Monday, 12 December 2016

The Confessional. Part 38.

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

Hence as preparation for the first justification of adults a beginning at least of love is required. Now what is required for their first justification in Baptism, that, at the very least, is demanded for the second justification by Penance, since, as the Fathers express it, Penance is a toilsome Baptism, baptismus laboriosus; consequently if a distinction is to be made in terms of greater or less, greater dispositions are required for Penance than for Baptism. Moreover, the Council is unmistakably clear in its declaration that what it teaches with regard to the first justification applies equally to the justification by penance. 

In the place where the Council treats of the sorrow required as a preparation for the Sacrament of Penance, it speaks of it plainly as the beginning of a new life;  such it could not be if it did not include love, or at least the beginnings of love; for since the new life consists in the love of God, the beginning of the new life must of necessity include the beginning of the love of God. 

A third reason may be found in the very nature of the subject. According to the Church's teaching, the justification of an adult means a real conversion, and this of itself includes a beginning of love. By mortal sin man turns from God to the creature; if the conversion is to be real, he must not only turn away from the creature, but also return to God, and that cannot happen without some initial love. Moreover, it is in the very nature of man ever to desire and love something as his highest good, be it the creature, as happens in mortal sin, or the Creator; since by his conversion he ceases to make the creature his sole object and aim, he must direct his desires to God the uncreated good, and so must love God at least as his highest good.

But this love which is required to accompany imperfect contrition in order to make it a sufficient disposition for obtaining grace in the Sacrament, is not the beginning of the amor benevotentiæ or the caritas perfecta or perfect love; for, as has been seen above, any act of contrition proceeding from perfect love in any degree at once restores a man to grace without the reception of the Sacrament; similarly the beginning of perfect love, joined with imperfect contrition, would justify the sinner without the Sacrament.  Penance would thus be a meaningless institution. It is rather the beginning of the amor concupiscentiæ  or of the caritas imperfecta, in which we love God because He is good to us. This beginning of love is included in imperfect contrition, which arises chiefly from the fear of God's punishments; for Holy Scripture (Ecclus. xxv. 16) calls the fear of God the beginning of love. Hope of eternal happiness is another motive, for, as St. Thomas of Aquin says, when we hope to obtain a benefit from any one we are drawn towards him and begin to love him. Whoever, then, has imperfect contrition and receives the Sacrament in the hope of pardon, already begins to love God as his liberator, his champion, his Lord. No special intensity is required in this love; it need only be the beginning of love, as long as the love is real — and this is called amor initialis.