Monday, 29 May 2017

The Confessional. Part 98.

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

II. The obligation of confessing these forgotten sins does not urge ratione sui "as soon as possible" (quam primum), not even before receiving holy communion.

Of course many distinguished theologians teach that whoever remembers a grave sin, even though not committed since the last confession but forgotten, must confess that sin and receive absolution before going to communion. The only reason urged is that he is conscious of this sin; and, according to the Council of Trent, no one who is conscious of grave sin may receive communion before having confessed where there is an opportunity of making the confession. The defenders of this view maintain that the Tridentine decree is so expounded and understood by the whole Church; they make an exception, however, for the case where confession cannot be made without risk of scandal or infamy, as, for example, when a priest is already celebrating Mass or a layman has approached the communion-rail and cannot retire without exciting remark.

It is permissible, however, with St. Alphonsus and other theologians (in less number) to follow the other "very probable opinion" which denies the obligation of confessing; for in reality confession has preceded communion and the penitent has confessed all the sins of which he was conscious, so that neither the Council of Trent nor the divine law seems to demand more; moreover, the forgotten sin has been remitted indirectly, the penitent is in the state of grace, not merely by an act of contrition but in virtue of the valid confession. The practice of the faithful which is appealed to for the opposite side is not to be regarded as of binding force, but rather a pious and praiseworthy custom.

Though one may follow tuta conscientia the opinion which denies the obligation, it is good to recommend to the faithful to confess before communion the sins which have been forgotten, unless the extremely sensitive conscience of the penitent should require another course to be adopted; the practice should not, however, be imposed as binding.

The view held by some, though a very few, modern theologians, that it is quite sufficient to mention these sins without receiving absolution, is not at all in harmony with the divine institution of the Sacrament, for confession is not made with the view of acquainting the priest with the sins committed, but in order that they may be remitted by his judicial sentence. Hence a serious argument for the necessity of confession can be drawn only from the supposition that absolution is necessary. Accordingly a penitent who confesses a new mortal sin immediately after absolution must be absolved again. Of course this absolution may be put off to the next confession if the penitent comes again to the same confessor to whom he told the sin. Such delay, however, would hardly be recommended, since it would involve the penitent in the following dilemma: Either he is not free to choose his confessor on the next occasion on which he approaches the Sacrament, or if he goes to some other priest he must confess the same sin again.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Confessional. Part 97.

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

26. Sins Omitted through Forgetfulness or other Causes not Blameworthy.

In order that the principles to be applied here may be understood, it must first be observed that all grievous sins committed after Baptism must be confessed; hence what has been said of the material and formal integrity of confession as well as upon the distinction between sins directly and indirectly remitted must be carefully borne in mind.

Since the formal or subjective integrity of confession consists in this, that all mortal sins are mentioned which the penitent can recall after a diligent examination of conscience, and of which the enumeration is possible hic et nunc, it does not suffer by inculpable forgetfulness on the part of the penitent; and the same holds true of all other legitimate reasons which at any time excuse the penitent from objective integrity.

Sins which are required for objective though not for subjective integrity are considered as included in the confession and are really remitted by the absolution, not directly, however, but only indirectly.

Hence are derived the following principles: —

I. Mortal sins omitted without fault are and remain materia necessaria of confession, or the objective duty of confessing them remains binding as before.

These sins are, of course, really forgiven, but, as we have already observed, only indirectly or per concomitantiam through their connection with the other mortal sins which have been confessed and directly remitted. In the Sacrament of Penance the remission of sins is effected by the absolution; but sins which have not been mentioned do not directly fall under the absolution since, properly speaking, they are unaffected by the sentence pronounced by a judge who knew nothing about them. Nevertheless the absolution pronounced rite et valide over certain sins is effectual because it is sacramental and because in God's providence no remission of sin takes place without an influx of sanctifying grace into the soul which presents no obex. Now sanctifying grace removes the whole reatus culpæ mortalis and restores a man to perfect friendship with God and to his claim in the heavenly kingdom. Thus valid absolution produces sanctifying grace in the soul and consequently the remission of all mortal sins staining the soul, even those inculpably forgotten.

There remains now the precept of Our Lord to submit all mortal sins to the power of the keys in the Sacrament of Penance; these forgotten sins have not been confessed as yet, nor has the priest pronounced any direct sentence upon them. Though these sins have been remitted indirectly, there still remains the obligation ex jure divino of confessing them directly to the judge in the tribunal of penance when they occur to the mind again, not because these sins have been revived, but because the neglect of God's command in the matter would involve a new sin. This holds of all mortal sins inculpably omitted, of their species, of all circumstances changing the species, as well as of mortal sins, confessed indeed, but to a priest without jurisdiction who either bona fide or for reasonable motives gave direct absolution of the sins for which he had faculties, thereby remitting the others indirectly. Hence Alexander VII condemned the proposition: "Sins which have been omitted in confession either from an imminent danger to life or for any other motive need not be mentioned in the following confession." (Prop. XI. damn.) It is different, however, in the case of reservation or censure for a sin remitted indirectly if confession be made to a priest equipped with the necessary faculties; for in general absolution is given from reservation and censure, and the penitent is probably freed from the reservation or censure attached to the sin forgotten; so that if the sin occur again to his mind, he may be directly absolved by any confessor, even a confessarius simplex.