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What was the question of the early Christian community on penance?

What if someone, after their baptism, falls into grave sin? What happens/is possible?


What did the Shepherd of Hermas (cir. 140) say about penance?

Indicates that it is indeed possible to receive forgiveness after baptism: “But not repeatedly, for there is only one repentance.” => There is indeed penance, but only once


What did Tertullian (+230) say about penance on De Penetentia?

“Although the gate of forgiveness has been shut and fastened with the bolt of baptism, God has still allowed some opening to remain. He has stationed in the vestibule a second penance to those who knock.” => There is a second penance, but only once.
• Does not describe the ritual, but several components to this “second penance”:
• 1) Exomologesis (to articulate/name one’s sinfulness) - This would happen to the bishop, not necessarily in public
• 2) The wearing of penitential dress, ashes, abstaining from certain food/drink, mortification by kneeling where people are gathered.


What are the four key elements of Reconciliation in the 3rd century?

1) Confession of Sins to the Bishop (or one delegated by him)
2) Enrollment into the “Order of Penitents” (a liturgical enrollment)
3) Performing of Penitential Works (prescribed by the bishop or one delegated by him)
4) Reconciliation by Bishop (ONLY AFTER the penitential works are completed, usually on Holy Thursday)


Characteristics of Reconciliation in the 3rd century

1) PUBLIC (Not necessarily public confession of sins, but people would be known to be in the Order of Penitents)
• 2) LENGTHY (Month, year, or lifetime depending on gravity; some not forgiven until right before death)
• 3) RIGOROUS (Regular and rigorous penitential practices)
• =>> Implicit: One is excluded from participation in the Eucharist during this (would be dismissed during the mass, cf. catechumens)
• =>> What puts someone in this position? 3 Capital Sins: 1) Murder; 2) Adultery; 3) Apostasy (n.b. Apostasy precipitates a debate)


Mid-3rd Century Debate on Penance

The Lapsi (those who commit apostasy) - What happens when these people seek forgiveness?
• 1) Novation and the Rigorists - No forgiveness; Those who have denied Christ are to be excluded entirely; They cannot even be entered into the Order of Penitents; Apostasy is the unforgivable sin.
• 2) Cornelius & Cyprian (and others) - Mercy; Able to enter the Order of Penitents; But they are to endure long period of penance.
• => Council of Carthage (251) and its subsequent affirmation by the Bishop of Rome - “Triumph of Leniency.”
• Those who sacrificed or burned incense under threat could indeed be reconciled, but only at the time of death


Nicaea I (325) and penance

No matter who asks for it (i.e., even those who are not in the Order of Penitents), it should be granted, when they are on their deathbed


Pope Celestine I (428) Letter to Bishops of Vienne and Narbonne on Penance

No denying anyone penance (who asks for it) when they are on their deathbed


Pope Leo the Great (459) Letter to the Bishops of Roman Rural Districts on Penance

Naming of sins should occur only in secret to the bishop/priest (no more public confession)


Penance in the 6th Century Celtic Churches (5 elements)

1) Individual/Private (No part was ever public)
2) Both venial/mortal confessed (Both, no distinction in penitential process
3) Repeatable (Not a one-time deal)
4) Penitential Books with Standardized Penances (grave sins have grave penances)
5) “Absolution” is granted at the time the sins are confessed (Partake of Eucharist while concurrently performing penance)


Third Council of Toledo (589) Regional - 11th Canon, on Penance

The practice of the Celtic monks is characterized as “shameful,” “execrable presumption” - Toledo condemns the practice, “commands” that they return to the old practice.
• => But the outcry of the Spanish bishops does not carry the day & by the time of the Carolingians, this is the normative practice (Order of Penitents falls away); Carolingians emphasize the juridic nature of this act


Lateran IV (1215) on Penance (2 elements)

1) Annual: Obligation that Catholics confess their (mortal) sins to their parish priest at least on an annual basis
• All faithful who have reached the age of discretion; to one’s own parish priest; fulfill the penance; receive Eucharist at Easter
2) Seal: There is an absolute seal with regard to the sacrament of reconciliation
• Break the Seal = “deposed from the priestly office” & “consigned to a closed monastery for perpetual penance”


Council of Florence (1439) on Penance

1st systematic treatment of the sacraments, embracing theology of Thomas Aquinas.
• “The fourth sacrament is Penance”
• Quasi-Matter = The actions of the penitent (all three must be present)
1) Contrition of heart - Sorrow for sin committed and resolve not to sin again
2) Oral Confession - Confess to one’s own priest
3) Satisfaction - The penance performed (i.e., prayer, fasting, almsgiving)
• Form = The words of absolution spoken by the priest who has authority to absolve, either ordinary or by commission
• Effect = Absolution from sins


Trent (1551) and Penance

• Provides a more systematic treatment on the sacraments in response to the leaders of the Reformation (Luther and Calvin: only two sacraments).
• Reaffirms and amplifies Florence:
- Form: the words of the minister.
- Quasi-matter: the acts of the penitent (contrition, confession, satisfaction)
- The reality (res) and effect of the sacrament: reconciliation with God.
• What is need for contrition: “Imperfect contrition” (i.e., attrition) is sufficient.
• Teaches that the worthiness of the minister is not a prerequisite for validity (c.f., Donatistic errors).
• N.b., Mater + Form + Minister with Proper Intention = Sacrament exists ex opere operato.
• Jurisdiction and Reservation of Cases: priests needs delegation


Vatican II and Penance

• Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) §72 “The rite and formulas for the Sacrament of Penance are to be revised (Revised Rite is published in 1973).
• Lumen Gentium (1964) §11 “Those who approach the Sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offense committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins.”


