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physician, he deems it a useful or necessary means to secure the fulfilment of the penitent's purpose of amendment. This "is certain and commonly admitted by all," says St. Alphonsus (vi. 462): it is the "true common view," as Lugo states (d. 14, n. 169).' 1

There are two preliminary points on which there need be no controversy, but which, unless provided for, are liable to cause confusion. The first is this. Though a penitent appears at first sight to be fully disposed, there may be circumstances that will make a prudent confessor pause before coming to a definite conclusion. There may be a deep-rooted habit of sin; or the penitent may have relapsed repeatedly after confession, without having made any real effort; or he may have failed time after time to discharge, say, a serious obligation of restitution. In these and similar cases, his past record may lessen the value of his present protestations. If so, the confessor may have doubts about his dispositions,' and Canon 886 will have no application.

Secondly, though we hold that a properly disposed penitent has a strict right in justice to immediate absolution, we admit that he may renounce that right in normal cases. If, with full knowledge of his rights, and without being over-awed or influenced unduly by the rigour of the confessor, he consents to postponement, little can be said against -and perhaps much in favour of the policy. In a sense, everyone who makes a sacramental confession may be said to ask for absolution' -and this increases the force of Canon 886 very considerably-but we are willing to admit that, in almost any given case, the penitent may suspend the priest's obligation if he pleases.

But, leaving these matters aside, we come to the test case. May a penitent, who is certainly disposed, but is, at the same time, obliged (say) to pay a considerable sum in restitution, be refused absolution until he has actually discharged his obligation? The teaching of a few years ago is expressed pretty accurately by Lehmkuhl: if it is considerably more difficult for the penitent to return than to fulfil his grave obligation, let him be absolved at once. . . but, if it be more difficult for him to fulfil the grave obligation by which he is bound than to return, let the absolution be deferred.'s Does the Code condemn this postponement, or does it not? Canon 886, taken as it stands, certainly does condemn it, as 'Sacerdos' will admit. But must it be taken as it stands? Or may the distinction, imported by 'Sacerdos,' be admitted? One might brush the addition aside with the old-time remark, 'Ubi lex non

1 Loc. cit.

2 The policy of 'Sacerdos' was defended in the past on St. Alphonsus' principle that the penitent has a right, not to immediate absolution, but to absolution in the near future (vi. 462). It is hard to justify the principle, and Canon 886, we believe, leaves it indefensible.

3 Cf. Ferreres, Comp. Th. Mor. (Code edition), ii. 727: 'cum poenitens libenter in dilationem consentiat.'

4 Ibid. n. 727 (note): Petit absolutionem, omnis qui instituit confessionem sacramentalem.'

* ii. 557.

distinguit, neque nos distinguere debemus.' But that would be hardly fair. The best authorities always allowed us to import distinctions when we could show sufficient cause. So the question comes to this: Is there sufficient cause in the case? On the basis of the old teaching, 'Sacerdos ' thinks there is: we are inclined to the other view, and for the following


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1o. Canon 886 is not found in previous legislation. The pre-Code writers were too timorous to use it. As Father Marc correctly states, the previous teaching was of quite a different type: he uses the fact against the canon, we use it in its favour. The older canonists employed the words, but always with a qualification: they added 'per se,' or generally' or 'as a rule,' or some other phrase of the kind, and under the phrases they sheltered the exceptions. The Code might easily have used the phrases, too: as a matter of fact, it has discarded them completely; and, once they are gone, the exceptions they sheltered must go as well. The law, in so far as it drops the qualifications, is new; and, in so far as it is new, it must be judged, not by the old laws, but on its merits (6, 3°).

2o. The canon, taken as it stands and in the sense we support, is the natural culmination of a long development from the rigour of the early centuries to the comparative mildness of our own. When the Christian world was young, absolution was postponed as a rule till the penitent had proved the sincerity of his repentance by discharging the severe penances imposed. It was only when the faith had penetrated through the world and when the early fervour had appreciably cooled that the milder method began to be adopted. It made its way gradually and in face of many protests; and secured a firm footing only when experience had proved that a method admirably suited to a small conmunity of saints would have disastrous effects when applied to men and women of the normal type. Even when established finally it was not quite safe from attack: we need only recall the vigorous efforts of the Jansenists to have the old régime restored, and the equally vigorous Papal condemnation of the dogmatic errors underlying the movement and of the practical consequences it would certainly involve. In our own time the last echoes of the disturbance had passed away, and the only relic of old-time rigour was found in the provision for special cases mentioned by 'Sacerdos.'

