Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 72.

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

II. The material integrity, however, is not always necessary for the validity of confession and for obtaining its benefits. At times it is morally and even physically impossible, either through inculpable forgetfulness or for other reasons. Now God does not command impossibilities. Hence the Council of Trent teaches: "The remaining sins which escape the diligent inquiry of the penitent are considered as included in the same accusation," and so are forgiven, as though they had been confessed. Hence it is abundantly clear that the material integrity of the confession is not always necessary. '

III. The formal integrity is, on the other hand, always necessary for the validity of the Sacrament, and belongs to its essence.

A penitent, for instance, who out of shame conceals a mortal sin, transgresses Christ's command which obliges us to submit all mortal sins by a sincere confession to the power of the keys, incurring at the same time a mortal sin by his bad confession; such a confession cannot be valid nor have any good effect. This is also taught by the Council of Trent (L. c. cp. 5.) in the following words: "While the faithful earnestly endeavour to confess all the sins of which they are conscious, they present them to the Divine Mercy that they may all be forgiven; those, however; who do otherwise and knowingly conceal sins, present nothing to God's goodness to be forgiven through the priest. If the sick man is ashamed to show his wounds to the physician, the latter cannot cure what is unknown to him." (Trid. 1. c. cp. 5. Compare Palmieri, 1. c. Thes. XXXIII ; Gury, 1. c.)

To have a perfect understanding of the preceding, we must distinguish between what is of the essence of the Sacrament and that which flows as a consequence of the divine command. When anything is wanting to the essence of the Sacrament, though the defect may be due to no fault on the part of the person, the Sacrament is invalid; if, on the contrary, there be wanting some requirement of divine precept, making the defect culpable, the Sacrament is indirectly invalid because contrition is wanting, since contrition cannot exist in any one who is in the very act of sin; if, however, the defect be inculpable, the result of forgetfulness or ignorance, the Sacrament is valid; the sins which were omitted through no fault of the penitent are indirectly forgiven by the infusion of sanctifying grace. There remains, however, the obligation of making good the defect afterwards, as we shall see later.