Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 84.

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

The following circumstances may make sins venial which are of their own nature mortal: 1. Smallness of matter; 2. Want of full advertence; 3. Want of consent; 4. A false conscience.

These circumstances must be told in confession not in order to secure its integrity, but that the confessor may be able to form a correct judgement.

III. Circumstances which make but little difference in the gravity of the sin need not be confessed.

IV. Circumstances which aggravate a mortal sin within its own species to a notable degree (circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes intra eamdem speciem) need not per se loquendo be confessed; this is the common and most approved teaching of theologians; other reasons may exist which make it expedient to mention these circumstances.

At the same time theologians are not unanimous on this subject. Three opinions are current, and each one of them has its own probability and its champions of no mean repute. We may as well observe that the probability of the negative proposition (that there is no obligation) is conceded even by its opponents; hence all grant (ex omnium sententia) as probable that no one is bound to confess these circumstances, so that a penitent cannot be forced to disclose them unless some exceptional case should call for their mention.

Those who maintain the affirmative proposition(i.e. the duty of confessing the circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes) fall back on the reasons to which the Council of Trent appeals for the necessity of confessing circumstantias speciem mutantes, viz. in order that the confessor may make a correct judgment, impose a suitable penance, and suggest the proper means of help; for, they add, the circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes exercise a great influence on the view of the case taken by the confessor, and on that account ought to be confessed. The fact of the Council defining that only the circumstantiæ speciem mutantes need be disclosed might be easily explained by supposing that the Council defined only what was certain, and left theological views where they were, neither approving nor condemning them. The last conclusion, however, is not justified, for the Council prescribes that circumstantiæ speciem mutantes should be confessed without determining any precept for the aggravantes, and if equally cogent reason had existed for confessing both classes of circumstances, there could have been no reason for restricting the doctrine to those which change the species; for, says Lugo, it ought to have made the decree to embrace both classes without imposing any limiting clause.

Further demonstration is taken from the Rituale Romanum, which directs: "If a penitent has not confessed the number, species, and circumstances which ought to be given, the confessor must ask him. By the word species should be understood the circumstantæ speciem mutantes, and by the rest the circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes. This distinction, however, is unfounded, for by species is meant species ex parte objecti, such as stealing, impurity, etc., and under circumstantiæ necessariæ the circumstantiæ speciem mutantes or the species ex parte circumstantiarum, as when theft becomes a sacrilege, etc.