The one word title of this book would seem to put before the author a considerable task in this relatively slim volume, namely to treat adequately the complex reality of sin in all of its various manifestations, inter-relations, nuances, and ramifications. Given the scope that the title reasonably suggests it would be easy to find both things that Fr. Connolly has done well, and other areas which are given too short-shrift or handled inadequately. Probably the author has tried to do too much and this may be the major failing of the book, as he approaches the topic from a variety of perspectives, historical, cultural, scriptural, and theological. The stronger parts of his treatment are the good summaries and syntheses of the major Biblical themes, Greek philosophical influences, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on the development of a theology of sin. To bring these complex strands into a serviceable overview is no small feat and represents in this reader's view the book's major contribution.
Surprisingly a major lacuna in the overall treatment is that the liturgical theologies and tensions associated with the contemporary celebrations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are virtually absent from his treatment. If there still is any currency to the classic axiom of lex orandi lex credendi indicating the intrinsic connection between the Church's liturgy and theology, then this omission would seem to be serious as there is no mention of established works such as Dallen's The Reconciling Community: The Rite of Penance (1986), Osborne's Reconciliation and Justification: The Sacraments and Its Theology (1990), nor more recent offerings such as Stasiak'sThe Confessor's Handbook (2000) or Coffey's The Sacrament of Reconciliation (2001). This oversight is all the more surprising when one considers that Connolly's first book was his doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical Gregorian University, The Irish Penitentials and Their Significance for the Sacrament of Penance Today (1995). Connolly revisits the history of the Penitentials in this work but really does not bring that legacy much into sustained discussion of some of the contemporary debates within the Church, as to how the mission of reconciliation should be concretized in her sacramental life.
The overall approach is very "Roman" and could have been augmented by casting a wider theological net that might have taken into broader consideration more non-European theologians as well as important Protestant contributions such as Jones' Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis and Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to be: A Breviary of Sin (both published by Eerdmans in1995). Connolly does tackle the admittedly difficult concept of structural evil and social sin but largely follows the synthesis developed in John Paul II's 1984 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as interpreted by Richard John Neuhaus, which unfortunately tends to gloss over the deep-seated tensions between a Roman theology of sin and differing insights which have arisen from liberation and feminist theology. "Sally [sic] McFague" and "Rosemary Radford Reuther [sic]" appear on two pages, but I suspect that neither woman would judge her work sufficiently synthesized by Connolly, nor is there any real engagement with the deeper issues of power, ideology, critique of patriarchy, clericalism and the like. The book contains an index but it is incomplete, under-representing the actual citations of authors (such as Thévenot) and altogether omitting others cited (such as Peschke). However, despite these caveats and critiques, Connolly has provided us with a serviceable introduction to the theology of sin, though it should be augmented by works such as those mentioned above.