Spiritual Reading for Low Monday ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

CONFESSION

VII.-DOUBTS

I do not wish that any soul be disturbed by what has been said in regard to concealing sins through a false shame. What I have said is applicable only to those who have a consciousness of grievous and certain sins, and who, through shame, will not confess them. With regard to doubts, which some may have of having committed certain sins, or of having made bad confessions, if they wish to disclose them to a confessor for their greater tranquillity, they will do well, unless they have a scrupulous conscience. For the scrupulous, it is not advisable to confess their doubts. It may be useful for the timid to know certain doctrines approved by Theologians, that may save them from a great deal of disquiet of conscience, and give them peace of mind.

First, it is a solid and very probable opinion of Theologians that there is no obligation of confessing doubtful mortal sins, as, for instance, when a person doubts whether he had full advertence, or whether he gave a perfect and deliberate consent. The divines add that at death there is an obligation either of making an act of perfect contrition lest the doubtful sin should have been really grievous, or to tell, not the doubtful sin, but any certain sin (a venial sin is sufficient), and to receive the Sacrament of Penance. But this is necessary only when a person after the doubtful sin, had never received sacramental absolution. Many Theologians of high authority also say that persons who have for a long time led a spiritual life, when doubtful whether they have consented to mortal sin, may remain certain of not having lost the grace of God; because it is morally impossible that a person well confirmed in good purposes should be suddenly changed and yield to mortal sin without clearly perceiving that he had consented to it. For mortal sin is a monster so horrible that it cannot enter a soul that for a long time has abhorred it without producing on the mind a clear knowledge of its entrance into the soul. This is fully proved in my work on Moral Theology.

Secondly, when it is certain that a mortal sin has been committed, and when there is a doubt whether it has been ever confessed, then, if the doubt be a negative one-that is, if there be no reason to judge that it has been confessed-it is certainly necessary to tell the sin in Confession. But when there is reason to believe, or a well-founded presumption that the sin has been once told, then according to the common opinion of divines, there is no obligation of confessing it. Hence, divines commonly teach that if a perEon who has made his general or particular confessions with sufficient diligence doubts whether he has forgotten in confession a certain sin, or circumstance of sin, he is not bound to confess it; because he can prudently judge that it has been already sufficiently confessed. t He need not confess the sin, though he should feel a great unwillingness to disclose the doubt that tormented him. But such a person may say: If I were bound to tell such a thing I should feel great shame. But what does it matter that you are ashamed to tell it? As long as you are not obliged to confess it be not troubled. The confession of certain natural actions should also cause shame, but you are not therefore obliged to mention them. Thus, for example, you are not obliged to confess certain acts of levity or immodest jests that occurred in your childhood without a knowledge of their malice. Nor is your having done these: acts in secret a certain proof of malice; for children do certain natural actions secretly, though these actions are not sins. Hence we are not bound to accuse ourselves in particular of such things, unless we remember that we committed them with an impression, or at least with a doubt, that they were grievous sins. It is, then, enough for a person to say within himself: Lord, if I really knew that I was bound to confess these things I would readily confess them, though I should suffer every pain.

This is intended for the comfort of timorous souls that feel great anxiety arising from a fear that they did not well know how to explain all their doubts in Confession. But it is useful for all, at least for their humiliation, to make known to their director the doubts by which they are troubled. I except the scrupulous, for they should not speak of their doubts. What I would advise is that all would explain to their confessors their passions, attachments, and the causes of their temptations, that he may be able to cut off the roots which, if not extirpated, will never cease to cause temptations, and will expose the soul to great danger of comenting to sin, when it can but will not remove the cause. It will also be very profitable to some to disclose the temptations that are most humiliating, particularly thoughts against chastity, though there should be no consent. St. Philip Neri used to say that a temptation disclosed is half¬conquered. I have said that it is very profitable to some: for with regard to others of tried virtue, who are too timid on this point and are always afraid of having consented to .8in, it is sometimes useful to forbid them to confess such temptations, unless they are certain of having yielded to them. For by the very examination that such persons make in order to ascertain whether they have consented or not, and thinking of the manner in which they will explain the temptation, the images of the bad objects presented to the mind become more vivid, and the soul becomes more agitated by repeated apprehensions of consent. Obey your confessor on this point, and be ruled by his advice.

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