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nal live on in a state which God has marked in the Scriptures as very wicked; but how much more frequent must this culpable delusion be in those who have no one whom they dare consult on matters of such extreme delicacy! The holiness of the tribunal and of the place, the sacredness of the office, inspire a confidence which in no other circumstances can be entertained.
We regard it as a counsel of Divine Providence that the confessional has become the chief matter of controversy in this age and country. The foul vituperation of its assailants serves to direct attention to the strictness of our moral code, which regulates the most delicate relations of human life, and with nice discrimination determines right and wrong in thought, word, and action. The turpitude of sin is inherent : it is not the result of theological inquisition, or of the scrutiny of the confessional.
The formularies of confession which Bishop Hopkins has collected from the Middle Ages show that sins of all kinds were considered to be matter of accusation, whenever the conscience of the penitent reproached him with their commission. It cannot, indeed, be supposed that the bishops, to whom several of these formularies are ascribed, were guilty of the enormities which they detail ; but it is likely that they were composed by them, or by their authority, for the direction of penitents, who might appropriate to themselves such portions of them as they found applicable to their own case. It is quite improbable that each one recited the entire formulary, accusing himself in general terms of every kind of sin; for this would imply falsehood, and would amount to nothing, the formulary being common to all. They served, we imagine, the same purpose as modern tables of sins, and were used with such modifications as the individual found necessary to represent the real state of his conscience. Questions directed to this end are prescribed in the penitential work of John the Faster, who sat in the patriarchal chair of Constantinople at the time when the monk Augustine laid the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon hierarchy. This proves that private confession continued to be practised in the Church of Constantinople, notwithstanding the abolition of the office of public penitentiary by Nectarius, who, in leaving each one at liberty to approach communion conformably to his conscience, did not free him from the Divine law of having recourse to the priest for absolution.
The advantages of the confessional must be obvious on the slightest reflection. It is a means of securing the practice of the maxims and laws of Christ, since the penitent is charged to compare his conduct with the Gospel standard, and state with candor wherein he has transgressed. Considering human frailty, we cannot hope that Christians will be altogether without sin. It is much to entice them to reformation by the hope of pardon on condition of repentance. Men easily content themselves with a moral exterior regulated by public opinion. Confession obliges them to search into their own hearts, to discover their secret offences, to weigh the motives of their conduct, and to labor to remove every stain from their conscience. The scrutiny is left chiefly to themselves, the accusation must be spontaneous, and the pardon depends on their fidelity in preparing for its reception by compunction and virtuous resolution. The judge appointed to receive their confession, and pronounce forgiveness, is bound by his office to study the Divine law, and to see that it be understood by the penitent, and applied to bis conduct. He is to judge without fear or favor, having God only in view, in whose name he acts, and the salvation of the sinner. At the peril of his own soul he is charged to exercise his ministry in accordance with the unchangeable principles of the Gospel.
The two writers, among those on our list, who have dilated most on the horrors of the confessional, - Dr. Hopkins with affected delicacy, and Dr. Hawks under a visor, - particularly advert to its secrecy, and describe the dangers to female innocence in a private apartment, at the mercy of a confessor whose acts or speeches are concealed even from her own mother under an impenetrable veil of secrecy. This has one, at least, of the characteristics of poetry, - it is pure fiction. The confessional, according to the prescription of the Roman Ritual and the general usage of Catholic countries, is a box with two distinct apartments, the penitent being entirely separated from the priest, with whom she communicates only through a lattice or grate. It is placed in an open and public situation in the church, and is generally surrounded at the time when consessions are heard by a number of persons, so that priest and penitent are alike under observation. Secrecy is incumbent on the penitent only so far as it may be dishonorable and unjust to expose the confessor to censure or injury for any advice conscientiously given ; but in case of any abuse of the ministry, even in the slightest degree, by an improper insinuation, so far from secrecy being enjoined, the denunciation of the prevaricator to his ecclesiastical superior is absolutely commanded. This must be known to both these writers, since they dwell with satisfaction on the Papal decrees regarding the abuse of the confessional. But how shall we reconcile this knowledge with the effort to persuade their readers that a patent is given for the most unbridled licentiousness by the inviolable secrecy enjoined on the penitent? The privileges of the tribunal are in her favor, and for her protection.
