Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 86.

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

The third opinion denies absolutely the necessity of confessing circumstantias notabiliter aggravantes, and this is the more common and probable view, for which there are many and weighty reasons.

(a) The Council of Trent by positively limiting its decision to those circumstances which change the species seems to exclude positively the obligation of confessing others. It teaches that circumstances must be mentioned because without them the sins would not be properly confessed by the penitents nor properly understood by the judge, so that he would be incapable of estimating correctly the gravity of the sins and of imposing a becoming penance. From these words of the Council it is fair to conclude that the penitent has done all that is necessary when he confesses those circumstances.

(b) Moreover, we are bound only to declare mortal sin; now the circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes within the same species evidently add no new species of a mortal sin, hence they need not be confessed. To confess them is an act of perfection, good, of course, and wholesome, just as is the practise of confessing venial sins.

(c) Moreover, many consequences of no small importance follow from the opposite doctrine. While the present opinion is calculated to set at rest the minds of both penitent and confessor, the other has quite the opposite tendency, for who could even approximately gauge how far circumstances have a notable effect upon the sin? Imagine the difficult and often fruitless enquiries a confessor would have to make with many of his penitents in order to come to a satisfactory decision. It follows, besides, from the opposite view that the circumstantiæ notabiliter minuentes would have to be confessed or else the confessor would consider some sin more serious than it actually was, and even our opponents grant that this is not necessary.

(d) Finally, the Church could not in the General Council deduce this obligation from the words of Christ, otherwise she would not have given that definite limit to the obligation; the law of confessing circumstantiæ notabiliter aggravantes is, therefore, at least doubtful, and a doubtful law has no binding force. Hence this opinion may be adopted in praxi with a safe conscience even though its opposite be probable, and whoever follows it does not expose the Sacrament to any danger of nullity, for to secure validity a formally entire confession is sufficient, and of that there is no doubt.

This view is taught by St. Thomas (in 4 Sentent. d. 16, Q. 3, art. 2 et Opusc. 7, Q. 6), St. Antoninus, St. Bonaventura, St. Bernardine, Lugo, Vasquez, Bonacina, Salmanticenses, and the greater number of the older theologians. Among the more recent it is quite the common doctrine; compare Gury and the different editors of his text-book, among whom Ballerini is strongly in favor of this opinion, Muller, Lehmkuhl, Aertnys, Mark, Konings, Simar, Kenrick, Gousset, Pruner, Ninzatti, etc.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Confessional. Part 85.

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


Appeal is made also to the Catechismus Romanus, which directs that those circumstances should be confessed "which greatly increase or diminish the malice." It may be objected to this, however, that the context makes it clear that there is no necessity to interpret the passage as referring to circumstances which merely increase the degree, not the kind, of the guilt; for the Catechism continues thus: Many circumstances are so serious that in them alone lies the whole gravity of the sin, so that they ought to be confessed; but the only circumstances which can make a sin grave are those that change the moral or theological species. This is confirmed by the fact that the Ritual prescribes also that circumstances very notably diminishing the gravity of the sin should be revealed; for even the opponents grant that this has force only when the mitigating circumstances change the species. Moreover, the Catechism illustrates its doctrine by declaring the necessity of mentioning the circumstance of "a person consecrated to God " in a case of murder, and the circumstance of "marriage " in the case of impurity; and these belong to the circumstances which change the moral species. Finally, if the Catechism adduces the example of a theft, it is no proof that the question is not of circumstances which change the species, and when it declares that one who has stolen one gold piece is less guilty than another who has stolen a hundred pieces this may easily be understood of a circumstance which (with regard to the absolute quantity) constitutes a venial guilt and so introduces a distinct theological species.

This view is held, among others, by Suarez, Sanchez, Gonet, Lacroix.

Other theologians teach that there is no necessity of confessing circumstantias notabiliter aggravantes, but they make an exception with regard to the circumstance of quantity in cases of theft. St. Alphonsus, along with other theologians, however, is of opinion that this exception ought not to be granted if the quantity is described as being large; for from that the confessor can per se make a sufficiently accurate judgment. Ballerini remarks very justly that the exception should be worded thus: Except when some additional reason exists, e.g. a reservation directed against a certain kind of incest or against the theft of some given amount.