Here is a question that I do not have an answer to, but that I hope some of you who are deeply involved in pastoral ministry might.
I was asked this question by a former student who is currently ministering in the context of a V.A. hospital. Confronted with military service-members who had committed, allowed, or witnessed grave moral wrongs in the context of war, the student wondered whether penance imposed after confession might act as a limit to the torment people put themselves through when returning from war. Have any Catholic priests, ministers, or theologians written about this? My former student is Protestant but thinks the practice of penance might have something to offer the people he is called to minister to. Here is how he himself put his question to me in a nutshell: “In essence, I am asking whether anyone has discussed penance as a means to prevent someone from beating themselves up while still fully acknowledging the guilt/sin of actions/inactions in war?”