Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke
Part II. THE RECIPIENT OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE, OR THE ACTS OF THE PENITENT
9. Who can Receive the Sacrament of Penance.
Every man who has fallen into formal sin after Baptism is capable of receiving the Sacrament of Penance. Whoever, therefore, has not yet been baptized, or, having been baptized, has committed no sin since Baptism, is incapable of sacramental absolution. All children who have not attained to the use of reason are unable to receive this Sacrament; to these we may add such adults as cannot make that use of their reason which is necessary for disposing them to receive this Sacrament.
In order that a baptized person may make a valid and fruitful use of this Sacrament, he must elicit those acts which we have mentioned before; he must be genuinely sorry for his sins, be ready to do penance, and submit his sins to the power of the keys vested in the Church. These acts form not only the essential and necessary dispositions for receiving the Sacrament, but — and this is a peculiar feature of the Sacrament of Penance — they are also the materia proxima. The following sections will be devoted to the consideration of these acts in their double aspect.
CHAPTER I. CONTRITION
10. Extent and Efficacy of Contrition.
The most prominent position among the acts of the penitent belongs to contrition.
According to the teaching of the Council of Trent contrition is a hearty sorrow and detestation for past sin together with a firm resolution to sin no more.
We must investigate more closely the essence of this contrition. Contrition is a hearty sorrow; this sorrow is interior; hence the prophet speaks of a rending of the heart (scindite corda vestra! — Joel ii. 13), and so contrition is called contritio cordis, a grinding of the heart. A merely external show of sorrow, the mere recital of an act of contrition, is therefore not a true sorrow. Moreover, since sorrow is a moral act and all moral acts proceed from the will, sorrow must have its roots in the will.
Many very different things may cause us great grief; for instance, the death of a dear relation, the loss of earthly goods, the failure of our plans and undertakings, the suffering of wrongs and affronts, experience of ingratitude and unkindness, a thoughtless word which one has uttered, a mere breach of etiquette that one has committed. Contrition, however, is grief of the soul for past sin.
The sins of others may cause us real and deep feelings of pain. What fervent Christian is unconcerned at the many sins which are daily committed and the many affronts offered to God ? We are pained by them, but.we cannot be contrite for them. We can have contrition only for the sins which we have ourselves committed — de peccato commisso, as the Council of Trent expresses it.