Friday, 28 October 2016

The Confessional. Part 9.

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

4. Forgiveness of Venial Sin.

"Venial sins, by which we are not shut out from the grace of God and into which we fall more frequently, though they be rightly and profitably declared in confession, as the practice of pious people demonstrates, may be omitted without guilt, and be expiated by many other methods." Such is the teaching of the Council of Trent.

Before enumerating the methods by which venial sins can be remitted we wish to observe: —

1. The most necessary condition for the remission of any sin, and therefore also of venial sin, is contrition. So long as a man is attached to sin and does not detest it, God cannot forgive it, for He is infinitely holy and just. It is not, however, absolutely necessary to specify the sins and make a formal act of sorrow for them, otherwise David's prayer Ab occultis meis munda me (Ps. xviii. 13) would be useless and the remission of forgotten sins impossible. Virtual contrition is sufficient, i.e. the sinner must be actually contrite for all his sins, and from universal motives which apply even to those sins of which he is unconscious or which he has forgotten. He must also have the intention of including in that contrition all the sins by which he has offended God. Although venial sin is more easily forgiven than mortal, yet this forgiveness is impossible without at least a virtual contrition for it. For when a man falls into venial sin he turns inordinately to creatures, not, however, as in mortal sin, by entirely abandoning God, his last end, and unreservedly giving himself up to creatures. This attachment to creatures, however, makes it necessary that he should, if not formally and explicitly, at least virtually and implicitly, turn away from them and combat this guilty affection for creatures by a contrary act of the will. A work done to please God, or a mere act of love without abhorrence of sin, does not remit that sin. As venial sin may coexist with the general habit of the love of God, so it may coexist with a particular act of that love; for a man can make an act of perfect love or even an act of perfect contrition and still retain a leaning toward some particular venial sin.

2. Since the presence of venial sin is compatible with that of sanctifying grace, and since a man can be sorry for one venial sin without being necessarily sorry for another, it follows that one venial sin may be forgiven and others left unforgiven.

3. A penitent who is burdened with both mortal and venial sins may by perfect contrition or the Sacrament of Penance be freed from his mortal sins and yet be left with his venial sins still upon him because he is not sorry for these.

4. Hence, if a man is in the state of mortal sin, his venial sins cannot be remitted without the mortal sin being at the same time forgiven; for God cannot forgive one who will not acknowledge and love Him as Lord and God; and, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, just as mortal sin is forgiven by the influx of sanctifying grace, so the remission of venial sin is dependent on a movement of grace or love, which therefore must be actually present.