Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 25: Dialogue, Part 3, Commitment To Ecumenism

Pope John Paul II gives his statement on ecumenism:

In the light of the council and of the magisterium of my predecessors, whose precious inheritance I have received and am making every effort to preserve and put into effect, I can affirm that the Catholic Church at every level is committed to frank ecumenical dialogue, without facile optimism but also without distrust and without hesitation or delays.

Two “laws” are cited. It’s an interesting term for things that largely started as interpretations about internal matters, which later became magnified in attempts to define differences more clearly. I don’t want to make light of differences within Christendom, but there’s no denying a lot of hot-headedness got things started centuries ago. We’ve almost lost track of the details in our attempts to shout out the “heretic!” epithet. Sometimes heresy simply means: theological opinions I disagree with.

Point One:

The fundamental laws which she seeks to follow in this dialogue are, on the one hand, the conviction that only a spiritual ecumenism-namely an ecumenism founded on common prayer and in a common docility to the one Lord-enables us to make a sincere and serious response to the other exigencies of ecumenical action.(Cf Unitatis Redintegratio 7-8)

Prayer first followed by charity and justice: this has worked.

The other law is the conviction that a certain facile irenicism in doctrinal and especially dogmatic matters could perhaps lead to a form of superficial and short-lived coexistence, but it could not lead to that profound and stable communion which we all long for.

A very interesting premise given the approach to schismatics with Roman roots. It’s almost like this passage was neglected when John Paul II and his successor were dealing with the SSPX.

This communion will be reached at the hour willed by divine providence. But in order to reach it, the Catholic Church, for her part, knows that she must be open and sensitive to all “the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated (sisters and brothers)”;(Ibid., 4) but she also knows that she must likewise base a frank and constructive dialogue upon a clarity regarding her own positions and upon fidelity and consistency with the faith transmitted and defined in accordance with the perennial tradition of her magisterium. Notwithstanding the threat of a certain defeatism and despite the inevitable slowness which rashness could never correct, the Catholic Church continues with all other Christian (sisters and brothers) to seek the paths to unity, and with the followers of the other religions she continues to seek to have sincere dialogue.

After centuries, our resentments persist. It seems curious that in a document on penance and reconciliation, there would not be a confession on our part of the harms and insults we have delivered to our Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant sisters and brothers. Yes, I know: Catholic have been harmed too, even martyred. Check a hard-line confessor on his opinion on penitents going light on their own sins, and complaining about the theft, adultery, and abuse that “caused” their wrongdoing.

A test: can this prayer continue to be prayed in the face of battles within the Roman Church, and despite discouragement in the larger picture of Christianity? Let’s read and pray it:

May this inter-religious dialogue lead to the overcoming of all attitudes of hostility, distrust, mutual condemnation and even mutual invective, which is the precondition for encounter at least in faith in one God and in the certainty of eternal life for the immortal soul. May the Lord especially grant that ecumenical dialogue will also lead to a sincere reconciliation concerning everything that we already have in common with the other Christian churches- faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made (flesh), our savior and Lord; a listening to the word; the study of revelation and the sacrament of baptism.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.

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My Life With Saint Nicholas

My sister posted this on social media this weekend. It was a handful of years before we three were baptized, but I suppose it’s our first verified encounter with a saint.

My sister wished for a family reunion at Christmas, but my 25 December connections have been limited to late in the evening a few times. When you have your own out-of-town family, it’s more about celebrating at home.

To think of overseeing up to eight Masses, than pack a threesome into a car or worse, a long flight late Christmas day, it needs a special energy, I find difficult to generate.

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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 25: Dialogue, Part 2, Ecumenism

Having a conversation with those who are different is an essential part of life whenever there is more than one person. With seven billion-plus it is as important as ever. When it comes to religion …

The church in the first place promotes an ecumenical dialogue, that is, with churches and ecclesial communities which profess faith in Christ, the Son of God and only savior. She also promotes dialogue with the other communities of people who are seeking God and wish to have a relationship of communion with him.

