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At First Warmth, Easter Flowers Pierce Through the Frozen Soil

Over the past two weeks, the joy of many people – Catholics, Christians and many others – over the new pope Francis’ way of doing (his simplicity and human accessibility, his desire to be first of all the bishop of Rome, his direct focus on the poor and also on environmental issues, …) has struck me. The best image that came to my mind are the Easter flowers that piece through the still frozen soil when they sense the warmth of the sun’s first rays of light. I feel happiness when I see the hope of people and discover a trust in the church that seemed to have disappeared around me; I also feel sadness when I realize how much, over the past years, we may well have frozen the church’s soil, entrapping many of God’s flowers/people in anger or desolation. A pope who expresses God’s human embrace of the world calls for hope.

This is not mere surface. Reading and re-reading pope Francis’ homily at the inauguration, I am struck by its theological depth. St Joseph, Jesus’ discrete father, offers a wonderful opportunity to discover God’s care for the world, as it also invites us to take care of others, especially the poor, of our own hearts, of creation. To come to know God, we are invited to commit as God does to the world, to discover in this world the Lord’s embrace and presence, as a call that may surprise us, but the value of which we discover in the compassion that is awakened in us. The theology behind this homily is a theology of discernment towards service.

Over a long period of time, we may have given in to our fears of a world spinning out of control (also religious control), dangerous and threatening, cruel and develish: we may have lost our capacity to recognize God’s presence in it, sometimes in unexpected and surprising ways, challenging even our religious presuppositions. Over a long period of time, also, we may have given in to our fears not to be loyal to the treasure we have received in Jesus Christ and the Gospel message. We may very well have enshrined and entombed these fears in institutions and structures that have become oppressive because of their arrogant-triumphalistic, clerical and juridical features and that have frozen our capacity to enjoy the hope of so many in whom the Spirit’s creative commitment is unexpectedly released.

We may have retreated into the minorities that we most certainly have become in some places (also in my own country) by turning these into self-preoccupied bastions and fortresses: we may have become incapable of really loving the world and entering it with the incarnation’s embrace and kiss, listening to its many voices. Indeed, in this world and through this world, very concretely, the Lord touches our desirous skins of faith, hope and love.

Will we be able to listen to the Spirit at work in God’s people, in the hope they experience for a renewed church … particularly there where we least expect God to be present, in the poor, in the excluded, amongst those whom we, maybe all too fast, accuse of indecency? Can we still trust our hope and recognize that, maybe for too long, we have not dared to be God’s people? Can we grow in humility, so as to listen close to the earth, to the Lord’s voice in those we push away to become the least amongst us? Can we be compassionate in the footsteps of a compassionate God at the first ray of light on Easter day?

Do we really want to enter the open tomb and hope for God’s unheard-of commitment in the fires of an enamored world full of desire and longing? That may well be the only really important issue … the only …

Popes come from different contexts

There was this wonderful little sentence I read somewhere today: “Francis is a pope from Argentina, but a pope for the world”. It provides a nice reflection on the tension between the local contextual and the universal. The really interesting challenge will be how Pope Francis’ background context will enrich and color his universal service to the world. It struck me how much his context is different from that of the two previous popes, John-Paul II and Benedict XVI, who have been marked by the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Francis comes from a different background, which is also very relevant for today’s world. Where he comes from, who he is, may help us to better understand the world in which we live and to better love it.

He was born in a migrant family – people who left their own native grounds. Francis is a person on the move, shaping a new reality by entering into a different world. This is the painful reality of many of our fellow human beings today, who are on the move because they have no alternative, because they want to live with dignity, they themselves and their children.

Francis was a young Jesuit provincial in one of the most cruel dictatorships, trying to serve, to accompany and to advocate in favor of suffering and persecuted people … under difficult and trying circumstances. Persecution and oppression, and the ambiguities of a world in which one fears for one’s own life as well as for the life of others, are the lot of many of us.

Francis lived in cities with tangible slums, amidst unacceptable inequalities. Our world is one of unacceptable inequalities, also at the planetwide scale. The new pope reminds us that these inequalities are unjust and affect and threaten the lives of all of us.

Francis lived in a country that suffered hard financial and economic hardship, a reality that is very real to so many people today.

