James Cross

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2004


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James P. Hanigan

Committee Member

David Kelly

Committee Member

Jean Donovan

Committee Member

Michael Cahill


Catholic moral theology, confession, John Paul II, Patrick McCormick, recovery, Sacrament of Penance, Second Vatican Council, social sin


The central proposal of this dissertation is that now, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-5), official Roman Catholic teaching on sin and sacramental reconciliation is not, but ought to be, based upon a contemporary paradigm of sin and reconciliation--i.e. a paradigm which is concordant with, and adequate in light of, the teachings and goals of this Council. According to the author, an existing "liturgical-narrational" model of sin and reconciliation ought to be elevated to the status of such a paradigm or supermodel.

The author arrives at this conclusion after examining two critical post-Conciliar documents--the revised Rite of Penance (1973) and Pope John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance (1984)--in light of three points made by Patrick McCormick in his book Sin As Addiction (1989). This examination yields three corresponding insights: first, the two documents contain elements of different models of sin and reconciliation; second, a juridical model--the dominance of which is demonstrated--is inadequate (as a paradigm); third, a model which respects the narrative character of sin and reconciliation is also present in the documents.

Ultimately, four original proposals are submitted. The first of these is that there are four distinct models of sin and reconciliation employed in both the Rite of Penance and Reconciliation and Penance. These models are here called the juridical, the personalistic, the medical, and the liturgical-narrational. Second, a liturgical-narrational model is identified and developed. This model is developed by including and improving upon McCormick's addiction-recovery model. Third, the author sees the confession of sins as being "narrative proclamation." This proposal is a synthesis of the liturgical character of the ancient public exomologesis and of the detail-oriented character of private confession. Fourth, a previously unrecognized type of social sin is recognized: the sin of a community against itself. Such a sin, as well as other sins, will be both treated and resisted with the help of a properly implemented liturgical-narrational paradigm. This implementation requires an adaptation of the third of the 1973 rites (i.e. Rite "C").