a priest, who then assigns the period of penance. It is not impossible that Basil assumes the same procedure. The private confession, however, was followed by public penance and reconciliation. And this penance for serious sins could not be repeated. Socrates traces the origin of the priest penitentiary to the aftermath of the Decian persecution in 250 and the necessity of dealing with large-scale apostasy. Sozomen notes that public penance continued in Rome at this time, and it does seem the case that some form of public penance persisted in the West after it began to disappear in the East. In the West what little evidence we possess suggests that penance was almost always voluntary, and that, since it could not be repeated, it tended to become the last rites for a dying person. This, of course, meant that penance, which was in principle public, now became private not only in confession but also in reconciliation. At the same time the Gelasian sacramentary includes directions for a ceremony of public reconciliation to be held on Maundy Thursday. Caesarius of Arles allowed a second public penance, a provision condemned in Spain at the Third Council of Toledo in 589. These details and others are quite confusing, but they point in the direction of a double conclusion. The system of public penance gradually broke down, but there were also certain private provisions that were added to try to make it work. The ground was ready for the introduction ofthe Celtic system. In Wales, Ireland and the north of Britain spiritual direction, as practised in the monasteries, spread to the laity and became a private and repeatable form of penance. By adding priestly absolution we have what became the usual form of penance in the West. At the end of the sixth century, Colum-banus established monasteries in Gaul and Lombardy, and his penitential, which reflects the Celtic system, helps explain its gradual spread throughout the West.


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