Monday, 6 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 74.

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

The penitent must confess the species infima, the ultimate species of his sin, for this is what is ordinarily understood by the species, and the Council of Trent insists upon this obligation. Hence it is not enough to say, "I have sinned in thought, word, and deed," or, "I have broken the commandments of the Church"; the penitent must add the species, the particular commandment broken, the observance of Sunday, fasting, yearly confession, etc., and in addition the penitent must give the species infima, whether he has missed Mass or broken his fast or abstinence. Nor is the following accusation sufficient: "I have sinned against the sixth commandment," "I have been wanting in purity," or the like; the species must be given, defining whether the sin be incest or adultery, etc., or whether by thoughts, words, etc. So, too, when a penitent accuses himself of sin against faith, it is not sufficient; he should state the particular act by which he has sinned, whether by heresy, by unbelief, by indifference, etc.

Supposing the penitent cannot remember the species infima of a sin which he has committed, he must state against what virtue he has sinned; or if he cannot remember this, but has only a recollection of having sinned mortally, he must confess this. This is the opinion of all theologians (communis et certa doctrina).

To indicate fully the species of the sin, one must also tell whether the sinful acts were external and whether the evil effects have been retracted.

Since the sins themselves are the particular matter of the sacramental tribunal, they must, as Lehmkuhl shows, be confessed secundum specificam distinctionem, i.e. according to their specific differences. This is not at all the same thing as the obligation of confessing the specific malice (specified malitiƦ). Sins are human acts (actus humanus), and so they may be classed in specie actus as well as in specie malitice; to desire to steal and to steal are acts having the same specific malice, but they are not specifically the same act. Indeed no one would maintain that one might confound the two sins in confession by merely confessing the specific malice.  Hence the actus externus which completes the internal act as a sin and on that account is in se opposed to right order and morality must be mentioned expressly in confession. The actus externus is either commissio or omissio (sin of commission or omission). Thus, for example, the absence from Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation must be confessed, whether it happen through indifference or love of study or idleness, because the absence from Mass is what is objectively opposed to the law and what has been voluntarily incurred.