Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Confessional. Part 44.

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

3. The sorrow must be universal (universalis), i.e. it must extend to all past sins, at least to those which are mortal. No single mortal sin can be forgiven unless it is repented of, nor without other mortal sins of which one has been guilty being forgiven, for none can be forgiven without sanctifying grace; but sanctifying grace is incompatible with mortal sin, for it is impossible that any one should be at the same time a child of God and the slave of the devil, worthy of everlasting reward and deserving eternal punishment; because "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus " (Rom. viii. 1). Hence it is promised in Holy Scripture: "If the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed, and keep all My commandments, . . . living he shall live "; 83 and the second Lateran Council says, that a repentance would evidently be useless in which a man left out several sins and repented only of one; for it is written: "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all." He who is attached to one sin shall no more cross the threshold of eternal life than one who is addicted to all possible sins. 

There are only two ways of attaining universal contrition; one way is to apply special motives of sorrow to each particular sin, the other is to repent of all sins, both the known and the unknown, through a universal motive. This universality does not require that one should reflect on all his sins so as to elicit an act of contrition for each particular sin; this is necessary only if a man confines himself to those motives which of their own nature do not apply to all mortal sins. In practice, however, it is strongly recommended to base the sorrow on universal motives. If, then, a man is sorry for his sins, his mortal sins at least, from a universal motive, and afterwards recalls other sins, he may confess them along with the rest and receive absolution for them without having to make a new act of contrition; this fresh act would be required if his repentance had proceeded from motives peculiar to each sin. Besides there arises at the fresh recollections of his other sins in a repentant sinner a renewal of his sorrow; this renewal is useful, for it insures a more perfect preparation, but it is not necessary.

We must distinguish between the universality of the sorrow and the universality of the purpose of amendment. The sorrow is general when it extends to all sins committed, at least to those which are mortal; the resolution, however, must be to avoid all mortal sins whether they have been committed or not.

If a penitent has only venial sins to confess, the sorrow need not be universal; it must have, however, the other properties. 65 Since venial sin may coexist in the soul along with sanctifying grace, the love of God is not lost, and since one venial sin may be forgiven apart from others, it is enough in preparing for confession to make an act of sorrow for one or other of the venial sins. Of course in such a case only those sins are forgiven which are repented of; nor is it incompatible with the essence of venial sin that a man should be really sorry for one, especially if it be peculiarly vile, without being sorry for the rest.

Still, the penitent should exert himself to be sorry for all the venial sins of which he accuses himself. It is no sin to confess venial sins for which one is not sorry, so long as materia sufliciens for which there is actual sorrow is offered to the power of the keys. It may be assumed that the penitent, confessing venial sins for which he is not sorry, does not care to be absolved from them; from these the confessor does not intend to absolve. Reasons may exist for confessing venial sins for which there is no real sorrow, e.g. in order to practice humility, to be better known and guided by one's confessor, etc. 1

1. M Suarez (De Poenit. Disp. 20, Sect 6, n. 7) and Lugo (Disp. 14, n. 48) teach clearly that a penitent who confesses (venial) sins for which there is no sorrow, along with others without indicating the known defect of sorrow, would sin venially by mixing up proper and improper matter.

Their view, however, is singular and is combated by other theologians. In particular Mazzotta (1. c. Tract VI. Disp. I. Q. III. § 2, v. f.) gives the correct solution to the objection that to confess venial sins for which there is no sorrow, is a lie and a nullifying ot the Sacrament, because the act of confessing these sins is exercite a declaration of sorrow for them, lie replies that, even granting the objection, it is in any case a lie in a matter of less moment, and so at the most a venial sin, whence there can be no nullifying of the Sacrament. He denies also that such confession is a lie, for, in accordance with the feeling and practice of the faithful, the penitent by such confession of venial sins states exercite that he is sorry for some of them and wishes to be absolved; with regard to the rest he reveals them
for his greater humiliation and shame, or in order to disclose the state of his soul, just as he may also reveal his evil inclinations and irregular desires, though they are not sins. Even when a penitent is sorry only for the greater sins, and yet says at the end of his confession, " For these and all my other sins I am sorry," he tells no lie, for these words have no other meaning in their ordinary acceptance than this, that he is sorry for all the sins from
which he can and wants to be absolved. It is just the same when a man confesses many venial sins and is sorry only on account of their great number, for he can easily see a peculiar malice in the habit of committing such venial sins, and on that account can more easily excite himself to sorrow for them. Mazzotta, 1. c. ; Lugo and Suarez, 1. c. ; Stotz, Trib. Pcenit Lib. I. Pars II. Q. I. art. 4, n. 20; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 290, 291.