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Catholic Culture News

Catholic Dictionary

Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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The practice, going back to the early Church, of receiving the sacrament of penance more often than just once a year, or when mortal sins have been committed. Since the beginnings of monasticism, this practice was recommended to religious even in the absence of a priest, and therefore without absolution, as a means of spiritual purification. It was increasingly used by the laity who sought to grow in Christian perfection, then it fell of until modern times, when it became commonplace in the first half of the twentieth century.

Pope Pius XII defended the practice of frequent confession, presumably of venial sins. "By it," he said, "self-knowledge grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the sacrament itself" (Mystici Corporis Christi, 88). In promulgating the new rite of penance, Pope Paul VI also stressed the "great value" of frequent and reverent recourse to this sacrament even when only venial sins are in question." This practice "is a constant effort to bring to perfection the grace of our baptism" (December 2, 1973).

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