SPLIT: Forgiven but still must pay for consequences?

I thought sins were forgiven in Confession until the priest told me the consequences of sin remain to be worked out. He says that’s one of the reasons people go to Purgatory.

What is the point of going to Confession if one has to continue to work out the consequences after receiving the Sacrament?

Does one receive the Sacrament in the Confessional or is it an ongoing process of elimination?


Hey Kevin. Let me start with a great analogy that is used a lot to illustrate the points here.

Let’s say you are in front of my house throwing around the old boomarang and you accidently throw it through my big bay window. Even though you did not mean to do it, I will probably be angry and disappointed with you. Being sorrowful, you come to me and tell me what you have done, that you are sorry and that you will try never to do it again. I forgive you and no longer hold any anger or hurt towards you in my heart for this. In a nutshell, this is reconcillation - you sinned (broke my window), confessed and vowed never to do it again (reconcillation).

BUT…Kev, my window is still broken. Someone is going to have to pay for that and fix it.

Same with sin. When we sin there is both the hurt we inflict on God, the hurt we inflict on the Church (we are all the Body of Christ) and the temporal affects of that sin (i.e. we can hurt someone directly with our sin by stealing from them).

The words of absolution absolve us of the sin and heal us with the Church. The temporal affects of that sin are what we can make up with penance, good works, indulgences and, if need be, in Purgatory.

Does that help any?

Still left wondering the point of Confession.
We are all the Body of Christ.
I go tell my troubles to the priest in the Confessional.
I leave the Confessional, and still have to repair the damage.
The priest in the Confessional looks more like a “middle man” in more ways than one.
Cut out the middle man and go direct to the injury to one’s neighbour (who is part of the Body of Christ). The priest in the Confessional seems an added optional extra.

Not all sins are specifically actions against one’s neighbour. ALL sins are against God, but some sins are against God alone, such as impure acts, blasphemy, gluttony, etc.

So when there are temporal consequences, you have to make good on those consequences like in the broken window example, but you also have to set yourself right before God and that requires sacramental confession.

Moreover, you seem to think (correct me if I’m wrong) that sacramental confession somehow should excuse you from having to pay temporal consequences for your sin. It does not. For example if your sin also involved an illegal activity, you will still have to face the legal consequences of your activity.

The priest is not a “middleman”, he acts in persona Christi, that is he is taking the place of Christ by giving the sacrament.

The point of confession is to tell God we are sorry for failing Him, in the way that God has chosen to have us tell Him, so that He may, in turn, tell us (through the priest) that He forgives us. God created us as physical beings with ears and brains, He knows us better than we know ourselves (because He is our creator) and He knows that humans need to hear things out loud in order to be reassured.

Confession is about us apologizing to God, not just about us getting some stuff off our chest. It’s not about us. God, in His mercy, gives us an audible “your sins are forgiven”, but that is not the only reason why should go to confession.

The people we have wronged are also children of God, they deserve more respect than we’ve given them, and we should make things up to them in a Christian way.

The priest was acting as a teacher, I think, not a “middle man”.

Also…you can make up the wrong done to your neighbor, but that does not discharge the obligation to apologize to God…who you have ultimately wronged by wronging one of His children. So we need to do BOTH…not either/or.

We are all the Body of Christ - yes. So what does that mean in terms of sin? It means that when we sin, we hurt the whole Body of Christ. Our sin affects not only ourselves and our personal relationship with God, but our relationship with the whole Church. It follows then that any penance one might do is not only about themselves and their own spiritual welfare, but for the welfare of, and in reparation to, the whole Body of Christ.

One should always resolve to repair wrong done to one’s neighbour before confessing - in fact, in my missal the examination of conscience for before confession (a fairly standard formula that many will be familiar with) asks the penitent to examine whether or not they confessed without a desire to correct wrongs done to one’s neighbour. So, confession doesn’t get you off the hook on that score.

Christ certainly did not give the power to the Apostles to forgive sins in His name (or to retain them) just to make them feel important. He expected the sacrament which He was instituting to be used - and it has always been the teaching of the Church (evident in the writings of the Early Church Fathers) that Christians should confess their sins to a priest, receive absolution and do penance for them.

