Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Confessional. Part 108.

Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke


The champions of this view are far from denying that the natural law forbids the injuring of another's good name, but, they maintain, such injury is forbidden only when there are no reasonable grounds for inflicting it; it must be proved that the precept of making a complete confession is a sufficient reason, since such defamation to a confessor is certainly not objectively grave. That this ground is a reasonable one is evident from many weighty considerations: —

1. Good reasons have been already offered in the difficulties which are presented when perfect liberty is not allowed in confessing or asking the circumstances and occasions of sins.

2. Further examples may be easily imagined in which the defamation of another resulting from the penitent's confession is not to be considered; for no one would dream, for example, of releasing a son from the obligation of making a perfect confession because it might be concluded from the gravity and nature of his sins that his parents had brought him up very badly; nor would a religious be excused for fear his confessor should entertain the suspicion that his superiors were neglecting their duty towards him. For such defamation may well be considered as of little moment, since the confessor is bound to the most stringent silence and can make absolutely no use of what he hears in confession.

3. Moreover, the precept of making a complete confession is so severe that the penitent may never transgress it in order to safeguard his own good name, and is obliged to overcome the fear of losing it. But, according to the universal teaching, a man is justified in self-defence to do a lawful act even if thereby he injure the character of his neighbour if there is no other way of shielding his own or regaining it when lost; hence it must be allowable to injure the reputation of another if the end in view is to make a perfect confession; or the same cause (the integrity of the confession) which binds me to injure my own good name gives me the right of disregarding any infamy that may accrue to others in discharging this duty.

4. Finally, since it was in early days the practice of confessing to one's parish priest, and he was generally acquainted with all his subjects, the precept of making a complete confession would have had no meaning if the other opinion were tenable in respect to sins which were difficult to confess. Is it possible that Christ should give a command which in practice turned out so nugatory?

From what has been already said on this subject it follows that the confessor, if he thinks fit, is quite at liberty to put questions on the circumstances or occasions of sin; moreover, that penitents ought not to be instructed to conceal circumstances which may injure the reputation of the accomplice with the confessor; they ought rather to be encouraged to make a complete confession to their regular confessor if they are unable to find another.

If, however, some one acting upon the undoubted authority of theologians who teach the other view wishes to make his confession accordingly, he cannot be blamed if he has formed a dictamen conscientiae, and he cannot be forced to renounce his opinion.

Again, if a confessor remarks that a penitent is familiar with his theology and makes his accusation in accordance with the other opinion, and if he is satisfied that said penitent is capable of forming a judgment about his obligations, he may more easily omit certain questions and leave the penitent free to follow his own opinion.

What has been said with respect to the accomplice's reputation applies equally to those who have been in any way an occasion of sin to the penitent. There are cases in which the penitent cannot give the specific character of his sin without at the same time disclosing the sin of another which has been the object or occasion of his own sin. A man, for instance, discovers his unmarried sister to be in confinement and maltreats her so that abortus follows; he cannot explain the nature of his crime fully in the confessional without revealing his sister's sin and so destroying her reputation in the mind of the priest. Although some even of those who teach that the integrity of the confession may take precedence of the accomplice's character are unwilling to grant it in this particular case, yet there is at least a probability that the obligation of integrity prevails in any case. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Confessional. Part 107.

Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke


The other opinion, that it is not allowed to reveal the accomplice, and in consequence that one is not bound to mention a mortal sin which cannot be confessed without revealing the accomplice, is taught, among others, by Canus, Petrus Soto, Ledesma, Navarrus, Valentia, Banez, etc. Busenbaum and Mazzotta deemed the opinion probable. These theologians urge that it is a violation of the natural law to injure the good name of another, and hence that the obligation of not inflicting such injury is potions juris than the duty of making a complete confession, since this is founded on a positive law.

It need not be imagined, however, that this opinion, is the benignior, because it releases from the duty of making a perfect confession; considered closely the case takes on quite another aspect, for:—

1. It requires the penitent to seek out another confessor to whom the accomplice is unknown even when this involves great trouble to the penitent, for as all will concede, the integrity of the confession must be preserved so far as it is possible, and only the damage and hardship to the penitent which makes the confession morally impossible excuse from making a complete confession. Hence this incommodum must be grave and much greater than that which in the other view allows the defamation of the accomplice.

2. If, however, a man cannot confess to another confessor and is resolved to conceal the sin or its circumstances in order to save his neighbour's reputation, there arises a greater difficulty, the obligation of confessing the same sin again; for in order to save his neighbour's good name a man may only conceal that circumstance which affects the reputation of his neighbour, and this is the unanimous teaching of all theologians; for example, if a man has committed incest, and has no other means of confessing it, he must mention in his first confession that he has fallen into a sin of impurity, passing over in silence the circumstances which make it incest. He must, however, when opportunity is presented of going to another confessor, mention the circumstance of the incest, and this cannot be done without repeating his former accusation of having fallen into a sin against purity.

3. It is also to be observed that if defamation of one's neighbour excuses from a complete confession, and if in consequence a particular sin may not be revealed (for such is the foundation of this opinion), the confessor is not allowed to put questions which may cause an indirect revelation of the accomplice, especially to ill-instructed penitents who would have no idea of how to parry the questions. Now if these questions are to be avoided by the confessor, he may not inquire into the occasions of sin, or he must leave to the judgment and discretion of the penitent how far the latter is bound to answer the questions put to him. The consequences, as any one may see, implicate the direction of penitents in great difficulties, and on that account no one can admit either of these methods of action.

Now the confessor, in order to be faithful to his important duty of withdrawing his penitents from the occasions of sin, and in order not to be deceived by a penitent, who, left to his own judgment, will not realise the danger of the occasions, must question his penitent with perfect liberty and undeterred by the fear of obtaining any knowledge of the accomplice in sin, if it is probable though not certain that such defamation of the accomplice is not a reason dispensing from the integrity of the confession. This opinion is certainly probable.