Friday, 4 November 2016

The Confessional. Part 13.

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

5. The Constituent Parts of the Sacrament of Penance in General

As in the other Sacraments a distinction is made between the matter and the form, so too in the Sacrament of Penance; but with a certain difference, which appears from the fact that the Council of Trent speaks of the matter of this Sacrament as a quasi-materia. The Catechismus Romanus states this more fully when it says: This Sacrament is distinguished from the other Sacraments especially in this, that the matter of the other Sacraments is a substance produced by nature or art, while in the Sacrament of Penance it is the acts of the penitent, especially the contrition, confession, and satisfaction; yet it is not because these acts are not to be considered as truly matter of the Sacrament that the Holy Council calls them quasi-materia ("as it were the matter"), but because they are not materially or externally applied, like water in Baptism and chrism in Confirmation. These three acts of the penitent are styled by the Council of Trent the parts (partes) of the Sacrament of Penance "in so far as they are required by God's ordinance in the penitent for the completeness of the Sacrament and for the entire and perfect remission of sin." To these must be added the absolution of the priest, which constitutes the form. Hence we have to consider as parts of the Sacrament: (1) contrition, (2) confession, (3) satisfaction, and (4) absolution.

The three acts of the penitent have not all, however, the same importance. The satisfaction belongs to the Sacrament only in so far as its integrity and its complete efficacy are concerned; hence it is not an essential, but only an integral part of the Sacrament. It is true that the power of imposing on the penitent a suitable satisfaction belongs essentially to the administration of this Sacrament; hence also the penitent is obliged to accept this penance and to declare himself willing to perform it. The actual performance of the penance, however, is not necessary in order that the Sacrament should produce its effect.

The confession or self-accusation of the penitent in presence of the priest is the principal matter of this Sacrament, for this is necessary in se and per se, in order that the confessor may form a judgment and administer the Sacrament.

Contrition is a necessary constituent of the Sacrament but merely in se not per se ipsum, and only as contained in the accusation, which is an outward manifestation of the contrition;
for contrition is not per se subject to the senses, but must be outwardly shown in some way in order to become manifest. "The contrite accusation, therefore, realizes all the conditions of the matter in the Sacraments."

Theologians draw a further distinction in this Sacrament between the proximate and the remote matter (materia proxima el remota). Proximo, materia consists of the acts which the penitent has to perform, and remota materia of the sins committed after Baptism which the penitent has repented of and confessed and for which he must do satisfaction.

Theologians do not agree as to whether the acts of the penitent are in truth matter belonging to the inner constitution of the Sacrament — in the same way, for instance, as the washing with water is an intimate element of Baptism — or whether they belong to the Sacrament only in a wider sense; in other words, whether the acts of the penitent are materia ex qua or only materia circa quam of the Sacrament. The Scotists place the whole essence of the Sacrament in the absolution, and teach that the acts of the penitent are only materia circa quam and conditio sine qua non, in such a manner, however, that without these the absolution cannot be sacramental; hence they have no hesitation in considering these acts essential. The Thomists, and by far the greater number of theologians, consider the acts of the penitent as materia ex qua, because they do in fact belong essentially to the constitution of the external act which produces the interior grace. This doctrine unquestionably carries the day, " unless," as Lehmkuhl says, " one chooses to call the acts of the penitent materia ex qua, not as having their origin in the penitent, but as matter presented judicially to the confessor, a question about which I do not wish to argue, for that acts of the penitent — sorrow and accusation — are necessary, and should be elicited, is beyond all doubt." Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 256. Cf. Ballerini, Op. Theol. Mor, 1. c. cp. 1, n. 14.