Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Confessional. Part 8.

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 prescribes, moreover, that the faithful confess their sins sincerely (fideliter). By a bad confession we cannot discharge our duty. This was distinctly confirmed by Alexander VII, condemning a proposition to the contrary. (Prop. 14.)

A further provision of the Lateran decree, to confess proprio sacerdoti, which formerly obliged the faithful to make their annual confession to their own parish priest, bishop, vicar-general, or the Pope, has long been abrogated by a recognized universal contrary practice. Confession may, therefore, be made to any priest duly authorized by the bishop. 1

The excommunication for the violation of the Church's precept of annual confession, as of Paschal Communion, is not a pæna latæ, but a pæna ferendæ sententiæ.

The ardent wish of the Church is that her children should confess frequently during the year. This is apparent from the wording of the law. Frequent confession is of the greatest usefulness to all without exception, to the sinner as well as the just. It destroys the evil inclinations born by sin and averts its terrible consequences.

1. Although, absolutely considered, a single confession made worthily and with due preparation is able to arrest us in the downward career of vice, to extinguish the long-nourished flame of passion, to correct our evil inclinations and habits, to confirm us in grace, and to insure us against relapse; yet this is not the ordinary course of things. When we are cleansed from our sins by the Sacrament, we have yet to face a long struggle with the remains of sin; for the wounds inflicted by sin, though closed by the grace of absolution, leave us in a weakened condition, and may easily reopen. To effect a perfect cure of the soul, and to purify its inclinations and habits, there exists no more efficacious means than frequent confession. It leads us to greater watchfulness over ourselves, constitutes an act of humility, forces us to renew our good resolutions; it equips us with many special graces, intended to assist us in our spiritual warfare, and to enable us to persevere in the paths of virtue in spite of the manifold difficulties which we encounter.

2. Frequent confession is also the most powerful means to counteract the disastrous consequences of sin. The most fatal of these are: blindness of the soul, hardening of the heart and final impenitence. As often as we go to confession, the great salutary truths of our religion are recalled to our mind. We reflect on God and our last end, on Jesus Christ and His love and mercy, on the wickedness and the dreadful punishments of sin, on our august duties, and on God's holy law. Frequent confession is an antidote against the hardening of the heart, since it arouses in us a profound hatred of sin, love for God, fear of His wrath, and the desire of accomplishing His will. Finally, as at every confession we again banish sin from our hearts, frequent confession is the best preparation for a penitent life and a happy death.

Also the just derives great benefits from frequent confession; he is more and more cleansed from the lesser faults, committed daily; the grace and love o f God are increased in his heart, and special helps to overcome his failings and weakness are granted to him. The oftener the just man approaches this holy Sacrament, the more fully does he partake of its peculiar graces." (Pauli Segneri, S. J., Instructio Pœnitent. cp. XV: Fructus percepti ex frequenti confessione.)

By divine and ecclesiastical precept we are bound only to confess mortal sins; there is no obligation to confess venial sins; these may be forgiven without receiving the Sacrament of Penance.

Cf. Bened. XIV. De Syn. dioec. 1. II. cp. 14, 1-5. Hence a parish priest, who would make his parishioners confess to him, is guilty of sin, since such indiscreet zeal, or unworthy jealousy, might give occasion to sacrilegious confessions. Compare what St. Thomas (1. c. art. 4 et 5) wrote even before it was allowed to confess indifferently to any priest having faculties; that a priest would sin, if he were not ready to give leave to any individual to make his confession to another priest. It was distinctly understood before that time that Cf. Müller, Theol. Mor. Lib. III. Tit. II. § 106.t one might confess to any priest who had been authorized by the proprius sacerdos to hear the confession. Cf. Müller, 1. c. Sect. 118, n. 6-4; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1205.