Skip to main content



Contritionism is a theological doctrine demanding more than attrition as a last disposition to receive fruitfully the Sacrament of penance. Historically, it has had two different meanings.

In high scholasticism: St. Thomas Aquinas (contritionist) wants the penitent to be either contrite or to believe in good faith that he is contrite. contrition, either existing before or brought about by the sacramental ab solution (which then "makes the attrite penitent contrite"), is the one disposition for justification. For Duns Scotus (attritionist), attrition suffices as last disposition for the forgiveness of sin through absolution.

After Trent (17th and 18th centuries): the problem is whether sufficient attrition should or should not contain some love of God (cf. Trent's "they begin to love God"H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [32d ed. Freiburg 1963] 1526). For the contritionists, either incipient charity or love of benevolence is needed; for the attritionists, no act of love or at most love of desire (explicit or implicit). Neither position deserves theological censure (Denzinger 2070).

In practice, penitents should endeavor to have contrition and not rest content with the minimum.

See Also: attrition and attritionism.

Bibliography: v. heynck, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:101921; ibid. 6:510511. b. poschmann, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, tr. and rev. f. courtney (New York 1964). p. f. palmer, ed., Sacraments and Forgiveness, v.2 of Sources of Christian Theology (Westminster, Md. 1959).

[g. a. gilleman]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Contritionism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 21 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Contritionism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (April 21, 2019).

"Contritionism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.