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The parts of the Sacrament are the penitent’s contrition, confession and satisfaction and the priest’s absolution.

Contrition is sorrow for our sins, such that we detest them and resolve never to commit them again. It is also referred to as detachment from sin. It is a word that means the crushing or breaking up into pieces, such as when a stone is pulverised. It has come to mean sorrow for sins because it is the pulverisation of the hard heart of a sinner sorry for having offended God.

Confession requires us to admit our sins to the priest.

Satisfaction or Penance is prayer or other good works that the priest requires of the penitent in satisfaction for his sins, the “price” for the priceless gift of absolution.

Absolution is the moment when God’s forgiveness is imparted through the Church, when the Sacrament is conferred. It consists of the priest saying “ego te absolvo” (“I absolve you from your sin”).

A valid confession requires on the part of the penitent, that he or she be sorry for having offended God, resolve not to sin again, to confess all mortal sins remembered in kind and number and perform the penance imposed. On the part of the priest, the words “I absolve you” must be used, the priest must be validly ordained and (unlike all other Sacraments) must have been granted the faculty by his Bishop to hear confessions. A priest who does not have this faculty (eg, a laicized priest or a priest of the Society of St Pius X) cannot validly absolve anyone except in danger of death where a priest with the faculty is not available.