Penitence (Gr. μετανοία; Lat. penitentia) is the older word for repentance (q.v.) used by the Vulgate, but replaced by resipiscentia, μεταμελεία, when the penitential scheme of the Latin Church was developed; for poenitentia then became restricted to the act of repentance, i.e. the performance of the penances of the confessional. SEE PENANCE. Penitence is an enduring and penal condition; for there is an evident etymological connection between peana and punio, both having their common origin ποινή, a "fine," or "weregeld," for blood. The old form, in fact, of punio was pyenio, and is so written by Cicero, "Cum multi inimicos mortuos poeniantur" (Tusc. 1:44, and MSS. in Mil. 31; also, Aul. Gell. VII, 3:54). Thus moerus, whence pomrriunm, for murus, from μοῖρα (quasi "allotment boundary"), maenio for munio; paniceus and puniceus, paenicus and punicus. "Poenitere" is explained as "pnoenam tenere" by the ancient author of the treatise De vera et falsa Penitentia, in the works of Augustine, with direct reference to punio. "Poenitere enim est poenam tenere, ut semper puniat in se ulciscendo quod commisit peccando. Poena enim proprie dicitur laesio quae punit et vindicat quod quisque commisit" (c. xix). Isidore of Seville gives the same definition, "A punitione poenitentia nomen accepit, quasi punitentia, cum ipse homo punit poenitendo quod male admisit;" which is followed by the schools:" Pcenitentia quasi punitentia" (Hugo a S. Vict. De Myst. Eccl.c. iii.). Scotus slightly varies the definition, "quasi poenae tenentia." Hence the idea of penitence involves a lasting remorse for sin — "yea, what revenge," as St. Paul expresses it; and in this it is distinguished from the initiative repentance that leads to conversion and baptism. Thus penitence may be said to be a correlative term of repentance, as renovation is of regeneration.
Penitence is also used for a discipline or punishment attending repentance, more usually called penance. It also gives title to several religious orders, consisting either of converted debauchees and reformed prostitutes, or of persons who devote themselves to the office of reclaiming them. SEE PENITENTS.