Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Confessional. Part 7.

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

3. Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance.

The precept of the Church imposes annual confession, saltern semel in anno. Beyond this, time and season are not specified. Theologians interpret the law in general as follows: all who are conscious of mortal sin are bound to confess within the period between January 1 and December 31, or, what practically amounts to the same, within the time comprised between the Easter of one year and the Easter of the following year. For, whoever makes his confession with a view to his Easter Communion, certainly does confess within the limits of a civil year, though the earlier or later date of Easter may make the interval elapsing between the confessions more than a year.

Since the precept of yearly confession refers only to mortal sins, the common teaching of theologians is that, whosoever has accused himself at Easter time of venial sin only, but falls into mortal sin before the year has expired, must go to confession again before the end of the year, in order to fulfill the ecclesiastical precept. (S. Alph. 1. c. n. 669; Gury, 1. c. n. 479; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1204.)

The faithful, however, adds Lehmkuhl, should be exhorted never to put off the reception of the Sacrament, or at least the eliciting of an act of perfect contrition, when they have had the misfortune of offending God grievously; for a soul in the state of mortal sin is in a most deplorable and dangerous condition. Still we are not authorized to insist on this as being an obligation imposed by the Church, since some distinguished theologians maintain the contrary. ( S. Thom. Suppl. Q. 8, art. 5 ad 4, and St. Bonaventure, Compend. Theol. Lib. VI. cp 25, Confess, necessitas, support this view saltern tacite. Cf. Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1204.)

He who one year, whether by his own fault or not, fails to make his confession, but during the next confesses all his sins, satisfies thereby the obligations with respect to both years, in the case, at least, when, during the current year, he has committed a mortal sin which he includes in his confession; for he has fulfilled the precept which enjoins reconciliation with God. If, on the contrary, the penitent has committed only venial sins in the current year, and confessed them along with the mortal sins of the previous year, and later on falls into grievous sin, he is obliged to make another confession in order to comply with the law of the Church. (Cf. Scavini, De Sacram. Pœnit. n. 36, who follows Suarez, Laymann, Lugo, Salmanticenses, etc. Cf. Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1202.)

He who has not confessed for a whole year, must, according to the more common and probable opinion, confess as soon as possible; because the Church has defined the period for fulfilling the precept, not for the purpose of limiting the obligation to a determinate date, but to incite men to perform their duty in proper time (non ad finiendam sed ad urgendam obligationem). Hence, a man would sin against the precept as often as he shirked an opportunity of making the neglected confession, thereby renewing the intention not to obey the law. ( Lacroix, De præcepto Confess, n. 2003; S. Alph. 1. c. n. 668; Scavini, I. c. n. 36, Q, 4; Gury, 1. c. n. 478, nota 3; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1206.)

He who has sinned grievously, and foresees that in the course of the year he shall be prevented from going to confession, must avail himself of the presently occurring opportunity, for in these circumstances the duty of confessing is actually pressing.