Friday, 28 October 2016

The Confessional. Part 9.

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

4. Forgiveness of Venial Sin.

"Venial sins, by which we are not shut out from the grace of God and into which we fall more frequently, though they be rightly and profitably declared in confession, as the practice of pious people demonstrates, may be omitted without guilt, and be expiated by many other methods." Such is the teaching of the Council of Trent.

Before enumerating the methods by which venial sins can be remitted we wish to observe: —

1. The most necessary condition for the remission of any sin, and therefore also of venial sin, is contrition. So long as a man is attached to sin and does not detest it, God cannot forgive it, for He is infinitely holy and just. It is not, however, absolutely necessary to specify the sins and make a formal act of sorrow for them, otherwise David's prayer Ab occultis meis munda me (Ps. xviii. 13) would be useless and the remission of forgotten sins impossible. Virtual contrition is sufficient, i.e. the sinner must be actually contrite for all his sins, and from universal motives which apply even to those sins of which he is unconscious or which he has forgotten. He must also have the intention of including in that contrition all the sins by which he has offended God. Although venial sin is more easily forgiven than mortal, yet this forgiveness is impossible without at least a virtual contrition for it. For when a man falls into venial sin he turns inordinately to creatures, not, however, as in mortal sin, by entirely abandoning God, his last end, and unreservedly giving himself up to creatures. This attachment to creatures, however, makes it necessary that he should, if not formally and explicitly, at least virtually and implicitly, turn away from them and combat this guilty affection for creatures by a contrary act of the will. A work done to please God, or a mere act of love without abhorrence of sin, does not remit that sin. As venial sin may coexist with the general habit of the love of God, so it may coexist with a particular act of that love; for a man can make an act of perfect love or even an act of perfect contrition and still retain a leaning toward some particular venial sin.

2. Since the presence of venial sin is compatible with that of sanctifying grace, and since a man can be sorry for one venial sin without being necessarily sorry for another, it follows that one venial sin may be forgiven and others left unforgiven.

3. A penitent who is burdened with both mortal and venial sins may by perfect contrition or the Sacrament of Penance be freed from his mortal sins and yet be left with his venial sins still upon him because he is not sorry for these.

4. Hence, if a man is in the state of mortal sin, his venial sins cannot be remitted without the mortal sin being at the same time forgiven; for God cannot forgive one who will not acknowledge and love Him as Lord and God; and, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, just as mortal sin is forgiven by the influx of sanctifying grace, so the remission of venial sin is dependent on a movement of grace or love, which therefore must be actually present. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Confessional. Part 8.

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

3. Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance.

The precept of the Church prescribes, moreover, that the faithful confess their sins sincerely (fideliter). By a bad confession we cannot discharge our duty. This was distinctly confirmed by Alexander VII, condemning a proposition to the contrary. (Prop. 14.)

A further provision of the Lateran decree, to confess proprio sacerdoti, which formerly obliged the faithful to make their annual confession to their own parish priest, bishop, vicar-general, or the Pope, has long been abrogated by a recognized universal contrary practice. Confession may, therefore, be made to any priest duly authorized by the bishop. 1

The excommunication for the violation of the Church's precept of annual confession, as of Paschal Communion, is not a pæna latæ, but a pæna ferendæ sententiæ.

The ardent wish of the Church is that her children should confess frequently during the year. This is apparent from the wording of the law. Frequent confession is of the greatest usefulness to all without exception, to the sinner as well as the just. It destroys the evil inclinations born by sin and averts its terrible consequences.

1. Although, absolutely considered, a single confession made worthily and with due preparation is able to arrest us in the downward career of vice, to extinguish the long-nourished flame of passion, to correct our evil inclinations and habits, to confirm us in grace, and to insure us against relapse; yet this is not the ordinary course of things. When we are cleansed from our sins by the Sacrament, we have yet to face a long struggle with the remains of sin; for the wounds inflicted by sin, though closed by the grace of absolution, leave us in a weakened condition, and may easily reopen. To effect a perfect cure of the soul, and to purify its inclinations and habits, there exists no more efficacious means than frequent confession. It leads us to greater watchfulness over ourselves, constitutes an act of humility, forces us to renew our good resolutions; it equips us with many special graces, intended to assist us in our spiritual warfare, and to enable us to persevere in the paths of virtue in spite of the manifold difficulties which we encounter.

2. Frequent confession is also the most powerful means to counteract the disastrous consequences of sin. The most fatal of these are: blindness of the soul, hardening of the heart and final impenitence. As often as we go to confession, the great salutary truths of our religion are recalled to our mind. We reflect on God and our last end, on Jesus Christ and His love and mercy, on the wickedness and the dreadful punishments of sin, on our august duties, and on God's holy law. Frequent confession is an antidote against the hardening of the heart, since it arouses in us a profound hatred of sin, love for God, fear of His wrath, and the desire of accomplishing His will. Finally, as at every confession we again banish sin from our hearts, frequent confession is the best preparation for a penitent life and a happy death.

Also the just derives great benefits from frequent confession; he is more and more cleansed from the lesser faults, committed daily; the grace and love o f God are increased in his heart, and special helps to overcome his failings and weakness are granted to him. The oftener the just man approaches this holy Sacrament, the more fully does he partake of its peculiar graces." (Pauli Segneri, S. J., Instructio Pœnitent. cp. XV: Fructus percepti ex frequenti confessione.)

By divine and ecclesiastical precept we are bound only to confess mortal sins; there is no obligation to confess venial sins; these may be forgiven without receiving the Sacrament of Penance.

Cf. Bened. XIV. De Syn. dioec. 1. II. cp. 14, 1-5. Hence a parish priest, who would make his parishioners confess to him, is guilty of sin, since such indiscreet zeal, or unworthy jealousy, might give occasion to sacrilegious confessions. Compare what St. Thomas (1. c. art. 4 et 5) wrote even before it was allowed to confess indifferently to any priest having faculties; that a priest would sin, if he were not ready to give leave to any individual to make his confession to another priest. It was distinctly understood before that time that Cf. Müller, Theol. Mor. Lib. III. Tit. II. § 106.t one might confess to any priest who had been authorized by the proprius sacerdos to hear the confession. Cf. Müller, 1. c. Sect. 118, n. 6-4; Lehmkuhl, 1. c. n. 1205.