Friday, 10 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 77.

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

The question naturally arises what the confessor is to understand by a numeral qualified by "about" or "at least." As a general rule the greater the number expressed, the greater is the number that may be understood as implied; for instance, "about three times" would mean from two to four times; "about five times," from four to six times; "about ten times," from eight to twelve times; "about one hundred times," at most from ninety to one hundred and ten times. It is clear from this general appreciation of theologians that the numbers implied by the term "about" increase in proportion to the actual number mentioned. If the penitent discovers that he has mentioned a number considerably less than the truth, he must remedy the defect; if he has erred by giving too large a number, he need not correct the mistake, because the larger number includes the less. Moreover, it is advisable, instead of using high numbers, to state how often the sin has been committed in the course of a week or a month, etc., especially with regard to frequent or interior sins. Indeed with habitual sinners it suffices to state how long they have indulged the evil habit, and that they have given wilful consent more or less daily whenever occasion offered; this is enough, when the actual number of sins is so doubtful that there would always be a grave risk of a mistake in trying to determine it. "The confessor, when he knows the period over which the accusation extends, may easily and safely form his opinion in the case of a penitent whose will is habitually inclined to sin, that the penitent has sinned as often as there were necessary interruptions to his sin."  This method in determining the number of sins is as well founded as the other, for in this case, too, all is done that is morally possible. Hence the confessor should never force his penitent to give a determinate number, for this is in most cases impossible. On the other hand, the confessor should help the penitent to state the number in the way we have indicated. ¹

¹ S. Alph. Praxis Conf. n. 20. Compare Casus Bened. XIV, pro anno 1744, mens. Jun. cas. 3. A man confesses that for a month he has been harboring evil thoughts against his friend, and during the same time entertaining impure thoughts about a woman; the question is put whether such a confession is sufficiently complete. The answer is given dislinguendo: 1. If the penitent has occasionally recalled his unfriendly wishes or impure desires, and has not fallen into them very often, the confession is not sufficient. 2. If he has never retracted in either case and has fallen frequently into those sins every day, the statement will suffice as it stands.