It might be that talking with people who claim not to seek God, or who have rejected God is also important. It is God who places people in our path, within earshot of us, and in our presence. Or perhaps it is God who plants us near nones and others. We can pay attention in those circumstances.

Meanwhile, mending divisions within the Body is vital. We have little credibility within Roman Catholicism these days based on many of our arguments.

At the basis of this dialogue with the other churches and Christian communities and with the other religions, and as a condition of her credibility and effectiveness, there must be a sincere effort of permanent and renewed dialogue within the Catholic Church herself. She is aware that, by her nature, she is the sacrament of the universal communion of charity;(Lumen Gentium, 1, 9, 13) but she is equally aware of the tensions within her, tensions which risk becoming factors of division.

The heartfelt and determined invitation which was already extended by my predecessor in preparation for the 1975 Holy Year (Pope Paul VI, apostolic exhortation Paterna Cum Benevolentia) is also valid at the present moment. In order to overcome conflicts and to ensure that normal tensions do not prove harmful to the unity of the church, we must all apply to ourselves the word of God; we must relinquish our own subjective views and seek the truth where it is to be found, namely in the divine word itself and in the authentic interpretation of that word provided by the magisterium of the church.

Sadly, the institutional magisterium has failed in its own witness to penance and reconciliation in the intervening years since this document. I think we are heading to a longer fallow period where we apply ourselves to the Word of God and the witness of Jesus not only in the Gospels but in the inspired life of saints, past and present.

In this light, listening to one another, respect, refraining from all hasty judgments, patience, the ability to avoid subordinating the faith which unites to the opinions, fashions and ideological choices which divide-these are all qualities of a dialogue within the church which must be persevering, open and sincere. Obviously dialogue would not have these qualities and would not become a factor of reconciliation if the magisterium were not heeded and accepted.

One excellent example, too infrequent, is when the bishops of the magisterium give example of contrition, confession, and making amends when individuals engage in hastiness, intellectual fashions, and ideology.

The simple truth is that every individual fails at some point in expressing openness to others, unity with Christ, and virtue as an example for others. I think we see in this paragraph a personal commitment of John Paul II, of which he made an example in his own life:

Thus actively engaged in seeking her own internal communion, the Catholic Church can address an appeal for reconciliation to the other churches with which there does not exist full communion, as well as to the other religions and even to all those who are seeking God with a sincere heart. This she has been doing for some time.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.

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A Path of Littleness

I wasn’t aware the Holy Father was travelling in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Being a minority – and do not forget that the Church throughout the world is a minority – does not mean being insignificant, but closer to the path loved by the Lord, which is that of littleness.



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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 25: Dialogue, Part 1, The 1960s

Pope John Paul II asserts the importance of Dialogue. He cites three conciliar documents, seeing the importance of this discipline as rooted in the Church’s teaching in the 1960s.

25. For the church, dialogue is in a certain sense a means and especially a way of carrying out her activity in the modern world.

The Second Vatican Council proclaims that “the church, by virtue of her mission to shed on the whole world the radiance of the gospel message, and to unify under one Spirit all people… stands forth as a sign of that fraternal solidarity which allows honest dialogue and invigorates it.” The council adds that the church should be capable of “establishing an ever more fruitful dialogue among all those who compose the one people of God” and also of “establishing a dialogue with human society.”(Christus Dominus 13; cf Gravissimum Educationis 8; Ad Gentes 11-12)

One previous pope saw this activity as essential to the mission of the Lord and his Church:

My predecessor Paul VI devoted to dialogue a considerable part of his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, in which he describes it and significantly characterizes it as the dialogue of salvation.(Cf Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, III: AAS 56 (1964), 639-659)

And the author weighs in:

The church in fact uses the method of dialogue in order the better to lead people-both those who through baptism and the profession of faith acknowledge their membership of the Christian community and also those who are outside-to conversion and repentance, along the path of a profound renewal of their own consciences and lives in the light of the mystery of the redemption and salvation accomplished by Christ and entrusted to the ministry of his church. Authentic dialogue, therefore, is aimed above all at the rebirth of individuals through interior conversion and repentance, but always with profound respect for consciences and with patience and at the step-by-step pace indispensable for modern conditions.

