Monday, 19 December 2016

The Confessional. Part 42.

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

Our faith presents to our consideration many motives for contrition, which, as has been shown above, are reduced to two by the Council of Trent: fear of punishment and hatefulness of sin. This hatefulness may have many forms: the general malice which belongs to every sin (in so far as it is an injury to God our highest good, and rebellion against Him, or ingratitude to God our Father and Benefactor, or infamous unfaithfulness to Jesus our loving Redeemer), or the particular malice which is proper to each sin, since every sin has its own peculiar wickedness and is the opposite to some special virtue. A further motive is found in the sufferings and death of Christ, which may be considered a motive of caritas, and the loathsome state of the soul when deprived of sanctifying grace.

Among the punishments which excite us to salutary contrition are first of all the fire of hell, and then purgatory.

All these motives may be called eternal; the pains of purgatory may be numbered among the eternal motives because they begin only when a man has passed from this life into eternity.

It is to be observed that any one of these motives is sufficient to awaken in us true contrition; nor is it necessary that we should choose a motive with which we made acquaintance first by revelation; we know many of these motives as well by reason as by faith; we must only take care that the motive which impels us to sorrow appeals to us not merely from the point of view of reason, but as proposed by faith. If, however, one is moved to contrition by a particular motive, namely, the peculiar malice of some sin even when this malice is made known to us by faith, it is better to add a universal- motive either of fear or of this malice residing in all sin, so that the sorrow may not be insufficient or doubtful for any sin which, having escaped observation, was not repented of.

The sorrow which comes from the thought of the temporal sufferings of this life may be regarded as supernatural if these sufferings are looked upon as inflicted by God, as being signs of His anger, and as a sort of foretaste of His eternal punishments if we do not amend. Hence the sorrow which comes from the thought of earthly pains cannot be set down at once and absolutely as supernatural sorrow; the supernatural aspect must be kept in view, and then the sorrow may be regarded as supernatural and sufficient for approaching the Sacrament. Not only reason, but faith also, teaches us that in God's providence sin has many evil consequences, and that on account of sin God strikes mankind with pains and calamities both private and public. Moreover, the Council of Trent enumerates among the motives of attrition "the fear of hell and of punishment," and in the punishment we are to understand the pains of this life, for the Council mentions as an example the Ninivites who repented of their sins, moved by fear of the destruction of their city, which had been prophesied by Jonas, unless they did penance; nor are the Ninivites the only instance where God has threatened temporal punishment in order to frighten sinners and move them to penance.