This provision, it must be remembered, was made on principles essentially different from those of the Jansenists. No one suggested that postponement was essential for a valid absolution; the contention was merely that it might tend occasionally to promote the penitent's spiritual welfare. But the same causes that led the Church to modify the rigour of her early discipline were operating still; and many thought that the time had come for a further advance in the same direction. We have quoted Lehmkuhl already as recording the stage of development

1 See the manuals passim.

* For some details on the matter, cf. I. T. Quarterly, January, 1911, pp. 43 sqq., April, 1911, pp. 212 sqq.

reached in his own time: we may quote him also as testifying to the need for its further extension-going so far as to suggest that the milder principle might be availed of, occasionally, even in the case of the 'doubtfully' disposed:

The confessor as physician should consider before God which is better for the penitent-to be absolved [at once] or kept without absolution for a time. To decide this, account should by all means be taken of the character of the penitent and of the condition of the times and places in which we live. For, when faith tends to be languid and the penitent can hardly be brought to make a confession, it is dangerous to defer absolution, so that this very fact itself may be a reason why absolution should be given to a doubtfully disposed penitent. Hence it is that, frequently in our days, a confessor should incline more towards giving absolution than he would have been justified in doing in earlier times, when faith was vigorous and active.1


The other spokesmen of our time were clearly of the same opinion. Noldin, for instance, after stating that postponement was never a necessary' means, nor obligatory on the confessor, summed up his views in a sentence: absolution is never to be postponed in case of a disposed penitent, if he himself be unwilling.' 2 And Génicot, dealing with relapsing sinners, records his conviction that 'the utility of postponement-asserted by Lessius and the older teachers to have been proved by experience—is, in at least many places, very doubtful at the present day. . . . Recourse should not be had to it, except with the greatest caution.'

The time was ripe for a further development. The restrictive clauses of the old theology had outlived their usefulness. And that, we believe, is why the Code states categorically that if the confessor cannot have any doubt about the dispositions of the penitent, and if the latter asks for absolution, the absolution is to be neither refused nor postponed' (886).

The recent commentators are not very enlightening. Father Arregui repeats the old teaching, quotes the canon also, but makes no attempt to reconcile them. Father Sebastiani reprints his previous statements, and makes no mention of the canon at all-not a very satisfactory way of escaping from the difficulty. The writer of the 'Supplement' to Father Noldin's text-book adopts the same easy method: he mentions neither subject nor canon. Father Ferreres, though, evidently feels that the canon has made a change: as we have seen already, he allows postponement only when the penitent freely consents; and his solution of our test case on restitution is substantially the same as our own.? change in the Sabetti-Barrett Compendium is more eloquent. The provision for postponement' when the confessor prudently decides that it is useful

1 ii. 558.

2 iii. 406.

3 ii. 370.

• Summ. Th. Mor., 622.

5 Summ. Th. Mor. (1918), n. 491.

6 1918, p. 65.

7 Loc. cit., ii. 732.


for the penitent's amendment' has disappeared.1 The word 'saepe' is deleted from the query an expediat saepe uti praedicto remedio, differendo absolutionem poenitenti sufficienter disposito?'; and the reply, instead of providing for the old exceptions, is given simply in the words of Canon 886.2

Our opinion regarding the arguments proposed by 'Sacerdos' is based on what we have stated. But they deserve an answer individually :

1o. His distinction is fully sanctioned by the best writers in the past, but we think the weight of evidence is against its being allowed to modify Canon 886. His suggestion, moreover, we are afraid, would lead to postponement in nearly all cases; very few are so disposed as to draw from absolution all the benefit they can and should.'

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2o. The Holy See, we admit, does not generally condemn the common view. But it does occasionally. The decree of the late Pope, on the dispositions required for Communion, is a case in point. And the parallel between it and Canon 886 is suggestive.

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The matter, we may add, is not one of the natural or divine law': it is simply one of ecclesiastical discipline.

