When you need to go to confession but can’t…

Perfect Contrition:
The Key to Heaven, especially for Our Times

You can still be forgiven of your mortal sins if there is no priest available to hear your confession…

For the great majority of Catholics in the world today, it is virtually impossible to go to confession to a validly ordained priest who professes the true Catholic Faith of the ages and does not profess communion with a public heretic or apostate like Francis or Benedict XVI. Throughout Church history, there were many people in sundry places and circumstances that made approaching a priest for confession, for one reason or another, impossible. And it goes without saying that although everyone will die one day, most people will not have a priest close-by to whom they can make their deathbed confession.

Does this mean, then, that our chances of making it to Heaven are, for that reason, very slim? By no means!

It is a deplorable fact that although all Catholics know to approach the sacrament of Penance to have their mortal sins forgiven, only few seem to know that there is a way to have one’s mortal sins forgiven outside the sacrament of Penance, although not entirely apart from it: through Perfect Contrition. In order not to fall prey to any confusion, it will be important to understand exactly what is meant by it and how it “works”, that is, how to obtain this great grace.

What is Perfect Contrition?

In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent issued a decree on the Sacrament of Penance, which includes a chapter dedicated to the subject of contrition. The subsequent Catechism of the Council of Trent also explains contrition and how it relates to the sacrament of Penance. The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia likewise contains an informative article summarizing the essentials on contrition.

In a nutshell: Perfect Contrition is a supernatural sorrow for, and hatred of, the sins one has committed, accompanied by a firm resolution never to sin again, because by committing them one has offended God, who is infinitely good and deserving of all of one’s love.

It is evident that if the truth about Perfect Contrition is to bear rich fruit in souls, then this somewhat complex definition needs a detailed explanation that is easily comprehensible by the common man. To this end, the Australian Catholic Truth Society in 1959 issued a very readable booklet on this topic written by an Italian priest. You can read its full text online here:

On Feb. 26, 2016 our friends at True Restoration released an episode of their “Spiritual Life” series on Restoration Radio about Perfect Contrition, in which the Benedictine monk Fr. Bernard Uttley explains in an easy-to-follow manner the nature, mechanism, effects, and importance of Perfect Contrition. We have since acquired the rights to this audio file, so now you can listen to the entire 105-minute episode free of charge here:

If we examine closely the Act of Contrition we are supposed to pray at least once a day, we see that Holy Mother Church tries very much to instill in our souls the necessary dispositions for obtaining Perfect Contrition:

O my God! I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee; and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good, and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

(Act of Contrition)

Perfect Contrition is an immense source of grace in this life and is of special importance at the time of death. All Catholics ought to be familiar with it and join it daily to their Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Whether you have a confessor available or not, make sure you are always perfectly contrite for your sins, and you will never be without sanctifying grace. The gates of Heaven will be open to you, and you will never again be tempted to despair.

The primary effect of Perfect Contrition being the recovery of sanctifying grace outside of the sacrament of Confession, this extraordinary means shows the great mercy, generosity, and magnanimity of Almighty God towards His sinful human creatures. After all, it is clear that we cannot always and everywhere have a priest at our disposal, and the availability of God’s forgiveness throughout the history of the New Covenant would be seriously curtailed if it depended strictly on the presence of priests wherever there are sinners.

Please do not ignore, neglect, or make light of this most important topic. For a great many of us, Perfect Contrition may one day make an eternal difference.

“Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much.”
(Luke 7:47)

Image sources: Wikimedia Commons (Fondazione Cariplo; cropped) / unknown
Licenses: CC BY-SA 3.0 / fair use

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31 Responses to “Perfect Contrition: The Key to Heaven, especially for Our Times”

  1. David Ellis

    Great Post. It is important that Catholics know this. Prayer to Our Lady before a person makes a perfect act of contrition for her help is also a good idea.

