Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Confessional. Part 24.

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

Hence theologians teach that absolution given sub conditione is valid if the condition be fulfilled; the condition, however, must be de præsenti or de præterito; absolution given under a conditio de juturo would be invalid, for in a conditio de futuro the minister of the Sacrament has no intention of conferring the Sacrament hic et nunc; his intention would rather be to confer the Sacrament when the condition will have been fulfilled; by that time, however, the matter is no longer present which for the validity of the Sacrament must be joined to the form. On the other hand, the Sacrament may be validly given under a condition de præsenti or de præterito, because the intention is absolute if the condition is fulfilled; if not fulfilled, the intention of administering the Sacrament is wanting, so that the Sacrament is not exposed to irreverence. In this case the conditional intention passes into an unconditional one, i.e. becomes absolute. But the conditional intention is efficacious for validity only if the condition is completed or satisfied at the moment when the matter and form of the Sacrament are brought together. The absolution would also be valid if it were given with the condition: "if you are alive, if you are baptized, if you are present, if you really intend to make restitution"; while an absolution would be invalid if given under conditions such as, "if you are predestined, if it be in the mind of God that you will make restitution this year," since such knowledge is withheld from men. Finally, an absolution given with the condition, "if you are going to improve," would also be invalid.

It is also allowed to give absolution sub conditions when there is just reason for so doing; and in case of necessity the priest is bound under mortal sin to give conditional absolution.

The view of some theologians is to be condemned who hold that one may impart conditional absolution for any insignificant reason or without urgent need, or in any doubt of the requisite dispositions even in a penitent burdened with mortal sin. This is a doctrine which bears too openly the stamp of laxity, and it is pernicious to souls. What a number of sacrileges would follow from such a practice! The confessor would be no longer a faithful and prudent minister of the Sacrament, he would be casting pearls before swine, and by his too easy compliance in giving absolution he would imperil the souls of his penitents.

On the other hand, we cannot admit- the teaching of those theologians 100 who hold that absolution sub conditione is permitted only in extreme necessity or in great danger.

A sufficient reason for imparting absolution under condition would be in the case where unconditional absolution would expose the Sacrament to danger of nullity on account of a reasonable doubt of the existence of some one or other of the requisites for the validity of the Sacrament, and where at the same time by putting off the absolution the penitent would be exposed to danger of real spiritual harm.

From what has been said we gather that in the following cases absolution may be given sub conditione: —

1. If the priest doubt whether he has absolved a penitent who has confessed a mortal sin.

2. In doubt whether the penitent in question is morally present.

3. In doubt whether the penitent is alive or already dead.

4. If the priest doubt (dubio facti) whether he has jurisdiction, and the confession must be made; in such a case the confessor must tell the penitent that he has given absolution only sub conditione, so that if proof be forthcoming later on that jurisdiction was wanting, the penitent will know that he has not been absolved and must accuse himself again of the mortal sins mentioned in that confession. If the doubt turn on the question of law (dubium juris), i.e. on a point where theologians do not agree whether absolution can be given in such a case, the absolution may be pronounced without any condition.

5. In doubt whether the matter be sufficient: this may happen (a) when an adult is baptized sub conditione and is to be absolved at the same time; and (b) when a penitent declares only some imperfections, and there is doubt whether they are really venial sins, and when the same penitent can offer no certain sins of his past life. To such a penitent absolution may, according to a probable view, be given at intervals, so that he may not be deprived for long of the benefits of the Sacrament of Penance; absolution in such cases ought not to be given more than once a month. For the same reason absolution can be given sub conditione when the penitent, unable to present certain matter from his past life, has only sins of less moment to confess and there is doubt as to the existence of sorrow for such sins. Moreover, if the penitent offer no certain matter, the confessor is not bound to inquire for it in order to give absolution, and after making vain inquiry he is not obliged to give absolution sub conditione, since the penitent in such case has no sure claim to it.

If, however, any doubt exists as to the presence of necessary matter, or whether a sin confessed along with the imperfections be mortal or not, for which, however, the penitent is certainly contrite, then absolution under condition must be given.