SYLLABUS: THS 574B, Spring Semester



This course is a study of the “sacraments of healing” in the Roman Catholic tradition.  The course will investigate catechetical, doctrinal, historical, moral, canonical, pastoral and liturgical aspects of the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  The personal and social dimensions of these sacraments will be studied in light of patristic, medieval, Tridentine and modern theological approaches.  The course will include practical instruction on both individual and group celebrations of these sacraments, as well as a practicum on hearing confessions.  The practicum will include guest lectures from priests, religious, and laypersons. Particular attention will be paid to pastoral implications of the diverse cultural and ethnic traditions found in the Catholic communities the students will serve.


The student will understand the historical development and the modern theology of the sacraments of Penance and Anointing.  The student will be competent in and familiar with the rituals of these sacraments: (1) he will be able to hear individual confessions and perform the anointing of the sick at the bedside; and (2) he will be proficient in preparing appropriate liturgies for the celebration of these sacraments in large groups. (3) He will be able to teach the significance of the sacraments of healing in the parish as part of the “New Evangelization”.


1. The course consists of lecture/discussions on the history and theology of the sacraments of Penance and Anointing.

2. In order to maximize the effectiveness of lectures in our culturally diverse student population, comprising a wide range of different linguistic experience and ability, all audio-visual materials presented in lectures will be available through the course website or on DVD in the library.

3. The weekly lecture/discussions and practicum will be based on assigned readings from the required textbooks and from documents that may be downloaded from the course website.  Active participation in classroom discussions is essential, and will figure into the final evaluation.  Students are invited to bring to classroom discussions their own cultural traditions of healing and reconciliation.

4. Both the midterm and final examinations will consist of case studies in the form of “take-home” essay-questions.  Students are expected to submit their analyses at the beginning of class the following week: these must be typed, double-spaced, and include appropriate references.

5. Fifty percent of the grade of the final examination will be based on a “Guide for the Penitent” which each student will prepare.  It should contain, at a minimum: (1) an introduction to and brief explanation of the ritual; (2) preparation for confession; (3) options for the Prayer of the Penitent (Act of Contrition).  This guide should also include a separate “Penance Sheet” containing scripture texts and prayers that can be assigned, as appropriate, as penances.

6.  All students will be required to demonstrate English and Spanish proficiency in the sacramental forms of absolution and anointing. (unless exempted from the Spanish Language requirement by their diocese or religious congregation).

7.  Late work will be accepted for a grade only if the professor grants an extension: requests for an extension must be made in writing, using the form available on the course website. Out of fairness to those who submit their work on time, late work will normally be graded down by one-half letter grade for each day it is late.

8.  In all written submissions students must clearly distinguish between their own words and sources they are citing.  Failure to credit sources that are cited constitutes plagiarism and may result in a grade of “F”.

9. The final course grade will be computed as follows:

Class participation

20 %


40 %

Final Examination

40 %


1. The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume 1, (ICEL, ISBN: 0814660150, Pueblo, 1990).

2. Pastoral Care of the Sick, Rites of Anointing and Viaticum (Pocket Edition), (ISBN 10: 0-89942-156-3 ISBN 13: 978-0-89942-156-8, Catholic Book Publishing Corporation)

3. A Confessor’s Handbook, Kurt Stasiak, (ISBN: 0809139146, Paulist, 2000).

 REQUIRED DOCUMENTS (download from course website):

The Catechism of the Catholic Church
(Latin/English text – selections on the Sacraments of Healing)

(Von) Balthasar, Hans Urs, The Glory of the Lord, A Theological Aesthetics, Vol, I: Seeing The Form, (JohannesVerlag, 1961; tr. T & T. Clark, 1982.) III.D, 2.c, “The Sacramental Form,” pp.576-583.

A Theology of History, “Christ the Norm of History” (1959; tr. Sheed & Ward, 1963), pp. 93-97.

