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17. The Power of the Keys

1. The gate of heaven, always open to mankind since the day ofAscension, is closed upon that individual man who is burdened bythe guilt of mortal sin and the debt of eternalpunishment due to it. Whatever takes away these two thingsfrom that man's soul, opens thegate of heaven to him.Now, what opens a gate is fittingly called a key. The power toremove sin, both as to guilt and debt of eternal punishment, isbestowed by Christ on his Church and on the priest of his Church;this power, especially exercised in the sacrament of penance, isfiguratively called "the power of the keys."

2. The "keys" are the power of binding andloosing given to the Church by our Lord; more specifically, the"keys" are the power given to priests to forgivesins.

3. Now, there are two keys, and they are distinguishedfrom each other by their respective acts: the one is the key ofjudging whether sins are to be forgiven or retained; the otheris the key of absolving from sin. When these two keys areused (when the penitent is judged worthy and is absolved from hissins) the gate of heaven is opened to the penitent.

"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."
St Philip Neri

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."
Thomas á Kempis

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