Joseph Martos
Part Three of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:57 AM
Reflect on the history of sacramental reconciliation, and explain why you believe that various developments in theology or practice were either positive or negative. If possible, select at least one development from each of the following periods: the apostolic and patristic periods (AD 30-500), the medieval period (AD 500-1500), and the modern period (AD 1500-1960).
Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Three of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by arnetta sims - Monday, 6 August 2012, 6:15 PM

Reflecting on the history of the sacrament of reconciliation leads me back to the origin and purpose. The formation of this sacrment stemmed for the need to be reconciled with God and the community for sin. The affect of sin not only impacted the individual, but affected others in the community. Jewish rituals entailed the process of reconciliation of the sinner to God and society. This theology became accepted by the early church.

Baptism was known as the first sacrament of conversion. The Christian community felt that baptism freed them from sin. The Eucharist was included as a sacrament of forgiveness and continious reconciliation. The Eucharist represented the presence of Christ and His saving power as a sin offering.

The sacrament of reconciliation underwent numerous changes. The early Church went through persecution and people denied their faith out of fear. Pastorally these offenses had to be dealt with, therefore the church had to find ways to reconcile them with the community. Long intensitive public penace was given once a year. They could only return to the eucharist after enduring the penance. This mode and structure would change again. During the time of missionary endeavors the monks were the agents to carry out this ministry. They were accustomed to private prayers and private confessions. This practice was passed on to the people they evangelized. The process became accepted with private confession with absolution and penace. By now the West had replaced public confession to private confession.

The Reformers balked at the process of reconciliation that the Catholic Church practiced. The Church respond by addressing the abuses and re-instated confession as a way to gain forgiveness for serious sins. The Church gave the priest power to act as judge to decide the degree of sin and its penalty. The norms of the Council of Trent remains in place today. Later the need for thoelogical and canonical boundaries became necessary.

It was at Vatican II that the Church made adaptations to the theological and canonical boundaries. This development is expressed in the New Rite of Reconciliation and rubrics.

The new devlopment recommended the reception of the sacrament and required it for serious sins. Reconciliation became more pastoral by eliminating the screen, thus leaving this process face to face. The priest role is lessor as judge, but a representative of Christ and His people. The priest becomes "healer" and spiritual leader.

The communal aspect of the sacrament of reconciliation can be reflected upon as social sin. Although sin is perceived as the individual's will,it takes root in social structure and becomes attached to this structure. Conversion should take place in the very structure of society.Just as the effects of sin as in Jewish origin impacted the community;we too today witness the impact of sin on Christian communities and the whole world.

As time change we will continue to adjust to the theology of the sacrament of reconciliation. The church will continue to assist in reconciling sinners to God and His people. The changes though out each period reflected a positive pastoral side of development where the love and mercy of God was expressed. The personal skills of the priest became evident with removing the screen that shield human exhanges.

The private confessions were a plus because sinners offenses were personal between them and God. It is my theology that God judges each person on a their formed spirit. A little of the negative is that the priest should be referred to as intercessory instead as judge. The reception of the sacrament of reconciliation have declined because people no longer feel the need to air their offenses to the priest.

GRADE 3 (Thorough treatment but some shortcomings in language and evaluation.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Sunday, 29 July 2012, 08:04 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Three of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Marvin Fitchett - Monday, 6 August 2012, 6:11 PM

In my reflection on the Penance of Reconciliation, I shall recall the developmental history of reconciliation and present an opinion concerning its usefulness.

In the back of my mind, I’m rehearsing the wording from the rite of penance, and the word from 1 John 1: 9 enters my thought. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. As I move forward in my reflections I think I can project a framework of the catholic development of the Penance of Reconciliation. However, let’s see what the specific reconciliation events reveal about the catholic framework.

Apostolic/ Patristic Periods

The history of the Penance of Reconciliation originates in the scriptures, with God, Jesus Christ and the apostles. God possessed a stance against his people committing sin, and gave them a solution to atone for their sin. In his earthly ministry, Jesus, clearly set the pattern for reconciliation, which included confession, repentance, and forgiveness of sin which came by the power of God. There are a number of references about reconciliation, however the most notable are those of St. Paul. Contemplating the apostolic era, the instruction from the God head is straightforward. The area of discussion enters with St. Paul’s description of administering reconciliation.

The Patristic era started out following the apostolic set pattern, the early believers initiated a ritual of repentance that included confession, and the community excommunicated and reinstated sinners. When it came to rejoining the community, the set pattern began to mutate from the set pattern. The mutation began with prescribed performances for repentance. The early believers start was very positive, it was in keeping with divine set pattern. But, when bishops started prescribing a list of corrective action and the believers attempted to perform them, this has the potential to bad and the possibility to start a new pattern different from the apostolic set pattern.

