A journal of academic theology

Sign of Reconciliation and Conversion? Differing Views of Power—Ecclesial, Sacramental, Anthropological—among Hierarchy and Laity

Monika Hellwig’s 1982 history and theology of the sacrament of penance, Sign of Reconciliation and Conversion, is representative of the expectations that theologians and pastoral ministers had for expanded forms of the sacrament. Pope John Paul II’s 1984 exhortation, “Reconciliation and Penance,” produced a contrasting history to assert private confession to a priest as the church’s continuous tradition. That this instruction found little traction is evident in subsequent directives combatting a “crisis” of confession and the proliferation of communal penance services. The article concludes with a theological analysis of the theoretical and practical state of the question today.

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