LORD, HAVE MERCY: The Healing Power of Confession

Scott Hahn, Author . Doubleday $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-385-50170-5

Fifty years ago on Saturday afternoons and evenings, long lines of faithful Catholics would snake through the aisles of their churches to the confessional booths. Today most American parishes schedule confessions for perhaps 30 minutes a week, and only a handful of people show up. Hahn would like to revive the ailing practice, which to him is essential to Christian growth. "Each act of penance we offer, each sacramental confession, every little sacrifice conforms us ever more to God's image, makes our lives more resemble the divine life." Hahn's newest book is a defense of the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (which he always calls by its older names of confession or penance) as well as a source of practical instructions for those unaccustomed to confessing. It is not surprising that his books sell briskly. His writing is clear and lively, laced with anecdotes, analogies and excruciating puns ("a new, whirled order") as he painlessly presents heavy theological topics: sin—mortal, venial and original; the divine-human covenant; self-denial and sacrifice; examination of conscience. Piling up scriptures like the evangelical he once was, he speaks with a conviction bordering on triumphalism. His love for the idealized church of the past, however, will exasperate some readers. Sexist terminology is abundant and his theology is unnuanced ("it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on a Sunday"). His adoration of the institutional church ("the Church teaching, as always, strikes the perfect balance") will amaze many of the theologians, historians and other people who read newspapers. (Mar. 18)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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