Pastoral dialogue aimed at reconciliation continues to be today a fundamental task of the church in different spheres and at different levels.

John Paul II recognized the method of Jesus in each one of the Gospels. Disciples certainly have an ulterior motive when they engage with persons within and outside of the Church. Effective dialogue is always grounded in respect and patience. The latter is especially important. Any Christian must realize the seed of conversion is God’s responsibility. Not that of any mortal human being.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


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Tool of the Trade

This appliance, used and battered as it is, is one of the most convenient additions to a sacristy. I don’t remember the first parish where my head sacristan had one ready for candle trimming, but whenever out-sized candles are part of the landscape of liturgy and devotion, it’s a far better tool than a carving knife.

One of my young parishioners commented that the flame disappeared at Mass last Sunday. It rather defeats the purpose of an advent wreath, or even a Paschal candle to wonder if it’s still lit, if someone forgot to light it, or whatever. Distractions like that work against good liturgy.

Here, the pink adds a bit of swirl to the violet dregs. I had no liturgical responsibilities at my last parish outside of music, so it took a bit of time to realize something was missing this year.

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Orienting Prayers of the Faithful

In a sidebar discussion here, a back-and-forth about the wording of prayers of the faithful/general intercessions/universal prayer/petitions (however you name them):

… the intercessions in the baptismal rite are also directed to God, not the assembly …

I responded:

I don’t see the issue here. Intercessions can be composed in any sort of way.

And Fritz’s response to me:

I think it is actually significant that the prayer of the faithful take the form of someone (e.g. the deacon) asking for the assembly to pray for something, rather than praying to God on their behalf. 

That got me thinking. And when that happens, go back to the source. I can find no instruction on these in the Rite of Baptism; only that they are to take place. RCIA 65 gives a brief description of these prayers:

Then the sponsors and the whole congregation join in the following or a similar formulary of intercession for the catechumens.

The wording of the intercessions is different from the latest revision of the Baptism Rite, and indeed the previous one. The RCIA prayers read, “That God our Father may …” and those that follow, “That they may …” with “they” referring to the catechumens.

What I found interesting is that in the Rite of Election there are two options for Intercessions, one addressed generally, “That they …” and the other refers to God as “you,” the same orientation as the Rite of Baptism. Baptism liturgy has been consistent since Vatican II, I will tell.

Here’s what the GIRM says, the most detailed catechesis I can find in the liturgy books:

In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. (GIRM 69)

So, the Church defines these as a response to the Liturgy of the Word, and is also an exercise in the priesthood of the baptized. There are various ways to interpret that. Should lay people compose them? Should they always respond vocally, either in speech or song? Should they be announced by a lay person or reserved for a deacon? 

In a way, they express a variety of roles within the Church. The priest-presider:

It is for the Priest Celebrant to regulate this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he calls upon the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with an oration.

The laity:

The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.

The one announcing them:

They are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the Deacon or by a cantor, a reader, or one of the lay faithful.[67]

The liturgical assembly:

The people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence.

A quick look at private devotion materials which, granted, are often designed for single-person use, shows a lot of direct petition to God. Likewise the Liturgy of the Hours, though I think the published prayer books for that, one or four volumes, are largely designed for individual prayer, not communal.

What do you suppose is the point behind the different styles? Any history with it?

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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 24: Ways and Means of Promotion

A reminder that when Pope John Paul lists this as Chapter One it’s the first chapter of part three, in which he discusses The Promotion Of Penance And Reconciliation. In the brief section 24, Ways And Means, he writes:

24. In order to promote penance and reconciliation, the church has at her disposal two principal means which were entrusted to her by her founder himself: catechesis and the sacraments. Their use has always been considered by the church as fully in harmony with the requirements of her salvific mission and at the same time as corresponding to the requirements and spiritual needs of people in all ages. This use can be in forms and ways both old and new, among which it will be a good idea to remember in particular what we can call, in the expression of my predecessor Paul VI, the method of dialogue.

