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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.

"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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