Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Confessional. Part 35.

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

13. Imperfect Contrition.

The effects of imperfect contrition (attrition) are not so great as those of perfect contrition. Imperfect contrition, which excludes the desire of sinning and includes the hope of pardon (this belongs to the sorrow necessary for the Sacrament of Penance), is the proximate disposition which the sinner must have if he is to be justified in the Sacrament of Penance. This is of faith.

Passages almost innumerable of the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, decrees of Councils and theologians, present this doctrine as revealed by God.

Consequently it is the common and certain teaching of theologians that to receive the grace of the Sacrament of Penance imperfect contrition is sufficient, and that perfect contrition is not of necessity. The Council of Trent declares expressly: " Although imperfect contrition without the Sacrament of Penance is not able per se to restore the sinner to justifying grace, yet it disposes him for the reception of grace in this Sacrament." The Council is speaking here of the ultimate or proximate disposition which, in union with the Sacrament, suffices for the remission of sin; for it opposes the efficacy of imperfect contrition with the Sacrament to its inefficacy without the Sacrament. Without the Sacrament it cannot produce justification, but disposes towards its reception in the Sacrament; it must therefore produce in the Sacrament this justification, and the disposition of which the Council speaks must be understood of the proximate disposition which is immediately followed by grace ; otherwise the contrast drawn between the two would have no meaning.

This conclusion is confirmed when we consider the institution of the Sacrament. Christ's object in instituting this Sacrament was to restore the baptized to the life of grace; if it did not really confer the grace of justification, it would have been a means frustrated of its end, and would not have the power which it was intended to have; it could not be expected to call for dispositions which of themselves would atone for sin, and this would be the case if perfect contrition were the required disposition. A remedy for a disease would be a poor gift if it could not cure the disease until the latter was already removed. Finally, the Church received the power of the keys in order that it might loose or retain sins; if perfect contrition were required as the necessary condition, the sins would not be remitted by the power of the keys, but by the dispositions of the penitent. Therefore imperfect contrition is sufficient for justification in the Sacrament of Penance.