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What is "temporary absolution" in the quoted passage from "The Confession" by René Maizeroy?

She grew excited, sobbed, seemed enervated and worn out, as if she were still burning from her lover’s kisses, hardly seemed to know what she was saying, and begged for temporary absolution from her sins; but then Champdelin, in his exasperation, and unable to restrain himself any longer, interrupted her in a furious voice:

(This story first appeared in English in a collection of works attributed to Guy de Maupassant, but which included stories by other writers. You can find the French text and the attribution to René Maizeroy in the newspaper Le Supplément for 4th December 1906.)

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The meaning of "absolution" is presumably clear; Wiktionary defines it as

  1. An absolving of sins from ecclesiastical penalties by an authority.
  2. Forgiveness of sins, in a general sense.

An absolution is what you normally receive from a catholic priest after your confession, assuming that you show sufficient contrition. Paragraph 1461 of the Catechism says,

Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

This last part gives the impression that once a priest has forgiven your sins, there is nothing to worry about. Moreover, in the entire chapter on "the sacraments of healing" in the Cathecism, there is no mention of "temporary absolution".

However, paragraph 1441 also points out that

Only God forgives sins.

And as a catholic, Mrs. de Champdelin would also be familiar with the concept of the Last Judgement. In the light of this concept, any absolution that a priest may give for your sins is only temporary, i.e. only the Last Judgment can tell you whether God had really forgiven your sins. Mrs. Champdelin's hope for "temporary absolution" implies that she considers her own sins so grave that even if a priest absolved her, she would not be forgiven by God on Judgment Day. (One may add that Mrs. de Champdelin shows true contrition here, so it is ironic that Mr. de Champdelin, who committed the same sins without contrition, does not want to forgive her.)

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  • Thank you so much for your kind explanation ! – Jason Lee Jul 14 '19 at 3:17

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