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The Church in Ancient SocietyFrom Galilee to Gregory the Great$
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Henry Chadwick

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246953

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199246955.001.0001

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Penance

Penance

Chapter:
(p.688) 61 Penance
Source:
The Church in Ancient Society
Author(s):

Henry Chadwick

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199246955.003.0062

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

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