I’m a little bit confused by the relationship between venial sin, forgiveness, and punishement. As I understand it, venial sins are those that won’t be punished with eternal hell if they are not forgiven. However if they are forgiven, there may still be a temporal punishment to suffer. Forgiveness of venial sins does not remit all punishment. But what does it do? What’s the difference between a venial sin that we have received forgiveness for and one that we have not?
If venial sins don’t lead to hell, does that mean we could enter into heaven while still being unforgiven, or is it presumed that at some point, either in this life or in purgatory, we will necessarily receive that forgiveness by some means?
And secondly, do unforgiven venial sins carry with them a punishment greater than the temporal punishment which remains after they are forgiven? Is any punishment remitted? If not, it’s hard for me to understand what the forgiveness that is received through the Eucharist and prayers is all about. It doesn’t seem like it has any noticeable impact on us or on our relationship with God. Unless it’s more about sanctification, but in that case ‘forgiveness’ seems to be a misleading term, since it wasn’t going to be held against us anyway.
Through the authority of the Church, which may bind or loose, [and God honors it], we have the opportunity to obtain “indulgences” that remit in total, or partially, the temporal punishment that may remain after our sins are forgiven. I am in the habit, after every time I go to confession, of performing one of the grants offered by the Church to obtain a “plenary” indulgence, which remits ALL punishment due to sin prior to performing the grant. True, any sins committed after that would be subject to temporal punishment, depending on how God will judge them.
If you come across older prayers, such as in a missal, you may have seen the notation at the bottom that says, “A partial indulgence of XXX days.” The Church no longer assigns numbers of days to a partial indulgence.
The opportunity to gain a plenary has a time limit of 20 days prior or 20 days after a good confession, holy communion, and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, which may be simply an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
Keep in mind that venial sins do not require sacramental confession to be remitted. We may sincerely repent and ask God’s forgiveness in the penitential rite of the mass and they will be forgiven. The difference in confessing them, which is always a good idea, is to gain the graces to fight against the pesky habits of sin in the future.
There is a good book called Manual of Indulgences (about $14 at Amazon) that explains the many different grants and the teaching of the Church in regard to indulgences.
You are confusing forgiveness with sanctification.
Jesus will forgive all of our sins if we ask him. We can pray directly to him and seek forgiveness from Venial Sins. The more substantial Mortal sins we are commanded to confess to the priest to receive forgiveness from Christ.
The temporal punishment for any sin is worked out in this life or in Purgatory as a preparation for the holiness of heaven.
Nothing unclean can enter God’s presence and so we must be purified. We are purified by making restitution for our sins on earth, paying penance, or in the transformation encountered by us with Christ after we die as he purges us of all falsehood in Purgatory.
"The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an ‘existential time,’ in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world.
. . .
"[Purgatory] is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints.
. . .
“Encounter with the Lord is this transformation.”…
–Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p. 230-231
“Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.”
Your analysis seems to be based entirely on what benefit forgiveness obtains for you. When I ask for forgiveness from my Father, I am more concerned with the effect of my sins on the relationship with my Dad, and how it affected Him. When I ask for forgiveness I want to renew my old relationship with my Dad (Abba) and am willing to accept my punishment as I respect His justice. (This won’t stop me from snuggling up a bit for His mercy and from asking Our Lady to intercede for me. I am not silly.)
It is best if we think outside our needs when it comes to loving anyone.