Perfect and Imperfect Acts of Contrition : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

Ok, another Catholic posted this on another Catholic forum and gave a couple of examples of a perfect act of contrition and a perfect act of contrition:

Perfect and imperfect Contrition:

This has come up repeatedly over the last few weeks so I thought we could have a thread!

Perfect Contrition Being sorry for one's sins because they offend God

Imperfect Contrition Being sorry for one's sins because the fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell

An example:

I have lost my temper and yelled at my husband and called him a nasty name. Later I go to tell him I'm sorry because....

... I love him and I'll bet me doing that really hurt his feeings. I feel so bad that I have treated my beloved in such a way and have caused him pain. Perfect Contrition

... if I don't then he'll be in a bad mood all day and he'll remind me of how I didn't like it when he did the same thing to me. Boy I hate having to deal with the fallout when I have hurt him.Imperfect Contrition

In both cases I am TRULY sorry for what I have done to my husband, but the way in which I am sorry is different. Unless we are very near perfection- it is very difficult to be perfectly contrite, as there is nearly always a part of us that fears domestic intranquillity, so to speak.

This doesn't sound right to me. Doesn't all confessions require us to be sorry with our hearts and not out of fear of Hell? She seems to think that if a thief was sorry because he was afraid of going to jail, it would be sufficient during a confession to a priest but not if we confessed without a priest. This would require a perfect act of contrition and would require us to be sorry not because of the fear of hell.

I was never taught this.

-- DJ (, February 20, 2005



-- DJ (, February 20, 2005.

And these are the quotes from the Catechism she gave to back up her claim.

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51

1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

Can anyone explain to me the quote i put in bold?

-- DJ (, February 20, 2005.

bump again

-- DJ (, February 20, 2005.

I cannot answer what your friend from another forum was speaking about because I haven't read her postings..

"perfect contrition" means that, having realized that you have committed sin, mortal or venial, you are sincerely penitent, SOLELY because you have offended God..and you ask God's forgiveness for having deeply offended Him, AND you are sincere in making a promise to Him to TRY YOUR BEST not to offend Him again ..your sin is forgiven..If your sin was mortal, you MUST get yourself to a priest ASAP and confess your sin to the priest as well.

"Imperfect contrition" means that you realize that you have committed sin, and ALTHOUGH you are penitent for it, you are ONLY sorry in that you have a fear of "waking up dead" and having this sin on your soul. A kind of nagging follows you makes you feel "uneasy" to have this on your conscience. It prods you to go to confession and get "rid of the sin". You can "feel sorry" all you like, yet the mortal sin is NOT forgiven because you have not come to the full realization of the fact that your sin has offended are only concerned with yourself.

Once you have been "prodded" into the Sacrament or Reconciliation,the priest would help you to realize how your sin, AND your imperfect contrition for it were both keeping you from God. Once this realization was a reality, you would be able to make a "perfect contrition" and receive the grace which accompanies the Sacrament of Reconcilation.

-- Lesley (, February 20, 2005.

please excuse my fingers slipping on the keyboard.. it is the "Sacrament OF Reconciliation"..nor "or"..

-- Lesley (, February 20, 2005.

So basically if one only gives an imperfect contrition in Confession, his/her grave sins would not be fogiven?

-- DJ (, February 20, 2005.

What if one doesn't FEEL sorry.

For example, according to my therapist, I am not "in touch with my feelings" ... she laughed because she knew that I would think that this is such a cliche thing to say to me. And she knew that I would laugh too. But later on I realized that I did have an issue with my feelings.

Once upon a time I was the most hard hearted stone cold person. Over the years God has gradually softened my heart (hallelujah!) I am being perfected, but I am still not perfect, therefore, I sometimes have issues where I don't "feel" sorry, but logically I am sorry about something I've done wrong. In cases like this, I ask forgiveness, I try to make the situation right, and I use everything at my disposal to not commit the wrong act again. I ask God to help me flee temptation or stand up to it, I use the fruit of self control, I ask others to hold me accountable for my actions.

