“Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” says the penitent to open the dialogue in Catholic confessionals across the globe and throughout the ages. Along with the priest's words, “For your penance . . ." this encounter is an icon of Catholic life. But does the script, and the practices it signifies, have any relevance beyond the confessional?
In The Politics of Penance, Michael Griffin responds yes. He explores great figures of the Christian tradition--the early Irish monks, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope St. John Paul II--to offer surprising insights for social repair. The result is a new ethic, which Griffin applies to contemporary crises in criminal justice, truth and reconciliation, and the treatment of soldiers returning from war.