Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 55.

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

Still less would it be a sign of want of the requisite dispositions if the confessor were persuaded that the penitent could hardly be saved from a relapse; this conclusion may be drawn with moral certainty, or, at least, on strong presumption, from the ordinary occurrences of life; hence the necessary disposition on the part of the penitent can always be secured.

In practice it is not of infrequent occurrence that a penitent, otherwise of good will, alarmed by the difficulties of some undertaking, declares that he cannot avoid a certain sin, or refuses to make a promise for fear of breaking his word, or says he cannot trust himself. This happens in the case of those who are given to some evil habit, as, for instance, taking the name of God in vain, swearing, flying into a rage, etc. Such a penitent must not only be encouraged to trust to the help of divine grace, but be taught that all required of him is to have at the present moment (hic et nunc) the determination not to relapse, that he should not look too far ahead but make his resolution day by day. The confessor must take particular care that the penitent understands that that only is demanded of him which he freely acknowledges to be within his power. This end is obtained by suggesting methods to the penitent to be used when he is free from temptation as well as when he is attacked, and by impressing upon him that all demanded of him is to guard against committing sins knowingly and with full advertence.

The resolution must, moreover, be efficacious, i.e. the penitent must be ready not only to avoid sin, but also to take the necessary means for avoiding it, especially by avoiding the proximate occasions; for whoever effectually desires some end must, of necessity, as far as lies in him, remove all impediments to it, and employ all the means which will lead to it. Hence theologians teach that the resolution must be efficax affectu; in the case, however, where it is not executione efficax, i.e. where the penitent fails to accomplish his purpose, it is not reasonable to conclude at once that a real and sufficient resolve was absent, though some presumption against the fixity of the purpose may be entertained. What has been said with respect to the steadfastness of the purpose of amendment may be applied to its efficaciousness, seeing that the two subjects are so intimately connected. Though it is undoubted that for valid confession the purpose of amendment must be fixed and efficacious, yet we are not to understand thereby that a man may never fail in his resolution. It is quite certain that men are so fickle that they will fall away frequently from determined and fixed resolutions, as we see, for instance, in the case of St. Peter, who, as we know, was sincerely pledged not to betray his Lord, and, yet, denied Him soon after, at the mere word of a maid servant.