  2. Neil Rangel

    My mother taught me this version

    O MY GOD

  3. John D. Horton

    A Novus Ordo priest asked me when I last went to confession and I told him that I made an “Act of Perfect Contrition” everyday and at least once a year an auricular confession to a traditional priest. Doesn’t the penitent have free choice in choosing his confessor? It seems weird when a priest seems a little too interested in hearing your confession.

    St. John Vianney’s first pastor after ordination and Bishop Sheen’s first pastor after ordination did not want newly ordained priests to hear confessions because what they heard would disturb their young priesthood. A newly ordained priest in his 20s in Arkansas was laicized because of his sexual solicitation of females in the confessional when he probably should not have been hearing confessions until he had been a priest for 5 or 10 years. A newly ordained priest in Omaha was suspended because he was asking sexually leading questions of elementary school children and the children started asking questions of their parents about what were all these sex words that father kept talking about in the confessional.

    • BurningEagle

      When I was young, we were taught that we should be going to confession 1/month as a minimum. We were encouraged to go once a week. I have read about some saints who went to confession daily. An act of contrition made from the motive that one is sorry for offending Almighty God, the Supreme Good and standard of all that is good, Who is worthy of all one’s love and odedience, does not excuse oneself from the duty of confessing one’s sins to a priest, if one has the ability to do so. One must make a good confession to a priest, and mention all unconfessed mortal sins to the priest as soon as one can get to confession.

      Many indulgences are under the condition that one make a worthy confession within a two week window of time. So, please consult a well-trained, validly ordained, traditional Catholic priest.

      It is true that priests have to be given faculties for hearing confessions from the ordinary. If the ordinary does not believe they are sufficiently prepared for hearing confessions, the faculty is not given, until the priest has been prepared. This is left to the discretion of the ordinary (in days gone by).

      • John D. Horton

        I made my First Holy Communion in the Novus Ordo Catholic Church in Oklahoma in 1967. There was absolutely zero mention of Confession as a prerequisite for First Holy Communion during preparation classes for Holy Communion or any mention of Confession. Children are not accountable for Vatican II eliminating Confession from the Seven Sacraments. So, within two years of the close of Vatican II, Confession prior to First Holy Communion had been eliminated under the belief that children can not sin.

        I did 5th grade in 1970 in a Catholic school with teaching sisters and there was no mandatory (or any other requirement) for Confession.

        There are many reasons that Confession has gone out of style in the Novus Ordo Catholic Church:
        — Sin is now mental illness,
        — Priests have no interest in sitting in a dirty, little booth and hearing people talking about sex,
        — Priests think you are a weirdo (scrupulosity) if you go to confession all the time,
        — Within the last several years, I regularly attended an SSPX church in Sacramento CA where the priest tried to do 30 minutes of Confession between the early and late Sunday morning Mass. This newly ordained priest told the congregation during the homily that the little old ladies of the parish need to stop trying to read to him “War and Peace” or confess other peoples sins. Some of these little old ladies are so socially isolated that the only person they can get to talk to them is the priest in the confessional. The priest implied that confession should take 30 seconds max so more people can go to confession when we had commuters come from 150 miles away.

        Bottom line: If the priests are not interested in hearing confessions then the people can not force them to do their job.

        • BurningEagle

          I am sorry to hear that. I do not believe the formation of the S?PX priests is proper. Certainly their stance that Jorge is the Pope, but they can disobey him is an anti-Catholic position. In my estimation, they are to be avoided, as is any “una cum” priest or group. “Recognize and Resist” is a pseudonyme for “distortion of the doctrines concerning the Church and the papacy.”
          I would suggest finding a well-trained Catholic priest. Find out when he hears confession, and then go there early. It is not a bad idea to call and schedule a confession, especially if it is a general confession, or if it has been a great while since your last confession.

          Your post is proof positive that the Novus Ordo is NOT CATHOLIC.

