Friday, 2 December 2016

The Confessional. Part 36.

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

Since imperfect contrition in union with the Sacrament has the same effects as perfect contrition without the Sacrament, theologians say that the penitent becomes in the Sacrament ex attrito contritus; this expression is not to be understood of the act, as though attritio became contritio.

Imperfect contrition, as we have already seen, arises from the thought of the hideousness of sin and from the fear of the punishment which God in His justice inflicts on the sinner. The following are the classes into which, according to St. Thomas,  fear is divided: —

1. Worldly fear, timor mundanus, when man is feared more than God, or when one offends God in order to avoid suffering.

2. Natural fear, timor naturalis, the fear of temporal misfortunes.

3. Slavish fear, timor serviliter servilis, when one shrinks from sin merely from fear of punishment, and when one is ready to sin again if there were no punishment. Theologians say of such a man: solum manum cohibet, voluntatem autem non retrahit a peccato.

Quite distinct from this fear is: —

4. Servile fear, timor servilis, when a man fears the punishments which God inflicts on sin, and on that account really avoids and detests sin: qui non solum manum sed etiam voluntatem cohibet a peccato, as the schoolmen express it.

5. Filial fear, timor filialis seu castus, is the fear of a man who honors and loves God as his Lord and Father, and from that motive avoids sin and loves the law of God. The last two kinds of fear conjoined form: —

6. Mixed fear, timor mixtus seu initialis, which is the disposition of a man who fears sin because it offends God and also because it is punished. Hence St. Thomas gives a clear and short account of these last three kinds of fear: Sometimes man turns to God and clings to Him because he is afraid of evil. This evil may be twofold, the evil of punishment and the evil of guilt. If a man turn and cling to God from fear of punishment, this is servile fear; and when it is done from fear of guilt it is filial fear, for children are afraid of offending their father; if, however, it is done from the fear of the punishment and of the guilt, it is then timor initialis, which is intermediate between servile and filial fear.

The sorrow proceeding from servile fear is attritio, that imperfect sorrow which, when it excludes the desire of sinning and is joined to the hope of pardon, disposes the sinner to receive the grace of justification in the Sacrament of Penance. It may now be asked whether, along with this imperfect sorrow based on fear as its only motive, there may not be required besides, in order to dispose the sinner proxime for the receiving of grace, some sort of love, at least initial, or whether this love be included in that sorrow. On this subject the Council has given no direct answer. In the seventeenth century this question was debated with such heat that Alexander VII (June, 1667), in order to establish peace, forbade, in the strongest terms and under pain of excommunication latæ sententiæ, that any of the disputants in this matter should accuse their opponents of heresy.