Hey. I was wondering what catholics believe about this… If a protestant sins and asks Jesus to forgive him, do you think he is forgiven if he was truly sorry? If a Catholic sins and right away prays and asks for forgiveness, is he forgiven, without having gone to confession first? Just wondering…
Anyone may be forgiven his sins if confesses them to God and repents. Venial sins (those that do not entail grave matter) are forgiven in this way, which is why such sins need not be confessed to a priest, but we are encouraged to do so for the benefit of our souls and growth in virtue.
Catholics must go to a priest to confess mortal sins, though. The exception being those who cannot do so for good reason. Perfect contrition is needed in those cases, as I understand it.
Others will give you an answer as to Protestants being forgiven mortal sins without going to a priest. That I am a bit fuzzy about.
Of course all are forgiven as soon as contrition is present. This is true for the Catholic as well as the Protestant as long as God sees true contrition. The proof of this, for Catholics, is in the fact that one is permitted to receive Holy Communion without Confession but with true and perfect contrition if the situation is grave or if scandal would result from the person refraining. Of course along with the true contrition for the Catholic would be the resolution to go to Confession at the earliest available opportunity after receiving and mention in Confession the reception with contrition and the reason why one received.
The problem comes with the temporal punishment due to sin which we must expire in Purgatory. For us Catholics the opportunity to remove this temporal punishment is given on earth in the Confessional. The sacrament of Confession removes the punishment due to our sins and makes us 5 mins old again! I am sure that the good Lord will of course have a place in Purgatory for the Protestants although they may have to spend a little longer there!
Both Protestants and Catholics can confess in private prayer without the need for sacramental confession IF they do so with perfect contrition. Without perfect contrition, sacramental confession is needed.
This is my #1 fear for my Protestant friends. I don’t doubt that they mean what they say when they pray to Jesus for forgiveness for sins, but I wonder whether they take into account the nature of their contrition.
From the CCC:
1468 "The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship."73 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation "is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation."74 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.
1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”
Temporal punishment can only be removed by indulgences and charity (CCC 1472) while we are here on earth or in Purgatory. The ordinary way to achieve forgivness of sins is through the Confessional. The extra-ordinary way is asking thourgh prayer with perfect contrition, but let us not fool ourselves, perfect contrition is very hard to achieve. It requires much humility and a great love of God (CCC 1452.)
If they are totally ignorant and unaware that Christ established a Sacrament for the forgiveness of Sins, and placed that power with His Church. Being that they would not have any ability to ask for that Sacrament, then there could very well be a possibility that their sins could be forgiven by God outside of the Sacrament.
No Catholic should ever approach Holy Communion with known Mortals sins on their soul without first seeking forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconcilaition, when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to them.
So, if a person can be forgiven without confession, why do we need to go? And how exactly does going to confession remove the temporal punishment of our sins? I’ve never really understood temporal punishment very good-could you give me an example of what temporal punishment is exactly… thanks
I never said they should. I said they can be forgiven if they repent with perfect contrition. I am well aware that CCC 1457 still requires sacramental confession before reciving the Eucharist, but that isn’t our topic.
We want to obey Christ. Christ gave us this sacrament and it isn’t our place to refuse it.
We often have only imperfect contrition.
We benefit from the advice offered by the priest who hears our confession. This is especially true when the priest knows us well.
We know we have been forgiven when we actually hear a priest pronounce us forgiven, wheras private prayer leaves us to rely on our subjective feelings to know our spiritual status.
Sin harms the whole body of Christ, so we should seek reconciliation with the whole body of Christ.
Confession does not remove the temporal punishment – it eliminates the eternal punishment. The temporal punishment is still there, which is why we do pennance.
This is best described using Father Serpa’s pitcher analogy: if you drop a pitcher of juice on the floor, and apologize to your mother, she forgives you – but you still have to clean up the mess, and possibly replace the pitcher. This is analogous to temporal punishment, because sin does damage to others – not just to ourselves – and thus requires that we make amends for our wrongs. Eternal punishment is the just reward for sin because it is an offense against God; temporal punishment is the result of the damage that sin causes.
With regard to going to confession: it is necessary because Christ instituted the sacrament through the Church as the ordinary means for receiving His mercy for our mortal sins.
Hope this helps!
Thank y’all for your posts!
I understand better now about temporal punishment, but how does penance remove the temporal punishment? And isn’t Christ’s death enough to remove all the consequences of sin? Sorry, I’m just trying to understand this better…
Thanks for the help!
One way of looking at this is to consider the effect sin has on us. When we sin we put ourselves instead of God at the center of our lives. Penance helps us to die to ourselves and turn back to God. If you think of penance as helping to overcome the effects of sin on ourself it is easier to understand than the concept of punishment. Also, sometimes our sins directly affect others, penance can help make amends to those others or change us into the kind of person who doesn’t hurt others in that way. Penance helps weaken our attachment to sin.
Jesus’ death on the cross paid for the punishment due to our sins against God, which is why a divine person had to do it. He paid the eternal debt for sins committed against the eternal Being whom we offended by our sins.
But, our sins aren’t just against God, they are also against one another. So, we have to pay for the harm we’ve done to others–this is a temporal debt or debt made in time to others living in time. It’s also what we owe for the harm we’ve done to the Body of Christ on Earth. Penance covers this aspect of the payment of sins–the temporal aspect. Penance includes things like prayer, restitution (if needed/possible), apologizing, giving alms (to help others in need) and other such acts of penance.
This is why if we haven’t done any penance for our offenses against others before we die, we will have to pay for this aspect of our sin in purgatory. It’s only right and fair that we try to amend what we destroyed by our sins.
If I have stated any of this wrongly, everyone, please correct my wording.
Hmm, I think that the main reason for us going to confession, is that it gives us absolution for our sins. We are absolved of our sins in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. As soon as we have confessed our sins, and listen to the priest’s advice and then made an act of contrition, then we are forgiven. But the point of the sacrament is that we are given absolution.
Basically, the sacrament gives us a package deal. It:
Enables our sins to be forgiven
Gives us absolution from them
Gives us advice as to how we can avoid it in the future.
Yes, we can be forgiven without the sacrament, but the sacrament is so much more powerful! Why?
Through confession, we look our ourselves more carefully
It strengthens virtue and decreases sin
Draws us closer to our parish (esp. if we have a regular confessor), to the community which we desperately need
Christ’s love is poured out in every single step of that sacrament, and as it is an ‘official’ thing, it automatically has a standard that only God can provide, and as you go to confession, you have that assurance that the job is done, and properly.
So why go to the sacrament? Hmm… I can’t think of any reason at all…
As I said before, pennance is analogous to cleaning up the spilled juice and buying a new pitcher. It enables us to make up for the damage we’ve done.
Certainly, Christ’s sacrifice is enough to do anything He wants it to do. We receive sanctifying grace through the sacrament of Reconciliation; if we do not have sanctifying grace, we cannot enter heaven. The remnant of our sinfulness is removed by temporal punishment.
As Father Serpa (I’m a big fan) often says, God could’ve saved us with a mere thought; He chose, however, to do it in a way that would demonstrate His great love for us. This doesn’t place limits on what God can do; rather, it shows His power, because He decided that this is the way it’s to be done.