Numbered section 25 will explore dialogue. We’ll devote a lot of time to this, a conversation with believers and non-believers alike. Rooted in the truth, but also respectful of the beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts of others. Number 26, another long one, looks at catechesis. This “chapter” concludes with the sacraments. All of them. That will pretty much land us at the end of the calendar year. For perspective, we’re about two-thirds of the way through this document, which is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 23: Promoting Penance and Reconciliation, Part 3: Two Points

We continue with Promoting Penance and Reconciliation. I’ll be honest. I don’t think “promotion” is the best idea to utilize. I get what JPS’s hopes were for some kind of a return to a sense of the past with higher virtues in play. And also that the Church’s ministers have a role to play in guiding, shepherding people to a stronger sense of leaning, relying on God. It’s about every effort of ministry, keeping reconciliation in mind:

To speak of the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation, then, is to refer to all the tasks incumbent on the church, at all levels, for their promotion. More concretely, to speak of this pastoral-activity is to evoke all the activities whereby the church, through each and every one of her members-pastors and faithful, at all levels and in all spheres, and with all the means at her disposal, words and actions, teaching and prayer-leads people individually or as groups to true penance and thus sets them on the path to full reconciliation.

John Paul II refers again to the recently completed synod (1983):

The fathers of the synod, as representatives of their brother bishops and as leaders of the people entrusted to them, concerned themselves with the most practical and concrete elements of this pastoral activity. And I am happy to echo their concerns by associating myself with their anxieties and hopes, by receiving the results of their research and experiences, and by encouraging them in their plans and achievements. May they find in this part of the present apostolic exhortation the contribution which they themselves made to the synod, a contribution the usefulness of which I wish to extend, through these pages, to the whole church.

I therefore propose to call attention to the essentials of the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation by emphasizing, with the synod assembly, the following two points:

1. The means used and the paths followed by the church in order to promote penance and reconciliation.

2. The sacrament par excellence of penance and reconciliation.

These two points will occupy the remainder of the discussion on this document. I want to get back to “promotion” and my criticism of the term. Penance can’t be promoted like a product hawked by corporations or sold by the 1% to the 99. A stance, attitude, life of reconciliation must be lived, and shared in such a way that its practitioners are undeniably “sold” on it. That means not just as another religious initiative, but a way of life. Unlike four decades ago, the pope’s “brother bishops” have less credibility. To the vast majority of Catholics, bishops are unseen and irrelevant to their lives, even their spiritual lives. To the small minorities who do know bishops, some just want them to be political and mirror their own conservative/libertarian stances. And some see them as obstacles to a more open presentation of the Gospel in the Church and to the world. It’s a tough spot. In the weeks ahead, we’ll see how a document penned more than a third of a century ago stacks up in the modern situation.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


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Beatitudes for Bishops VII

The last of the Beatitudes for Bishops: 

Blessed is the bishop who is not afraid to go against the tide for the sake of the Gospel, making his face “stern” like that of Christ on his way to Jerusalem, without letting himself be held back by misunderstandings and obstacles because he knows that the kingdom of God advances in the contradiction of the world.

It’s important not to misread “stern” in the context of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem. Jesus was not stern with people; he was committed to the Father’s will. The key is that “stern” applies to oneself and one’s commitments. That is a stance not only for a bishop, but also a parent or a lay minister.

The original text is here, in Italian.

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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 23: Promoting Penance and Reconciliation, Part 2: Christ As Redeemer

Let’s talk a bit more about Promoting Penance and Reconciliation:

The church thus finds herself face to face with (people)-with the whole human world-wounded by sin and affected by sin in the innermost depths of (our) being. But at the same time (she or) he is moved by an unrestrainable desire to be freed from sin and, especially if (she or) he is a Christian, (she or) he is aware that the mystery of pietas, Christ the Lord, is already acting in (them) and in the world by the power of the redemption.

Perhaps Christians, by grace, are inspired. But the desire to be free from sin is not exclusively a Christian thing.

The church’s reconciling role must therefore be carried out in accordance with that intimate link which closely connects the forgiveness and remission of the sin of each person with the fundamental and full reconciliation of humanity which took place with the redemption. This link helps us to understand that, since sin is the active principle of division-division between (people) and the nature created by God-only conversion from sin is capable of bringing about a profound and lasting reconciliation wherever division has penetrated.

