Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 65.

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

When the penitent has made choice of his confessor in accordance with those rules of common sense which great spiritual writers enjoin, his duty is then to love him as his spiritual father, to fear him as the judge of his conscience, to follow him as his guide in the path of virtue, to take his advice as his physician in the maladies, affections, and sufferings of his soul. He should follow him, as though he were an angel leading the way to heaven; give him his whole confidence; deal with him in all openness and frankness; disclose to him all the good and evil in his soul without dissembling or reserve, and at the same time entertain a respect for him which does not weaken his confidence in him.

Having once chosen a good confessor, the penitent should cling to him and not change about from one to another; nothing is more harmful or more foolish than such conduct; unstable and wandering penitents of this kind give sufficient proof that all they want is to be absolved and not to be helped and guided, and there is reason to suspect that their purpose of amendment is by no means sincere. Should a penitent, however, be in such a condition that to confess to his regular confessor would be too great a difficulty and involve risk of making sacrilegious confession, it would be better to look out for some other priest and confess to him.

The penitent ought not at the same time be so dependent on his confessor as to be quite bewildered when a change becomes necessary. Discouragement or sadness on this account, or a less frequent use of the Sacraments would be a sign that this dependence was due to some undesirable cause and could not be any longer regarded as confidence in the director.

What is to be thought of those penitents who have two confessors, one to whom they are well known and whose good opinion they enjoy, and another to whom they are not well known, using the former to tell him their more frequent and smaller sins, and the latter for the confession of graver faults, in order that they may thereby keep up their good reputation with the first ? Such conduct is certainly not per se forbidden when there is good reason for it, as may happen when any one is unwilling or does not dare to reveal to his ordinary confessor some very shameful fall.

Still the practice is not without danger and so cannot be unconditionally recommended, for it is a sign that a penitent is more anxious about his good name than his progress in the spiritual life; indeed he might incur grievous sin if such conduct exposed him to the danger of falling into mortal sin, as would be the case if in pursuing this course he never intended seriously to give up his sin. Such is the predicament of those penitents who seek out inexperienced or easy-going confessors, or of those who habitually fall into mortal sins, confessing them only to a priest who, they know, will take the matter very quietly, while they reveal their less grievous sins to some pious and strict confessor.

On the other hand, the case above quoted presents quite another aspect when a penitent has on rare occasions fallen into a grave and shameful sin and shrinks from revealing it to his ordinary confessor.