Monday, 24 July 2017

The Confessional. Part 103.

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


3. Physical inability may also arise from the defectus loquelae of the dumb who cannot make a complete confession either by writing or by signs. For them it is sufficient if they confess one or other sin by signs. If the defect be only a stutter, the penitent must confess as best he can.

4. The defectus auditus of the deaf who cannot express themselves nor bear the questions which the confessor must put in order that the confession may be complete, can be reckoned as a physical inability. They are obliged to make a perfect confession ex sua -parte, i.e. to mention all that so far as they know is required for a perfect confession, and thus they may not keep back anything. Those who are merely hard of hearing are not on the same footing with the deaf; their confession should be made in a place where the voice may be raised without others overhearing what is said. If, however, the confessor should find out only in the course of the confession that the penitent is hard of hearing, and he cannot take him to a more retired place without fear of causing the bystanders to suspect that some grave sin has been confessed and so violating the seal, he may resign himself to permitting an imperfect confession and may refrain from putting questions. With women the confessor must be particularly on his guard not to give grounds for evil interpretation, since many people are quick to suspect wrong. Thus it would be imprudent for him to admit women penitents to confession at times when the church is less frequented; since absolute security for the seal of confession would even then not be attainable, and suspicion would in all likelihood be easily aroused.

If the confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of deaf people in the church and he has doubts as to the integrity of the accusation, he must be more solicitous for the seal than for the integrity of the confession; hence he must refrain from questions as to the number or circumstances of the sins and must give a very slight and ordinary penance, so that those who overhear his words may not be led to conclude that the penitent has been confessing mortal sins.

5. Finally, ignorance of the language constitutes a physical impossibility for those unable to find a confessor understanding them; for such people it is sufficient if they manifest their contrition and their sins as far as they can by signs. The confessor, in default of any other priest knowing the language, must admit them to confession and aliquoties absolve them even if he can barely make out the most general accusation.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Confessional. Part 102.

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


2. There is, moreover, physical inability when there is imminent danger of death (a) on account of the penitent's condition being such that if he should try to make a complete confession he may die before receiving absolution; (b) in a common danger, such as shipwreck, before a battle, during a violent epidemic or a swift conflagration. If in such a case there is no time to hear the confession of each individual, it is enough for all to make a general confession of their sins in order to receive absolution, and the priest may give it, using for all the one formula: Ego vos absolvo. . . . Finally, (c) when the confessor himself is near death and no other priest is at hand.

The following instructions may be observed by confessors in actual practice: —

In case of extreme necessity the accusation of some specific sin must be made so far as it is possible, but in the case of a dying man who is still conscious the confessor should be more solicitous about exciting contrition than about securing a complete confession; in the case, however, of a penitent deprived of consciousness, especially if he gave no previous sign of repentance, the confessor may give absolution conditionally and then devote his care to the administration of Extreme Unction, which in such a case is more certainly valid and efficacious than the absolution itself; meanwhile, however, there would be no reason for not giving the absolution beforehand.

If only one confession has to be heard and there is imminent danger, say, from an attack by an enemy, the confessor should get the penitent to mention some one sin, to make an act of contrition, and he should then absolve him, when under the circumstances the absolution is a matter of necessity. If there are several who wish to make their peace with God, as before a battle or in a shipwreck, the following points are to be observed: —

If the danger is very pressing, the confessor must exhort all to make acts of contrition and purpose of amendment, or, still better, himself make along with them acts of contrition and amendment, and get them to give some sign of their sorrow and their self-accusation, as by raising their hands or striking their breasts; then he may give them absolution in a body.

If there is time enough for each one to approach the confessor, though not for making a complete confession, they should be admitted singly in order the better to secure the salvation of each one, in such numbers as the time will permit; and in order that as many as possible, if not all, may be heard, the accusation may be as short as possible; thus contrition will be more genuine. Of course the penitents will be told that in the event of their lives being spared they must make up what was wanting to the integrity of the confession.