Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 86.

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

The third opinion denies absolutely the necessity of confessing circumstantias notabiliter aggravantes, and this is the more common and probable view, for which there are many and weighty reasons.

(a) The Council of Trent by positively limiting its decision to those circumstances which change the species seems to exclude positively the obligation of confessing others. It teaches that circumstances must be mentioned because without them the sins would not be properly confessed by the penitents nor properly understood by the judge, so that he would be incapable of estimating correctly the gravity of the sins and of imposing a becoming penance. From these words of the Council it is fair to conclude that the penitent has done all that is necessary when he confesses those circumstances.

(b) Moreover, we are bound only to declare mortal sin; now the circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes within the same species evidently add no new species of a mortal sin, hence they need not be confessed. To confess them is an act of perfection, good, of course, and wholesome, just as is the practise of confessing venial sins.

(c) Moreover, many consequences of no small importance follow from the opposite doctrine. While the present opinion is calculated to set at rest the minds of both penitent and confessor, the other has quite the opposite tendency, for who could even approximately gauge how far circumstances have a notable effect upon the sin? Imagine the difficult and often fruitless enquiries a confessor would have to make with many of his penitents in order to come to a satisfactory decision. It follows, besides, from the opposite view that the circumstantiæ notabiliter minuentes would have to be confessed or else the confessor would consider some sin more serious than it actually was, and even our opponents grant that this is not necessary.

(d) Finally, the Church could not in the General Council deduce this obligation from the words of Christ, otherwise she would not have given that definite limit to the obligation; the law of confessing circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes is, therefore, at least doubtful, and a doubtful law has no binding force. Hence this opinion may be adopted in praxi with a safe conscience even though its opposite be probable, and whoever follows it does not expose the Sacrament to any danger of nullity, for to secure validity a formally entire confession is sufficient, and of that there is no doubt.

This view is taught by St. Thomas (in 4 Sentent. d. 16, Q. 3, art. 2 et Opusc. 7, Q. 6), St. Antoninus, St. Bonaventura, St. Bernardine, Lugo, Vasquez, Bonacina, Salmanticenses, and the greater number of the older theologians. Among the more recent it is quite the common doctrine; compare Gury and the different editors of his text-book, among whom Ballerini is strongly in favor of this opinion, Muller, Lehmkuhl, Aertnys, Mark, Konings, Simar, Kenrick, Gousset, Pruner, Ninzatti, etc.