“The mercy of God is infinite and never refuses to forgive sinners.”
– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez
“No crime, however heinous, can be committed or even conceived which the Church has not power to forgive, just as there is no sinner, however abandoned, however depraved, who should not confidently hope for pardon, provided he sincerely repent of his past transgressions.”
– Catechism of the Council of Trent
“God promised His mercy to all, and granted to His priests the license of forgiving sins without any exception.”
– St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397)
Firstly, to quote an old Catholic Encyclopaedia: “any and every sin can be forgiven” (if we sincerely ask for God’s forgiveness). God’s mercy is inexhaustible. You cannot have, nor can you ever exhaust the inexhaustible. It is impossible. Don’t fear to approach your loving Father with complete confidence. Fear is useless. The sooner you trust in God’s promises and the infallible teachings of His Church, the better.
The only way we can render ourselves unforgivable is if we become so hardened in sin, and so blind to God’s goodness, that we do not respond to God’s grace, and therefore do not ask for forgiveness. The ‘unforgivable’ sin is therefore best described/summarised as “obduracy”, which is more commonly referred to as “final impenitence” or “final unrepentance.” This simply means that our hearts are so hard and blind that we will never repent. When God grants us the grace of a sincere repentance, we should always thank Him immensely because “hope does not deceive.” It is impossible to repent without God’s grace. Numerous Church teachings (based on various Scripture passages) confirm this. This should console us greatly. God draws sinners to Himself by the sweet attractions of divine grace.
“… think about the mercy of God, because there are NONE who are such sinners that their sin is not forgiven them, if only they pray with a resolution to improve and with contrition.” – Mary to St. Bridget (Book 1, Ch 2) *Many revelations of God’s mercy can be found on this site that are essentially the same.
Here are some more authentic Catholic writings/teachings on the topic:
(Taken from ‘The Douay Catechism of 1649’)
Q. 923. What is final impenitence?
A. To die without either confession or contrition for our sins, as those do of whom it is said, “With a hard neck, and with uncircumcised hearts and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost.” Acts vii. 51. And in the person of whom Job speaks, saying, “Depart thou from us, and we will not have the knowledge of thy ways.” Job xxi. 14.
(Taken from pp. 422-433 of ‘The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma’ by Dr. Ludwig Ott)
§ 6. The Universality of the Church’s Power to Forgive Sins
The Church’s power to forgive sins extends to all sin without exception. (De fide.)
The attempts of the Montanists and the Novatianists to limit the scope of the Church’s power to forgive sins, were rejected as heretical by the Church. According to the teaching of the Council of Trent, Penance was instituted as a reconciliation of the faithful with God “as often as they fall into sin after Baptism” (quoties post baptismum in peccata labuntur). D 911; cf. 895, 4.30. It follows from this that Penance can be repeated at will, and that all sins without exception committed after Baptism can be remitted by the Church’s power to forgive sins.
Christ promised to His Church and transmitted to His Church the power to forgive sins without limitation. The expressions quodcumque solveris (Mt. 16, 19), quaecumque solveritis (Mt. 18, 18), quorum remiseritis peccata (John 20, 23) show that the power in question is conceived to be as inclusive and as general as possible. In addition to this Christ transferred His mission, in which the unlimited power to forgive sins is contained, to the Church (John 20, 21). He Himself put this power into operation by the forgiveness of the most grievous sins. Cf. John 7, 53 to 8, II ; Luke 7, 36-50; Luke 23, 43 ; Mt.26, 75.
In the time of the Apostles, St. Paul exercised the power of absolution, given to him by Christ, by the re-acceptance of a sinner at Corinth, who had given grave scandal, probably by the crime of incest (2 Cor. 2, 10; cf. I Cor. 5, I et seq.).
The passages cited by the opponents of this doctrine, Mt. 12, 31 et seq.; Mk. 3, 28 et seq.; Luke 12, 10 (sin against the Holy Ghost), and Hebr. 6, 4-6, refer to the sin of obduracy [i.e. final impenitence], which because of a lack of due dispositions, cannot be forgiven. 1 John 5, 16 does not treat of the power to forgive sins, but speaks of the exclusion of those lapsed from Christ from the intercessory prayer of the Church.
In Christian antiquity the generality of the Church’s power to forgive sins is witnessed by the Pastor Hermae, St. Dionysius of Corinth, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian in the work De poenitentia, St. Cyprian, St. Pacian, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine (cf. Par. 4). Invoking Holy Writ St. Pacian says: “He says whatsoever you shall loose; He excepts nothing whatsoever. He says whatsoever, be it great or little” (Ep. 3, 12). St. Ambrose expresses himself similarly: “God makes no distinction; He promised His mercy to all, and has conferred the power of forgiveness on all His priests without exception” (De poenit. I 3, 10).
