Lesson 24: The Sacrament of Penance (Confession)
"Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them:  'Peace be to you.'  And when He had said this, he shewed them His hands and His side.  The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.  He said therefore to them again:  'Peace be to you.  As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.'  When He had said this, He breathed on them; and He said to them:  'Receive ye the Holy Ghost.  Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.'"  (John 20:19-23)

  1. Why did God the Father send His Son into the world?

  2.    To save man from his sins.
    "Thou shalt call His name Jesus.  For He shall save His people from their sins."    (Matthew 1:21)

  3. Does Jesus Christ have the power to forgive sins?

  4.    Yes, Jesus has the power to forgive sin because He is God.

  5. Did Jesus Christ forgive sins while on earth?

  6.    Yes, He forgave the sins of the paralyzed man (Luke 5:18-26), the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), the sinful woman (Luke 7:39-50) and the good thief (Luke 23:39-43).

  7. Did Jesus Christ give anyone the power to forgive sin?

  8.    Yes, to His Apostles on Easter Sunday night.
    "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."    (John 20:23)

  9. Did Jesus want His Apostles to hand down this power to others?

  10.    Yes, because He died to save all men from their sins.
    "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who will have all men to be saved."    (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

  11. How did the Apostles hand down this power to others?

  12.    By making other men bishops and priests.
    After the Apostles died, the bishops have continued to hand down the power of forgiving sin, during the past 2,000 years, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

  13. Who has the power to forgive sin today?

  14.    All bishops and priests of the Catholic Church can forgive sin.

  15. What is the Sacrament of Penance?

  16.    Penance is the Sacrament by which the sins committed after Baptism are forgiven.

  17. What do you have to do to have your sins forgiven?

  18.    You have to be truly sorry for them and confess them to a Catholic priest.
    "He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper:  but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy."    (Proverbs 28:13)

  19. Why do you have to confess your sins to a priest?

  20.    This is the way Jesus Christ wants sin to be forgiven.  Otherwise, Christ would not have given His priests the power to forgive sin.

  21. Why does the priest have to know what sins you have committed?

  22.    He has to know whether he is to forgive your sins or "retain" them.
    If you are truly sorry, he will grant you forgiveness (called "absolution"); if not, he must retain them (that is, refuse to give you absolution).

  23. Does the priests only pray that your sins will be forgiven?

  24.    No, the priest, by the power given him, actually takes the sins off your soul (called "absolution").
    "For what I have pardoned...  I have done it in the person of Christ."    (2 Corinthians 2:10)

  25. Can you be sure that your sins are forgiven in Confession?

  26.    Yes, if you have properly confessed them and are sorry for them.
    "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity."    (1 John 1:9)

  27. What does Confession do for your soul?

  28.    Besides taking sin off your soul, Confession also--
    1. puts Sanctifying Grace back into your soul, if you were in mortal sin
    2. makes the Grace grow, if you had only venial sins
    3. gives you extra strength to stay away from sin in the future.

  29. Can all sins be forgiven in Confession?

  30.    Yes, if you are truly sorry for them.

  31. What is meant by "being sorry for your sins"?

  32.    "Being sorry" means--
    1. that you wish you had not committed the sins
    2. that you sincerely promise not to commit those sins again
    3. that you promise to stay way from any person, place, or thing that easily leads you into sin.

  33. What kind of sorrow do you have to have to be forgiven?

  34.    Religious sorrow, that is, you must be sorry because you dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell (imperfect sorrow), and/or because you have offended the infinitely good God (perfect sorrow).
    Therefore, to have your sins forgiven, it is not enough to be sorry because your sins have caused you to lose your job or some money.  The sorrow has to be religious.  Sorrow for sin is called contrition.  You do not have to feel the sorrow with your emotions.

  35. Why do you not have to be afraid of Confession?

  36.    You do not have to be afraid because--
    1. you may go to any priest you want
    2. in the confessional, a screen hides you from the priest
    3. the priest is never allowed to tell anyone any sin he has ever heard in Confession.  This secrecy is called the "Seal of Confession."

  37. What sins do you have to confess?

  38.    All your mortal sins.

  39. What kind of sin is it deliberately to omit telling a mortal sin in Confession?

  40.    A mortal sin of sacrilege.  This is called making a bad Confession.
    To undo a bad Confession, you have to confess that you made a bad Confession, confess the omitted mortal sin(s), and confess any other mortal sins you have committed since then (including Communions received in the state of mortal sin).

  41. What should you do if you forget to confess a mortal sin?

  42.    You must tell it in your next Confession and tell the priest that you forgot it.
    But the sin is forgiven and you may receive Communion in the meantime.

  43. What do you do if you have no mortal sins to confess?

  44.    Tell your venial sins and/or mention some sin already told in a previous Confession.

  45. How often do you have to go to Confession?

  46.    At least once a year (if you have committed a mortal sin).
    If you ever commit a mortal sin, say the Act of Contrition right away and go to Confession as soon as possible.  If you have perfect contrition for the mortal sin and intend to confess it in Confession, God forgives you and takes away the sin right away.  but you may not receive Holy Communion until you confess it in Confession.

  47. How often does a good Catholic go to Confession?

  48.    Once a week, if possible, but at least once a month.
    Remember that in Confession you receive grace from the Sacrament of Penance.  Besides, in Confession you receive special helps to overcome the temptations that bother you most.


  1. In Confession the eternal punishment (Hell) is taken away, but all of the temporal punishment due to your sins is not always taken away.  "Temporal punishment" means that, even though all your sins are forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance, God still requires that you be punished for your sins, either in this life or in Purgatory.  So, Confession does not make sinning easier.  One of the chief ways by which you can make up for your sins is by gaining indulgences.  (See Lesson 26).
  2. If you are in danger of death and cannot go to Confession right away, be sure to make an act of perfect contrition; say the Act of Contrition, or simply tell God you are sorry for all your sins because they offend Him, Who is all good, and beg His mercy.  If somebody else (whether Catholic or not) is in danger of death, it is a great act of charity to help him to be sorry for offending God and to beg God's mercy.