Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Confessional. Part 93.

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

If, then, a pious person who often renews his resolution never to sin mortally is not certain that he has ever revoked that resolution; if he is startled when he perceives the evil and promptly repels the temptation, and doubts whether he has given way; if he remembers that he was in an excited state of mind; if he cannot tell whether the thought or action took place in sleep or in waking moments, the presumption is that there was no full consent.

The presumption, however, is against those who are accustomed to fall easily into grave sin; had they withstood the temptation they would remember what effort they made to overcome it. Hence Lacroix very justly concludes that such people never have a real negative doubt, since the presumption determines the probability of consent or resistance to the temptation.

Now comes the question as to what the penitent ought to do who has confessed a mortal sin as doubtful and afterwards discovers that he has certainly committed it; is he obliged to confess the sin anew or may he consider the case closed? The sin has undoubtedly been remitted directly by the power of the keys, since the conditional sentence "if thou hast really sinned" becomes absolute where the condition has been verified. St. Alphonsus teaches that sins confessed as doubtful should be mentioned again as certain if it turns out that they are certain; and this doctrine he affirms to be the common opinion. The defenders of this view maintain as their great argument that the sin was not confessed as it was in the conscience at the moment when it was committed; then it was a peccatum certum; moreover, they argue, the sentence passed on a doubtful sin is quite different from that passed on a sin which is certain. Yet in the case of sins which have been confessed in round numbers St. Alphonsus himself teaches that even when the penitent afterwards recalls the exact number, he is not obliged to confess again; why, then, should this obligation be imposed on the penitent who has confessed his sin as doubtful when he discovers later that it was certain? A man who has confessed that he has committed a mortal sin about ten times and later discovers that the number was twelve must either confess as certain the two or more sins which were previously confessed as doubtful, or, if this obligation is denied, he cannot be obliged to confess a sin again which he has discovered to be certain after having already confessed it as doubtful. That in the first instance the penitent is free of all obligation to confess again, is the sententia communissima, and it is borne out by the practice of the faithful ; hence in the other case the same freedom must be granted, for both decisions rest on the same grounds. Nor can it be objected that the number of the sins is merely a circumstance, while the sin itself is a substantial fact, for the number belongs to the very substance, since it indicates so many substantial acts.

It is true that St. Alphonsus calls the affirmative opinion communis; but since Lugo (though even he gave his adhesion practically to the view of St. Alphonsus in consideration of the great number of theologians who favored it) has combated the view with strong arguments, later theologians adopted his side, so that the affirmative proposition maintaining the duty of confessing again can no longer be considered as communis. At present, as Ballerini aptly shows, the other view is the communior sententia and is established on good external and internal probability, and may be unhesitatingly considered as probabilior et communior.