Francis was the archbishop of a city that knows about secularization, where one may have to dig deep to be able to tap into one’s faith and where the discovery of one’s faith also means the unmasking of social injustice and exclusion.

These contexts – migration, dictatorship, slums, financial crisis, secularization – are the conditions of many people on our planet. I remember the vulnerable person on the Vatican balcony: a person who knows, a person whose simplicity of life reflects the solidarity with people forcibly on the move, with people persecuted by murderous regimes, with people deprived of the living conditions one might expect in our world, with poor people defenseless in the face of structures that dominate them, with people who need faith and hope. The choice of the name “Francis”, the clear reference to the following of Christ in his first Eucharist and the call not to succumb to pessimism in his address to the cardinals: they express the hope and strength this pope will transmit precisely in today’s world, there where it bleeds.

Why am I not surprised when I meet so many people who take heart when they see him?

Joy about Francis

It was a real privelege for me to see the new pope’s first appearance on the Vatican balcony, while teaching a class on contextual theologies to an international group of theology students at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences in Leuven. A moving event: to share the joy and hopes of a group of young committed theologians, and to see how the first jesuit pope bowed to the crowd on St Peter’s square, receiving their prayers and blessing, before giving his blessing to them. A sign of humility of someone who leads a truly sober life and who is not afraid to communicate directly and from the heart. The name “Francis” left me wondering whether he would mean Francis of Assisi or Francis-Xavier … maybe both, expressing the wish to live a sober life near to human daily toils, a concern for God’s presence in the world, and the desire to name this presence by its name. This inspires me … and obviously it also moves a lot of people, if I take the great number of messages, tweets and posts that I received as a testimony: this is a day of hope for many who are looking for the human face of the Church.

I must admit, I knew but very little about this new pope, coming from the global south, the son of Italian immigrants in Argentina, a man who must be familiar with issues of migration, of poverty, of dictatorship, of economic crisis and of secularization. He will be able to talk to the heart of many of those who suffer today’s global crises. I looked up the Wikipedia pages to get some first information … I literally saw the text on the webpages changing: information was added, other information was removed as inaccurate, … discussions were already starting, showing a person in the midst of the controversies and ambiguities of our world. There Francis fascinates me and I am looking forward to learn more about his commitments and thought.

Two Urgent Challenges: Rising Inequalities and Respect for the Carrying Capacity of the Earth

P1010259In a very dynamic presentation at the Forum for Liberation Theologies (March 7, 2013), Philippe Lamberts, Walloon Green Party (Ecolo) member of the European Parliament, stressed these two urgent and interconnected challenges of rising inequalities and of lack of respect for the carrying capacity of the planet earth, to focus on what drives him in politics: working towards a decent life for all within the physical carrying limits of the earth. He addresses these issues in the European Parliament by attempting to tame the “financial beast”; indeed the search for quick and easy money and the financialization of every aspect of our lives, are killing us. If we do not, in our organizing of human life on the planet, take into account that we live on a planet that can be measured (is limited) and that there exists growing social inequality that cannot be countered by making the rich richer in the hope that then the poor will follow in becoming richer … then, war will result that may lead to planetary consequences for the future existence of humanity.

Over against the urge for short term consumption and the making of easy money, Philippe Lamberts proposes investment in resource and energy efficient means, in restoring natural resources and social cohesion, in education, and in research, development and innovation.

Three ideas struck me particularly. “If we want to survive we will have to do it together” in the planetary sense of the word: even if a few can still enrich themselves today, they will only survive the others to live in an empoverished world. We are facing the social and environmental timebombs together: they may well kill us all. “The reason why we don’t do what our sound mind tells us (changing lifestyles in wealthy regions as Western Europe and allowing the poorer regions of the world to further develop), is the refusal of real change”. I connect this with the religious idea of conversion: are we really willing to answer the call to conversion, or do we prefer to accumulate more of the same, an attitude that is killing us?

Changes will become possible only if we stop pointing angry and accusing fingers, but become real agents of change, by engaging ourselves into change and by leading through example. Philippe Lamberts, who is himself a committed Christian had the last word in the discussion: “Love humanity”, a lesson that the Church should attempt to learn and to put into practice.

