Penance

Ok, say you go to confession, the priest forgives you of your sins, then he assigns you a penance. If you fail to do the penance does that invalidate the Sacrament, thus leaving you unforgiven? Does it make a difference if it was either intentional or unintentional (maybe it honestly slipped your mind)? Does it make a difference if it was a general penance (say 10 Hail Marys) or one more specific to your sin (apologize to the person you offended, or tell them what you did behind their back)?

Thanks for your input.

God Bless.

Once God has given forgiveness, He does not take it back. So failure to complete a penance, does not cancel out absolution. If it is intentionally not done, though, that should be confessed at your next confession. I don’t think the nature of the penance makes any difference.

Once Jesus absolves your sins through the priest, your sins are absolved. The penance a priest assigns is to help you stop sinning, to strip off your flesh so no longer do you live but Jesus through you. If you intend to not do the penance, which is grave matter, than it constitutes a mortal sin. If you do intend to do the pencance, but forgot or whatever, than it constitutes a venial sin. If you do not get a penance, don’t worry about it, its not a sin. If you get a penance that you cannot do, but would do if you could do it, than its not a sin if you don’t do the penance.

The top two answers pretty much answer your question, but I thought I would add that most of the penances I receive are things which I’m meant to carry with me through life, which I have and do - things such as reflecting on what it means to be compassionate as Our Heavenly Father is compassionate, asking the Holy Spirit to know true peace, etc. I even had a priest tell me, ‘If you don’t receive a penance, or don’t remember what was told you, then make something up.’


If you refuse a penance you are assigned by the priest, he may have the right to deny you resolution for sins you committed. Doing penance is how we say we are truly sorry for what we have done, not matter how big or small the offense is. We also do penance to keep or get back into grace as well. I don’ t think the penances we are given by the priest are up for debate, it is what it is unless there is a rule where one can express the fact we do not agree with a particular penance.

I do not believe that the priest is allowed to require you to reveal confessed sins to anybody else. However if the person already knows of what you have done then for the priest to ask you to apologise to them is different.

The absolution you receive in the confessional forgives all of your sins unless you or the priest have done something to invalidate it. The penance you’re given simply completes the process and helps to remit some of the temporal punishment that you have to pay off.

If you honestly forgot to do your penance, you are bound to do it once/if you remember it. If you can’t remember what it was, you can simply pick any suitable penance yourself (emphasis on the “suitable”).

But intentionally avoiding it is another matter. If you go into the confessional with no intention of doing the penance assigned to you, that would constitute insufficient contrition and would invalidate your confession. If you confess intending to do the penance you’re given but then refuse to do it later, you would be guilty of grave sin but your confession would still have been valid. The priest is also bound to give you a proper penance, but it’s not a good idea to judge the suitability of your penances unless what he tells you to do is truly rediculous.

In regards to the “more specific” penances, the ones you cited are things you would be bound by justice to do anyway (in most cases). They really aren’t appropriate penances for an adult, so if you’re told to do something along those lines I would think it would be just as a reminder of what you’re already required to do.

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