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Perfect contrition

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Perfect contrition (from Latin contero - grind, crush, pound to pieces) in Catholic theology is a sorrow for sins which is motivated by the love of God. It contrasts with imperfect contrition, or attrition; a sorrow arising from a less pure motive, such as common decency, or fear of Hell.


It is the motive for sorrow (rather than the intensity of feeling) that distinguishes the two forms of contrition, and it is possible for perfect and imperfect contrition to be experienced simultaneously.

According to Catholic teaching, perfect contrition removes the guilt and eternal punishment due to mortal sin, even before the sinner has received absolution in the sacrament of penance. However, a Catholic is still bound, under Church law, to confess grave sins at the first opportunity.


Jansenists, who often insisted on the necessity of contrition versus simple attrition, frequently quoted Gospel of Matthew, 22:36 and 40, John 3:16, First Epistle to the Corinthians 16:22, First Epistle of John 3:14, John 14:24 as the purpose for their belief.

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