I would echo TheDoctor’s analogy of the broken window with an analogy which was given by +Bishop Fulton Sheen in one of his sermons: Suppose a mother told her little boy that any time he was bold or disobeyed her he was to drive a nail into a wooden board. The boy does so, recording his wrongdoing by putting a nail into the board. In time, the boy would apologise to his mother, and she, in her love, would assure him that all is forgiven. To acknowledge this, she tells the boy that he can remove the nails from the board. So the board is free of nails…but what remains? The holes, the marks, that the nails made in the wood. Penance and Purgatory (if needed) is what fills these holes and makes the board as good as new!

Kevin my dear brother, you don’t seem to really grasp the basics of the sacrament, which is why I think you may be having trouble.

The point is that confession is the Sacrament that Jesus instituted for the normal forgiveness of sins and reconciling of the sinner to both God and the Church.


No. You confess your sins to almighty God. The Priest acts in His place, but it is God you are confessing to.

You leave the confessional assured that God has forgiven you of your sins; assured that you are once again reconciled to His Church and knowing that you are still responsible for the actions your sins have caused others (i.e. the Body of Christ).

Because my dear brother you are looking at the Sacrament like a legal proceeding and not like a gift from God.

Except that if you do go and repair the damage your sin has done you still have that sin on your soul. You are right with your neighbor but not right with God or the Church. You can’t do one without the other, and of the two the reconciliation with God is paramount for if you die with an unrepented and unforgiven mortal sin on your soul you are destined for Hell.

If I may, here is the appropriate section of the Catechism:

And here is a tract from Catholic Answers:

May I respectfully suggest you give these a read and see if they help clear things up?

But couldn’t this be done just as easily away from the Confessional?

You might* feel *better, but that is not the point of the sacrament. The point of confession is to make things right with God and His creations, including yourself. If you want counseling, by all means add that to your regimen…or even go to a trusted priest for spiritual direction. That seems like what you might be seeking…confession AND advice. Not all confessors have a gift for good advice: they’re human too.

Sacramentl confession, as instituted by Christ, can only take place with an ordained priest of the Church. Counseling or spiritual direction do not have to be with priests.

  1. you are never without God, no matter how you feel but
  2. with this understanding of confession and the teachings of the Church, I can understand how you could feel that way
  3. Please read the links the other poster gave, they might help, or
  4. speak with a priest about these things

This is the crux of the problem, I think. The “benefits” of confession aren’t all about us. They are about repairing our broken relationship with God and apologizing to Him and receiving His mercy. None of these things, despite what our secular, emotion-riddled society tells us, have to do with feelings.

I suggest that you’ve been going to the confessional expecting something other than what the sacrament can give you. Yes, some people have profound experiences, tears, feelings of healing or relief, etc…but not everyone. I go monthly and it’s pretty much businesslike for me now. I pray before and after, do my examen and my penance, but I just confess and promise to amend my ways and move on. No tears, no rays of light coming from the sky or anything.

If you’re looking for something else, I strongly suggest a spiritual director, a Catholic therapist, a Catholic retreat, a good Catholic friend, your mother, etc…all in ADDITION to the sacrament. There is a link to some great retreats with confessions and direction on my signature, even. :wink:

Not if you want to do it the way Christ instituted confession. Counseling and advice, sure…but sacramental confession is God’s sacrament and we do it the way God wants us to.

It’s the same as the Mass…it’s laid out the way it is because Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper with the words “this is my bread”, “this is my body”. A Mass isn’t a Mass without those words. These sacraments belong to God, not us. We don’t get to pick and choose the way we do them.

Jesus told the apostles that sins were forgiven if they forgave them, and bound if they held them bound. That was His institution of sacramental confession and we do it the way He told us…not by telling a friend or a therapist or some guy off the street. He can’t forgive our sins through the power of God.

Not quite accurate.

Remember the 10 commandments. First three relate directly to God and the rest toward self and neighbor.

To do works that are pleasing to God, we must love him with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength and then we must love our neighbor as ourselves.

The proof that we love God is shown in our love our neighbor, so all is connected. Think of the sin of Adam.

Every sin drags down with itself the Church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family

[John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, *Reconciliato et Poenitentia, 16]

Sin has crucified our loving Savior Jesus Christ.

Sin is deadly serious.

But thank God:

When law came on the scene, it was to multiply the offences. But however much sin increased, grace was always greater;
so that as sin’s reign brought death, so grace was to rule through saving justice that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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