In spite of the basic recognition of the universality of the power to forgive sin, the discipline of penance was very strict in the primitive Church. Public penance was granted once only, and absolution of very grievous sins was sometimes deferred to the end of the sinner’s life, and in individual exceptional cases refused altogether. In order to meet an exaggerated rigorism, the Council of Nice (325), in can. 13, resolved that: “in regard to those in a dying condition, the ancient Church rule should be observed that nobody departing this life be deprived of the last and most necessary viaticum.” D 57. Cf. D 95, III, 147.
“One must not despair of even the greatest sinner as long as he lives here on earth” – St. Augustine
“Considering the omnipotence and mercy of God, no one should despair of the salvation of anyone in this life.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
“… to say that in this life there is any sin of which one cannot repent, is erroneous, first, because this would destroy free-will, secondly, because this would be derogatory to the power of grace, whereby the heart of any sinner whatsoever can be moved to repent, according to Proverbs 21:1: ‘The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever He will He shall turn it.’” – St. Thomas Aquinas
“To express it simply: the sin against the Holy Spirit is a sin against the grace of faith and repentance offered by the Holy Spirit. It is unforgivable, not because of any defect in the infinite mercy of God, but because the sinner in some way does not want to be forgiven, and closes his heart (absolutely) against the mercy of God.” (Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, by Archbishop Michael Sheehan) It is worth noting, here, that faith is an infused virtue. If we have it, it is God’s gift.
“God protests that when sinners repent of their iniquities, he will forget all their sins, as if they had never offended him. ‘But if the tricked do penance for all the sins he hath committed . . . . living, he shall live, and shall not die.’ ‘I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done.’ By the Prophet Isaias, the Lord goes so far as to say: ‘Come and accuse Me,’ saith the Lord. ‘If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.’ Mark the words, ‘Come and accuse Me.’ As if the Lord said: Sinners, come to me, and if I do not pardon and embrace you, reprove me, upbraid me with violating my promise. But no! God cannot despise an humble and contrite heart. ‘A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’ – St. Alphonsus
“God wants all men to be saved (I Tim 2:4) and he calls everyone to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). The redemption won by Christ is superabundant: it atones for all sins and extends to every man and woman (Rom 5:12-21). Christ gave His Church the power to forgive sins by means of the sacraments of Baptism and Penance. This power is unlimited, that is to say, the Church can pardon all sins of all the baptized as often as they confess their sins with the right disposition. This teaching is a dogma of the Faith (cf. Council of Trent, De Paenitentia, can 1).”
“If any one saith, that in the Catholic Church Penance is not truly and properly a sacrament, instituted by Christ our Lord for reconciling the faithful unto God, as often as they fall into sin after baptism; let him be anathema” [Council of Trent, Canons on the Sacrament of Penance, 1].
“So, is there really a sin that God will not forgive? On His part, no, there is no such a thing… The Father has accepted the infinite price of redemption. In doing that, He has literally bound Himself to offer forgiveness and grace without limit. Further, it is not just our race as a whole that has such a claim going for it—each individual human has it. St. Paul in Galatians 2.20 wrote that the Son of God “loved me, and gave himself for me.” But is that perhaps a special favor shown to Paul , a great saint? No, Vatican II, in its Constitution on the Church in them Modern World #22 assures us: “Each one of us can say with the Apostle: ‘The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ ” Suffering and death in so hideous a form— He was and is willing to take it on for me, for just one soul! … the Father is never unwilling to forgive… ” – Fr. William Most (He goes on to explain how humans can become hardened and blind to the graces of God that lead us to repent… something which can always be done in this life).
Page 175 of ‘Radio Replies: Volume 1’ (with Imprimatur):
Question: ‘Can a priest forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which Christ says shall not be forgiven in this world or the next?’
Answer: “There is no sin too great to be forgiven provided one sincerely repents of it. Christ really referred to evil dispositions of soul which are so hardened that one will LACK THE WILL TO REPENT. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not blasphemy as commonly understood, but a determined resistance to the very grace of the Holy Spirit which is meant to save us. Thus the Pharisees who saw the miracles of Christ could not deny them to be miracles; yet rather than yield to the grace being offered them, they said that Christ wrought them with the help of the Devil and not by God. A man who rejects the very means God adopts to convert him is little likely to make use of other graces offered by God, and Our Lord warns us very strongly to beware of sinning against the light, since it seldom ends in repentance. Yet even such a man with the help of grace could repent of his bad dispositions and thus be converted and forgiven. Any unforgivableness, therefore, is on account of a man’s bad dispositions, not on account of the nature [gravity] of the sin. There is no absolutely unforgivable sin such as cannot be forgiven even though a man repents.”
