Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Confessional. Part 91.

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

The grounds for this opinion, and the objections to the opposite view, are so convincing that it may be regarded as the more probable and be followed tuta conscientia. The following objection has no weight. Since confession is a necessary means for salvation, and since in such a case a man must take the safer means rather than trust to a probable opinion, he is thus obliged to confess peccata dubia. A distinction must be made. The Sacrament of Penance, and particularly the absolution in which its efficacy for the most part consists, may certainly be called a necessary means for salvation in re vel in voto with regard to those who have committed mortal sin after Baptism; besides, if a man doubt whether he has sinned grievously, either perfect contrition or absolution are necessary, and for that reason confession also in so far as this is required to obtain valid absolution or sanctifying grace through the absolution; but the integrity of confession can be regarded as necessary only in so far as it is proved to be the prescribed means of obtaining absolution licite et valide. The proof, however, for the necessity of confessing doubtful sins is so little substantiated that, as we have shown, the very opposite is proved from the words of the Council and the explanation of St. Alphonsus.'

When one considers the teaching of those older theologians who maintained the necessity of confessing mortalia negative dubia, it is not difficult to see that, while their mode of expression comprises more, yet, they really meant to say that a penitent is not to consider himself free from all obligation of confessing his sin for some paltry reason which is in his favor, though knowing at the same time that there are weighty reasons to be urged against him and his freedom from mortal sin. 1

1 Cf. Lehmkuhl, 1. c.; Mazzotta, 1. c. De oris confessione, cp. 4. St. Alphonsus declares very precisely that St. Thomas' doctrine on this matter is not against us: " He does not speak of a penitent who after diligent examination of conscience comes to the conclusion that his sin is doubtfully mortal and then lays aside his doubt in accordance with the rule that there is no certain obligation where it is question of a doubtful transgression; he Is rather considering the case of the penitent who is certain that he has performed a sinful act but cannot decide whether it was gravely sinful or not; such a penitent is, of course, obliged to take pains to remove the doubt, and if he cannot settle he must submit it to the judgment of his confessor, whose office it is to distinguish between sin and sin." S. Alph. 1. c. n. 474 (fin.).