Forgiveness of Sins

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In Catholic teaching sin is an offense against God resulting in a state or condition of guilt, in which the sinner is estranged from God, deprived of His grace and friendship, and under a juridical necessity of paying the debt of punishment incurred by his transgression. By the forgiveness of his sin the sinner is reconciled to God and restored to divine favor, and his liability to punishment is remitted. Since it is God who is offended in sin, the forgiveness of it must always come from Him, at least mediately. That God is willing and ready to exercise His divine prerogative of forgiveness with regard to all sinners who are disposed to pardon is clear in both Old and New Testaments (Is 43.25; 44.22; Ez 18.2123; Mt 6.14; Lk 6.37; Jas 5.15, etc.). Forgiveness is offered and received in Christ (Jn 1.29; Rom 4.27; 1 Cor 15.3; Gal 1.4; 1 Pt 2.25; 3.18). Christ Himself claimed the authority to forgive sins (Mk 2.112; Mt 9.28; Lk 5.1726), and He delegated it to his Apostles to be exercised by themselves and their legitimate successors in the Sacrament of penance [H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer (32d ed. Freiburg 1963) 166793]. Forgiveness of sin may be obtained also apart from the Sacrament through perfect contrition, which includes at least an implicit desire to receive the Sacrament. Contrition or sorrow for sin is a universally necessary condition of pardon. The sorrow for sin required for forgiveness must involve an element of divine love, for it is impossible that a soul should be received to grace and put in right relationship to God if it is not prepared to love God. Moreover, this readiness to love God cannot conceivably exist without the repentant sinner being prepared also to love other children of the same heavenly Father (2 Jn4.2021). In the Christian way of life, therefore, an individual's willingness to forgive injuries done to himself is a ready test, easy to apply, of the sufficiency of his own dispositions to receive pardon (Mt 6.1415; 18.2135; Mk 11.2526).

[t. a. porter]