Forgiveness of Sins
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
Forgive or Retain (976)
The forgiveness of sins is associated with the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Communion of Saints. Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23).
Through Baptism (977-978)
Jesus joined forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism when he said that if anyone believed and was baptized they would be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Baptism is the first sacrament of forgiveness.
"While being baptized, the forgiveness we received was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, nor any penalty to suffer for sin. Yet we are not delivered from nature's weakness. On the contrary, we still must combat the movements of concupiscence." (Roman Catechism)
Forgiveness after Baptism (979-980)
Who of us can escape every wound of sin? "If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives" (Roman Catechism).
By the sacrament of Penance, the baptized are reconciled with God and the Church. "This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn" (Council of Trent).
The Keys of Forgiveness (981)
The apostles and their successors communicated forgiveness in Baptism and reconciled men to God by the power of the keys. "The Church has received the keys of the kingdom so that sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's actions" (St. Augustine).
Power over All Sins (982-983)
No sin is so serious that the Church cannot forgive it. "There is no one so wicked who cannot hope for forgiveness if his repentance is honest" (Roman Catechism). Christ always wants the Church's gates of forgiveness to be open for those turning from sin.
The Church wants the faithful to believe fully in the Church's power to forgive sins through the ministry of priests. "His lowly servants accomplish in his name all that he did when he was on earth" (St. Ambrose). "God above confirms what priests do here below" (St. John Chrysostom). "Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come" (St. Augustine).