Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 67.

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

Moreover, a sufficiently perfect confession may be made even through an interpreter without the latter acquiring any knowledge of the sins. The confessor, for example, in the case of the sick, may arrange through the interpreter a system of signs, such as pressure of the hand, motion of the head or eyes, by which the invalid may answer the questions put by the priest through the interpreter, who may be placed with his back to the priest and penitent; by a method of this kind even the number of sins may be ascertained. Of course in a case like this the confessor must be careful not to betray the penitent's replies by the nature of his questions. If a male penitent express a wish to confess in this manner, he may be allowed to do so.

A confession made in writing is per se valid; on the other hand, as we have already seen, absolution conveyed per literas is null. ' The custom, however, of making the confession by word of mouth must be strictly adhered to (hence many theologians add to the other properties of a good confession that it should be vocalis), and unless there are pressing reasons for the contrary practice the confession should not be made by writing or by any other system of signs; a sufficiently good reason for allowing it would be great shame in mentioning certain sins or a defect in speech. In such cases the priest would read the writing and the penitent make some acknowledgement by word of mouth, such as, " I accuse myself of all contained in the paper." If the whole confession without any good reason were made by writing or by signs, it would be invalid, for the penitent would have sinned gravely by such an action unless he had acted bona fide.

A dumb penitent who can write and has no other way of making his confession is, according to the sententia communis et probabilior, obliged to make his confession in writing, for this would not be burdensome to him. The opponents of this view insist on the danger of the confession being revealed and, in consequence, deny the obligation of making the confession in writing. Such a risk, as experience shows, is not usually to be feared and may easily be avoided. There are indeed not a few penitents who to secure their own peace of mind always write their confessions and read them off to the priest. If, however, in a particular case there is danger of revelation or any other serious inconvenience to the penitent in consequence of his writing, there is no obligation. So teaches St. Thomas, and with him are Suarez, Lugo, Sporer, Salmanticenses, etc.