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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE TENTH ARTICLE: "The Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins."
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By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins,14 and so in the

Creed there follows immediately: "the forgiveness of sins." The power was

given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers

of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles

received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and

loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving

sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest,

i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.15


14. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead, because they

take away sin and give the first grace of justification. The other five

Sacraments are called Sacraments of the living, because one who receives

them worthily is already living the life of grace. But the Sacraments of

the living produce the first grace when the subject, guilty of a grievous

fault, approaches the Sacraments in good faith, that is to say, with the

invincible ignorance of his fault, and with attrition (cfr. Pourrat,

"Theology of the Sacraments," St. Louis, 1914, p. 201).


15. "For Our Lord did not give the power of so sacred a ministry to all,

but to bishops and priests only. The same must be said regarding the manner

in which the power is to be exercised; for sin can be forgiven only through

the Sacraments, when duly administered. The Church has received no power

otherwise to remit sins. Hence it follows that in the forgiveness of sins

both priests and Sacraments are, as it were, the instruments which Christ,

Our Lord, the Author and giver of salvation, make use of to accomplish in

us pardon of sin and the grace of justification" ("Roman Catechism." loc.

cit., 6).


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