Monday, 29 May 2017

The Confessional. Part 98.

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

II. The obligation of confessing these forgotten sins does not urge ratione sui "as soon as possible" (quam primum), not even before receiving holy communion.

Of course many distinguished theologians teach that whoever remembers a grave sin, even though not committed since the last confession but forgotten, must confess that sin and receive absolution before going to communion. The only reason urged is that he is conscious of this sin; and, according to the Council of Trent, no one who is conscious of grave sin may receive communion before having confessed where there is an opportunity of making the confession. The defenders of this view maintain that the Tridentine decree is so expounded and understood by the whole Church; they make an exception, however, for the case where confession cannot be made without risk of scandal or infamy, as, for example, when a priest is already celebrating Mass or a layman has approached the communion-rail and cannot retire without exciting remark.

It is permissible, however, with St. Alphonsus and other theologians (in less number) to follow the other "very probable opinion" which denies the obligation of confessing; for in reality confession has preceded communion and the penitent has confessed all the sins of which he was conscious, so that neither the Council of Trent nor the divine law seems to demand more; moreover, the forgotten sin has been remitted indirectly, the penitent is in the state of grace, not merely by an act of contrition but in virtue of the valid confession. The practice of the faithful which is appealed to for the opposite side is not to be regarded as of binding force, but rather a pious and praiseworthy custom.

Though one may follow tuta conscientia the opinion which denies the obligation, it is good to recommend to the faithful to confess before communion the sins which have been forgotten, unless the extremely sensitive conscience of the penitent should require another course to be adopted; the practice should not, however, be imposed as binding.

The view held by some, though a very few, modern theologians, that it is quite sufficient to mention these sins without receiving absolution, is not at all in harmony with the divine institution of the Sacrament, for confession is not made with the view of acquainting the priest with the sins committed, but in order that they may be remitted by his judicial sentence. Hence a serious argument for the necessity of confession can be drawn only from the supposition that absolution is necessary. Accordingly a penitent who confesses a new mortal sin immediately after absolution must be absolved again. Of course this absolution may be put off to the next confession if the penitent comes again to the same confessor to whom he told the sin. Such delay, however, would hardly be recommended, since it would involve the penitent in the following dilemma: Either he is not free to choose his confessor on the next occasion on which he approaches the Sacrament, or if he goes to some other priest he must confess the same sin again.