Penitential Discipline


The right of punishing members for offences against its laws, and depriving them altogether or for a time of its privileges, belongs to any well-constituted society. It was exercised by the Synagogue, Christ sanctioned the use of it in His Church, and Saint Paul enforced the penitential law of the Church against an offender. Of course, penitential discipline in Church, though analogous to the procedure of human societies, claims a higher origin and is of a much more serious nature. The power of inflicting spiritual penalties has been put into the hands of the Church by Christ Himself; it is exercised in His name; it may involve deprivation of the sacraments, which are the great appointed means of grace; and, on the other hand, it is the object of penitential discipline, not only to preserve the holiness of the Church, but also to awaken wholesome fear and sorrow in the heart of the offender while there is yet time, “that his soul may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

MLA Citation

  • Father James J McGovern. “Penitential Discipline”. Catholic Pocket Dictionary, 1906. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 November 2019. Web. 5 March 2021. <>