Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Confessional. Part 92.

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

From this teaching it follows that he who has a negative doubt as to whether he sinned is not stricte loquendo obliged to confess before communicating; but in order to make sure of the required dispositions he ought either to make an act of perfect contrition or receive sacramental absolution after confessing something which is included under materia certa.

For the rest it is in practice generally recommended to the faithful, in order to secure peace of soul, to mention even their doubtful mortal sins, though there is no obligation to do so, and the confession without the accusation of these sins is complete; they must, however, be instructed to confess these sins as doubtful and not as certain. If a penitent have only sins of this sort to accuse himself of, he has a right to conditional absolution on the first accusation of them. It is better, however, to add other certain matter as the sins of one's past life; this is required if the absolution is to be unconditional.

In practice the following rules might be profitably observed: —

1. If there be a doubt as to whether the matter of a sin be grave, ill-instructed penitents (pænitentes rudes) should confess their doubts because (a) they cannot guide their own consciences, or they do so with great difficulty, and because (b) for the most part they do not know how to distinguish between mortal and venial sin. Exception, of course, is made for the scrupulous who are not in the habit of frequently committing mortal sin. Well-instructed penitents are certainly not obliged to confess doubtful mortal sins, since they are in a position to guide their own consciences; yet they are advised to do so, for then their confessor is informed of the dangers to which his penitent is exposed and can warn, instruct, and free him from them.

2. If the doubt turns on the free consent of the will or full advertence, (a) penitents of timorous consciences, who do not ordinarily sin mortally, are in no way obliged to confess doubtful sins, for the presumption is in their favor: ex communiter contingentibus fit prudens præsumptio. Since they are not in the habit of sinning mortally, it is fair to presume that their doubtful sins are not mortal; indeed they ought not infrequently to be deterred from confessing them if they are inclined to scrupulosity. " A man of approved virtue who is worried as to whether he has consented to an impure temptation may be morally certain that he has not consented; for it is morally impossible that a will so constant in good resolutions should change without giving unmistakable signs." (b) Penitents who, though not timorous, are not lax are certainly not obliged to confess a doubtful consent, though they may be advised to do so to secure peace of conscience and the other benefits which follow from the practice, (c) If, however, the penitent has a lax conscience, he is obliged to confess his doubtful sins, for the presumption is against him.