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306BOOK REVIEWS perhaps due to the book's origin as a lecture series; disproportionate focus on material which the author has studied in earlier publications; attribution of exaggerated content to the dogma of the Assumption in an attempted paraphrase using the words of the seventeenth-century Spanish mystic Maria de Agreda (p. 204); misidentification of Lumen Gentium as the first document adopted by the Second Vatican Council (p. 212). But the book fulfills the author's goal of providing an appealing popular account ofthe varied and generaUy positive impact of Mary on the history of culture. John P. Galvin The CathoUc University ofAmerica Histoire de lapénitence des origines à nosJours. By Philippe RouiUard. [Petits Cerf-Histoire.] (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf. 1996. Pp. 210. 140 FF.) This concise survey of penance from the New Testament to the present is at once a history of the subject and a historical document. It is history written from the perspective of the present, by a not-disinterested reformer. The author is a Benedictine monk who teaches sacramental theology at St. Anselm's in Rome, and thus knows his subject. Aside from certain emphases one might quarrel with, the only error I found was the identification of De vera etfalsa penitentia as a letter of the late tenth century (p. 159). He obviously sympathizes with some of the reforms and reformers he describes, but he can also betray his disapproval (e.g., of the Roman Catechism's gloss on "ego te absolvo," p. 172). In his conclusion he invokes the pluralism of this long history to establish the fact and legitimacy of institutional change and to suggest ways to remedy the current decline in confession. That situation is dramaticaUy conveyed by a supporting document that records "une chute spectaculaire" of confession among French Catholics. Frequency% 1952 % 1974 % 1983 at least once a month151 1 a few times a year18168 once a year18125 less than once a year8 1313 never375469 unknown3 4 4 One suspects that the decline among French CathoUcs complying with the minimal obligation—from 51% in 1952 to 14% in 1983—has probably not been arrested in the subsequent thirteen years. At the same time, as Professor RouiUard notes, Catholic church-goers do not need statistics to teU them that the decrease in confession has coincided with a rise in the number of communicants among those who attend Mass. BOOK REVIEWS307 The historical survey is a lucid simplification of the standard narrative, farmliar to readers of Bernhard Poschmann, Cyrille Vogel, or the article "Pénitence" in the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique. The periodization itself reveals this historical orthodoxy: New Testament origins; excommunication and reconcUiation from the second to the sixth centuries; tariffed penance, sixth to the twelfth century; confession and penance from Lateran CouncU IV to Trent; the CouncU of Trent to the eighteenth century; the French Revolution to Vatican CouncU II; and developments after Vatican Council II. It is a narrative untouched by revisionist questions: were the Penitentials practical manuals? was there much lay confession before 1215? was confession frequent before the Counter-Reformation took hold? doesn't public penance remain important after the twelfth, even into the sixteenth century? But given the purpose of this Uttle book, the author did weU to keep the story line uncompUcated. For whatever the actuaUties ofpractice over this long history, the surviving record amply justifies retaining this narrative, and provides the author examples of the institutional diversity that inform his hopes for a revival of a church-centered penance adapted to the modern situation. The eighty-seven supporting documents that span the twenty centuries of the narrative are aU very brief, in the style of Denzinger and Bettenson (pp. 131-204). They include not only commonplaces (Mt. 16:13-19; St. Cyprian and the Council of Carthage; canon 21 of Lateran CouncU IV; the curé d'Ars, etc.) but also examples of reconciliation in Byzantine, Anglican, and Russian rites. The author alludes in text and documents to contemporary practice in Korea, Chad, the Reformed Church of France, and a few European parishes where Catholic confession remains strong. Documents in the modern section—from rituals to anecdotal accounts—illustrate the sensitivity in contemporary pastoral...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 306-307
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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