Three Forms of Penance in the Rite of Pennace 1973 (Ordo Penitentiae)

• 1) Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents.
• 2) Rite of Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution.
• 3) Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution. Only if danger of death is imminent or a serious need is present


Parts of the sacrament of Reconciliation



The Form of Absolution

“God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.”


The Letter of James and Anointing of the Sick

James 5:14-15
• The Ritual / Liturgical Practice
1) Recipient:
• A sick person who is a member of the community/church (implicit = the person is baptized)
• The illness is serious (i.e., putting the person’s life at risk)
• Implicit evidence for this (why call the bishop for a sniffle?)
• But person is not necessarily on their deathbed, because the sick person himself is to call the elder.
2) Minister:
• The “Presbyters” of the Church / Presbyteroi (“elders”)
3) Ritual / Ceremony Itself:
• Prayer over the sick person (recipient)
• Anoint with oil in the name of the Lord
4) Effects:
• To be saved (The Lord will save)
• To be raised up (The Lord will raise up)
• To be forgiven (If the person has sinned, his sin will be forgiven; a conditional - only if he has sinned)
• => Save and Raise Up => 1º To eternal life (eschatological) 2º From the sick bed (Physical)


How does the Anointing of the Sick shift in the 8th century (Carolingian Reform)?

1) The clergy are not only spiritual leaders, but also part of the nobility (emphasis on the role of the priest)
• 2) Coincides with cultural movement where the lay faithful feel they are not worthy to approach the “Holy of Holies” (e.g., no regular reception of Holy Communion: 1st Com. and Last Com. ONLY)
• => Same develops for Anointing: Became understood as “Extreme Unction”
• A sacrament for the dying only
• Became known as the “Last Rites” —> Sacraments of the Dying
• 1) Person would go to confession
• 2) Unction (anointing): Theology is less that of James and more toward purifying the sinful body before death and judgement
• 3) Viaticum (Communion to “carry them to the finish line”)
• => Less wholistic theology


The Council of Florence 1439 and Anointing of the Sick

“The fifth Sacrament is Extreme Unction”
• Matter = Olive Oil blessed by the bishop.
• Sacrament may not be given except when one’s life is feared for.
• Anointed on these (7) parts: eyes on account of sight, ears on account of hearing, nostrils on account of smell, mouth on account of taste and speech, hands on account of touch, feet on account of movement, and loins on account of the lust seated there.
• => Remember, the theology is purification of the sinful body before death and judgement.
• Minister = Priest
• Effect = Healing of mind, and as far as it is good for the soul, the body as well


The Council of Trent (1551) and Anointing of the Sick

• Articulation and defense against the Reformers (who declared that “Extreme Unction” is not a sacrament).
• Luther argued that it may have indeed have been a practice, but said that Jesus did not institute it as a sacrament
• Trent => Extreme Unction is truly and properly a sacrament given the Church by the Lord.
++ Effect=
• 1) Grace of the Holy Spirit takes away any sins and remits any punishment.
• 2) Comforts and strengthens, awakening confidence in divine mercy.
• 3) At times, it also restores bodily health when expedient for the soul.
• 4) Helps people to endure their suffering with Hope.
• Minister = Priest
• Recipient = The sick, but especially those near to death (if they recover they can again receive the sacrament)


Vatican II and Anointing of the Sick

1) Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) §73-75
• §73) Extreme Unction, more fittingly called “Anointing of the Sick”, is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death —> Danger of death from sickness or old age? The time to receive has certainly already arrived.
• §74) A continuous rite should be prepared for reconciliation, anointing, and viaticum.
• Should be done in a communal context (except for reconciliation).
• §75) The number of anointings is to be adapted to the occasion, and the prayers are to be revised so as to correspond with the varying conditions of the sick who receive the sacrament.
• # of Anointings: 7 at Florence; 6 at Trent; 2 at Vatican II.
++2) Lumen Gentium (1964)
• §11) The by sacred anointing…the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering of the glorified Lord so that he may save them and raise them up.


What is the actual form of the Anointing of the Sick?

Through this holy anointing
may the Lord in his love and mercy
help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord who frees you from sin
save you and raise you up.


What is the actual matter of the Anointing of the Sick?

Ordinarily, Olive oil blessed by the bishop


Who can receive the Anointing of the sick today?

1) Those whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age.
2) Sacraments may be repeated if the person who is sick:
• Recovers and again falls ill
• Condition worsens
3) A person may be anointed before surgery whenever a serious illness is the reason for the surgery
4) Elderly people may be anointed if they have become noticeably weakened
5) Sick children are to be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason to be strengthened by this sacrament
• Why age of reason? Because this sacrament carried with it the forgiveness of sins, and someone who has not reached the age of reason is incapable of sinning.
• 6) The sick person who has lost consciousness or use of reason, but would have desired to receive the sacrament
• Unless they have positively stated that they don’t want to receive it, presume they do
• **If there is reasonable certainty that the person has died, it is inappropriate to anoint – sacraments are for the living —> But when there is ambiguity, err on the side of anointing.


Who is the minister of the Anointing of the Sick?

The priest is the only proper minister of Anointing of the Sick.
• Extraordinary ministers? No, because the sacrament bears with it the forgiveness of sins