Understanding reparations - please help

Hi :slight_smile:

I think I’m on my way back to the faith after about 10-15 years (with some Protestant churchgoing in that time), and one of the things I’m having to re-learn - or indeed understand properly for the first time - is the concept of reparations, partly for myself but particularly for the sins of others.

This is all a bit foreign to me after my incomplete formation in the Catholic faith as a child, and after some significant Protestant influence.

I am just about on board with the idea of me doing penance for my own sins, as a kind of temporal justice for them. I still have a bit of trouble understanding why - after Confession and penance - I would still have to offer things up in atonement for my sins (wouldn’t God’s mercy have covered it by now?). Is this where indulgences come in? Are they our way of trying to go the extra mile to heal our relationship with God? I’m not trying to cop out here, just trying to understand what Jesus’ part has done and what our part should be,

What I’m having a bit more trouble is the concept of reparations for other people’s sins. My understanding is that I will have to give an account to God for my sins, but not others’ (unless, perhaps, I led them into sin somehow). Why do we have a responsibility to make reparations for the sins of others? Is it supposed to be an act of charity to ask for forgiveness for our brothers and sisters within the church (and those outside of it)? Is it praying that they will seek mercy and stepping in for them where they can’t/won’t see the error of their ways?

Again, I suppose it’s that Protestant mentality of feeling that Jesus has covered a lot of this.

Gotta dash to work, hope this makes sense!

Thanks :slight_smile:

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  1. You break a window.
  2. You are forgiven.
  3. The window is still broken.
  4. Reparation.

Sin causes harm to the Body of Christ. Penance/reparation restores justice in the temporal world in which we live.


It doesn’t come more simply than this.

It is one thing to be forgiven, it is another to try to redress the wrong.


You are very kind. We live in a world of chatter and nonsense. I try to cut through all of that with charity.

I am occasionally successful - ask the mods. :grimacing:

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Catholic Encyclopedia (topic: sin) has this on being covered, per Luther and Calvin:

Luther and Calvin taught as their fundamental error that no free will properly so called remained in man after the fall of our first parents; that the fulfillment of God’s precepts is impossible even with the assistance of grace, and that man in all his actions sins. Grace is not an interior gift, but something external. To some sin is not imputed, because they are covered as with a cloak by the merits of Christ. Faith alone saves, there is no necessity for good works.

O’Neil, A.C. (1912). Sin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm

And Catholic Encyclopedia on the topic: reparation:

We can thus make some sort of reparation to the justice of God for our own offenses against Him, and by virtue of the Communion of Saints, the oneness and solidarity of the mystical Body of Christ, we can also make satisfaction and reparation for the sins of others.

Slater, T. (1911). Reparation. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12775a.htm


I second that. Approach it with simplicity, like a child.


And welcome back home to the Catholic Church

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Without attempting to answer your question about why we should make reparations for the sins of others, I can show that the concept is biblical:

Colossians 1:24 24Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

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We are the Body of Christ. We do what Christ did but on a smaller scale.


It isn’t specifically our responsibility to atone for the sins of others but, we, as children of our Father, can console Him for those who do not know Him, do not believe, do not honour, show no gratitude, are indifferent, etc.


This is correct. My prayer group often prays in reparation for mankind’s sins as a whole.
That would include not only all our own sins (of which we, as faithful Catholics who pray, presumably repent and seek God’s forgiveness) but also all the sins of other people throughout history, many of whom may not have repented or sought God’s forgiveness or even believed in God.

Is this where indulgences come in? Are they our way of trying to go the extra mile to heal our relationship with God?

No. Indulgences have NOTHING to do with “healing our relationship with God”.
Our “relationship with God” is healed when we repent of our sins and are absolved in confession. Our sins are forgiven and we are back on track in our relationship with God.

In the broken window analogy, your relationship with God is set right when you are forgiven for breaking the window. However, you still have a broken window which needs to have the glass swept up and the broken pane replaced. An indulgence can be thought of as a discount coupon awarded by the Church (under its binding and loosing power) to cover part or all of the cost of the glass cleanup and window repair. You do an indulgenced activity (such as prayers) and in return the Church gives you this discount coupon. You can also choose to give your discount coupon away to a deceased person who died having a good relationship with God, but also having unfixed broken windows, and is therefore in Purgatory until his personal windows are made perfect. Or, alternatively, you can choose to skip the whole thing, not earn any discount coupons, which means you pay full price for repairing your broken windows and don’t have any coupons to give to other deceased souls.

Many Catholics will go through their whole lives without ever earning a single indulgence. They can still have a good relationship with God and be saved. They just have to “pay for their broken windows” by serving more or harder Purgatory time, because they didn’t get a “discount coupon”. And they also aren’t helping any deceased souls reduce or make easier their Purgatory time, because they didn’t get any “discount coupons” to give away to those souls.

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Our responsibility is to love via grace from God. Making reparations for others is one way to love. It is selfless.


Okay, fair enough :slight_smile: Thank you!

Haha, indeed - I am a champion over-thinker :slight_smile: Thanks for your input!

Thank you - I’m nearly there! I’ve got an appointment for Confession this Friday night (Australian time). I’m dreading it even though I believe I’ll feel so much better after it.


Cool, thank you :slight_smile: Yes, I’d heard that one before, so that’s a good consolidation here.

That’s a good way of putting it - thanks :slight_smile:

That’s good to know that this consoles Him :slight_smile: It’s an act of charity, I guess - as @Bon_Croix says, it is selfless. Thanks for replying!

That’s one of the best and most understandable analogies of Purgatory and indulgences I’ve heard - thank you.

Ah, fair enough - I probably should’ve taken a bit more time to write my post because I didn’t quite explain what I meant about whether indulgences are “our way of trying to go the extra mile to heal our relationship with God” (even though it appears that I had the wrong impression). I once heard that although we’re forgiven by receiving absolution in Confession, and that we make our reparation by doing whatever penance we’re given, the indulgences are our way of “making it up to God” even more (like if a child breaks the window, says sorry, cleans up the mess, pays for it to be fixed/replaces it, and then on top of all that, does extra chores or buys his/her mother some flowers ). So I guess in that sense I had got the idea that if we do these additional things, perhaps God is more pleased because He can see how hard we’re trying post-window incident, but we are no less forgiven without them.

Perhaps the analogy I was given on this previous occasion wasn’t completely correct, or I misunderstood it. :slight_smile:

Thank you for covering both of those aspects :slight_smile:

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