Is perfect contrition possible?


I know the Catholic doctrine regarding perfect contrition after having committed mortal sin (contrition arising from love of God rather than fear of hell, etc.). However, I struggle with conceptualizing what this means in practical terms. Putting aside the fact that a Catholic is always obliged to go to confession when aware of mortal sin (even if he’s made an act of perfect contrition), what constitutes “perfect contrition”?

Further, since the “fear of hell” is very real (and anyone would be foolish not to fear hell), how can a person be sure his contrition is “perfect” and not in some way based on this fear? To me, “perfect” contrition implies a lack of any other motivating factors except love of God, yet I doubt whether I could ever truly be free of these other motivating factors. Any thoughts?


1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition …obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.


Absolutely sure? Such absolute certainty is known by God.

Such would be incorrect.

Perfect contrition is compatible with lesser motives.

That means that one can have the grace of perfect contrition out of love of God above all - and still have lesser motives such as fear of hell. Such can co-exist with perfect contrition.


I do not fear hell.

Not because I am a perfect saint
Not because I am a rebel who thinks he is more powerful than hell.

Love God means simply to Love God and all that He is.
If sent to hell I will be where God has decided to judge me and such is the way things should be.

To fear hell is to not prefer things be as God wills them. To love God is to prefer them His way :slight_smile:


PS - the “love” in perfect contrition need not involve some particular emotion.


I guess a perfect contrition is derived from pure sorrow at offending God, knowing and acknowledging how sinful you are, and being aware of your nothingness, so that God sees that your truly sorry for your sins, and in turn, have repented sincerely. I don’t really fear hell, because I know that it isn’t God that sends us there, it is our own sins and our own choices that send us there. We have no one to blame but ourselves.


See the Catechism and posts above


An old joke comes to mind. I don’t remember the entire thing but the final line, in reference to the determination of “perfect contrition,” is – *“But who decides?” *


I was taught that “perfect contrition” like “all attachment to sin” was kinda like “world peace” a nice idea but not humanly possible.


Then you were taught* incorrectly *on both of the first two accounts.

(though of course it is true that it is not merely some ‘human’ action)


I absolutely agree with Bookcat: this is not a correct understanding.

With regarding to all attachment to sin: frankly, I think Fr. Z has done a great job explaining this concept. See here:

… I don’t think we have to be a hermit living on top of a tree beating his head with a rock to be free of attachment to sin so as to gain this plenary or “full” indulgence. …

When it comes to complete detachment from sin, even venial, few of us live in that state all the time. Nevertheless, there are times when we have been moved to sorrow for sin after examination of conscience, perhaps after an encounter with God as mystery in liturgical worship or in the presence of human suffering, that we come to a present horror and shame of sin that moves us to reject sin entirely. That doesn’t mean that we, in some Pelagian sense, have chosen to remain perfect from that point on or that by force of will we can chosen never to sin again. God is helping us with graces at that point, of course. But we do remain frail and weak.

Now, regarding perfect contrition: this is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I used to think that perfect contrition was some sort of incredible grace that very few are able to experience, and those who do are already living Saints. (Of course, that does compel the question of what on earth living Saints are doing falling into mortal sin, but I digress.)

I would recommend the OP read this article, since it shows how perfect contrition is very attainable to every person who asks it of God:

It furthermore shows that perfect contrition is not detesting sin only because we love God, but that lesser motives, such as fear of hell, can co-mingle with love for God in such a way as to result in perfect contrition.

Here is Colin Donovan on the question:


With regarding to all attachment to sin

And remember too - the Church is* not* going to offer the faithful something that in part involves something that is not “possible”. One needs such for a plenary indulgence.

It is yes quite possible .


Perfect contrition is attainable, but it is difficult to muster. “Perfect contrition is that which fills us with sorrow and hatred for sin, because it offends God, who is infinitely good in Himself and worthy of all love.” So you are sorry for your sin because, by your sin, you have offended almighty God, not solely because you fear His just punishments. You can still fear His punishments while having perfect contrition, but if all you have is fear of punishment then you don’t have perfect contrition. The best way to get perfect contrition is to pray for it.


what I struggle most with is that I feel presumptuous to know that I am in remorse for my sin because of my love of God and how it pains him. I know I also feel sin for the reasons of guilt. I feel in my heart it is because of how much it pains God, but at the same time I just struggle every day with second guessing every thought I have of why I ask for forgiveness of my sins. I even second guess the fact of why I second guess that I have second guessed. I feel I should also mention I second guess every decision I make in every area of my life most days, it is rare that I feel totally comfortable with my decisions.


The Church says it is possible:
CCC 1452 “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”

I don’t think healthy fear of hell must be completely eliminated in order to have perfect contrition. On the other hand, love of God above all else must be the predominating factor.

I would speculate that perfect contrition is rare. It has typically been thought to be reserved to those situations where someone is truly repentant but has no opportunity to go to confession, such as fear of imminent death. Think of soldiers on a battlefield or the victim of a robbery who fears he may be killed. If the person does not intend to go to confession at the earliest realistic opportunity after the crisis has passed, then it is not perfect contrition.

I think there are many Catholics laboring under the misimpression that they do not need to go to sacramental reconciliation if they think they have perfect contrition. It doesn’t work that way.


The Church teaches it is possible. However, only God knows if a person has actually made an act of perfect contrition.
I wouldn’t bet my immortal soul on it and would get to Confession as soon as possible.


Yes it is possible. It is rare or at least I think it is. I am sure many of the saints loved God so much they feared and hated offending God in anyway.


Thinking it is rare…does not make it rare…


How will I know if someone has perfect contrition? I only judge other humans based on my inclinations and skepticism and cynicism. From knowing human nature I think perfect contrition is indeed rare.


*You *will not know with some absolute certainty about another mans contrition.

Rare among those not rather very committed to Christ? - that can yes perhaps be rather on the likely side of things.

But then again I do not know the secret workings of grace even in them…

And perfect contrition is not some solo act of a man.

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