The discussions showed the differences of experience between people from various parts of the globe: amongst us were Nigerians, Indians, Philippinos, Europeans, Americans, … They come from different backgrounds and have different stories on social inequalities and the abuse of the planet, but they seem to agree that we are facing here urgent and crucial challenges.

Demography and Theology … An Incipient Dialogue?

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On Feb 27th, 2013, the Forum for Liberation Theologies welcomed Frans Willekens, a well-known professor of demography formerly in Groningen and soon in Rostock. He brought a well prepared introduction on the relations between demography and theology. The main conclusion of the meeting is certainly that a deeper going conversation between demographers and theologians should be pursued: both sciences will gain from the interaction. There were serious questions about the Westen character of demography and the political interests involved, particularly when claims are being made about countries of the TwoThirdsWorld. In this context also, the possible ideological (ab)use of religious perspectives in political endeavours was discussed. There were critical exchanges on the official roman-catholic views on marriage and celibacy, as can be found in the letters of St Paul and in texts as “Humanae Vitae” (especially #11). There were also serious ethical and moral reflections. But the most important lesson learned is: demographers and theologians have to come to improve the mutual understanding and interaction of one another’s sciences and scientific methods. This is a forum that calls for further interdisciplinary exploration.

David Ruderman and Steven Vanden Broecke at UCSIA-IJS

ImageThis evening, Profs. David Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania) and Steven Vanden Broecke (University of Ghent), co-lectured on “God and Nature: Jews, Christians and the Challenge of Early Modern Science. A Textual Dialogue”, as part of the UCSIA / IJS - Chair on Jewish-Christian Relations. David Ruderman presented us with a “Sermon for Rosh Hashanan that falls on a Sabbath” in which Azariah Figo (1579-1647) takes as his starting point the world as increasingly shaped by the scientific eye, and with the 1564 proposal for the foundation of a Jewish College at Mantua (a project that never came about). He pointed to three crucial features of Jewish communities in their response to the changing world of early modernity: (a) the natural world as an important resource for religion and spirituality; (b) the need not only to embrace nature, but also to improve it; (c) the covenantal relationship in which, if God can create, also human beings are called to create. Steven Vanden Broecke focussed on the Calvinist Philips Lansbergen’s (1561-1632) “Reflections on the Daily and Annual Course of the Earth. As Well as on the True Representation of the Visible Heavens, in Which Are Unveiled the Wondrous Works of God”. This works fits in the growing distrust of the senses (“popular errors”): if human beings want “to properly honour God with reason”, they should trust, not their direct perception of the world by their senses, but scientific reason. Only then will they be able to enter into communion with the visible and the invisible heavens.

Both lecturers showed great, fascinating and challenging erudition in their presentations. I was struck by the creative way in which the authors they discussed assimilated the growing scientific outlook on the world towards clarifying and deepening religious attitudes and the relationship to God. Maybe what most stimulated me is the Jewish idea that human beings may have to improve God’s work. Science and technology, at that moment of history and in Western Europe, at least in the examples given, were part of the religious endeavour. Of course, today’s situation – most certainly in the secularized parts of Western Europe – is very different, but Jews and Christians alike can most certainly learn from these early modern authors that their faith articulation may gain by taking serious consideration of the scientific outlook.

On March 7th, Profs. David Rudderman and Peter Stallybrass will co-lecture on “How Jews and Christians Read the Opening Chapters of the Book of Genesis. A Textual Dialogue”. Something to look forward to.

Medical Doctors and International Managers: Peter Piot’s Autobiography

A wonderful book to read: Peter Piot’s autobiography (No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses, New York: Norton, 2012). With a great sense of urgency and humour, the Belgian medical doctor Peter Piot writes about his fight against Ebola and AIDS. It is a story about concrete people, patients and doctors, as well as about international organisations and institutions that are required to struggle against planetwide epidemies. Peter Piot gives us an interesting insight both in the concrete experiences of a medical doctor when working with his or her patients and in the political and managerial swamps of international organisations. His descriptions never lose the very human touch, as when he describes some of the crucial management lessons he learned, e.g. when a Malian companion, Michel Sidibé, tells him about the ways of the chameleon.

It is a refreshing and encouraging biography for all who have to struggle amidst managerial and political storms, or with prejudices, while being driven by a sense of urgency at the service of fellow human beings. There are some lessons to be learned here – also for the Roman Catholic Church -, but we learn them from a person who knows the art of building up alliances and friendships.

