Hoping someone can help. Before my conversion to the faith I stole from a few stores and left some restaurants without paying. After going to Confession, I went either back to these places or called them in an attempt to repay them. None of the places wanted the money and simply accepted the apology. My question is whether or not I am obliged to send that money to charity or if my attempted restitution is sufficient. I can’t seem to find any doctrine that specifies this.
You are not obliged to send the money to a charity. Your sins were forgiven and your attempt at restitution appears to reflect a truly sorrowful heart. Having said that, donating the money to those in need would most certainly be an admirable act of charity which we all are called on to do.
I’m not surprised that they did not want the money. They already dealt with the loss in the past and they have to account for where all their income originates in terms of purchases accompanied by receipts. Business income statements typically don’t have a slot for “Restitution of stolen goods & services submitted by reformed sinner.”
But to answer your question, your sins are forgiven so you are not obligated to do anything further in order for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be valid. However, in terms of things that help purify us of the taint of past sins (and here I am talking about what is called the Temporal Consequence of Sin) we can elect to do additional, voluntary penance. In this case, making donations to charity as a display of contrition for past sins of theft can be spiritually beneficial. But please note that sometimes it is best to do voluntary penance in the context of spiritual direction (with a priest, deacon, or other qualified person) as it can lead to problems with scrupulosity.
**In my opinion, **your restitution is sufficient and you may consider yourself freed from any and all obligation to make good your theft. In declining repayment and in accepting the apology, those against whom you have sinned have given you the moral equivalent of total forgiveness and have given up their right to compensation for the loss. Hence the matter is resolved 100%. Therefore you don’t even have to give to charity, and I furthermore advise you **not **to give to charity for this - not even to make a nice, symbolic gesture - first of all because the crime is forgiven and the right to recompense is given up, but secondly because if you do, you will be on the slippery slope to scrupulosity.
p.s. When I was moving out of my parents’ home after I graduated from college, I found a library book in the attic from when I was in elementary school that I had never returned.
I mailed it back to my grade school along with a check for $500 and on the memo line I wrote, “Overdue Fines, 13 years”.
Nobody took it seriously as a payment of overdue fines. Everyone saw it for the tongue-in-cheek joke that it was. So they checked-in the book and reshelved it as if nothing happened and counted the $500 as an alumni donation to the library fund and used it to buy other new books. The whole incident got written up in the alumni newsletter and it gave everybody a smile.