Medieval Period

In the middle ages two significant developments occurred, the development of the penitential books and the reconciliation with the altar. The penitential books were ingeniously developed by the transient monks who preached forgiveness of sin as they traveled, and need to keep track of the penance they prescribed. This was a positive development because it remove subjectivity when prescribing penance and it help the monks remember what they had prescribed and to whom.

What followed was the reclaiming of absolution which was titled, “reconciliation with the altar”. This was a move by the Catholic Church to bring the control of prescribing penance back under the control of the bishops. This order would re-establish the bishop as the “one” who confers absolution for penance. The re-instituting of clerical control over the penance and absolution was not a favorable one, it became too rigid, and believers simply discontinue the practice. Furthermore, I detect a shift from the apostolic set pattern for reconciliation.

Modern Period

The modern era is linked to the Reformation period, and the ideas of the reformers. The reformer who expressed the strongest opposition to the Catholic’s Penance of Reconciliation was Martin Luther. Luther’s persistence was relentless and direct in addressing the indulgences involving penance. He ascribed no valve to absolution, and showed his disdain for the “false penance of the papist who led the people to confide in their own works” (305) in receiving forgiveness of their sins. However, Luther did attest to the value of confession, he thought that confession was the door way to God reality of grace for forgiveness. Luther’s opposition benefited the Catholic Church because they eventually considered his ideas, which prompted a revisiting of the theology of the Penance of Reconciliation.

Grade 4 (Thorough treatment. Biblically based evaluations.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Monday, 30 July 2012, 12:30 PM)

Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Three of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 6 August 2012, 6:09 PM

The Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick have undergone many changes in the two millennia since the time of Jesus and the Apostles. Unlike the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist no exact time or place for their institution can be found in the Gospels and yet the Gospel accounts are full of incidents where Jesus forgave sins and healed the sick. In at least one instance he used a salve made of dirt and spit to open the eyes of a blind man.

The first generation of Christians did not see the need for any formal ritual for the forgiveness of sins outside of Baptism for several reasons. First, they firmly believed the end of the world was imminent. Second, they had a far different concept of sin than developed in the middle ages. Denial of their faith was the only sin they acknowledged at first, but they later added adultery and murder to the list. Once the persecutions stopped the church fathers had to decide what to do about sinners who wished to return to the fold. With a sense of mercy, many bishops decided to institute a program similar to the period of the catechumenate but it could only be gone through once in a lifetime.

During this period a practice of anointing the sick with oil continued. An outgrowth of the ancient practice of pouring olive oil on a person for medicinal purposes it was performed by laypersons and clergy. The source of it as a religious ritual came for the Epistle of James (5:14-15).

The middle ages brought several changes to both rituals. The Irish monks who served as missionaries brought the practice of private confession of sins rather than the public penitence that marked the patristic age but the penances attached could still be severe. In the rebuilding of western society a sense of legalism set in that permeated the understanding of the theologians of the time. The common people became more distant from the clergy and the rituals of the church. Few availed themselves of private confession and even fewer received the sacrament of anointing which had devolved into the sacrament for the dying.

Arguments ensued as to exactly when sins were forgiven in penance or just what the function of anointing the dying served. Did absolution by the priest confer forgiveness, or was he a conduit for God’s forgiveness? Did the final anointing forgive venial sins or remove all punishment accrued from the sins of a lifetime?

The reformers had a number of problems with these two sacraments. First, and most importantly they could not find any scriptural basis for either ritual to be considered a Sacrament. The question with Penance as it was called centered on how a man could grant forgiveness of sins when that belonged to God. Protestants began to follow the custom of simply telling God they were sorry for their transgressions. The complaint about Extreme Unction was that the passage in James refers to anointing the sick, not the dying. The Council of Trent dealt with the issues raised by the Protestant reformers the way it dealt with many of the issues raised by the Reformation. The bishops restated the scholastic definitions of the sacraments and the practices continued with very little change.

In the early twentieth century a few small concessions were made to encourage the laity utilizing these two underused sacraments. First Pius X lowered the age of First Communion to seven and because of the Jansenism movement many people went to Confession/Penance on Saturday, just prior to receiving Communion at Sunday Mass. Those who were seriously ill, but not quite dying could be anointed although to many Catholics this anointing still appeared to be confirming a death sentence. Vatican II brought about changes to these two sacraments, both in name and practice.

GRADE 3 (Accurate summaries; no evaluations.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Tuesday, 31 July 2012, 03:34 PM)