Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Confessional. Part 29.

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

11. The Essential Features of Perfect Contrition.

According to the unanimous teaching of theologians, which is based on the Council of Trent, perfect contrition proceeds from perfect love. The Council declares that contrition founded on caritas is perfect; that, in consequence, its perfection depends on caritas; hence in order to acquire a complete grasp of the nature of perfect contrition we must investigate the nature of love, its degrees and kinds.

The love of God, of which only there is question here, has for its object God alone, and the motive of this love is similarly always God Himself. There are many aspects under which God may be presented to us as an object of love, and these aspects determine the different degrees of love. First of all there are two kinds of this love: pure or disinterested love, amor benevolentiæ (amicitiæ), and selfish or interested love (amor concupiscentiæ). God can be loved because He is most worthy of love, because He is good, because He is the highest good. If we love God for His own sake because He is most lovable in Himself (prout est in se summum bonum), we have the first kind of love, the pure love of God; if we love Him on our own account because He is for us the highest good (prout nobis est summum bonum), we have the second kind of love. The pure love of God is called perfect love, the other imperfect. If now we consider more closely the imperfect love of God, we find two degrees. God is here the object of love in as much as He is good to man, i.e. on the one hand God confers His benefits on man on earth and His everlasting possession in heaven completes the happiness of man hereafter, and on the other hand the loss of God means to man on earth unhappiness and suffering and in the next life the eternal punishment of hell. If a man disregards totally the idea of God as a person to be loved and keeps in view only his own selfish interests, he evidently loves only himself, thinking merely of his own present and future well-being, his own joys and sufferings, his own reward and punishment. Such a love, which hardly deserves the name, is downright selfishness and is rightly called a mercenary love (amor mercenarius). This love corresponds to the fear which is called purely servile, timor serviliter servilis, that fear which hates only the punishment and not the sin, which cherishes the inclination to sin, so that a man would sin if he did not fear punishment. Both love and fear of this kind belong to the lowest degree and destroy all supernatural merit and reward.

But there is an imperfect love of God in which man's heart really turns to God simply because God is good to him, it is true, yet so that he loves Him efficaciously and really and regards the loss of God as the loss of all good and the greatest of misfortunes. Since in such a love of God there is mingled a great deal of the love of self, so that one love is not present without the other, it cannot yet be called the pure love of God, but receives a special name, the love of chaste concupiscence , amor casta? concupiscentiæ. To this love corresponds that fear of eternal punishment, which does not exclude the thought of God, which fears the punishment of hell because it is the loss of the vision of God, i.e. the pæna damni. This love is called also the amor spei, because in it the hope of possessing God in heaven, the highest reward of all pure souls, is an essential element.

A higher grade of love, midway between this perfect and imperfect love, is called the love of gratitude, amor gratitudinis, in which we love God for the benefits which He has conferred. When this love is prompted more by the thought of the gifts than the giver, more by the benefit than by the love of the benefactor, it approaches in quality to the love of hope (amor spei); one reflects on the past, the other on the future. If, however, the motive of this love of gratitude directly regards the giver and his good will towards mankind, then God is loved with a pure love, for God's benevolence and love towards men are intimately united with His perfections. This kind of love of gratitude may well be classed with pure love or caritas. It is a perfect love (1) because God is loved for His own sake, on account of His infinite goodness and love and generosity, which are identical with God Himself; (2) because it is a benevolent love. All love in respect of its object is either selfish or benevolent; now this love of gratitude is not selfish because it does not regard its own profit, nor does it strive to gain anything for itself; (3) because it is a love of friendship, for it is a love which wishes well to Him who loves us and makes a return of love for love.