  4. jay

    The sad truth is, that true Catholics do not have the advantages that Catholics had 50 + years ago when it comes to the gifts of a ordered and visible hierarchy . But in the U.S. it is a fact that the Church has had many trials, and early Catholic Immigrants might not have access to a priest for years, it seems that we are revisiting that time but with added difficulties .

  5. João Crisóstomo

    Fr. Augustine Lehmkuhl, S.J., released a little book on perfect contrition. It was released here in Brazil. Then in the US it must have been released, too.

  6. jay

    A question. If someone is outside the Church I.e. Protestant, Jew etc. and makes an act of contrition would it be valid? Wouldn’t they have to leave their false religion and embrace the Church for that act to be complete.

    • BurningEagle

      Without the faith, it is impossible to please God (St. Paul). If the person in your hypothetical scenario recognized the truth of the Catholic Religion, wanted to become part of the Catholic religion, and made an act of contrition, it is possible for him to save his soul, if he were to die shortly thereafter. But, he is obligated to pursue instruction, abjuration of errors and valid baptism as soon as possible.
      If he were already baptized, he is still bound to confess his sins to a priest.
      Any reluctance on the part of this person would indicate a deficient motive.
      Short answer: He would have to renounce his false religion, and embrace the Catholic Faith.

    • Siobhan

      yes, it could be valid. As Father states repeatedly in this audio, every single heart is read by God & every case is unique.

  7. gaston

    COURS DE RELIGION.Par le Chanoine V. CANTINAU.Docteur en philosophie et en droit canon.Secrétaire de l’Evêché de Tournai.Membre du collège des censeurs.Examinateur synodal.ÉTABLISSEMENT CASTERMAN,S.A.ÉDITEUR PONTIFICAUX,IMPRIMEURS DE L’ÉVÊCHÉ.NIHIL OBSTAT 1913.IMPRIMATUR 1913.Approbation C.-G.,Évêque DE TOURNAY 1913.Section III.Chapitre VI.Le Sacrement de Pénitence.§498..pp.684-685,a écrit

    Le pouvoir de remettre les péchés,que l’évêque et le prêtre possèdent en vertu de leur caractère sacré,ne suffit même pas pour qu’ils puissent administrer validement le sacrement de pénitence.En effet,ce sacrement est un acte judiciaire.Or,une sentence judiciaire ne peut avoir d’effet qu’à l’égard de ceux qui sont justiciables du juge qui la porte.C’est pourquoi l’Église a toujours cru,et le Concile de Trente a confirmé comme très vrai,que l’absolution est nulle,lorsqu’elle est donnée par un prêtre à une personne sur laquelle il n’a point de juridiction.

    • BurningEagle

      Ecclesia supplet. We are living in the great apostacy. There is no ordinary jurisdiction, because there are no Catholic ordinaries. Name one person who has jurisdiction from Pope Pius XII. You cannot. So, without a pope, and without any bishop with ordinary jurisdiction for a diocese, the laws which normally are for the well ordered life of the church are now to be followed so that nobody can go to confession? That’s crazy. I agree that perhaps the S?PX do not have jurisdiction, since they assure us that Jorge is the pope and his hierarchy is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. By their own admisssion, they are damning themselves. But for Catholics who recognize that the new religion and all of its adherents are NOT Catholic, epikeia applies. I would suggest: Summa Theologica Secunda Secundae, Q 120, art. 1 and art. 2.

  8. John D. Horton

    SSPX came up with this concept called “supplied” jurisdiction based on an emergency situation (i.e. they call it the “Crisis” in the Church, i.e. apostacy of the Vatican II Church which begs the question of why they would want to join an apostate church?) where any available priest can hear confession anywhere he is located.

  9. BurningEagle

    So nobody can get absolution? Marriages done in front of Catholic priests are invalid, because they do not jurisdiction?

    You must be a home aloner.

    What would you propose Catholics should do in these times? Please tell me (English please.)

