Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 66.

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

8. Libens. The confession ought to be voluntary; the penitent should approach the sacred tribunal spontaneously, not prompted by prayers or threats, nor prevailed upon by promises, nor driven by fear of temporal losses; he should willingly acknowledge his sins to the priest as the minister of Christ Our Lord appointed to forgive sin and distribute His graces. A man might of course be influenced by those exterior motives to receive the Sacrament; and if he made an earnest act of contrition and carried out the other requisites, he would make a valid confession. There is, however, as Laymann observes, a real danger for a man who goes to the Sacrament under compulsion that he will make his confession invalid through want of contrition or through a deficient accusation of his sins. It frequently happens that such penitents, giving way to external pressure, perform their Easter confession, doing it only to keep up appearances; they make no act of contrition, they are unwilling to tell all that lies on their conscience, they are ready to make a bad confession and communion. A prudent confessor may detect their insincerity and sometimes will prevail upon them to make a good confession.

9. Verecunda. The penitent should make his confession with confusion at the number and greatness of his sins, his ingratitude and infidelity to God his Lord and Father; this confusion should fill his soul and reveal itself even in the self-accusation and in the whole bearing of the penitent. Between this real shame of every good penitent and the false shame which arises from pride and self-love is a great gulf; the latter, unless overcome, will cause the penitent to be dishonest in his accusation and to make a sacrilegious confession. The confessor should be very considerate of the weakness of such penitents and encourage them, helping them to make a candid avowal if he suspects false shame, and he should be careful not to frighten and shock them by hard words or untimely threats.

10. The other property of the confession, its integrity, will, on account of its great importance, be reserved for a thorough discussion in another paragraph.

11. Secreta. The accusation should be in secret. It should be made so as to be heard only by the priest and not by others. Christ did not institute public confession; and if in the early Church those who had committed grave public sin and given public scandal were compelled after private confession to make a public avowal of their offenses, this was only part of the then existing discipline. As a matter of fact the practice was productive of as much harm as good, and so the Church put an end to it. Confession by an interpreter would, however, be valid, as well as a confession which had been overheard by others. There is no obligation to confess through an interpreter if one happens to be in a country of which he does not know the language, supposing there is no priest to whom one can make himself understood, for the Lateran Council  prescribes confessio secreta made to a priest only (soli sacerdoti jacienda), and to employ an interpreter for confession would be very onerous.  Such an obligation would exist only if a dying man had doubts as to the perfection of his contrition, for the wish to save our souls obliges us to avoid all risk. Then, however, it would be sufficient to name one or two sins and make a general accusation of the rest.