The Church’s pastors are charged to catechize on penance and reconciliation

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):

In the vast area in which the church has the mission of operating through dialogue, the pastoral ministry of penance and reconciliation is directed to the members of the body of the church principally through an adequate catechesis concerning the two distinct and complementary realities to which the synod fathers gave a particular importance and which they emphasized in some of the concluding propositions: These are penance and reconciliation. Catechesis is therefore the first means to be used.

At the basis of the synod’s very opportune recommendation is a fundamental presupposition: What is pastoral is not opposed to what is doctrinal. Nor can pastoral action prescind from doctrinal content, from which in fact it draws its substance and real validity. Now if the church is ‘the pillar and bulwark of the truth’132 and is placed in the world as mother and teacher, how could she neglect the task of teaching the truth which constitutes a path of life?

From the pastors of the church one expects, first of all, catechesis on reconciliation. This must be founded on the teaching of the Bible, especially the New Testament, on the need to rebuild the covenant with God in Christ the redeemer and reconciler. And in the light of this new communion and friendship, and as an extension of it, it must be founded on the teaching concerning the need to be reconciled with one’s brethren, even if this means interrupting the offering of the sacrifice.133 Jesus strongly insists on this theme of fraternal reconciliation: for example, when he invites us to turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us, and to give our cloak too to the one who has taken our coat,134 or when he instills the law of forgiveness: forgiveness which each one receives in the measure that he or she foresee forgiveness to be offered even to enemies,136 forgiveness to be granted seventy times seven times,137 which means in practice without any limit. On these conditions, which are realizable only in a genuinely evangelical climate, it is possible to have a true reconciliation between individuals, families, communities, nations and peoples. From these biblical data on reconciliation there will naturally derive a theological catechesis, which in its synthesis will also integrate the elements of psychology, sociology and the other human sciences which can serve to clarify situations, describe problems accurately and persuade listeners or readers to make concrete resolutions.

132 1 Tm 3:15.
133 Cf Mt 5:23f.
134 Cf Mt 5:38-40.
136 Cf Mt 5:43ff.
137 Cf Mt 18:21f.

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 26

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