Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Three of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 2
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 6 August 2012, 6:17 PM

Vatican II brought about several changes in both the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. The most visible change to Reconciliation was making the screen between priest and penitent optional but that is merely the outward sign of inner changes. Three forms were defined, the private confession to the priest, a communal that combined a community prayer service with private confession and a general penitential service for a community. In the private form of Reconciliation the priest is instructed to be more pastoral toward the penitent. It can be a bit of psychological counseling along with scriptural reading and prayers. Unfortunately these changes could not bring the laity back to this sacrament in any great numbers, which is a sad commentary on the delay of Rome to address the issues of confession.

Likewise the anointing of the sick has undergone changes that are mostly positive in nature. The bishops have attempted to return the sacrament to the more ancient ritual practices of the patristic era. While the minister of the sacrament is still the priest because forgiveness of sin is still part of the ritual, the laity is encouraged to consider asking for anointing more frequently. It is not just for the dying but also for occasions of serious but not terminal illnesses and prior to surgery. Those caring for the recipient are encouraged to attend the anointing; this includes loved ones, doctors, and nurses.

The intention of the changes in both sacraments appears to be an effort to encourage Catholics to seek the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. It is an attempt to bring closer union with the Orthodox Churches of the East who did not appear to fall into the legalism that became such an integral part of the Church in the West.

The fact that Rome waited for such a long time to respond to the needs of both the better educated society of the Western countries and the cultural needs of people in non-European countries has led to a decline in the use of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Vatican II stressed the primacy of the individual conscience in deciding whether an act was sinful. With the advent of oral contraceptives many married couples chose to limit their family size for various reasons despite the ruling by Rome that artificial contraception was sinful. A large majority of these couples chose either to avoid confession altogether or simply omitted the fact that they used contraception.

The Euro-centric point of view which the Roman Church has exhibited for millennia has made it difficult to tailor the rites for non-European cultures. The question becomes how to devise these rituals for African and Asian cultures? What accommodations can be made for the people of the mixed cultures of the former Spanish colonies of Central and South America, part Indian and part Spanish? Only when the officials of the Curia can adapt the rituals to the people will there be a return to these sacraments of forgiveness and healing that are an important part of the faith instituted by Jesus Christ and taught by his Apostles.

GRADE 4 (Accurate and evaluative.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Tuesday, 31 July 2012, 06:54 PM)