Public Penance

John Doyle, 1839 Lithograph

There does seem to be a basic societal need for penance. In previous days, penance meant various forms of public punishment and humiliation. Today, only politicians and celebrities perform public penance, which usually means some sort of groveling apology for the cameras, a time in the wilderness, and then a public reemergence usually coupled with [Read More...]

Lenten Confessions: The App

It was bound to happen.  As apps proliferate for all kinds of purposes, it was probably just a matter of time before one was invented to probe the recesses of conscience for sin.  With version 1.0 appearing in 2011, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” was released several months ago in its 2.0 version.  2.0 not [Read More...]

Penance in a White Sheet

John Doyle, 1839 Lithograph

While rereading Edmund Morgan’s magisterial American Slavery, American Freedom, I was struck by his discussion of public penance performed by early Virginian fornicators and adulterers: The courts, for example, prescribed penances for couples who appeared with children too soon after marriage, requiring them to appear at church the next Sunday dressed in white robes and [Read More...]