CHAPTER TWO begins with a look at The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. This is the last full chapter of the document, the conclusion of the third part which, you’ll recall, examines The Pastoral Ministry of Penance and Reconciliation. As we progress through numbered sections 28 through 34, I’d like to keep a careful eye on the distinctions in the Roman Catholic approach. Pastoral ministry is vital, and I’d consider it the most important aspect. The sacraments also have their public face in the realm of liturgy. And there is the juridical aspect–what I perceive is, at times, an outsized emphasis of the Church’s prelates.
28. In all its phases and at all its levels the synod considered with the greatest attention that sacramental sign which represents and at the same time accomplishes penance and reconciliation. This sacrament in itself certainly does not contain all possible ideas of conversion and reconciliation. From the very beginning, in fact, the church has recognized and used many and varying forms of penance. Some are liturgical or paraliturgical and include the penitential action the Mass, services of atonement and pilgrimages; others are of an ascetical character, such as fasting. But of all such acts none is more significant, more divinely efficacious or more lofty and at the same time easily accessible as a rite than the sacrament of penance.
No dissent from me on this. Conversion and reconciliation happen outside of the sacraments–many of these are acknowledged and affirmed by the institution and by the laity. It’s likely quite fitting that the last major topic on this topic involves a detailed look at the Sacrament of Penance. We’ll continue tomorrow.
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