What a marvellous thing it is to be forgiven!
Among non-Catholics (and maybe also among many Catholics), Confession is probably the least understood of all the sacraments.
"So you can just do what you like, go and say sorry for it and get forgiven, and then carry on exactly as you were? What a cop-out!"
Well yes, that would be a cop-out. Forgiveness demands genuine repentance and a desire not to do wrong again. We make this clear in the Act of Contrition:
"Oh my God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and with the help of your grace, I will try not to sin again."
We are human, and we often fail. But we pick ourselves up again and promise to keep trying - and in His infinite mercy, God keeps forgiving us for the times we have failed. However often we fail, and however grievous our sins, He never stops loving us - so much so, that He sent His only Son to die for us sinners.
So how do we reconcile the idea of Hell with a loving, forgiving God?
The Catechism tells us that "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (1035).
God is ever-loving and will forgive all sin. But we, who are so much less than God, sometimes find it impossible to forgive ourselves. In our shame, instead of throwing ourselves on God's mercy, we turn away from Him. The true Hell is when we reject God's forgiveness and turn away from His great love.