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3°. We doubt whether the rôles assigned by 'Sacerdos' to the 'judge' and 'physician' can claim the support of Canon 888. According to the canon, the physician is a man of mercy' (§ 1), prohibited from adopting measures that would be quite within the judge's sphere (§ 2). Whereas, if 'Sacerdos'' suggestion be correct, the confessor, in his mild capacity as 'physician,' is expected to adopt more rigorous measures than he could in his strict capacity as 'judge.'


We admit that some advantage may be secured occasionally by delaying absolution. But, joined with it, there is the great disadvantage that the penitent is in the meantime 'an enemy of God, incapable of all merit and satisfaction.' In times past the advantage was held to prevail occasionally. It seems to us that-as in the parallel instance of Communion-the Church has now come to the conclusion that the disadvantage' predominates in the concrete circumstances of our own times, and that the policy must be reversed.

4°. The documents, we believe, bear witness to the development described above. But, like all the documents cited in the 'Notes,' they must be employed with caution. Some of them are partially opposed to the canons, as we are reminded by Cardinal Gasparri in his Preface (p. 37): 'vix animadvertere attinet canones haud semper cum suis fontibus omni ex parte in sententia congruere.'

5o. In some of the cases enumerated, there may be doubt as to the penitent's dispositions. If so, Canon 886 may be left out of account, as we agreed at the beginning. But, if there is no doubt, absolution, we believe, must be given at once. And the underlying principles are,

1 Contrast the 1919 edition, n. 797, with its predecessor (1915), same number. 2 Contrast same editions, n. 798.

3 See the 'Instruction' of the Propaganda (3rd Oct., 1736)—a strong document in favour of immediate absolution. It is quoted in several of the manuals. 4 Cf. I. E RECORD, January, 1919, p. 61.

1o, that the matter is one of justice; 2°, that the policy of postponement is likely, in our days, to deter the faithful from approaching the Sacraments; 3°, that the immediate grant of sacramental grace is a more important consideration in the spiritual life than any advantages secured by its refusal.


REV. DEAR SIR,-Might I ask your opinion on the following cases :1o. John, without cause, delays his Office till 11 p.m. He intends to continue it till 12.12, if necessary, as the real time of his locality is 12 minutes behind Greenwich. At 11.15 he is called to a sick person and does not return till 12 o'clock. He feels tired on his return and retires to rest without saying any more of the Office, claiming that the obligation ceases at 12, and that to continue till 12.12 would be to use a privilege which no one is obliged to do. I supported him, but another curate held that he was bound to use the 12 minutes—and that, even though he had not intended to make use of them when he started the Office.

2o. John has a busy Sunday-binates, assists at Communion at third Mass, collects from door to door from 11.30 till 3.0; baptizes three children at 3.30, and assists at Benediction. He has the faculty of saying five decades of the Rosary 'si officium ob aliquod legitimum impedimentum recitare non valeat,' and uses it in this case. Usually on Sunday evening he takes two hours reasonable recreation with his fellow-priests. On this day, however, he foregoes part of this to anticipate Matins and Lauds of Monday, when he will be travelling. Is this allowable, or should he say Matins and Lauds of the Sunday instead?

3°. The Sacrosanctae' is to be said 'flexis genibus. . . praeter quam ab iis qui ob certam infirmitatis vel gravioris impedimenti causam nequeunt genuflectere.' Can a priest who recites it in a train obtain the effect granted by Leo X?

Taking the queries in order :


1o. The first raises points on which, we are afraid, the theologians will never come to an agreement. We discussed them in an earlier issue,1 and would ask 'Capellanus' to read the replies. Our general conclusion was that everyone is free to adopt whatever recognized system of time-calculation he pleases, and even to change from one to another, provided his purpose is not to escape an obligation. If John normally adopts Greenwich time-or even had decided bona fide to adopt it on this occasion, before the difficulty arose we do not see that he was in any way obliged to avail of the additional 12 minutes. But if-as appears to have been the case-he mapped out his programme on a local-time basis, he was obliged to stand by it till the obligations attaching to the day (as he defined it) had been all duly fulfilled. His tired feeling, we presume, was not serious enough to exempt him; and the reasons he alleged were insufficient-the obligation ceased at 12,' but '12' had not arrived on his calculation: he was not obliged to use a privilege," but he was obliged not to so manipulate privileges as to escape a serious


1 I. E. RECORD, January, 1918, pp. 50-8.7

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