The Sacrament of Penance

FORGOTTEN TRUTHS CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE1

The phrase, ‘forgotten truths’, in the title of this article, must naturally be taken with a grain of salt. The Church’s consciousness in faith always stores up more in her memory, as her lasting property, than is ‘present’ to it at any particular moment in time which we may arbitrarily mark off. For the past and Tradition belong to this consciousness. But there will also be ‘forgotten truths’ if it is true that the Scriptures and Tradition must be the ever new and inexhaustible source of theology the source from which theology must always draw anew and without which it would become sterile2 (i.e. if it were to believe that it conceives everything adequately ‘now’, which it possesses in the memory of its Tradition but which it must also always awaken and raise again by ever new efforts). Such truths do not necessarily need to have been ‘defined’ or to be truths found in ‘Denzinger’. For if this were necessary, then the study of ‘Denzinger’, and ‘Denzinger’ itself, could make the Scriptures and Tradition, as well as the ever renewed delving into them, superfluous. That truths are ‘forgotten’, also does not imply that no one knows these truths. Indeed, it is often almost comical (and yet really quite natural) how this shows itself in theology. Thus, when someone exclaims: ‘This is something you have forgotten (you theologians, preachers, catechists), you never mention this!’, then the accused parties take notice and [136] retort somewhat indignantly: ‘You are wrong, that is something we have always known and indeed have always stated in such and such a place