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The question is about a model of a Catholic believer who is knowingly planning and repeating a systematic sin and then relying on effective confession.

For example a man who describes himself as a devoted Catholic is making main income for his living by a series of shady financial transactions which withhold money from their proper receivers (by manipulating information he gives to them, the elder or powerless people - so they do not object against the transactions), and the plan also includes going to the regular confession after the transactions are committed... and additionally also giving 10000€ from the transactions to the church or a monastery so they thank him for his Christian generousness, not knowing about the origin of the money. Now the person feels that after the confession and good deed made, he can again say he has been purged from his sin and rely that this way he can escape from any consequences from the God... and then plan the same income cycle again for next year...

The same person says all the time he is a devoted Catholic and that the Bible should be a manual for everyone's life as it already is for his life etc. And that the people working with finances have their own set of skills.

Does such a calculated confession have its forgiving and purging effect?

  • Please how can I improve the question? – miroxlav Jul 15 at 9:23
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"You wanna lie to God? Good luck with that!"

Those words were spoken to our RCIA group by our Deacon when we had a group of candidates and catechumens discussing the (to them new) principle of Confession (more properly called the Rite of Penance and Reconciliation in Catholic teaching). One of the candidates (a former Methodist) asked "What if you aren't telling the truth when you confess to the priest?"

The deacon smiled, and said: "You wanna lie to God? Good luck with that!"

Your example person is not fulfilling the role of a sincere penitent

There are two problems with trying to deceive God during confession. Why do I mention the problem with lying to God?

Only God forgives sin

CCC 1441 Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.

It an important point to remember, since the priest is acting on Christ's behalf, and Christ is one of the three persons of the Godhead in Catholic belief. There is a detailed treatment of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation here, but I'll summarize the imprtant points.

  1. God knows what's in your heart, so He'll know that you are not truly contrite, and thus the absolution will not take effect. It is the sinner, the penitent, who has turned away from God by comitting mortal sin, thus losing baptismal grace. It is incumbent on the penitent to turn toward God in an effort to reconcile the mortal sin. Sinning again though deceit or falsehood in so doing represents a turning away from God yet again.

  2. Technically, if the person confesses a whole host of other mortal sins in a confession to a priest, but does so under a false pretense, the have just committed another mortal sin that is unconfessed -- deliberate falsehood -- and thus needs to go to confession yet again to address that mortal sin. A vicious cycle, there is really no point in going to Confession if one is not disposed to face the Truth.

    While this is an out of context quote, Jesus said "And the Truth will set you free." It's true on a lot of levels, and I'd say even moreso during confession.

If one is going to do it, it's worth doing it right

The elements of a confession are (in Catholic teaching):

  1. Examination of conscience.
  2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
  3. Confess your sins.
  4. Resolve to amend your life. (Act of Contrition)
  5. After your confession do the penance that your priest assigns.

The absolution offered by the minister takes effect after the penance is completed.

A useful guide to a proper confession is here in a USCCB hand out. There are hundreds of similar guides on the internet, and published for use in CCD, RCIA, and other teaching venues.


Additional support from the CCC

VII. THE ACTS OF THE PENITENT

1450 "Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction."

Contrition

1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."
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.

Your example penitent is not contrite.

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."

VIII. THE MINISTER OF THIS SACRAMENT

1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

That power to forgive comes through Christ.

1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."

  • Almost all of this answer agrees with what I learned, but not "the absolution ... takes effect after the penance is completed." My understanding was that the intention to do one's penance is necessary matter of the sacrament, but the absolution takes effect immediately and is valid even if one later fails to do the penance. (A voluntary failure to do the penance would be a new sin but would not invalidate the confession.) The reasoning was that validity of a sacrament cannot be contingent on future events. – Andreas Blass Jul 15 at 21:40
  • @AndreasBlass I am repeating what I was taught. It is expected that the penitent will act in good faith and complete the penance in order to complete the rite of Penance and Reconciliation. I suspect that the clue there lies in the name of the sacrament. CCC 1423: It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction the presumption is that the penitent acts in good faith: it never had a hope for successful completion otherwise. – KorvinStarmast Jul 15 at 23:27
  • @AndreasBlass See also CCC 1450 "Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction." Put another way, if you do not do the penance, you have broken faith. – KorvinStarmast Jul 15 at 23:33
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First, Confession does not purge the temporal punishment incurred for sins, it remits the damnable eternal guilt only (2 Samuel 12:13-14) (i.e. so that were you to leave this world for the next, you would find yourself in purgatory, not heaven, until "the last penny" has been repaid, Matthew 5:26); any penance given will also only purge some of the temporal punishment, but not all.

Second, confessing what you intend to do is not valid matter for Confession, only confessing what you intend not to (only when you intend not to do it again can you be said to be sorry in any sense of the word, and at least imperfect contrition or sorrow is required). Therefore, someone who lies to the Holy Ghost, in pretending that they are sorry, when they in fact intend to offend the Holy Ghost at the very same time, cannot ever receive absolution or forgiveness until such duplicity is removed and sorrow for sins established.

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