Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 13, Part 3: Personal Repentance

In effect, to become reconciled with God presupposes and includes detaching oneself consciously and with determination from the sin into which one has fallen.

This is illustrated by the recognition, the awakening of King David, as well as the lost son’s realization and subsequent journey home.

It presupposes and includes, therefore, doing penance in the fullest sense of the term: repenting, showing this repentance, adopting a real attitude of repentance- which is the attitude of the person who starts out on the road of return to the Father. This is a general law and one which each individual must follow in his or her particular situation. For it is not possible to deal with sin and conversion only in abstract terms.

One problem for the practice of the sacrament is a fairly common abstraction, something that may date back to the books of penance about lists of suitable penances for particular sins. I think there is a wider sense among people about institutional repentance–which gets us off topic a bit, but bear with the point. Particular individuals sinned by committing, then covering up corporate wrongdoing–sexual predation of children and women, or the financial mismanagement that led to the crash of 2008. Some people took some steps, but questions remain for witnesses and especially those directly offended: has there been a real repentance, a show of this, and a change of attitude? When apologists complain that there have been changes, that it won’t happen again, that the matter has been resolved–well, they become part of the problem. Individual sin is really no different.

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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