But sometimes the feeling sorry doesn't come until years later, triggered by another event. Maybe I see someone else do the same thing, maybe it just hits me one day out of nowhere, maybe God brings it to my attention in some way... I still have things that I don't "feel" sorry for.

Is it possible that feelings of sorrow and guilt are triggers to help us on the right path? For example, if my son steals a cookie from the cookie jar, he can return the cookie to me because he feels sorry, because he feels guilty, or because logically he knows it's wrong despite what he feels. I will regard each case the same way, praise for doing the right thing, and a lesson on stealing and disobedience, trying to help him not to do again.

How does God work differently? Consider that everyone's heart is different and everyone's life and experiences are different. Maybe He teaches us of the glorious prospect of heaven and the depths of hell, and the logical consequences of obedience and disobedience to appeal to all persons with all different kinds of personalities to obey Him.

I use praise and fear and logic to help my children to understand that I am the parent. I hope that they don't obey me strictly out of fear but it doesn't hurt once in awhile for my children to know that I really mean business. But I don't esteem one motive over the others. For example, if the child's motive is strictly for the praise, what happens the first time I overlook the praise? Some children become glory hounds seeking praise all the time. There seems to be a need for a healthy balance. Don't forget, we were all children once, and since we've grown up, have our human natures changed? (speaking about the nature of motives alone)

In a perfect world, we would do everything because we love God. We don't live in a perfect world and we don't act perfectly. And sometimes our motives are not perfect... do people contribute to charities out of love or for tax purposes... sure those are obviously 2 different kinds of motives. But what one contributed out of fear and one out of love, and one out of a sense of duty... all of these for God. These motives are considered "differently?"

No one can make themselves a different person. You can do the act, but the feelings remain the same. Doesn't God look at my desire and attempt to do the right thing even if my fleshy worldly feelings are not in line? After all, He's the one that changes your heart. Hopefully the feelings will be fixed in due time.

-- Rina (, February 20, 2005.

Sorry Rina, you're way out of my league here..

and D. J. I suggest you take it up with your own priest.

All I know is what I've already said.

We can never "be" perfect..we are all only humans..yet we certainly TRY to work towards being as perfect as we CAN be. And a great deal of help in that direction comes from the graces given to all of us through the sacraments. The more often we receive them, the more grace we receive. It is such a wonderful thing. IMHO if someone is having trouble with unrepentant sin, the more often one goes to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, the easier it will be to overcome whatever is on your conscience. THAT's the meaning of "imperfect contrition"..there IS some grace given..enough to lead you to where you NEED to be.

The entire focus of being contrite, being "sorry" is on having hurt God. If we are not sorry that we hurt God with our sins, then what is our "sorrow" all about? It can only be about "ourselves". Our fear of being punished..not looking at whatever we did as being hurtful to God, but only what it will "do " to US..wrong focus.

God must always be our #1 focus..not ourselves.

-- Lesley (, February 20, 2005.

She seems to think that if a thief was sorry because he was afraid of going to jail, it would be sufficient during a confession to a priest but not if we confessed without a priest. This would require a perfect act of contrition and would require us to be sorry not because of the fear of hell. I was never taught this.

You should have been taught this, DJ, because it is correct.

If we commit a mortal sin and go to confession with only imperfect contrition, the sin IS forgiven anyway. Please re-read CCC 1453, above. You'll see that this is what it is saying. The sentence you put in bold type says that, without sacramental confession, imperfect contrition is NOT sufficient to forgive mortal sin. The logical conclusion (which is affirmed by the previous sentence) is that WITH sacramental confession, imperfect contrition IS sufficient.

-- (Its@Good.Enough), February 20, 2005.

You should have been taught this, DJ, because it is correct.

Yeah, i guess i just overlooked it. I always heard of how we should repent(being truly sorry) and i assumed it was the only way. Thanks lesley for the long response. I somewhat understand what your getting at.

-- DJ (, February 20, 2005.

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