    • corvinus ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      I call them “jurisdictionists”, myself. Of course, the idea that God would be so bureaucratic that no priest can do anything unless he’s “sent” by a valid Pope, when nobody knows if he even has existed since 1958 let alone who he is, and would not have provided for ways of getting around that (epikeia), is rather offensive against both common sense and God’s justice and mercy, to put it mildly.

  10. BurningEagle

    Then you are forced to be in communion with heretical Jorge, and to try to get your sins forgiven by invalidly ordained “priests” and invalidly consecrated “bishops,” who are also heretics. I hope you are comfortable with that. I am not.

    To use the laws of the Church established UNDER normal circumstances and FOR normal circumstances, to the great harm of faithful in this time of great apostasy, is utter nonsense.

  11. corvinus ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    IIRC one of the last pre-VII Popes (either Pius XII or Pius X, I think) actually loosened Can 882 from “the point of death” to “in peril of death” (I can’t remember the original Latin terms off-hand). And of course, everyone is in “peril of death”, even if they’re not at “the point of death”. Every time you get into a car or onto a plane, you’re in peril of death. It’s as if the Pope was foreseeing that Catholic priests with jurisdiction would shortly be dying out, and Catholics would have to rely on those without jurisdiction.

    • Novus Ordo Watch

      I think that’s a rather tendentious reading of this canon. I don’t have the details at my fingertips right now, but I’m pretty sure that the “peril of death” must be acute, that is, there must be a reasonable supposition that death would typically or quite possibly occur, such as when fighting a battle in a war.

  12. gaston

    The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith brought us the so uplifting story of a seventy-year-old Chinese woman, who was baptized at the age of twelve, and who had spent all her life in the midst of unfaithful parents, without ever having saw a priest, or even a Christian, who had remained faithful to the faith and commitments of his Baptism, because it had not failed, one day, to recite his rosary ..
    Chanoine Paul Thône – Je vous salue ô Plénitude !… – Commentaire de la Salutation Angélique-Deuxième édition – p. 179.Nihil obstat Lille, le 29 juillet 1946. Eugène MASURE, cens. del.
    Imprimatur : Lille, le 3 août 1946. P. DUTHOIT, vic. gen.
    Cum approbatione ecclesiastica Mechliniae, 13 novembris 1958

    Contrition perfected by charity reconciles man with God, even before the reception of the sacrament of Penance. “Concile de Trente, Session 14, chapitre 4

    True conversion does not suffer from delay, since the Holy Spirit said: When groaning repentance will turn you to God, you will be saved. “Saint Leo.

    All evils are removed when charity reigns in a heart. “Saint John Chrysostom.

  13. corvinus ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    Perhaps the confessions are valid if the penitent has perfect contrition… which is the whole subject of this post?

  14. corvinus ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    The context of Luther versus nowadays is different. in Luther’s time there was a valid Pope who could supply jurisdiction, so what he was doing was certainly schismatic and condemnable. But nowadays, there is no Pope, or at least no known Pope, who can supply jurisdiction, there hasn’t been since 1958, and furthermore, there is no obvious way that this emergency will be rectified.

    Jurisdiction WILL completely die out within a few decades. NOBODY will have jurisdiction once all pre-1958 priests die.

  15. Novus Ordo Watch

    Folks, we’re not going to resolve the issue of jurisdiction during prolonged sede vacante in this combox. The combox is not meant to be a discussion forum. Those interested in debating this issue at length are certainly welcome to, but please do it at an external forum site, not here. Two such forums are the following:

    The issue of jurisdiction is an important one, one about which sedevacantists are divided. I will say this: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Please always keep this in mind as this issue gets debated. For what it’s worth, I would like to point out that all sedevacantist clergy (at least all that I am aware of) who were ordained before Vatican II, continued hearing confessions, even in territories for which they had never received jurisdiction.

    Since at this point the combox is only being used to discuss the jurisdiction issue, I will go ahead and close it. Those interested in continuing the discussion, please do so at an appropriate forum. God bless all.

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