Friday, 6 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 51.

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

Other theologians teach absolutely that an express purpose of amendment is not necessary if the contrition proceed from a universal motive; 1 an implicit resolution is sufficient, and Lugo calls this opinion communis inter recentiores. Indeed most of the theologians endorse it. Ballerini cites seventy-three by name, with the passages in which they express their views. It is also founded on solid intrinsic grounds, for, according to the doctrine of the Council (loco citato), attrition which excludes the desire of sinning is sufficient for the valid reception of the Sacrament; but, as we have seen, attrition excludes the desire of sinning, even when there is no formal purpose of amendment, for it detaches the heart of man from sin, and not only from past sin but from all sin. 

Finally, there are theologians who distinguish and say: If a penitent advert to the future, he must make a formal resolution to amend; if, however, as in the case of the dying, no thought of the future occurs to him, a formal resolution is not necessary; for it is hardly possible that a penitent who is really sorry for his sins and thinks upon the future should fail to make an express and formal resolve to amend. Yet this may very well happen, as Ballerini observes, to pious people, especially to such as are careful to avoid even slight deliberate venial sins, and are accustomed to make acts of sorrow for defects and to start afresh on the right way; for in them the resolution to avoid sin is not made just for the time when they prepare for confession, but it is rather an enduring habit of mind. Hence it is not matter of surprise that they should not think of renewing and confirming their resolution. Suarez makes this clear when, in speaking of perfect contrition, he asks whether an act of perfect love suffices for justification, or whether also an act of sorrow for sin be necessary; he replies that per se both are required, but that per accidens the act of perfect love suffices, for whoever makes an act of perfect love is undoubtedly restored to grace; but that if a man be conscious of sin, he is in duty bound to reestablish his right relation to God and to make a formal and explicit act of displeasure and hatred with regard to the sin; to neglect this duty would prove that he had no real love. In a similar way the sinner who mourns for his past sins is naturally prompted to make a resolution of avoiding sin; hence the voluntary neglect of the purpose of amendment renders the act of contrition very suspicious. 

1 The purpose of amendment must be universal, and, as we shall show later, with a universality distinct from that of the contrition. If the sorrow proceeded from a particular motive which nec actu nec virtute extended to the other sins, it is clear that the resolution to amend implied in such sorrow could hardly be universal. If, for example, a man conceived sorrow for the sin of impurity only on account of the peculiar ugliness of that vice, the purpose of amendment contained in such a sorrow would suffice indeed so far as it applied to impurity, but not for other sins, because the motive is a particular one not extending to other sins. If, then, the sorrow is based on some particular motive, an explicit purpose of amendment must be made extending to all sins.

If the sorrow proceed from a general motive applicable to all sins (if a man, for example, is sorry for having committed a serious theft because it is a grave offense against God), it is impossible that he should be willing to offend God again by any other grave sin, for in consequence of his act of contrition he hates and detests whatever offends God. Whoever detests his sins from a universal motive will be slow ever to fall into them again; for no man will do that which he hates as an offense against God. "But when the Council of Trent speaks of the purpose of amendment, it speaks of it in the same way as of the resolution to go to confession and make satisfaction, and this need not be explicit. As it is sufficient that tnis resolution be virtual, it is also enough to make a virtual resolution of reforming one's life and sinning no more; it is always a real resolution, though it be only a 'virtual one' And since eminent authorities interpret the Council of Trent in this manner, we may without misgiving follow their decision." Stotz, 1. c. Lib. T. P. IT. Q. IT. art. III. n. 88 ⁸⁸.