Examination of Conscience

For centuries, confession or penance (as it was alternatively called) was the linchpin of the Catholic sacramental economy. The Eucharist might be exalted as a miraculous source of sanctifying grace but it was confession that got one over the threshold, so to speak—that could make the difference between eternal happiness or torture. Then, as James O’Toole writes, the system collapsed....

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About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.