Does confession penance covers all mortal sins?


#1

If a penitent confessed more than 1 mortal sin, will he be assigned a penance for each mortal sin or will he be given 1 penance that covers all mortal sins confess?


#2

Penance is for the benefit of the penitent, and is general, based on whatever the priest deems appropriate. Some time ago (not recently), penances tended to be “weighted” by level of sin or sins, plural. That is, someone who had been a long-time-lapsed Catholic would get a “heavy” penance. And actually, not so long ago, after I returned after an absence of a few years, I also received a “heavy” (long) penance.

But mostly nowadays priests give “token” penances – if they are prayers, anyway. Those are not “graduated” or leveled according to the number or the gravity of the sin.

The penances I prefer, and think are most useful, are those related to the sins committed. Thus, some penances assigned-- more “creative” ones – are reparative to a person the penitent has hurt. (Like, say a rosary for X person you have confessed having sinned against.)

In summary, penances vary by confessor. Some are specific to the sin, which does not mean necessarily they will be long or “heavy,” but they could be. Some are “token,” in the sense that they are symbolic: they help the penitent to be conscious of some closure & completion (some “act” – prayer or good work done on his or her part).

Penances do not have any relationship to absolution. They are a spiritual aid to the penitent.


#3

If you confessed all your mortal sins to the best of your knowledge and with sincere repentance, whatever penance the priest assigned will “cover” that confession. I’ve never been given more than one penance per confession (in 50+ years!)…


#4

The Penance is to be according to the what sins where confessed and also to take into account the condition of the penitent.

Canon Law:

Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally.

(from CIC on vatican.va)

Now does this mean that such a penance will “cover” all mortal sins?

Well --first off let me note for readers that certainly one is to confess all mortal sins (one cannot just say confess one of them and include the rest --such would be not valid.)

Secondly it is the “penance” for that confession. The reception of such is to be part of the Sacrament. It is the penance for that which was confessed in the Sacrament. So if the person had three mortal sins that they then confessed – the one penance is for those three mortal sins (and any venial sins confessed) from his confession.

But then – does the penance cover ones mortal sins? In terms of the temporal effects of sin?

The Sacrament and the penance may or may not in terms of the temporal effects involved. And one should note that part can be said to involve the subjective approach of the penitent.

It is certainly to be in accord with the quality and number of the sins (as well as the condition of the penitent) but such does not mean per se that all temporal effects are ‘covered’. This is one reason why we have days of penance (like Fridays and Lent) and do other penance etc.

Catechism:

Satisfaction

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). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.62 Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.”

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. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."63

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.64 scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c2a4.htm#X

And why indulgences are wonderful.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c2a4.htm#X


#5

Penance is never ‘token’ – it is never ‘symbolic’ nor is it ever inappropriate (or whatever you meant by ‘not graduated or leveled’). The penance assigned is at the discretion of the confessor, and is to be agreed upon by the penitant. Whether or not you think a particular penance is ‘too easy’ (which is what I’m getting from the way you’re describing things) is immaterial: penance is penance. It is required to be done, as part of the sacrament. Once complete, it is not necessarily the case that complete satisfaction has been made for the sins committed (after all, if it always were, then there’d be no such thing as Purgatory, right? :wink: ).

However, regardless what you think of the lack of harshness of penances, or of the confessors who assign such penances, the penance assigned in the sacrament of reconciliation is never ‘token’.


#6

You completely missed my point. And that’s obvious.

I never intended to deride the assignment of “small” penances, but some penances are in fact quite small, and many would see them as “token.” The point is: Penances assigned are not necessarily proportional to the sin(s) of the penitent. That is the theological (and sacramental) point. They are part of the entire aspect of Reconciliation, in that their intent is to complete the sacrament. However, in point of fact, they are not essential to absolution.

The OP was asking about penance respective to one (or several sins). The (single) penance may or may not be proportional to one or several sins, because that is not the point of the penance. Nor is a small penance less significant than a large penance – not in itself, and not relative to the sacrament.

Please do not distort my remarks in the context of my entire previous post.


#7

Hmm… clearly I did. But you also accuse me of distorting your remarks “in the context of your entire post”. Let’s see what your entire post says…

Hmm. Nope, that’s your whole post; I think I got it. :wink:

Maybe you didn’t express what you intended, but I certainly heard what you expressed: these days, some penances aren’t what they ‘should’ be – related to the gravity of sin – and therefore, are simply ‘symbolic’; rather than being related to the sin, they’re geared toward the penitent’s state of mind.

And that, I would assert, isn’t quite accurate. Penance is never ‘symbolic’ or merely about a penitent’s ‘conscious’ understanding of their sin; rather, penance is always about the process of making reparation for one’s sins.

The point is: Penances assigned are not necessarily proportional to the sin(s) of the penitent.

No, but they are to “correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed”, taking “into account the penitent’s personal situation.” (CCC 1460).

They are part of the entire aspect of Reconciliation, in that their intent is to complete the sacrament.

Actually, absolution is the means through which “the sacrament of penance is completed” (Rite of Penance, #4). However, penance relates to conversion: “true conversion is completed by acts of penance or satisfaction for sins committed” (Rite of Penance, #6©). I think this is what you mean to say, isn’t it?

However, in point of fact, they are not essential to absolution.

Correct: absolution doesn’t depend on penance; true conversion does.

The OP was asking about penance respective to one (or several sins). The (single) penance may or may not be proportional to one or several sins, because that is not the point of the penance. Nor is a small penance less significant than a large penance – not in itself, and not relative to the sacrament.

Agreed; but when you seem to rail against ‘token’ penances, saying that you prefer ones that are more relevant to sins, you seem to be saying exactly the opposite – and that isn’t a ‘distortion’ of your post. :wink:

Peace,

G.


closed #8

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