Q. What were these severe Penances of the First Ages of the Church called?
A. These severe penances of the first ages of the Church were called canonical penances, because their kind and duration were regulated by the Canons or laws of the Church.
Q. How can we know spiritual from corporal works of mercy?
A. We can know spiritual from corporal works of mercy, for whatever we do for the soul is a spiritual work, and whatever we do for the body is a corporal work.
Q. Which are the chief spiritual works of mercy?
A. The chief spiritual works of mercy are seven: To admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead.
Q. When are we bound to admonish the sinner?
A. We are bound to admonish the sinner when the following conditions are fulfilled: (1) When his fault is a mortal sin; (2) When we have authority or influence over him, and (3) When there is reason to believe that our warning will not make him worse instead of better.
Q. Who are meant by the “ignorant” we are to instruct, and the “doubtful” we are to counsel?
A. By the ignorant we are to instruct and the doubtful we are to counsel, are meant those particularly who are ignorant of the truths of religion and those who are in doubt about matters of faith. We must aid such persons as far as we can to know and believe the truths necessary for salvation.
Q. Why are we advised to bear wrong patiently and to forgive all injuries?
A. We are advised to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries, because, being Christians, we should imitate the example of Our Divine Lord, who endured wrongs patiently and who not only pardoned but prayed for those who injured Him.
Q. If, then, it be a Christian virtue to forgive all injuries, why do Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers?
A. Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers, because the preservation of lawful authority, good order in society, the protection of others, and sometimes even the good of the guilty one himself, require that crimes be justly punished. As God Himself punishes crime and as lawful authority comes from Him, such authority has the right to punish, though individuals should forgive the injuries done to themselves personally.