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.

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Confessional. Part 113.

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


With respect to repeating confessions the following principles are accepted: —

I. If a confession is invalid, the sins mentioned in it must be repeated; otherwise, the ensuing confession is invalid, for those sins were never remitted by the power of the keys, and in consequence they must be again submitted to the tribunal.

II. The duty of repeating a confession urges as soon as there is a moral certainty that said confession was null; if, however, the confession has certainly been made and there is doubt only as to its validity, the presumption is in favour of its validity. It is, however, advisable to repeat a doubtfully valid confession.

There is no difficulty where the penitent has wilfully concealed or never intended to give up a mortal sin or never avoided a voluntary occasion of sin, and in other such cases, for the confession was unquestionably invalid and sacrilegious. It is more difficult, however, to determine at times on the validity of a confession when the penitent has frequently relapsed without being voluntarily and continually in the occasion of sin. If a penitent shortly after confession falls frequently into sin on the first occasion that offers, without making any resistance, the presumption is that the confession was deficient in the required contrition and purpose of amendment, and that in consequence it was invalid. If, however, after confession he usually makes some effort, the nullity of the confession is not certain, and the confessor may not force him to repeat the confession, but he will do well to counsel him to do so when his dispositions improve and he is earnest in his contrition and in his efforts to make a permanent reform.

III. Invalid confessions must be repeated in their entirety when new confession is made to another priest who has no knowledge of the sins contained in the preceding invalid confessions, for this knowledge is necessary in order to pronounce judgement; hence it is not enough for a penitent to accuse himself merely of having made one or more invalid confessions.

IV. If the confession is made to a priest who has heard the invalid confessions, and in consequence has already passed sentence on the individual sins and has at least a knowledge in confuso of the penitent's state, it is sufficient to summarise the accusation of previously confessed sins in the form, "I accuse myself of the sins already mentioned in . . . confession' mentioning if the previous confessions were invalid through want of integrity, and supplying this want by a distinct and separate accusation of the sin or sins omitted. The previous confessions were sacramental, since they were made with a view to obtain absolution, though deprived of their sacramental efficacy through the fault of the penitent; hence a general repetition of them in connection with the knowledge which the confessor had of the individual sins may be considered as sufficient to form a judgement. If a penitent wishes to make a general confession, the distinction between the usual confessor and any other is not of so great moment, except where the confessor or the penitent is intent upon the minimum necessarium; the usual confessor of the penitent may, however, be satisfied with less care, since he knows already the previous sins of his penitent. In this case, however, he must have notitiam saltem confusam status paenitentis; for this it is not necessary that he should be able to recall the number and circumstances of the sins in question: a remembrance of the different species and their number in general suffices.

The confessor will have acquired this notitia confusa from previous confessions and from the questions which he puts to the penitent. Such knowledge is sufficient in so far as it is connected with a knowledge of previous sins, and that will be the case where the general confession is made to the same priest.

If, however, the priest can only vaguely call to mind his past treatment of the penitent, he should put some questions to him in order to form an idea of the state of his conscience; but he may absolve without this precaution, if from the penances which he has been in the habit of giving to his penitent he can form a judgement as to the state of his soul.

The same plan may be adopted in the case in which a man after making his confession is sent away without absolution, and afterwards returns to receive it, the confessor in the meantime retaining no recollection of the sins. Undoubtedly in such a case a notitia confusa is sufficient, and on the strength of it absolution may be given. Nay, more: if the penitent's absolution had been delayed for some reason not connected with want of necessary dispositions, the confessor might be satisfied with the remembrance that the penitent was in right dispositions for absolution and had received a penance in proportion to the sin. Of course it is always understood that no fresh mortal sin has been committed in the interval between the confessions; otherwise it must be confessed and a new act of sorrow and resolution of amendment must be made.