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Donoghue, Quentin and Linda Shapiro.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1984. 303pp, cloth, $23.95, ISBN 0-7710-8131-6. CIP

Reviewed by Kenneth A. Elliott

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

Quentin Donoghue, a former journalist, and Linda Shapiro, a former teacher and editor, have set out to take on Goliath. Their book about confession in the Roman Catholic church has heretofore been a subject solely in the domain of theologians, which Donoghue and Shapiro are not.

The authors have divided the book into two major selections: general history and oral history. The former attempts to present a capsule history of confession beginning at the time of Genesis down to the present era in just seventy-four pages. The latter is a collection of personal interviews on confession. Although a bibliography is provided, the authors make no attempt to accurately identify their sources in the first section of the work. The table of contents clearly identifies all fifteen chapters and titles. For the reader unfamiliar with confession as practiced by Roman Catholics, a glossary has been provided for that purpose.

Nearly two-thirds of the work is dedicated to the appraisal of confession by 281 Catholics, lapsed and practicing. These people reveal their feelings about going to confession and about the priests who have heard their confessions. Far from being an indepth study of the sacrament, it does offer the reader an evenhanded sample of a wide spectrum of reaction. This, it seems, is the strong point of the work. Its historical view of confession is accurate but lacks nuance. The ideas expressed about women priests and general absolution are slowly gaining momentum among the grass roots of the Church. This popular work only confirms what many Catholics have already known and experienced in their own personal lives.

After reading the volume, one is impressed with two urgent cries which emerge: one is for radical reform in the practice of confession, and the other is desperate need for continuing education on the part of Catholics in their faith. This latter cry can only be alleviated when Catholics are brought up-to-date with the insights made in scripture scholarship in our century. This work should be required reading for all clergy, and should certainly have a conspicuous place in the Vatican Library.

Kenneth A. Elliott, Laval Catholic H.S., Chomedey, Que.
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