Reconciliation and victims

I am a new convert and I have lots of questions about Catholicism which I never learned until recent. This question is on reconciliation, why is it that in the catholic faith individuals that go through reconciliation seems completely fine not asking the victims for forgiveness. I recently had a conversation with someone who became devout catholic that didn’t feel the need to ask their victims for forgiveness or try to make things right because they went through reconciliation and God forgave them.

I found this conversation appalling and could not believe that this would be OK. From my perspective as parent I make my children apologize to their victim if they hit another child, wouldn’t God ask the same of us?


Good question!

It’s not much of an answer, but in my experience Catholics are less likely to think “God has forgiven me in the sacrament, and that’s enough” than Protestants are likely to think “God has forgiven me through faith, and that’s enough”.


Sometimes a Priest will.ask a penitent if they have made peace with the person they have harmed. It can’t be made a requirement that is mandated for absolution but sometimes it is suggested by Priests for certain sins against others.

But it shouldn’t take the Priest telling us we need to apologize we should do so as Christians.

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Making amends is part of our theology/philosophy, but not always directly tied in with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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A child abuse survivor here.

So, it is now impossible to reconcile with all of my abusers. It’s impossible because I don’t remember how they look like, or what their names are.

But in this stance I just ask God to be with them. I would say yes, definitely go for Confession and if you can, work to reconcile with them. I’m sure they appreciate the apology.

And we are all human. I’ve hurt people’s feelings before, and I want others to know that God understands that we make mistakes.

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God and His Church never requires one to disclose their sins to any human being aside from the priest in confession.

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It is the mystery of God I’d say. But that’s unlikely to satisfy you in answer. I dont mean that in a negative way or any derogative way, just it has to be lived to be learned. Catholics learn to be happy with mystery, you’ll see in time.
The sacrament is the priest talking to us in the person of Jesus, so he may ask us to seek out some sort of physical reconciliation as you suggest or not. I believe this is by the guidance of God, as in ‘the person of Jesus’. I have on occasion done this already before going to confession (when I kept some crutches and suddenly thought hey that might be theft but lived no where near said hospital any more so I emailed them about giving them back - they weren’t bothered) and told the priest in confession and he made suggestions accordingly. I have used a benign example though I do know you mean more serious things. The priest has many things to consider, I’d have thought such as opening old wounds to name but one, as often a sin is not confessed immediately and also who it may hurt. So he lets Jesus guide him and also the Holy Spirit at work in you, ie the Spirit that moved you causing a contrite heart that brought you there and the sincere desire for amendment. We have to trust God in these matters. That’s the mystery of God and how he works. That’s about the best I can explain it.

Again, I have only completed RCIA a short time ago and I don’t presume to know everything but from my experience the saying “mystery of God” only means that person you are asking doesn’t know the answer. PLEASE NOTE, I am not intentionally implying anything others than my observation from my own personal journey to become a Catholic. The saying “mystery of God” was used so often in my journey along with “I will pray for you” and “you should pray about it” as I asked questions. After reading your post I realize that word means something completely different to you than me.

I have read all the comments above and realizing some people are separating out the verb, the actual verb of reconciliation and telling me that word only requires one part and other parts are not necessary. In theory you should do more but not necessary to fulfill the meaning of that one word. Again, because of my lack of knowledge this is the way it seems to be explained to me.

I realize I am not being very specific with what was said and honestly we were just having a discussion in private about faith and I am hearing a personal admission of guilt from their past and how this person dealt with it through reconciliation. Then I heard, “I don’t need to ask for forgiveness from others, God has forgiven me.” These words rang so loudly and repeatedly in my mind it shook my very being with disgust and dismay for the lack of care and empathy for their victim.

I do appreciate all the comments above and really I am teetering on the Catholic view of what Reconciliation means. If most Catholics view this action as a pass for their sins than it troubles me.

It can also mean that no person can possibly know it. Yes, some people use it to avoid getting into the weeds about a specific definition of something, but true mysteries, as in “no human can really understand it fully” do exist.

Not a pass per se, but the act of having them forgiven. That generally involves penance which, depending on the priest and the sin, can be light or - well, not so light.

Imagine the worst thing you have every done, the biggest, ugliest sin. You will not have to Confess it, as you are in RCIA so it will be washed away with your Baptism, I know but just imagine that you had to confess it to a priest.

Now, imagine that you had to confess it and all of your other sins on TV or in front of a crowd of people. Would you be likely to go to Confession if it meant your sins were made public?

God is merciful, He does not require that we publicly make know our ugliest sins. That ought give you great comfort.

And believe me, telling your priest your sins is awkward and humbling, it is in no way a “free pass”. You will understand after you have to make your first confession.

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The person should, as a good Catholic, do what they can to make reparations for when they hurt others. However, Absolution is never conditional upon revealing past sins to others. However, if one is truly contrite and can do something, even anonymously, then they should. Lets say Bob stole money from his employer when he was 17. He is forty two now. His former boss is deceased. After confessing, Bob could make reparation by donating to a worthwhile charity. Or, if the boss is stll alive, and Bob knows where he can be reached, he could send the money anonymously. But he never had to reveal a sin unless it is by law and he is under oath.

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Consider that we really need to focus on forgiving others of the wrongs they’ve done to us. That in itself can be a better lesson in how to approach making amends for our faults.

I’m not trying to say it’s unimportant or blow it off. I don’t believe any Catholic who takes their faith seriously views it the way you’re describing. The issue at hand is that there’s a difference between sacramental reconciliation and what is socially acceptable and appropriate - and to an extent, even what’s best for us in our human relationships. The sacramental reconciliation is first and foremost about our relationship with God; it’s not about our relationship with one another but rather informs how our relationships with one another proceed enlightened and strengthened by the grace and pattern of our relationship with God.

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Of course one should apologize and make amends for past wrongs if possible. But sometimes it is not possible. Also, remember that forgiveness does not erase the consequences of sins.

We are instructed to be reconciled with the victim(s) if possible. Do you have a good Examination of Conscience? it explains the entire Sacrament from preparation to fulfillment of one’s penance. The best I have found recently is this one:

Matthew 5:23-26 is instructive here.

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An attempt must be made if possible - but the motivation for it must be understood you must truly be sorry for what was done - it can’t be selfish it can’t be about you it must be about the victim and the damage you have done or its false. So don’t do it unless you mean it. I believe its a MUST in AA. People will forgive you almost all the time but of course there are exception when they won’t and you have to live with it.If you are true in your intentions the hard part will be forgiving yourself for what you did.

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