Monday, 16 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 59.

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

20. The Properties of Confession.

The necessary properties of confession have their origin in its nature and object. The primary object of the confession is to put the confessor, who is bound to act in his office as a judge, not as a despot, in a position to form a judicial sentence, so that he may be able to decide whether the sinner be worthy or unworthy of absolution, and also that he may be able to impose a suitable penance. To succeed in this the confession must be such as to allow the confessor a view of the whole moral state of the penitent, hence it must be complete. This property, however, being of very great importance, will be treated in a separate division. The other necessary feature, the contrition, has been already dealt with. The remaining properties are of secondary importance and not essential; they turn partly on the integrity and partly on the contrition and have been, summarized in the following verses: —

Sit simplex, humilis confessio, pura, fidelis 
               Atque frequens, nuda et discreta, libens, verecunda, 
Integra, secreta et lacrimabilis, accelerata, 
Fortis et accusans et sit parere parata.

Though these properties are not so essential that the want of any one of them nullifies the confession, they are all useful in their several ways to instruct a penitent how to make a good confession. For this reason we will treat of them: —

1. Simplex. The confession should be simple, straightforward, short, and clear; the penitent will therefore avoid all unnecessary, superfluous words, all prolix narrations and remarks which have no connection with the matter; at the same time he will avoid the use of all unintelligible expressions or such as are misleading and ambiguous; let his accusation be so worded that he may take it for granted that the priest will understand both the number and species of the sins. Thus, too, he must not accuse himself in a vague and general manner, as, "I have had bad thoughts"; for the confessor cannot judge from this whether a mortal or a venial sin, or indeed any sin at all, has been incurred; let him use such words as describe clearly the sins he has committed, making use of the proper and specific terms. Finally, he should avoid unnecessary repetitions of sins which differ only in number, not recounting them separately because they were committed at different times or on different occasions; all the sins should be grouped under their specific names and the number given. It is the duty of the priest, in the case of penitents who fail in this respect, to instruct them, at the same time taking into account the peculiarities of the penitent and showing great patience. St. Antoninus gives a very useful piece of advice on this subject. Penitents, says he, who need consolation in their trials or advice in their doubts should defer their difficulties till after they have confessed and received absolution; otherwise, if they dilate on these subjects during the confession of their sins, there is danger of their contrition being weakened.