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240 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

grants absolution, that is, he sets us free from our sins, using the power

that Christ entrusted to the Church and by which he pardons the sins of

the penitent (cf. CCC, no. 1424). In the Latin Church, the priest, repre-

senting Christ and bringing us his forgiveness, absolves us from our sins

with these words:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection

of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself, and sent the

Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the

ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,

and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and

of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


“Absolution takes away sin, but does not remedy all the disorders sin

has caused” (CCC, no. 1459). It is obvious that we need to repair certain

damages that our sins have caused, such as restoring the reputation of

someone we have injured, returning money that we have stolen, or rec-

tifying an injustice. Sin also weakens the relationship we have with God

and others. Our inner life is harmed by sin and needs restoration.

This is the reason for acts of penance and satisfaction for sins. The

penance given by the priest helps us to begin making satisfaction for our

sins. Just as when we get physically out of shape, we need to take up

some exercise, so also when the soul is morally out of shape, there is the

challenge to adopt spiritual exercises that will restore it. Obviously, this

is always done in cooperation with God’s graces, which are essential for

the healing.

Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the dis-

orders that sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must

still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more

to make amends for sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or

“expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is called “penance.” (CCC,

no. 1459)