Sometimes we Catholics use technical terms which, over time, have become a little confusing. For example, recently I wrote a clarification about what praying for the “Pope’s intentions” really means.
My good friend Fr. Tim Finigan, His Hermeneuticalness, has a good post at his place about “Perfect Contrition”. You should go there and have a good look.
In a nutshell, Fr. Finigan explains that “Perfect Contrition” involves hatred of sin because one loves God, whereas “Imperfect Contrition” comes from hatred of sin because of fear of Hell. This is much like the distinction between “contrition” and “attrition”.
It is helpful to make these distinctions.
Priests are not to give absolution unless and until he knows the penitent is truly sorrow for this sins and has a firm purpose of amendment. That is one of the functions – the most important in that moment – of your speaking aloud an “Act of Contrition”. That is also why some confessors will begin the Form of Absolution after you say the part expressing the (less perfect, or “imperfect”) expression of sorrow for sin because of potential punishments. The priest may say Form even while you are saying the Act of Contrition because he was taught that he shouldn’t delay at all absolving you once he had heard your expression of sorrow for sin.
Do check out Fr Finigan’s excellent blog. He was one of the first big priest bloggers out of the gate.
And… I owe him a visit!
And… as I write… I have on the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance!