Fr. Z. on the Penance controversy

Here is Fr. Z.’s post on whether or not the penance is necessary to the validity of the Sacrament of Confession: Am I forgiven…?. He teaches the same position that I have been arguing:

You are forgiven your sins even if you don’t do the penance. People need to understand that the validity of the absolution and the efficacy of the sacrament do not depend on whether you do your assigned penance.

Fr. Z. does NOT extend the definition of contrition such that, if one does not desire to make satisfaction, one is not contrite at all. He does NOT claim that the penitent who does not accept the assigned penance must re-confess his mortal sins. He cites Canon Law, just as I did, as one proof that the Church only requires a sorrow that includes a purpose of amendment (not also a desire to make satisfaction).

“But God’s forgiveness is imparted by the absolution the priest gives. The satisfaction for your sins was accomplished in Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. For your part, for the sacrament to be efficacious, you have to make your confession with sorrow for your sins and a firm purpose of amendment.”

What Fr. Z. says is in such full agreement with my position, that it seems as if he has read my posts on the subject. But it only seems that way. Fr. Z. is merely teaching from the same source that I teach from: the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

“Christ did the satisfaction part perfectly. From the penitent’s point of view, the very act of confession is itself a form of satisfaction.”

The Church teaches that the primary source of satisfaction, the third part of the Sacrament of Forgiveness, is accomplished by Christ on the Cross. The penitent’s acts of satisfaction are secondary — but they include the very act of making a good confession, so no contrite penitent who properly confesses his sins is without both the primary and secondary forms of satisfaction.

“But this obligation to give and do penances does not affect the validity of the absolution or the efficacy of the sacrament.”

It is a serious doctrinal error to claim that the Sacrament of Forgiveness does not forgive if the penitent does not desire to make satisfaction, or does not accept the assigned penance.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator

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1 Response to Fr. Z. on the Penance controversy

  1. Jonathan says:

    I am glad to see that Fr. Z and yourself are in agreement. It made no sense for Fr. Ryan Erlenbush’s to adopt a pharisaic approach to confession and effectively place a false burden on the fauthful. Very harmful for souls, and as Fr. Z points outs, even more harmful for those scrupulous souls.

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