Does Penence reconcile with Church AND State? What about ammends after Confession?


For example, quite a few Americans (young and old) are guilty of violating copyright infringement laws, especially when it comes to music and lyrics on the internet. If they confess this sin (theft), should they also turn themselves in to proper governement channels and the companies or artists involved? Or does penence wipe out the need for reconciliation with the state, regardless of the civil/federal infraction?

Does canon law address this?

…I’ve heard several popular priests talk about their pre-conversion lives and how it was “a miracle they didn’t go to jail” or that they “probably should have”. This suggests offenses against the law (however venial or grave) and gets me wondering about atonement with the State.

I know that when I was a teenager, I did things or was in possession of things that were illegal (my pre-Jesus days were pretty crazy). Most teenagers have tried alcohol before they were 21, for instance. Quite a few have experimented with drugs, as well. Some have shop-lifted an item or two. And almost all of them have stolen a small fortune’s worth of music or software from file sharing.

The question arises: is confession really enough with matters of the State? How are we to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect? Do we take a “…uh, I’ll plead guilty if charges are pressed, but I’m not gonna turn myself in” kind of approach?

It leads me to another similar question: say you confess a “white lie” to the priest. Should you afterwards tell that girl that yes, she does look fat in that dress? Should you approach your boss and say “actually, yesterday when I said the job was done I was actually five minutes from completing it, so I techinically lied; sorry.” The point being, how much do we make ammends with those who have been directly or indirectly offended by our actions after confession?


Hi Zig,

Reconciliation addresses your relationship with God. In some cases reparation or restitution may be a condition of absolution.

Offenses against the state, are not of themselves sinful. For example, spitting on the sidewalk may be againsts the law, but it is not an offense against God unless damage is done to someone. The same goes with laws of the road. Violation is sinful only if you are putting themselves or others in jeopardy.

On the other hand, if you incur a penalty, you are in conscience bound to fulfil it : pay a fine, go to jail or whatever. Still you can defend yourself with all the means at your disposal.

As for income tax, copyrights etc. these are complicated issues and theologians often differ on what is right and wrong.

As a rule of thumb, whenever we feel we must confess something, then we should follow the priest’s advice on any follow-up.



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