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238 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

tal sins so long as we resolve to confess them as soon as possible. When

other motives, such as the ugliness of sin or fear of damnation, bring us

to confession, this is called “imperfect contrition,” which is sufficient for

forgiveness in the Sacrament. The Holy Spirit moves us in either case and

initiates the conversion.


Confession liberates us from sins that trouble our hearts and makes it

possible to be reconciled to God and others. We are asked to look into

our souls and, with an honest and unblinking gaze, identify our sins.

This opens our minds and hearts to God, moves us toward communion

with the Church, and offers us a new future.

In confession, by naming our sins before the priest, who represents

Christ, we face our failings more honestly and accept responsibility for

our sins. It is also in confession that a priest and penitent can work

together to find the direction needed for the penitent to grow spiritually

and to avoid sin in the future (cf. CCC, nos. 1455, 1456).

When we have examined our consciences and have taken responsi-

bility for our sins, we then confess them to the priest. We must confess

all our mortal sins in kind and number. The Church strongly recom-

mends confessing venial sins, though this is not strictly necessary. In

the Latin Church, children must go to confession before making their

First Communion.

There are three rites of Reconciliation: the rite for the Reconciliation

of individual penitents; the rite for the Reconciliation of several penitents

with individual confession and absolution; and the rite of Reconciliation

of penitents with general confession and absolution.

In the first rite, which is the most familiar, the penitent goes to a rec-

onciliation room or a traditional confessional and either confesses face

to face with the priest or kneels behind a screen to confess the sins. In

the second rite, which usually happens in Advent or Lent, there is a com-

munal service during which the Scripture is read and a homily is given.

This is followed by individual confession and individual absolution.

General confession and absolution is the third rite and is used only

in extraordinary situations, danger of death, or an insufficient number of

confessors so that “penitents would be deprived of sacramental grace or