that life. None.

What of the man who stole thousands in his youth, later married, has children and is working hard to make ends meet with his family? To restore the money is more than he can do, and to report the theft would result in his imprisonment, bringing poverty and shame to his family. (Though one could argue he is encouraging their faith by setting an example).

What of the person who commits adultery? They cannot ‘un-commit’ it, but can only do their best not to do so again and try to be a faithful spouse from that point on.

Making restitution is only for those who’ve stolen goods? Then the heavier burden is on burglars, thieves, and the like. Not for abortionists, adulterers, etc,…

This is interesting and am glad it has been asked, as I have wondered about some of this myself.

Most confessors that I have attended impose a penance that offsets that offense. For example, if i confess gluttony (which has no external victim and restitution is not possible), he imposes some sort of fast.

But I usually attend traditional Dominican confessors. A confessor is completely free to impose whatever penance he sees fit. I have heard of confessors who impose saying the Lord’s Prayer before the Tabernacle (an easy two-minute penance) or some such thing (my Dominican confessors have never been so lenient).


I am reminded of an ancient story (probably not factual, but illustrative) of a desert father and his priest-disciple. The senior needed to be away, and the junior was instructed to serve anyone who presented himself. The senior returned and asked if anyone had come, and the junior said that a person had come for Confession, and he imposed the penance of reverently saying the name “Jesus” three times. The senior was aghast, and asked, “Did you not know that saying the name “Jesus” just once was sufficient for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world?”

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