Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Confessional. Part 71.

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

2. The essential object of this Sacrament is the forgiveness of sins that have been confessed. But one mortal sin cannot be forgiven apart from the rest, since forgiveness is the result of the influx of sanctifying grace, which does not remove sin as stains might be rubbed from a metal surface, but at once raises man from a state of sin to a state of grace, from being an enemy of God to being His friend. Moreover, sanctifying grace and mortal sin cannot exist together in the soul. From this it follows that all sins must be told without exception, in order that they may all be remitted.

3. Add to this the essential connection between the judicial power of the priest in the Sacrament and his power of punishing sin or imposing a penance for it; but since the penance must be proportioned to the misdeeds, the priest cannot exercise his powers properly unless, at least, the mortal sins have been fully confessed. If, as must happen at times, it is inopportune or, in fact, quite impossible to assign a penance bearing any proportion to the number and magnitude of the sins, that is quite per accidens and the decision of the question is the affair of the judge, not of the penitent. That Christ gave His Church the power of punishing sin is abundantly proved by the practice of so many centuries during which definite penances were assigned to certain sins. Since, therefore, the Church of divine right can mete out just punishment for sin, the penitent is bound by divine precept to submit himself to the Church by an entire confession of all mortal sins. From the fact that the confessor must pronounce sentence and impose a suitable penance, the Council of Trent concludes "that all mortal sins of which the penitent is conscious after diligent search must be confessed, even though they be quite secret sins and only against the last two commandments of the decalogue."

4. Finally, the Sacrament of Penance has of its very nature another end in view, that of preventing relapse. Thus the confessor is at the same time the physician of the soul, empowered and obliged to prescribe the means of reform. This duty can be effectually carried out only when he knows intimately the penitent's state of soul, so that the latter is obliged to submit to his healing art all the mortal wounds of the soul.

Hence the Council of Trent anathematises all who teach "that for remission of sins in the Sacrament of Penance it is not necessary jure divino that all and every mortal sin be confessed of which a man is conscious after faithful and diligent search." (Sess. XIV. can. 7.)