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    The Future of the Sacrament of Penance: An African Reconciliatory Paradigm in the Light of Karl Rahner's Theology of Penance

    Lumala, Aloysius Gonzaga (2020) The Future of the Sacrament of Penance: An African Reconciliatory Paradigm in the Light of Karl Rahner's Theology of Penance. PhD thesis, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.

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    Based on the understanding of reconciliation in the African culture and Karl Rahner’s theology of the sacramentality of the Church, this doctoral thesis opens a debate about the kind of renewal required to revitalise the dwindling practice of sacramental confession. The Second Vatican Council, in which the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner played an influential role, initiated a great deal of such renewal, but the process is a never-ending one. More than 50 years later, in the papacy of Francis, who never ceases to proclaim that “the name of God is mercy”, it may now be the right time to let this holy exercise be revisited for what might be called reviving “the sacrament of mercy”. In response to the Council’s demand of adapting the Rite of Penance to the pastoral needs of individual regions, there seems to be a considerable degree of concurrence between the African concept of humanity or building a strong community life (ubuntu) and Karl Rahner’s notion of reconciliatio cum ecclesia. Rahner's theological anthropology that articulates penance as reconciliation with the Church grounds the sacrament of penance in Jesus Christ who, through his Church, instils his own spirit of saying yes to God within those who celebrate the sacrament. This understanding contributes significantly to the unique dynamism of the concrete expression of the symbolic communal character of the Church as a means of hope, conversion, forgiveness and hospitality. It could be argued that a renewed understanding and practice of penance is needed because of the secularist revolution that is seeping into today’s modern African society bringing a much-diminished use of the sacrament. Reversing this trend requires a changed mentality. It is a reality that in this era of globalisation and modernisation the practice of the faith, especially the sacramental life of the Church, necessitates great attention. My study examines particularly the crisis in the sacrament of penance caused by external influences, e.g. socio-cultural and religious biases that contribute to the challenges for a proper understanding and appreciation of the rite of reconciliation in the 21st century. We shall explore the African reconciliatory theology and paradigm; Rahner’s concept of sin and its implications for humanity; the essence of his notion of reconciliatio cum ecclesia; and the evaluation of the renewal of penance since the Second Vatican Council. Aware of the current predicament of penance, I believe that the Church must try everything within her reach to encourage a renewed understanding of the sacrament. This renewal will bring critical perspectives, views that theologians have struggled to articulate for generations. Down through the ages, sacramental penance, sincere repentance and conversion, has been a challenging issue. It is both complex and vital. The study concludes by suggesting critical moves that might assist both confessor and penitent to deepen their understanding and use of the sacrament. These include reclaiming the sense of sin, greater integration and cooperation, deep catechesis, the institutional church’s asking for forgiveness as well as the blending of the African reconciliatory paradigm and the Christian spirituality of reconciliation. Such moves and directions are interdependent and belong to a more collaborative understanding of the Church and its ministerial practices. Shaping the future of penance is certainly a continuous agenda and the Church’s mission will be more effective when the sacrament is celebrated within a continuing awareness of the Church as a reconciled and reconciling community.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Sacrament of Penance; An African Reconciliatory Paradigm; Karl Rahner; Theology of Penance;
    Academic Unit: St Patrick's College, Maynooth > Faculty of Theology
    Item ID: 14538
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2021 10:19
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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