Evidentally my initial attempt to explain this subject to a Non-Catholic Christian friend, was not good enough.:o Can anyone help me out here?
Jesus’ death and resurrection atones for our sins. It won grace for us, which we receive through our sacraments.
In confession, our repentance brings us absolution, and God’s grace flows into our soul. That grace is from the merit’s of Christ’s death and resurrection. That grace is there, waiting for our repentance, but it wouldn’t be there without Jesus on the cross.
So, simply stated, Jesus is the atonement, and repentance (through the sacrament of confession) brings us grace.
See the Catechism of the Catholic Churchon the punishments of sin, paragraphs 1472 and 1473.
There you will learn that sin actually has a double consequence: an eternal consequence*,* involving our communion with God, and a temporal consequence*,* involving our attachment to creatures.
As I understand things, only Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice on the Cross is sufficient to atone for the eternal punishment due to sin and restore our communion with God. However, penance in this life and, if necessary, our sufferings in Purgatory can atone for the temporal punishment due to sin and free us from inordinate attachments to creatures.
The Catechism indicates that a “conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity [otherwise known as an *act of perfect contrition] can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.” (1472) As I understand things, the purification of the sinner in this (perfect contrition) case is accomplished by appealing, explicitly or implicitly, to, and fully participating in, the merits of the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. It is not accomplished by appealing to the individual’s merits, at least as far as the eternal punishment due to sin is concerned.
So, the short answer to your question seems to be: Sometimes.