Confession and shame: the manual for confession Dizui zhenggui 涤罪正规 (Correct rules for the elimination of sins) (1627) by Giulio Aleni SJ in the Jesuit mission to China

Le Ren


This article examines how European missionaries, especially those from the Society of Jesus, dealt with the problem of how to adapt the Catholic sacrament of confession in the mission to China in the late Ming period. One focus of analysis is the sentiment of shame that confession could arouse, which could become one of the major obstacles for the faithful to receive this sacrament. Since Catholic confession not only requires an instance of self-examination but also an “outward judgment” by the confessor, the penitent might have been often inhibited by shame. Jesuit missionaries in China became aware of these difficulties, and tried to overcome them through a “cultural translation” of the doctrine of confession, as analyzed in this research. This translation involved a selection of certain European doctrinal elements, combining them with or adapting them to certain elements of the local culture, such as terms or rhetorical devices from Confucian books, to help the faithful overcome their shame. For a careful examination of these processes, this article focuses on the analysis of the confessional manual Dizui zhenggui 涤罪正规 (Correct Rules for the Elimination of Sins, 1627) by the Italian Jesuit Giulio Aleni (1582-1649), here conceived as an example of cultural translation of the confessional doctrine in the Jesuit China mission in the late Ming period.


shame, confession, cultural translation.


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