A Reply to Climate Sceptics

I feel grateful for Donald R. Prothero’s “How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused” in Skeptic Magazine 17:2(2012) 14-22. Prothero first enumerates the evidence concerning anthropogenic global warming (carbon dioxide increase, melting polar ice caps, melting glaciers, sea level rise), then critically analyses the main arguments of climate change critics (particularly those who will admit the changes but not human responsibility), and ends with the important question “Why do people continue to question the reality of climate change?”.

To answer to this last question he points to the financial power and interests of “right-wing institutes and the energy lobby” and shows that we are facing here “a purely political controversy, rather than a scientific debate”.

I am particularly grateful that the article begins with a quote of Richard Feynman: “Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled”. Amongst scientists there is near unanimity concerning anthropogenic climate warming, while they agree and push that the matter be pursued even more thoroughly than the current Best Science Available (BAS – scientists will always, I think, agree on that point and, therefore, welcome articulate and well founded scientific debate). I fully agree with Prothero that “climate deniers have a lot of (…) things in common with creationists and other anti-science movements”. Let’s hope that political leadership will lend a better and more responsible ear to those scientists who attempt to be true to reality instead of attempting to obscure the facts out of political and financial interests. As a Roman Catholic theologian and Jesuit I also continue to hope that both the Churches and religions as a whole, as well as the worldwide religious institutions will assume their responsibilities and put their capacities at the best use to provide a decent response to the challenges of anthropogenic climate warming.

The Ambiguities of White Feminist Theologies

I finished reading the conclusions of “Hopeloos wit? Een feministische zoektocht naar de bevrijding van God op het kruispunt van racisme and seksisme” (Desperately White? A Feminist Quest for the Liberation of God at the Crossroads of Racism and Sexism), the doctoral thesis of one of our promising woman theologians at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in Leuven, Anneleen Decoene. Her concern is that “white” feminist theologies are also at risk – and in fact succumb – to being oblivious and oppressive towards the situation and the thinking of non-white theologians … she confronts herself, as a white theologian, belonging to the self-evidently dominant tradition, with other theological movements, such as womanism or Jewish and Muslim feminism. Here is a white, West-European woman, becoming aware of her own prejudices and privileges, and attempting to overcome them. Is this a desperate move? Can one really overcome one’s own prejudice? Can one be fully aware of it?

It’s a question I often ask myself as a theologian – how much are we involved in power games? are we capable of unmasking them by ‘listening’ to our victims – as this victimhood often remains defined by ourselves: is the way we speak about victims not again a power game and a show of our (veiled) superiority? The question is important not only for white feminist theologians who become aware of their own racist or sexist bias, but for theologians in general, particularly in a global world marked by so much contradiction and injustice? What is it that will move “superior theologians” – and I count myself between these materially privileged people – to think and act differently? How would we, as Pharaohs, react to Moses’ plea for his people? How would we, as Pharisees, react to Jesus’ unyielding criticism? Can we do theology while standing in the position of the accused or of the powerful who abuses his or her power, wealth or prestige?

In a sense, this is the ever-recurring core experience of liberation theologies. It is also the experience at the core of the vows in religious life – poverty, obedience, chastity. How do we stand at the foot of the Lord’s cross, as those who continue to crucify him in our selfish power games? How can we not let the fact that we are whiskey priests (Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory”) overrun our commitments to the suffering and excluded people whom our loving God serves?

Rio+20

Tomorrow starts the Rio+20 Conference. An important event. I would just like to recommend the blog that two fellow jesuits, Pedro Walpole and José Ignacio Garcia, will maintain over the next week:

http://ecojesuit.com/

Europe’s Top Politician on Leadership and Climate Issues

Last Monday, May 7th, 2012, UCSIA invited Herman Van Rompuy, President of the Council of Europe, to deliver a talk about “Balanced Leadership in a Globalized Economy”. From his very challenging address – e.g. on the importance of institutions and on how, precisely in times of financial and economic crises, the political commitments of the European countries towards one another have to deepen -, I want to highlight two ideas that struck me particularly.

