Friday, 13 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 57.

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

18. The Purpose of Amendment with regard to Venial Sin.

The purpose of amendment, as we have said, must extend at least to all mortal sins. With regard to venial sins it must be constant and efficacious, but not necessarily universal; for, since venial sin is consistent with the friendship and grace of God in the soul, one is not obliged to resolve on avoiding all of them: indeed no one sine speciali privilegio gratiæ can avoid all venial sins, and no one is called upon to resolve to accomplish the impossible; still there is an obligation to resolve to avoid them as much as possible, or at least to diminish their number. The following points will present the matter in detail: —

1. It is sufficient with respect to any venial sin to make an act of contrition and a purpose of amendment, even though these acts do not extend to all lighter venial sins of the same species; for the greater the sin the greater is the offense against God and the punishment due to it; and a man may well shrink from displeasing God beyond a certain point, though below that point he may be careless.

2. It is sufficient to make an act of sorrow and purpose of amendment with regard to some particular species of sin, or some vice, or some sins opposed to a particular virtue, especially if the penitent keeps before his mind those particular sins which have been committed with greater malice and deliberation. 1

1 The reason for this doctrine is very clearly put in Lugo's Responsa Moralia, Lib. I. dub. 29, where he answers the difficulty how a man may make an efficacious and sufficient act of contrition with respect to one species of sin, excluding other species. The learned author remarks: —

1. That if a man repent of his sins from a universal and general motive, he embraces of necessity all his sins in this act of contrition. If, then, such a motive excite a man to repentance, he is of necessity moved to shun all sin.

2. Such motives, however, — and this is a point well worth noticing, — may excite contrition in a more restricted manner; for instance, the graver the sins, the more they displease and offend God; hence a man may be led to hate this excess of wickedness. In this case " the motive of the contrition is not the offense of God as such, but that gravity of the offense which is not found in other venial sins."

3. All this being now assumed, the difficulty remains whether a penitent, for instance, who is contrite for slight lies, must at least virtually repent of other venial sins of another species, which are graver than, or at least as grave as, that class of lies, or whether he can have contrition sufficient for sacramental absolution for those lies without repenting virtually of venial sins of another species as great or greater. This may be the case if the formal motive of sorrow is a particular one; for instance here the hatred which God, the Eternal Truth, must have for lies. It does not hold if the sorrow proceed from the motive of penance, for we could not hate anything as offensive to God and at the same time be ready to offend Him in other matters. The same holds true if we are really sorry for sin through fear of hell-fire. " There are occasions, however, when the motive of sorrow may be particular — when, for instance, a man is sorry for the irreverence done to God because it is an injury to His divine Majesty (such a motive is called a motive of religion) ; he is not obliged even virtually to repent of graver or equally grave venial sins of another species, except they involve an irreverence equally incompatible with the virtue of religion."

Lugo also shows that a similar case happens when a man repents of some particular species of sin, e.g. of lying, not on account of the disobedience to God which every sin includes, but on account of the disobedience involved in transgressing a special command of God, or rather on account of the opposition of these sins to the special law of God which forbids us to violate the truth.

Moreover, he adds that the same holds true in regard of the special temporal sufferings which God inflicts for particular species of sins, e.g. disrespect to parents.