Friday, 28 April 2017

The Confessional. Part 95.

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

III. The sins which have been incurred after a doubtfully valid Baptism must be confessed when Baptism is given conditionally. Lehmkuhl treats very fully of this question and remarks that on this point there can be no doubt after the late decisions of the Apostolic See. Many theologians were inclined to free converts from the obligation of making a confession of their sins on the ground that, their Baptism by a heretical minister being doubtful, the sins committed after Baptism were doubtful matter for confession; hence they thought that to such converts, if they confessed matter sufficient in any way for receiving validly the Sacrament or the grace of sanctification through the Sacrament, absolution might be given conditionally; " this, they maintained, was the practice to be recommended in order that converts might not be obliged in the beginning of their conversion to undergo this often very severe ordeal of a confession of a lifetime.

In answer to repeated questions the Apostolic See (in the years 1715 and 1868) explicitly declared that converts who receive conditional Baptism must after receiving this conditional Baptism confess the sins of their past life and be absolved from them sub conditione. This decision was given of course as an answer to a particular case laid before the tribunal; but the intention of the Holy Office, as is quite clear, was to pass a sentence and give a universal decision which might apply to all cases falling under this head and which might be regarded in future as the law on the matter, for this decree can be regarded only as an authentic interpretation of the divine law by the Head of the Church, and not as a local law of the Church or a part of her discipline. Nor need any one be surprised that a decree, though particular in form, has a universal application; for a command of the Church will never prescribe anything as necessary matter of confession which is not in accordance with the divine law. In order, then, to recognize the possibility that such a precept is contained in the decree of 1715 it must be granted that, in accordance with divine right, the sins incurred after doubtfully valid Baptism must be submitted to the keys. Such is what we learn from that positive declaration; moreover, reason confirms it, for, though one who is doubtfully baptized has not a certainty but only a probability of receiving sacramental absolution of his sins, it in no way follows that the obligation to confess them is only probable and practically to be disregarded; for the duty of confessing and performing the assigned penance is for all more certain than that probability of receiving the effects of the Sacrament. This does not go beyond a moral certainty taken in the wider sense, since it rests ultimately on the validity of the Baptism and other conditions, so that doubts can always be entertained about it. But the duty of confessing and performing the assigned penance permits no such doubt, since every obligation though it be based on grounds only morally certain is sufficiently evident; otherwise there would be an end of anything like obligation in human affairs.