This is a good insight. But it needs more than traditional trappings of penance and reconciliation as the Church has expressed them. What does it require? Rootedness in Scripture, first and foremost. Telling the story is essential. Saint Paul is one possibility, but there are many others:

I do not need to repeat what I have already said about the importance of this “ministry of reconciliation,”(Cf 2 Corinthians 5:18) and of the pastoral activity whereby it is carried out in the church’s consciousness and life. This pastoral activity would be lacking an essential aspect of its being and failing in an indispensable function if the “message of reconciliation”(Cf 2 Corinthians 5:19) were not proclaimed with clarity and tenacity in season and out of season, and if the gift of reconciliation were not offered to the world. But it is worth repeating that the importance of the ecclesial service of reconciliation extends beyond the confines of the church to the whole world.

Quoting Scripture isn’t the only way of citing Jesus’ redemption of humankind. Every Christian can be prepared to cite the story, and also relate their own participation in the grace of Christ.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


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Beatitudes for Bishops VI

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia’s Beatitudes for Bishops were adopted by the Holy Father, who shared them last month in a homily at an episcopal ordination. The original text is here, in Italian

I think they have applications outside of the office of bishop–parish clergy, parents, and even lay ministers.

Blessed is the bishop who works for peace, who accompanies journeys of reconciliation, who sows the seed of communion in the heart of the presbytery, who accompanies a divided society along the path of reconciliation, who takes every man and woman of goodwill by the hand to build fraternity: God will recognize him as his son.

Or, outside of the presbytery, in a family, a ministry, or work group, or outside of the episcopacy, God will recognize peacemakers as daughters as well as sons.

I think working for peace is far, far different that the absence of conflict. First, conflict happens. Stuff it under a rug, it’s still in the room. Without a process of honesty and reconciliation, interpersonal warfare simmers–not even cold. Second, resolving conflict is a process. If two siblings are continually fighting, it is incumbent on a parent to open the dialogue, take the battlers by the hand, and get the air cleared, get the path to reconciliation begun. 

In ministry, it’s not much different. Conflicts happen a lot in churches. High-strung families at wedding rehearsals or at funeral planning. People who have too deep an ownership in church things and can’t let newcomers get involved. Feuds between people. And the like.

A priest friend once preached on Holy Family Sunday that holy families are not identified by a lack of conflict, but by the resolution of them. If it’s true for households, it must also work for dioceses, parishes, ministries, choirs, committees, guilds, work groups, and such.



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A Season of Hope

I had heard the election results reported on NPR on my drive home this afternoon. I was curious to see what my friend John had to say, and it’s here.

Once I had a plan for a cultural exchange, suggested by my missionary friend. Alas, political upheaval created nervousness in the students and parents of the planned visit to the province of Copán. I might have made the visit as a solo, but my wife was also nervous. It is a journey about which I would have been too skittish as a youth. Now, for better or worse, I feel far less fear in the world. But I have obligations to people, and I honor those. Travels to far off other places, Central America, Australia, Antarctica, Mars or the moon–these will be for the afterlife, I suppose.

I’ve had many friends who have visited other places, even as non-tourists. I get the idea the wide world is quite beautiful, despite the misadventures of the 1% to drag it all down into poverty and sorrow.

Some helpful words from the spiritual writer Joan Chittister:

Advent calls us to hope in the promise that God is calling us to greater things and will be with us as we live them. Hope is the recall of good in the past, on which we base our expectation of good in the future, however bad the present. It digs in the rubble of the heart for memory of God’s promise to bring good out of evil and joy out of sadness and on the basis of those memories of the past, takes new hope for the future. Even in the face of death. Even in the fear of loss. Even when our own private little worlds go to dust, as sooner or later, they always do.

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Catholics In Exodus

I had avoided commenting on Archbishop Gomez’s speech from earlier this month. I find the talks and comments of bishops not my own to be far less interesting these days. But this chat got a lot of attention, even here in the secular media.