“… this was a sin of willful malice and blindness to the light. As long as such a mentality persists, pardon is impossible, not because of any limitation of God, but because those who are guilty of this sin refuse to respond to the promptings of grace [which would lead them to ask for forgiveness].” – Taken from ‘A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture’
“God makes this promise to the contrite sinner: “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Is. 1:18). God makes no distinction between sinners; He permits the priest to forgive every sin without exception. Therefore no man is so godless and wicked but he may yet hope to obtain forgiveness, provided he is sincerely sorry for his transgressions. In fact God receives the sinner more graciously the greater his sin has been, just as a fisherman pursues his work more gladly, the bigger the fish he catches… the man who sins against the Holy Ghost is the man who will not amend. The fault does not rest with God, but with the man; for even if he acknowledges his sin he will not abandon it, and consequently does not bewail it. Without contrition and change of heart there is no forgiveness… That sin is only committed when a man persistently and wilfully withstands the inspirations of the Holy Ghost and dies in an attitude of resistance to Him.… The sick man cannot be cured of his malady if he refuses to take the remedy which is known to be unfailing; nor can the soul recover from its sickness if it reject grace, the infallible means of cure. Final impenitence [obstinate refusal to repent at the hour of death] is the only sin which God will not pardon; it is a greater insult to Him than sin itself.” – Taken from ‘The Catechism Explained’
“There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept His mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins, and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence, and eternal loss.” – CCC (Catholic Catechism)
“You see, final impenitence is found only in a soul who purposely wishes to go to Hell and therefore obstinately refuses My mercy, for I never refuse to pardon anyone. I offer the immense gift of My compassion to all, for My Blood was shed for all, for all!” – Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone
“… its unforgivableness must arise from something in its own nature… the sin against Him is the refusal of love: and this, unrepented, makes union with God impossible… that infinite mercy is inexhaustible because it is infinite.” – FJ Sheed (commonly regarded, with Garrigou Lagrange, as one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century)
Fr. Haydock’s Biblical commentary: “Ver. 25. Every kingdom… The Pharisees, on a former occasion, had laid a similar accusation against him. Then indeed he did not correct them, wishing them to discover his virtue from the miracles he performed, and the dignity of his character from the doctrines he delivered; but as they still continue the old accusation, he now wishes to convince them of their error. Envy does not so much seek how to speak, as what to speak. Yet Christ does not despise them, but answers them in the most meek and humble manner, teaching us to be charitable to our enemies, though they behave to us in the most inimical manner. By this also, our divine Saviour evidently demonstrates the falsity of the accusation; for it is never in the power of a possessed person to know another’s thoughts, nor give so mild an answer. And as his enemies did not dare, from fear of the people, openly to broach this base calumny, seeing their thoughts, he answered them; still he does not expose to public infamy the malice of their hearts, but gives them a private solution of their difficulty. (St. Chrysostom in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 31. The blasphemy against the Spirit, or against the Spirit and the Holy Ghost… here is not meant a sin committed by speaking against the third person of the blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost, but that sin by which the obstinate Jews wilfully opposed Christ, and attributed those miracles to Beelzebub, which he performed by the Spirit of God, of which they could not be ignorant, but by a wilful blindness. (Witham) — The sin here spoken of is that blasphemy, by which the Pharisees attributed the miracles of Christ, wrought by the Spirit of God, to Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Now this kind of sin is usually accompanied with so much obstinacy, and such wilful opposing the Spirit of God, and the known truth, that men who are guilty of it are seldom or ever converted; and therefore are never forgiven, because they will not repent. Otherwise there is no sin which God cannot, or will not forgive to such as sincerely repent, and have recourse to the keys of the Church. (Challoner) — Therefore [Greek: “Through this”] I say: this therefore is not referred to what immediately precedes, but to what is said in verse 24. (Maldonatus) — Whosoever he be, says St. Augustine, that believeth not man’s sins to be remitted in the Church of God, and therefore despiseth the bounteous mercies of God, in so mighty a work, if he continue in his obstinate mind till death, he is guilty of sin against the Holy Ghost. (Enchir. lxxxiii. ep. 50. in fine.)
