The “official” definition states:
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin, poenitentia
Date: 14th century
1: An act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin;
2: A sacramental rite that is practiced in Roman, Eastern, and some Anglican churches and that consists of private confession, absolution, and a penance directed by the confessor;
3: Something (as a hardship or penalty) resembling an act of penance (as in compensating for an offense).
Personally, I do not believe that penance can or should be inflicted by one person upon another. As stated above, penance is either SELF imposed or a plan of action entered into by the “sinner” and a member of the church (i.e., a priest) for the absolution of sins.
Penance is about confession and absolution. Relationships are about forgiveness. “Making amends” is a method of atonement available to individuals in relationships who hurt and forgive one another.
Penance is about sins that can be deemed to be “marks” against a person’s soul, standing in the church, or standing in society. Between individuals, unless the “crime” is one punishable by law, “making amends” is again, something that should be originated by the person who has hurt/harmed another, not imposed upon someone by another.
I know individuals in relationships who believe they have the right to demand penance from another. I have to wonder how they would react if someone attempted to demand penance from them. How can one demand repentance, penance or forgiveness? Each must be freely given in order to have any true meaning.