The Code of Canon Law
(Latin/English text – selections on the Sacraments of Healing)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Circular Letter concerning the integrity of the, Sacrament of Penance, (2000)

Pope John Paul II,

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance (1984) On Reconciliation and Penance In The Mission of The Church Today

Motu Propro: Misericordia Dei (2000) On Certain Aspects of The Celebration of The Sacrament of Penance.

Pontifical Council for Christian Unity,  Directory for the Application of Principles And Norms on Ecumenism (1993) 

Pontifical Council for the Family, “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Conjugal Life” (1997)  

Rahner, Karl. “The Meaning of Frequent Confession of Devotion” in Theological Investigations III. (New York: Seabury, 1967) pp. 177-189. 

“Problems Concerning Confession”, Theological Investigations III, pp. 190-206. 

“Guilt and its Remission: the Borderline Between Theology and Psychotherapy”, Theological Investigations II. (Baltimore: Helicon, 1963), pp. 265-281 

— “Forgotten Truths Concerning the Sacrament of Penance”, Theological Investigations II. (Baltimore: Helicon, 1963), pp. 135-174 

“Remarks on the Theology of Indulgences”, Theological Investigations II. (Baltimore: Helicon, 1963), pp. 175-201


Martos, Joseph. Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Revised and updated edition. (Liguori MO: Liguori/Triumph. 2001. ISBN 0-76480718-8 )

Osborne, Kenan B., O.F.M., Reconciliation and Justification (Paulist, New York, 1990)

Poschmann, Bernhard, Penance and the anointing of the sick. ser,: The Herder history of dogma, (Herder and Herder, 1964

(Von) Speyr, Adrienne, Confession, The Encounter with Christ in Penance, Herder and Herder, 1964 (Ignatius Press)


 1. Catholic Church Law on the Sacraments of Healing (WEEKS 1-4)

The Code of Canon Law, Latin/English text – selections on the Sacraments of Healing. This text is part of the Course Documents available for purchase at the beginning of the semester it may also be downloaded from the course website

   1.The Sacrament of Penance (WEEK 1-2),  CIC §  959-997

The Celebration of Penance CIC §  960-964

The Minister of Penance, CIC §  965-986

The Penitent, CIC §  987-991

Preparation, CIC §  914-916

Indulgences, CIC § 992-997

   2. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (WEEK 2-3), CIC § 998-1007

Celebration, CIC § 999-1002 , CIC §

Minister, CIC § 1003

Recipient, CIC § 1004-1007

   3. Sacramental ministry to members of other Churches (WEEK 4), CIC § 842-844

   4. Particular Issues involving various canonical penalties (WEEK 4), CIC §  1354-1357; 1378 1388 

 2. The Rituals of Healing (WEEKS 5-12)

The Rite of Penance and Pastoral Care of the Sick: The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume 1,

a) Individual absolution in private and communal rites; general absolution. (WEEKS 10-12). The Rites pp. 517-629

1. Review of the Liturgy of Private Confession  The Rites § 1-30 

2. Communal Penance and Reconciliation, The Rites § 31-35

3. General Absolution, The Rites § 36-40

b) The Sacrament of Anointing and its relation to the pastoral care of the sick, (WEEKS 13-14)The Rites pp. 755-908. private (The Rites § 1-41) and group celebration, (The Rites § 97-110)

 3. Recent Developments and Controversies (WEEKS 13-14)

Complementary Theologies of the Sacraments of Healing. Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance (1984) ; and Motu Propro: Misericordia Dei  (2000). CDF, Circular Letter ... Integrity.

 4. Confessional Practice (WEEKS 1-14)

a) The art of confessional practice: A Confessor’s Handbook, Kurt Stasiak

b) professional ethics and appropriate boundaries 

c) The deeper meaning of “guilt” and “healing”. Similarities and distinctions between: (1) the Sacrament of Penance, (2) pastoral counseling, and (3) spiritual direction.  Rahner, articles above: (a) “Meaning...”; (b) “Problems...”; (c)“Guilt...”

....x....   “”.