Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 4: The Synod’s View, Part 1

We’ll tackle this long section over the next week of posts. Here we get Pope John Paul II’s view of The Synod’s View. First, the Holy Father counselled a study of reconciliation. Can’t argue against that, really.

Therefore every institution or organization concerned with serving people and saving them in their fundamental dimensions must closely study reconciliation in order to grasp more fully its meaning and significance and in order to draw the necessary practical conclusions.

The primary concern of secular institutions is penitential, exacting some form of punishment or limit of behavior as a response to an offense. We see it prominently in sport. Two minutes for roughing, for example. Does that deter a hockey player from ever doing the rough stuff again? Likely not. Perhaps more germane is when a team or a league fines or suspends a player for some kind of misconduct. Team unity and harmony might be a side effect, but the overall concern is marking that boundary of acceptable behavior–at least when it’s in public view.

Given the prevalence of military history over the serious study of peace and making peace, I think we can easily conclude that the human race is far more serious about marking and setting boundaries and punishing those who step across than addressing the underlying problems and solving them. Is this because they are secular? Is this attitude inevitable? I think it’s more a matter of failing to study the right topics. We will never be perfect, but occasionally, peace and reconciliation have been known to break out in the world, even from non-Christians. That’s not a bad thing to hope for, to work for.

The church of Jesus Christ could not fail to make this study. With the devotion of a mother and the understanding of a teacher, she earnestly and carefully applies herself to detecting in society not only the signs of division but also the no less eloquent and significant signs of the quest for reconciliation. For she knows that she especially has been given the ability and assigned the mission to make known the true and profoundly religious meaning of reconciliation and its full scope. She is thereby already helping to clarify the essential terms of the question of unity and peace.

Many will say, and rightly so, we need to attend carefully to the need for reconciliation within our own bounds. Not just the liturgical and juridical aspects of sin and punishment, but also how the worldwide system of systems works or doesn’t work.

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

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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