Ver. 32. Whosoever, &c. It was their duty to have a knowledge of the Holy Ghost, and they obstinately refused to admit what was clear and manifest. Though they were ignorant of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and might take him to be merely the son of a poor artizan, they could not be ignorant that the expelling of demons, and miraculous healing of all diseases, were the works of the Holy Ghost. If, therefore, they refused to do penance for the insult offered to the Spirit of God, in the person of Christ, they could not hope to escape condign punishment. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xlii). — Against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; i.e. they who for want of sufficient instruction, were invincibly ignorant that Christ was God, might more easily be brought to the true knowledge and faith of Christ, and so receive forgiveness of their sins: but if he shall speak against the Holy Ghost, i.e. against the Spirit of God in Christ, and shall oppose the known truth, by attributing to the devil that doctrine, and those miracles, which evidently were from the Spirit and the hand of God, that sin shall never be forgiven him. But how is this consistent with the Catholic doctrine and belief, that there is no sin any man commits of which he may not obtain pardon in this life? To this I answer, that in what manner soever we expound this place, it is an undoubted point of Christian faith, that there is no sin which our merciful God is not ready to pardon; no sin, for the remission of which, God hath not left a power in his Church, as it is clearly proved by those words, Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, &c. St. Chrysostom therefore expounds these words, shall not be forgiven them, to imply no more, than shall scarcely, or seldom be forgiven; that is, it is very hard for such sinners to return to God, by a true and sincere repentance and conversion; so that this sentence is like to that (Matthew xix. 26.) where Christ seems to call it an impossible thing for a rich man to be saved. In the same place St. Chrysostom tells us, that some of those who had blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, repented, and had their sins forgiven them. St. Augustine, by this blasphemy against the Spirit, understands the sin of final impenitence, by which an obstinate sinner refuseth to be converted, and therefore lives and dies hardened in his sins. (Witham)”
“St. Thomas Aquinas replies that it is a question of a sin that is “unforgivable… insofar as it excludes the elements [repentance, humility etc.] through which the forgiveness of sin takes place… “blasphemy” does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross… It is to be hoped that few persist until the end in this state… Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.” – St. John Paul II, “The Mercy Pope.”
“Father Haydock, following St. Augustine, has made a very important point here: Jesus did not say that anyone who commits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven even if he or she repents of that sin. If a certain kind of sin of blasphemy goes so deep that it’s truly unforgivable, there’s a good reason for this. But the reason is not because our God of Mercy isn’t willing to forgive, but because the sinner has rendered himself completely incapable of repentance, hardened beyond recall. Since God will not compel the person’s repentance, there is nothing more He can do for him. He cannot forgive a heart that is stubbornly impenitent to the bitter end. As Jesus says in Rev 3:30: “I stand at the door and knock.” But He will not kick the door down! We have to freely consent and let Him come in to our hearts, through repentance and faith…even if you had committed a grave sin that you had not yet confessed — even a terrible sin of uttering blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, one not so deep that it has hardened your heart irrevocably [in which you would not and indeed COULD NOT REPENT]— then you only need to go to confession at once. Christ Jesus will heal and save you from it! Jesus never, ever said He is unwilling to forgive a contrite sinner! A sin is only unforgivable to those who refuse to seek forgiveness.” – Dr. Stackpole
“When we read in Scripture that certain persons did not obtain pardon from God, even though they earnestly implored it, we know that this was due to the fact that they had not a true and heartfelt sorrow for their sins. Thus when we find in Sacred Scripture and in the writings of the Fathers passages which seem to assert that certain sins are irremissible, we must understand the meaning to be that it is very difficult to obtain pardon for them. A disease is sometimes called incurable, because the patient is so disposed as to loathe the medicines that could afford him relief. In the same way certain sins are not remitted or pardoned because the sinner rejects the grace of God, the only medicine for salvation. It is in this sense that St. Augustine wrote: When a man who, through the grace of Jesus Christ, has once arrived at a knowledge of God, wounds fraternal charity, and, driven by the fury of envy, lifts up his head against grace, the enormity of his sin is so great that, though compelled by a guilty conscience to acknowledge and confess his fault, he finds himself unable to submit to the humiliation of imploring pardon.” (Catechism of the Council of Trent)
“The sacrament of Penance has the power of remitting all sins no matter how numerous and great they are, provided it is received with the requisite dispositions.” – Catechism of St. Pius X
“In the Church there is no denial of a place of repentance for any crime whatsoever.” – St. Augustine
“God will not deny His mercy to anyone… God’s mercy will never be exhausted.” – St. Faustina (Diary, 72)
“I will make known that the measure of MY LOVE AND MERCY FOR FALLEN SOULS IS LIMITLESS. I want to forgive them. It rests Me to forgive. I am ever there, waiting, with boundless love till souls come to Me. Let them come, nor be discouraged. Let them fearlessly throw themselves into My arms! I am their Father.”
– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez
Some other relevant considerations:
1. “And no one can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3). “St. Paul tells us, that of ourselves we are not capable of even a good thought. ‘Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God’ (II Cor. 3:5).” (St. Alphonsus)
2. Repentance is impossible without God’s grace. “Without the assistance of God’s grace we can do no good thing: Without me, you can do nothing (Jn 15,5). St. Augustine remarks on this passage, that our Lord did not say, Without me, you can complete nothing,’ but ‘without me, you can do nothing’; giving us to understand that without grace we cannot even begin to do a good thing… we cannot even think a good thing, much less can we wish it. The same thing is taught in many other passages of Scripture: God works all in all (1 Cor. 12, 6). I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgments, and do them (Ezek. 36,27). So that, as St. Leo I says, ‘Man does no good thing, except that which God, by his grace, enables him to do,’ and hence the Council of Trent says: ‘If anyone shall assert that without the previous inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and his assistance, man can believe, hope, love or repent, as he ought, in order to obtain the grace of justification, let him be anathema.’ (St. Alphonsus)
3. “He absolutely cannot reject the sincere desire to love Him.” (St. Pio). “When souls seek to love the Lord He finds it impossible not to love them in return.” (St. Alphonsus)
4. “None of the damned was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.” (Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, confessor) Distrust closes our hearts, distinguishes our love of God, and leads to impenitence (though not necessarily final impenitence, which, according to ‘The Catechism Explained’, is typically the result of a very sinful life). Trust, however, opens our hearts to God’s grace, which removes all the stains of sin from our soul. “Sooner would Heaven and Earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul.” (Jesus to St. Faustina) These words are merely a confirmation of infallible Church teaching.
5. Our sins cease to exist after they are pardoned (Psalm 103:12). We must not cling to past sins. This offends Our Lord and will be the cause of new sins. “As soon as a soul throws itself at My feet and implores My forgiveness, Josefa, I forget all her sins” (Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez)
6. Many saints were tempted to despair, but they overcame this temptation by love and obedience. Our Lord works all to good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). “All those temptations to blasphemy, unbelief, impurity and despair are not sins but sufferings, which if patiently born, bring the soul nearer and nearer to God.” (St. Alphonsus). St. Padre Pio is one example of a saint who was tempted to all of these things, but his perseverance brought him closer to God. Through these temptations, God gave him a greater knowledge of His love, which St. Pio shared with the faithful for their benefit! Our sufferings are never wasted!
7. “In all temptations, whatever kind they may be, mistrust yourself; cast a look at the crucifix, confide in God, and take courage; God will be faithful to you if you are faithful to Him.” (St. Joseph of Cupertino)
8. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is always open to us. When you look at a crucifix, always remember that the pierced Heart of Jesus is a “… safe asylum; for he who trusts in God is sheltered and protected by his mercy.” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux). This love is greater than the oceans, against which our sins and struggles will never be more than a drop. Likewise, the arms of Jesus are always open (as revealed to St. Bridget). By this it is meant that Our Lord is always willing to embrace us.
A story from Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero (October 23, 1903): “He sent me to say to a soul as discouraged as myself: Have confidence, Jesus loves you. I confessed to Him my embarrassment, never having seen the person. He answered by pointing her out to me; ‘This is she.’ I experienced a moment of hesitation as usual, but my sweet Master reassured me, adding that I ought to obey without fearing that the inspiration might come from the enemy; it being opposed to his plot, for he was trying to cause the loss of this soul by distrust.”
“He (the devil) is overcome by unlimited confidence in Jesus…” – Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata
Finally, Our Lord said to St. Faustina that “sooner would Heaven and Earth turn to nothingness” than would He fail to embrace (forgive) a trusting/repentant sinner (diary, 1777). Why? Because God cannot deny His nature; He shows compassion to the humble and contrite of heart, even if their “sins be as scarlet” (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:18). If you have doubted God’s mercy ’til now, doubt no more! Our Lord has pardoned many greater sinners than you! Here are some inspiring conversion stories: https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/mary-mother-of-mercy-refuge-for-even-the-hardest-most-despairing-sinners-part-2/