I think pastors are in a tough spot. It’s unhelpful and intemperate for a bishop to preach this:

But people are increasingly turning to these “woke” movements, rather than religion, for “an explanation for events and conditions in the world,” he said. “They offer a sense of meaning, a purpose for living, and the feeling of belonging to a community. … Like Christianity, these new movements tell their own ‘story of salvation.’”

“Now more than ever,” he said, “the church and every Catholic needs to know” the Christian story, “and proclaim it in all its beauty and truth.”

First, people interested in social justice don’t turn to organized religion because organizations self-identify with the privileged. Maybe not always the 1%–though that is part of it. The Church fails to tell the story of the Exodus, the prophetic voices of the Old Testament, and the healing miracles of the Lord. 

I detect a bit of envy in the sense of the archbishop’s words. 

I see the word “beauty” connected with the Church quite a bit these past several years. But there is a lot of ugliness in human behavior, even in humans associated with the Church.

Perhaps ignorance as well:

(T)hese strictly secular movements are causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance and injustice.

Well, no. They are bringing these elements into the light.

Let’s take a page from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on penance and reconciliation. Individuals are responsible for sin, not social movements. Individual people in any association–BLM, bishops, or whatever–make errors, have flaws, and commit sins. Bad behavior reflects poorly on an organization as a whole, and the more responsible a person is perceived, the more tarnish on the group. The cover-up of sexual abuse has gone as high as cardinals, which is pretty far up in the Church. Therefore, we operate at a handicap, and a significant one in circles close to us. 

Let’s get back to that tough spot. A nice parishioner couple left our parish some months ago. They were among the first people I met when I arrived. But they found the emphasis on racism and social justice difficult to swallow and they felt over-emphasized. It may be that the loss of members is inevitable. If it is, we might do better to do the right thing, rather than look to that secular value of the preservation of the institution.

Image credit: CNS/Bob Roller

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Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 23: Promoting Penance and Reconciliation, Part 1: More Than Church Documents and Ethics

The remainder of this document will find us with John Paul II and taking a close look at “The “Pastoral Ministry of Penance and Reconciliation.” This third of three main parts begins with the section numbered 23 and will take us to the end of 34. Today, we’ll begin with thoughts on the Holy Father’s desire in Promoting Penance and Reconciliation and in a few weeks, we’ll move to his substantial thoughts on the sacrament of penance.

23. To evoke conversion and penance in (the human) heart and to offer … the gift of reconciliation is the specific mission of the church as she continues the redemptive work of her divine founder. It is not a mission which consists merely of a few theoretical statements and the putting forward of an ethical ideal unaccompanied by the energy with which to carry it out. Rather it seeks to express itself in precise ministerial functions directed toward a concrete practice of penance and reconciliation.

That Pope John Paul II didn’t leap right into sacramental practice and considerations is telling. Clearly, he believes that reconciliation isn’t limited to a juridical or liturgical or devotional practice. Here, he introduces the idea that penance is pastoral. This will occupy the next numbered sections of the document. We’ll spend a few weeks here.

We can call this ministry, which is founded on and illumined by the principles of faith which we have explained and which is directed toward precise objectives and sustained by adequate means, the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation. Its point of departure is the church’s conviction that (humankind), to whom every form of pastoral activity is directed but principally that of penance and reconciliation, is the (one) marked by sin whose striking image is to be found in King David. Rebuked by the prophet Nathan, David faces squarely his own iniquity and confesses: “I have sinned against the Lord,”(2 Samuel 12:13) and proclaims: “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”(Psalm 51:3) But he also prays: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,”(Ibid., 51:7) and he receives the response of the divine mercy: “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.”(2 Samuel 12:13)

The desire of pastoral ministers would definitely be to facilitate such conversion of heart. Some might desire to be Nathan to today’s people. He was an effective teller of parables, finding the way into the heart and will of a member of the 1% of his day. As the Holy Father reminds, a pastoral ministry is not merely the presentation of a theory, the listing of ethical ideals, followed by the hope that people will naturally adhere to principles of virtue. We need more. John Paul II realized it. We still have the theoretical documents and the statements from religious leaders. But they are not enough.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


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