Is giving alms necessary for forgiveness?

A friend of mine told me that the process of repentance involves true sorrow, sacramental confession, and giving alms to the poor. He said that without this final part, the process is not complete. Is this true? If he is mistaken, do you know of anything upon which he could be basing this claim?

The only thing that forgiveness is absolutely dependent upon is repentance. Someone who sincerely repents his sin is forgiven the instant he repents. If he is Catholic and has committed a mortal sin, a normative condition of the forgiveness is that he must go to sacramental confession as soon as is reasonably possible. If the priest assigns almsgiving as a penance, he should do it if he can do so. If he is unable to give alms, he should let the priest know and request another penance.

Perhaps your friend is thinking about the pre-Reformation almsgiving indulgences, in which an indulgence could be obtained for giving alms. Even then, forgiveness was not dependent on almsgiving. A person who had already been forgiven his sins and wished to obtain an indulgence in order to wipe out the temporal penalties attached to those sins could choose to obtain the almsgiving indulgence. Because of the abuses associated with the almsgiving indulgences that sparked the Protestant Reformation, one of the reforms of the Catholic Counter-Reformation was to dispose of almsgiving indulgences. Indulgences can be obtained for other good works, but no longer for giving alms.

**Recommended reading:

The Forgiveness of Sins
Primer on Indulgences
Myths about Indulgences**

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