Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 13, Part 4: A Ministry Of Reconciliation

If a person can arrive at a “precision” with one’s own story of sinfulness, then effective and fruitful “treatment” is possible. This is a view of Penance as a healing sacrament:

In the concrete circumstances of sinful humanity, in which there can be no conversion without the acknowledgment of one’s own sin, the church’s ministry of reconciliation intervenes in each individual case with a precise penitential purpose.

This would seem to be accurate enough in a “reasonable” way. If one’s sin can be diagnosed accurately, then a prescription for grace might be effective.

Some aspects of this have an appeal to my scientific mind. Yet the reality of sin is very subtle and complex. First, we can never have a full self-awareness. Without it, some particle of infection, however small, might remain in our make-up. And we know this is dangerous–any of us know this by experience.

I like the way it is finessed in the rest of this paragraph:

That is, the church’s ministry intervenes in order to bring the person to the “knowledge of self”-in the words of St. Catherine of Siena (Lettere, Florence 1970, I, pp.3f; II Dialogo della Divina Providenza, Rome 1980, passim.)-to the rejection of evil, to the re-establishment of friendship with God, to a new interior ordering, to a fresh ecclesial conversion. Indeed, even beyond the boundaries of the church and the community of believers, the message and ministry of penance are addressed to all men and women, because all need conversion and reconciliation.(Cf Romans 3:23-26)

The renewal of friendship is appealing. Our human experiences of friendship are never perfect, but two people can respond to being drawn together, even in spite of differences. Comments?

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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