Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 82.

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

3. The circumstance of place, if a sacrilege is thereby committed; thus (a) if a sacred object or something belonging to the property of the Church is stolen and taken out from a sacred building, a double sacrilege, real and local, is committed. The circumstance of the local sacrilege, that is, the fact that sin has been committed in the Church is not of itself gravely sinful; hence when a profane object which is merely accidentally in the Church is stolen, a sacrilege, though not a gravely sinful one, is added to the sin of theft.  (b) If the immunity of a church is violated; (c) if anything is done in a church by which it is polluted in the sense of the canon law; (d) if profane occupations gravely at variance with the holiness of the place are carried on in the church, whether those occupations be in themselves sinful or not.

4. The circumstance of time; if, for instance, the time at which the sin took place was the reason why the action in question has been forbidden, and if by the action done at some particular time a special offence is given to God. This circumstance might involve grave sin (a) if Good Friday were chosen for the performance of an obscene play; (b) if during the forbidden time a marriage were celebrated with great pomp; (c) if during the celebration of Mass or immediately after holy communion, before the sacred species had time to be altered, the communicant were to commit some outrage greatly dishonouring to the Blessed Sacrament. These are circumstances which moralists generally enumerate as constituting a new species of sinfulness. On the other hand, a sin committed on a Sunday or feast-day or on a communion-day is not per se invested with the particular malice of a sacrilege; nevertheless the fact that a man relapses into his old sins on a confession or communion day gives ground for the suspicion that his last confession was devoid of real contrition and in consequence invalid and sacrilegious.

5. Finally, the circumstance of the end in view is to be confessed if it is in se mortally sinful; for instance, a man who steals with the object of getting drunk is guilty of drunkenness as well as theft, and on that account must confess the purpose for which he stole.

Now there are many penitents who cannot judge of the circumstances which change the nature of the sin; such must be taught to mention in confession whatever increases or diminishes the malice of the sin; the rest will be supplied by the confessor, for he has the duty of asking the penitent not only about the circumstances which affect the species of sin, but everything which he considers necessary to aid him in forming a correct judgement on the spiritual state of the penitent. This right implies a duty on the part of the penitent to answer the questions put to him; these questions turn for the most part on habits of sin, relapses, and proximate occasions of sinning. Hence Innocent XI condemned the proposition which denies the obligation of answering when the confessor makes inquiries about habits of sin. The knowledge of a habit of sin, or of relapses, or of proximate occasions is very important in settling whether absolution should be given or deferred; besides it is of supreme importance to the confessor in his office as physician that he be in a position to suggest the necessary and proper means for amendment. The penitent must, therefore, if asked, mention former sins though already confessed. No one need take offence because he is thus obliged per accidens to repeat sins which have already been duly forgiven; the purpose is not to pronounce a new sentence upon them, but to enable the priest to form a correct judgement with regard to the sins just confessed by noting their relation to former sins, and thus to prescribe suitable means of correction and provide as much as possible against relapses.