Skip to comments.The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas PENANCE
Posted on 03/27/2009 1:34:48 PM PDT by GonzoII
The fourth Sacrament is Penance. The matter, as it were, of this Sacrament is the acts of the penitent, which are called the three parts of Penance. The first part is a heart-felt contrition, by which one is sorry for the sins one has committed, and determines not to sin again. The second part is confession, which consists in this that the sinner confesses all the sins of which he is mindful to the priest; and all of them at one time to one priest, not dividing them to a number of priests. The third part is satisfaction, which is enjoined according to the judgment of the priest; and consists especially in fasting and prayer and almsgiving.
The form of this Sacrament is the words of absolution which the priest speaks when he says: "I absolve thee" ("Ego te absolvo"). The minister of this Sacrament is the priest having authority to absolve, which is either ordinary or by commission of his superior. The effect of this Sacrament is absolution from sin.
Concerning this Sacrament is the error of the Novati, who say that any one who has sinned after having been baptized cannot receive pardon through the Sacrament of Penance. Against this are the words: "Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen; and do penance, and do the first works."
27. 51. Thomas uses here the words: "quasi materia." The "Roman Catechism" ("Penance," 13) follows this teaching. "The faithful should be especially informed on the matter of this Sacrament. That it differs from the other Sacraments in that for them the matter is something, whether natural or artificial; the matter as it were (quasi-materia) of Penance is the acts of the penitent, i.e., contrition confession, and satisfaction. This has thus been defined by the Council of Trent. . . It is not because they are not the real matter that they are called by the Council the matter as it were, but because they are not of that sort of matter which is applied externally, such, for instance, as water in Baptism and chrism in Confirmation."
28. "A knowledge of it [the form of Penance] will excite the faithful to receive the grace of this Sacrament with the greatest possible devotion. The form is: 'I absolve thee,' as may be inferred not only from the words: 'Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven' (Matt., xviii. 18), but also from the teaching of Christ Our Lord, handed down to us by the Apostles. . . . The minister of the Sacrament of Penance must be a priest possessing ordinary or delegated jurisdiction, as is evident in the law of the Church. Whoever performs this sacred duty must be invested not only with the powers of orders, but also with that of jurisdiction. We have greatest proof of this ministry in the words of Our Lord: 'Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' John, xx. 23). These words were not addressed to all, but only to the Apostles, who are succeeded in this ministry by
priests" ("Roman Catechism," loc. cit., 54).
29. Apoc., ii. 5.
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John 20:21 - before He grants them the authority to forgive sins, Jesus says to the apostles, "as the Father sent me, so I send you." As Christ was sent by the Father to forgive sins, so Christ sends the apostles and their successors forgive sins.
John 20:22 - the Lord "breathes" on the apostles, and then gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. The only other moment in Scripture where God breathes on man is in Gen. 2:7, when the Lord "breathes" divine life into man. When this happens, a significant transformation takes place.
John 20:23 - Jesus says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In order for the apostles to exercise this gift of forgiving sins, the penitents must orally confess their sins to them because the apostles are not mind readers. The text makes this very clear.
Matt. 9:8 - this verse shows that God has given the authority to forgive sins to "men." Hence, those Protestants who acknowledge that the apostles had the authority to forgive sins (which this verse demonstrates) must prove that this gift ended with the apostles. Otherwise, the apostles' successors still possess this gift. Where in Scripture is the gift of authority to forgive sins taken away from the apostles or their successors?
Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10 - Christ forgave sins as a man (not God) to convince us that the "Son of man" has authority to forgive sins on earth.
Luke 5:24 - Luke also points out that Jesus' authority to forgive sins is as a man, not God. The Gospel writers record this to convince us that God has given this authority to men. This authority has been transferred from Christ to the apostles and their successors.
Matt. 18:18 - the apostles are given authority to bind and loose. The authority to bind and loose includes administering and removing the temporal penalties due to sin. The Jews understood this since the birth of the Church.
John 20:22-23; Matt. 18:18 - the power to remit/retain sin is also the power to remit/retain punishment due to sin. If Christ's ministers can forgive the eternal penalty of sin, they can certainly remit the temporal penalty of sin (which is called an "indulgence").
2 Cor. 2:10 - Paul forgives in the presence of Christ (some translations refer to the presences of Christ as "in persona Christi"). Some say that this may also be a reference to sins.
2 Cor. 5:18 - the ministry of reconciliation was given to the ambassadors of the Church. This ministry of reconciliation refers to the sacrament of reconciliation, also called the sacrament of confession or penance.
James 5:15-16 - in verse 15 we see that sins are forgiven by the priests in the sacrament of the sick. This is another example of man's authority to forgive sins on earth. Then in verse 16, James says Therefore, confess our sins to one another, in reference to the men referred to in verse 15, the priests of the Church.
1 Tim. 2:5 - Christ is the only mediator, but He was free to decide how His mediation would be applied to us. The Lord chose to use priests of God to carry out His work of forgiveness.
Lev. 5:4-6; 19:21-22 - even under the Old Covenant, God used priests to forgive and atone for the sins of others.
Tradition / Church Fathers