Monday, May 4, 2015

Order of Penitents

Dominican Father Thomas Michelet has written an intriguing article in Nova et Vetera, (English 
Christ the Good Shepherd( from St. John's Icon Studio)
translation) arguing that a reclaiming of something like the ancient Order of Penitents could be pastorally useful today.  For those who find themselves in irregular situations with respect to the sacramental disciplines of the Church, such as the divorced-and-civilly-remarried or those who have fallen away from the Church, it could provide both a concrete position in the Church, instead of the often-nebulous injunction not to present oneself for Communion; and a predictable structure for offering them pastoral care and a path of conversion and regularization.  What he has sketched out in the article appears to remain consistent with Scripture and Tradition, and the current discipline of the Sacraments, while attempting a bridge between where people are (away from the Sacraments) and returning them to full communion.  Notably, Fr. Michelet argues for the importance of reaching out to those most in need of penance, in order to bring them to an interior understanding of their sins and need for conversion, rather than (as we too often do) just waiting for them to show up, contrite.