Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 87.

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

It is, however, advisable to mention these circumstances, and it is necessary: —

(a) When they affect the jurisdiction of the confessor, as in the case of a censure or reservation. If one has struck a cleric, for instance, it should be mentioned whether the assault was notorious or not; in the former case it would be reserved to the Pope, in the latter to the bishop; also if the person struck were a cardinal, a bishop, apostolic nuncio, or other cleric, since the excommunication is reserved in a special manner to the Pope.

(b) When they affect the character, in law or justice, of important acts, as espousals, various contracts, restitution, etc., in order that the penitent may receive proper instruction; this is most important in cases of theft.

(c) When, finally, the confessor without a knowledge of these circumstances is unable to direct his penitent as required for his salvation.

Since these circumstances must be confessed, not because they are circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes, but on the grounds alleged, the confessor has a right to question about them and the penitent is obliged to answer as we have already observed.

Moreover, the faithful usually add these circumstances in confession because it gives greater peace of heart and more abundant fruit; besides, a better and safer guidance is thus secured and an opportunity of practising humility.

As to the utility and advisability of confessing circumstances all theologians agree in making an exception with regard to sins against the sixth commandment; for beyond what is necessary to determine the species of the sin the confessor ought not to ask the penitent any further question nor allow him to make any further statement. Even with regard to the species theologians all teach with one accord that in so dangerous a matter where scandal may so easily be given one may at times refrain from inquiring into the species.

Cedreno gives useful advice for the confession of the circumstances attending sin: "If the person with whom you have sinned, the place where the sin was committed, or the manner of its accomplishment, or any other detail, gives you special remorse, then mention that point, for it will then be the confessor's duty to decide from these indications how far they affect the species of the sin or only increase its gravity."