Monday, 7 November 2016

The Confessional. Part 15.

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

The following classes of sins are sufficient and free matter for confession: —

(a) The venial sins committed after Baptism. These are matter sufficient because Christ gave His priests power to forgive all sins, therefore also venial sin; and the Council of Trent teaches that it is good and wholesome to confess venial sins. Since, however, the recommendation of the Council imposes no obligation to confess them, as they may be remitted by other means, they are free matter.

(b) Sins already directly forgiven are also free matter. Since they have already been remitted by sacramental absolution they may be said to exist no longer. Nevertheless, though they have been forgiven, one may renew his sorrow for them, and on that account the absolution may be given again validly, even if no other sins be presented. This is proved by the general practice of the faithful and the unanimous teaching of theologians, who declare that contrite confession of a past sin is always materia proxima of the Sacrament; a sin which has received forgiveness remains always a sin of the past and so can be made the object of sorrow and of sacramental accusation.

Moreover the highest authority in the Church favors this view; for Benedict XI teaches : "Though it be not necessary, yet we consider it very wholesome to repeat the confession of special sins on account of the humiliation which they cause." Although, in these words, the Holy Father speaks of humiliation only as the advantage to be drawn from the confession of previously forgiven sin, it is quite evident that he does not intend to exclude the great benefits which the absolution pronounced over these sins must bring, for the confessions of which the Pope speaks are made only in order to obtain absolution.

Thus, besides this salutary humiliation, the confession of forgiven sins and the absolution again pronounced over them cause an increase of sanctifying grace and a remission of temporal punishment, augment the hatred for sin, and dispose the penitent, who has only human shortcomings or venial sins of less moment to disclose, better toward a sincere contrition. How in this case the true notion of "absolution," which is in fact identical, with the influx of sanctifying grace, is preserved, remains for the dogmatic theologian to settle; for our purpose it is enough to indicate briefly Lugo's explanation. "As," says the learned Cardinal, "after making a vow I can bind myself afresh to its observance by renewing the vow in a manner which binds me independently of the former promise, so God may again waive His right of punishing sin, by a renewal of the compact with man to pardon past sins, and this repeated renunciation of the divine right is as efficacious as the first, and is made by a new infusion of sanctifying grace."

Since venial sins and mortal sins already directly remitted are free matter, it is not necessary to accuse one's self of them with such accuracy and perfection regarding number and species as in the case of necessary matter, even if there be nothing else to confess. In this case we cannot urge the two reasons for which the accusation of mortal sins not yet confessed must include the details of species and number, for neither has God ordered it, nor is it required in order that the judicial power may be properly exercised with regard to them. Hence it suffices to accuse one's self in such a way as to enable the priest to form some sort of judgment. That this is possible if the sin is confessed at least generically (generice) is seen from other cases. For instance, a man who knows that on one occasion he sinned gravely against the sixth commandment but has forgotten the exact specific nature of the sin, or that he has sinned gravely but has quite forgotten what the sin was, is obliged, as all theologians teach, to confess that he has sinned gravely against purity, or, in the latter instance, that he had committed a mortal sin. Many extend this obligation to a sin which is only doubtfully mortal, of which the penitent cannot any longer remember the species, and which moreover is the only sin weighing upon his conscience.