1. His reflections about leadership where those of a European top politician who, in these times of crisis, has a keen sensitivity for people’s anxieties and insecurities. I was struck by his very realistic considerations on the balance between long-term, visionary leadership (where the common destiny is emphasized) and the short-term leadership in need of the approval of the people. “Those who want to move too fast are prophets, those who move too slow are historians”. How does one balance the need for the larger and broader vision with the concern to bring people along so that one receives their mandate for the long view? How can a prophet respect the rhythm of the people his or her prophecy wants to serve? And, how can people, who live with day to day concerns and fears, become the heirs to a vision that moves them beyond their direct world into uncharted territory? How do politicians articulate a “patient firmness” in the midst of a crisis?

2. I was also particularly struck and happy with H. Van Rompuy’s clear statements about the seriousness of the climate crisis: it is, in his eyes, a “potentially dramatic situation” and he obviously considers it a priority, precisely in that tension between the long-term prophetic vision and the short-term challenge to involve people in profound changes. Unfortunately, I cannot say that this kind of public show of awareness of the crucial importance of the climate crisis appears often in the discourse of key politicians, and I hope that the words of H. Van Rompuy will have been heard. Sometimes, the discrete but firm statement of a matter may have more effect than the passionate prophetic shouting.

Good Introduction to Liberation Theologies

Those of us who are looking for a good introduction to liberation theology and who understand French, will value the November 2011 issue of the French-Canadian periodical Relations, which devotes a set of articles to liberation theology on the occasion of the anniversary of the publication in 1971 of Gustavo Gutiérrez’ Teología de la liberación. The various articles, written by Jean-Claude Ravet, Yves Carrier, Gregory Baum, Nidia Arrobo Rodas, Claude Lacaille, Carmiña Navia Velasco, Guy Côté, and François Houtart, focus on the history of liberation theology particularly in Latin America, on some of its methodological features such as the basic communities and the use of the bible, on special themes such as the indigenous theologies, the place of women and the challenges posed by the contemporary ecological crisis. Attention is also paid to the fact that liberation theological perspectives developed in several Christian denominations and also in Jewish and Islamic contexts. An evaluation of how liberation theology influenced the Christian social movement in Québec illustrates the on-going importance of its approach and methodology. Much information can be gleaned from a careful reading of the articles and one also finds a good introductory bibliography. This is a very well presented thematic issue of Relations.

Personally, I would have been interested also in ideas about how contextual theologies such as liberation theologies can be articulated in the face of worldwide issues and how theologies that are connected to particular geographic regions and particular challenges interact when they are responding to planet-wide realities that require addressing both at local and global levels. How can liberation projects in these new contexts be articulated in their mutual interactions?

A New Weblog

Today, Luc Reychler, a close colleague at the K.U.Leuven and an international specialist in conflict transformation, showed me his new blog: Diplomatic Thinking Garden. There he will post some of his articles, as well as some opinions on recent events and on peace building. Luc is very fond of metaphors and it is not surprising that he introduces the idea of a garden to illustrate the complexity of peace building. I recommend the blog very highly.

Leuven Traffic and Marcella Althaus-Reid

Tiensestraat, Leuven, Belgium

In my classes on theology, we are reading books and articles by Marcella Althaus-Reid, a very challenging and critical theologian, who died recently, but whose thought remains a strong stimulus to improve move beyond liberation and feminist theologies. One of the books we are discussing, “From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology”, criticizes liberation and feminist theologies for ultimately not leaving behind the so-called heterosexual matrix of thought. Liberations theologians have often not paid attention to the blind spots in their own approaches: although they emphasized the struggle against oppression, they did not always take account of how women are excluded or marginalized. But Marcella’s criticism is more profound than mere forgetfulness: it concerns the fact that even in our thought about liberation, we remain indebted to frames and patterns of thought that may well pervert the very idea we have of liberation.

I must admit that I do not always grasp the full dimensions of what Marcella is saying. In my efforts to understand, this morning I walked through the Tiensestraat in Leuven. This is the street where I live. This street is very typical: in an effort to protect the pedestrians, the street is subdivided: a section for the cars, a section for the pedestrians (the footpath). We could say: this is done out of respect for the pedestrians, who are the weak users of the street (when a car and a pedestrian clash, the most likely victim, and by far, is the pedestrian): it is an attempt to “liberate” the pedestrians out of a situation in which they are oppressed. One could, therefore, look at these attempts as “liberative”.

