Chapter

Penance

Henry Chadwick

in The Church in Ancient Society

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246953
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600463 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199246955.003.0062

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church

 Penance

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Debates about the theory and practice of penance in the early Church were governed by the underlying question of whether the Church was ‘a society of saints or a school for sinners’, with the latter view gradually becoming dominant. Using the gospels and Paul's letters as a basis, the distinction was developed between mortal and venial sins, but there remained difficulties over which sins fell into which category. Gradually, two ideas gained hold: first, that penance should be treated as therapeutic rather than judgemental; and second, that penants should be allowed to confess in private to a priest or bishop rather than publicly before the whole congregation.

Keywords: penance

Chapter.  2835 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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