Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 62.

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

On the other hand, a mortal sin is incurred 

(1) when a penitent accuses himself of having committed a mortal sin which he has never committed, or denies having fallen into a mortal sin which he has incurred and which has never been validly confessed, and which besides he has no valid reason for concealing, or if he conceals a mortal sin which he is bound to mention.

(2) When he gives the number of his mortal sins as greater than is really the case. Here, however, ignorant and untaught penitents may be excused, because they honestly think it better to give a large number in preference to a small one. Besides, —

(3) A penitent sins mortally who confesses mortal sin as doubtful which he is certain of having committed, or confesses as certain mortal sins of which he has doubts. In such cases the penitent would be unsettling the judgment of the confessor in a very grave matter.

(4) Moreover, it would be a mortal sin if the penitent confesses a recent mortal sin, either explicitly or equivalently, as an old one already confessed, for the priest is thus prevented from giving a correct sentence and imposing the proper penance. It is another case when the accusation leaves it doubtful whether the sin is an old or recent one, or whether it has been already confessed or not, even if the penitent intend that the confessor be persuaded that the sin is an old one.

(5) Finally, the penitent incurs a mortal sin if he denies the existence of a habit of sin, or of a relapse or the existence of an occasion of sin, or if he avoids any avowal on the subject so as to mislead the confessor. It would accordingly be a mortal sin for a penitent to accuse himself of a recent mortal sin at the end of his confession by using a formula of this kind: "I accuse myself of the sins of my past life, in particular of this sin . . ."; for this formula by universal consent implies only past sins already confessed. On the other hand, it would not be a mortal sin in a general confession to mingle old with recent sins, as long as the confessor knows that not all the mortal sins have been already confessed; if the priest is persuaded that he ought to gain a clearer knowledge, he may ask; if he believe that he may let the matter rest there, it is his affair (and perhaps in many cases this may be the prudent course). Still less is it a mortal sin, indeed it may be counselled or obligatory in certain cases, for a penitent to say that such or such sin has not yet been confessed; making the accusation in such a way that the confessor does not suspect that the sin has been recent. Such an expedient may be necessary when a priest himself confesses sins committed in hearing confessions, not wishing to violate the seal of confession. In addition, the confessor must remember that the faithful in general are persuaded that a lie in confession is a very grave sin, so that he must judge of its gravity according to the conscience of the penitent.