But a closer look at the street, shows that in fact, we maintain the superiority of the car over the pedestrian: liberation is not liberation, it is oppression under the guise of liberation. Look at the yellow panel on the footpath: it is an indication FOR CARS set on the footpath and making the accessibility of the footpath more difficult (particularly, for example, for mothers with young children, or for buggies). The matrix “car = king of the street” has been maintained, even if we would claim that the street is built for pedestrians. This was confirmed to me, a couple of months ago, when we were told that the Tiensestraat would be renovated. I expected that the footpaths (that are in a terrible state) would at least share in the renovation efforts … but that was not true: only the part for the cars was renovated. We seem to live in a society, in which, even when we claim that the pedestrians are important, the cars are nevertheless the absolute rulers.

Maybe, Marcella’s criticism of liberation theologies goes in the same direction. Although we speak about liberation, although we seem to act in favour of the weak, we, nevertheless, continue to think in the same setup of mind, in which the weak are still the weak, although we claim that they have been liberated.

Sacrament of Reconciliation and Restorative Justice

In 2006 Elías López published an interesting booklet on how the structure of the sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of restorative justice (as described in Stephan Parmentier’s TARR model – for: Truth, Accountability, Reparation and Reconciliation) relate. I remembered this contribution recently while wondering, in the context of the paedophilia crisis in the Belgium Roman Catholic Church, how much the attitudes of many Catholics with regard to the scandal of clerical paedophilia may be determined by some aspects of the structure of the sacrament of reconciliation, understood as the practice of the individual confession, centred, of course, on the process of conversion of the sinner, the perpetrator of evil.

Indeed, if this is the dominant perspective on reconciliation and healing that structures our way of thinking also on paedophilia, we run the risk to concentrate on the individual perpetrator and to pay insufficient attention to the plight of the victim as well as to a context of healing beyond the strict relationship between victim and perpetrator. Of course, in saying this, I do not claim that such lack of attention to the victim and the community is a necessary consequence of the mindset involved in the individual confession of the sinner, as the individual confession, indeed, emphasizes the need for reparation and is situated in the context of the ecclesial community.

Practices of restorative justice accentuate the necessity to pay attention to the victim and invite to explore the larger social context that is in need of healing – beyond the strict relationship between victim and perpetrator. In fact, restorative justice invites Belgian justice to take greater care of victims and to consider broader traumatized contexts. I am convinced that both these perspectives – (1) focus not only on the perpetrator, but also on the victim, and (2) attention for reconciliation in the larger traumatized community – should be taken into account when dealing with paedophilia. Restorative practices may well provide one of the best approaches in this situation.

The theologian in me is, of course, also interested in how these two key elements of restorative justice may help us to understand, develop and practice the sacrament of reconciliation beyond its understanding as individual confession of the sinner.

First of all, is it possible to focus not only on the sinner, but also on the victim? Do we have a sacramental celebration that takes victims as the addressees? For this, we probably have to look at the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The reference to the sick could be taken in a wide sense as indicating suffering people, not only physically and not only in the process of dying. Could there be moments of sacramental anointing of those who suffer, recognizing the fact that they suffer and are victims of evil? This type of recognition of suffering and victimhood is certainly crucial in the case of paedophilia and clerical paedophilia.

A second question concerns the possibility of practices of sacramental reconciliation that involve both victims and perpetrators, as well as the larger communities that are affected. In the case of paedophilia, this means that also bystanders, people who did not, and for various reasons, react appropriately when victims told them about their ordeal, become part of a sacramental process of healing and reconciliation – family and friends, but also police, judges, medical doctors, church authorities and other authorities. Of course, such processes of reconciliation, possibly involving a large number of people and certainly not only the perpetrators, are very demanding and they may not always be possible. But offering them as a possibility reminds the larger communities of their need of healing in the face of God.

These thoughts are not meant, of course, to discredit the current practice of the individual confession of the sinner, nor do they claim that in this practice the victim and the community would be absent, but they suggest the importance of sacramental practices of reconciliation that clearly highlight also victims and larger communities. Such sacramental practices may help us all, particularly in the case of paedophilia, to remain sensitive to the plight of the victims and to community trauma. It is then also possible to gain a healing perspective on the perpetrator/sinner.