Monday, 2 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 48.

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

The champions of the other view urge that the case is closed by the first absolution; if then absolution is to be given again, a new materia proxima is required, and even if the sorrow continue, it has no relation to the second absolution. It is easily seen that this is not a strong reason. Yet though the renewal of the sorrow be not necessary for the validity of the absolution, it is advisable to make again the act of sorrow, which is easy to do and certainly increases the grace. The confessor deals prudently with a penitent under such circumstances when he requires him to make a short renewal of his act of contrition. 1

The doctrine just developed is not only adopted ex communi sententia in the case more or less frequent, where a mortal sin which had been forgotten is confessed immediately after or very soon after absolution, but also in two other cases. For instance, a penitent in immediate danger of death must be absolved after one or two sins have been confessed; after this, if he be still alive, the confession is continued and completed. The other example is when a penitent (a very rare case) is absolved by his superior from the reserved sins only, and from the remaining sins by another confessor. 2

The result of this doctrine ought not to be, however, that confessors and penitents become less solicitous about contrition for sins already remitted by the Sacrament. It may, however, as Ballerini remarks, be very useful in quieting scruples, especially of those who accuse themselves of venial sins and in addition tell some mortal sin already confessed and absolved ; for if there is little ground for doubting the sorrow for past mortal sins in a penitent who has usually only venial sins to confess, and shows by his constant victories over temptation his aversion to mortal sin, yet certain anxious penitents are frequently troubled with scruples about their want of contrition, especially if they happen to hear a preacher who, with a zeal sometimes devoid of prudence, condemns the repeated confession of past sins made without true contrition. Such scruples may be overcome by various means, but especially by the doctrine just given.

1 Muller (1. c. Lib. III. Tract. II. § 116) founds his advice as to renewing the act of sorrow on the rule in praxi tutius est sequendum, since it is a case of securing the validity of a Sacrament. He is in error, however, for the other (affirmative) opinion hardly deserves to be considered probable on account of the very weak grounds on which it rests. We must at the same time remember that the penitent in this case is certainly justified, and that he has fulfilled the divine precept of demanding direct absolution for all his sins when he confesses his sins in accordance with the first opinion.

2 Compare § 42; Gury-Ballerini, 1. c. This doctrine is pushed still farther, and it is taught that a man may be absolved several times from sins, even though he has confessed them or other sins two or three times without renewing his contrition, so long as he has not revoked the contrition, and so long as it remains habitual and virtual. This is not to be understood as though the absolution may be given after the lapse of weeks and months on the strength of a single act of contrition; this would be a very doubtful proceeding, since the virtual continuance of the sorrow which is required is not to be understood of the mere habitual disposition of the heart, but only of the virtual existence which may still intentionally unite the sorrow with the absolution. Cf. Tamburini, 1. c. Lib. I. cp. 2, § 5; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 282.