Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Confessional. Part 115.

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


1. General confession is necessary for all who have made in-valid confessions. St. Alphonsus remarks on this subject that it is a frequent experience in missions that bad confessions have to be set right; hence he advises missioners that since the good of missions consists mainly in setting right bad confessions,they should in all their discourses be urgent in explaining the heinousness of sacrilege and how many souls are lost by concealing mortal sins in confession. Experience teaches that manypeople are overcome by false shame so as to conceal their sinseven in the confessions which they make to the fathers givingthe mission. If at so solemn a time as a mission such peoplefail to set right their bad confessions, what hope is there of theirsalvation ? If in the confession which they make to the missionerthey cannot overcome their shame, how will they do it whenthey confess to the local priest? There is indeed good reason for ever and again insisting on the general confession. Hence it is very desirable that the local priests at the time of a mission should refrain from hearing confessions, and surrender their confessionals to the fathers who give the mission (or to some strange priests called in for the special work of hearing the confessions), for some of the faithful, if they see their usual confessor in attendance, may be deterred from going to a strange priest and continue to make sacrilegious confessions. It not unfrequently happens that people whom we would never suspect have most need of freedom in this respect. It frequently happens that a confessor thinks a general con-fession necessary when the penitent is not at all convinced of its necessity. Whether the penitent is to be advised in such a case to make a general confession will be determined by the rules which are given as- to the duty of instructing the penitent 01leaving him to himself (§ 55); for if the penitent suspects nothing of the nullity of his previous confessions, the confession which he now makes in good faith and proper dispositions is valid, and by virtue of it the sins mentioned in former invalid confessions are indirectly remitted and need only be repeated when the conscience awakes to the fact. Moreover, a prudent confessor, if he fails to persuade a penitent of the necessity of a general confession, may succeed by a few questions in making the confession practically a general one. Indeed, unless the penitent takes it in bad part the priest may by a little adroitness elicit a general confession; then he must, before giving absolution, let the penitent know that he has made a general confession. The case may also occur where the penitent has made one or more sacrilegious confessions and, quite forgetful of this circumstance, has begun to make valid confessions without ever setting right the bad ones; this not unfrequently happens to children. In this case the general confession need only extend over the sacrilegious confessions.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Confessional. Part 114.

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

On the same principles we may answer the question already discussed as to whether a man who recounts his sins (mere historice) to a priest (qua amico) — to obtain advice, for instance — is bound to retail them explicitly if in consequence of the priest's advice he desires to receive absolution; or the question might be put thus: What knowledge or recollection of the sins must the priest have so that on the strength of a perfunctory accusation couched in general terms he may give absolution? Many theologians, among them Lacroix and St. Alphonsus, require a distincta memoria of all the sins, because the preceding confession was not made to the priest as a judge in the Sacrament, and so cannot be a sacramental confession; but a sacramental confession is made only when the confessor has a distincta memoria of the sins narrated at the time when the summary of the accusation is made; if the priest remembers them only in confuso or ex parte, the penitent must once more make a distinct accusation of his sins in ordine ad absolidionem. The opposite view is taught by Lugo, who maintains that it is communis, for almost all theologians teach that the memoria confusa is sufficient whatever may have caused the defect in the previous confession. He grants that the mere narration of the sins is in no way sacramental, that no judicial accusation has been made, that it is merely a friendly confidence; this previous, though not sacramental, narration which still remains memoria non omnino distincta, may become in a certain manner sacramental by the ensuing (summarized) accusation, sufficient for the purposes of the Sacrament; not because the previous narration was sacramental in itself, for it was not so, but in so far as the later accusation, joined with the recollection which the confessor has of the sins previously mentioned, supplies the priest with the knowledge necessary for the Sacrament. Thus Lugo combats successfully the objections and reasons of his opponents.

Still in Lugo's proof and that of his supporters the difficulty must not be overlooked that the narration has no sort of relation to the Sacrament of Penance, either in the mind of the narrator or that of the priest, and that in consequence the reasons brought forward in the case above mentioned are not quite convincing. Aertnys consents to Lugo's decision — that is, he considers the repetition of the accusation as unnecessary only when the confessor at the time when the summary of the sins is made has a distincta raemoria eorum, since the general accusation of the penitent along with the notitia distincta of th3 confessor is equivalent to a distincta confessio. And Lehmkuhl regards Lugo's view as quite probable only when the priest is entertaining hopes as he listens to the narration of getting the man to make a sacramental confession, though such a thought may be very far from the man's mind at the time. The accusation of the penitent may not be intentionally sacramental, while the attention of the priest has already begun to assume a judicial and sacramental form and is inchoative, at least, a distinctly judicial investigation such as would seem sufficient when the penitent on his part gives his consent to carry out the distinct judicial act. If, however, the penitent in the course of his narration never hinted at the idea of a sacramental accusation and the priest never adverted to it, the teaching of St. Alphonsus would seem to prevail, for in such a case a distincta notitia judicialis never existed, unless a distincta memoria were retained by the priest; but the sacramental sentence which has to be pronounced over every mortal sin is based solely on a judicial knowledge of them.

The repetition of former confessions, whether of all the confessions of a lifetime or of those last made, is called a general confession. It is necessary for many penitents, useful to others; to a few only it may be said to be harmful.