In regard to the alleged frequency of such abuse, the testimony of Llorente
-a traitor to his religion as well as his country — is utterly worthless. The extension said to have been granted by the Spanish Inquisitors of the time for denunciations, is likely to have arisen rather from their scarceness than from their number. The allegations of apostates, on which Dr. Hopkins relies, are self-refuted, since they ought long before to have abandoned a ministry which they represent as essentially corrupt. Above all statements and conjectures is the wellknown fact, that the use of the confessional is regarded as a means of sanctification by all Catholics of every age, sex, and condition of life, - especially by those who frequent it. If it were, as it is represented, a sink of corruption, it would be shunned by the virtuous; its very name would excite horror, and its approach would be forbidden under the severest penalties by every parent, every husband, every guardian of unprotected innocence.
The triumphant vindication of the confessional is found in the confidence which is universally entertained in its purity, which far outweighs the foul suspicions of carnal-minded men, and the fouler charges of licentious lecturers or unprincipled pamphleteers. The homage rendered to it, on both sides of the Atlantic, by men of high moral character not of our communion, more than compensates for these slanderous assaults. The conversion of several of the most eminent among them, Maskell, Forbes, Huntington, Preston, MacLeod, is an earnest of the great number who by this means will be led back to the ancient paths. Bishop Ives does not hesitate to say, “On this doctrine of priestly absolution the great battle of Christ's authority in the Church is to be fought.” We must, however, again express our regret that he does not exhibit the high qualities which should distinguish a leader who combats for the truth. The weakness with which he yielded last year to the Salisbury Convention was not fully redeemed by his prompt disclaimer of the interpretation which they gave to his words ; for although he assumed the tone and swelled to the dignity of a real bishop, he neither acknowledged his error unequivocally, nor avowed the truth in its fulness. For a moment he appeared in a grand attitude, and spoke as one having authority, rebuking with becoming severity the presbyters who had sat in judgment on their prelate : -"I am a bishop. Who are you who usurp the judgment seat? I have retracted nothing : I shall never retract any thing.” But the grandeur of that scene soon passed away, the high tone of authority subsided ; and now with faltering accents he qualifies and modifies bis assertions, in order to silence the murmurs of his clerical subordinates. Men look in vain for the spirit of an Ambrose and a Basil in the shadowy representatives of the episcopate.
The history of the confessional cannot be written by the pen of man : it is the narrative of the secrets of Divine mercy. The angels who rejoice at the conversion of a sinner constantly hover around this tribunal, blotting out the sins as they are uttered, wiping away the tears that trickle down the cheek of the penitent, knocking off the chains which hold the sinner a bondman of Satan, and whispering peace. Who that has opened his mouth in humble confession, with a contrite and afflicted spirit, has not felt, at the moment when the priest pronounced absolution, an inward and mysterious change, the token, if not evidence, of pardon ? The consolation which confession imparts, the hope which it inspires, the strength which it communicates, show it to be a heaven-born institution, a boon of Divine goodness. Let those calumniate it who are strangers to its healing virtue ; but the wretched whom it has comforted, the lost whom it has reclaimed, the dead whom it has restored to life, will bear witness that it is a work of Divine power unto salvation. We shall close with the simple statement of a fact. An aged Lutheran minister, whose convictions and affections tended strongly to Catholicity, once avowed to us bis deep sense of the necessity of such an institution. “I know,” said he, “that I have sinned ; and I dread going forth to meet my Judge, without any previous assurance that my repentance bas been such as he demands. I would sain hear from the lips of his ministers, The Lord hath taken away thy sin.'
As he was dying, the priest was called in, barely in time to bid him go in peace. - VOL. IV. NO, IV.
Art. III. — Poems and Prose Writings. By Richard H.
Dana. New York: Baker & Scribner. 1850. 2 vols. 12mo. pp. 443, 440.
Mr. Dana is one of the patriarchs of American literature, and we are not called upon to treat him as an author making his first appearance before the public. The contents of his volumes were written many years ago, and have long been familiar to the grown-up generation of the author's countrymen. They have already passed the ordeal of the critics, and their author's reputation is too well established to be much affected one way or the other by the comments of reviewers. All that need be done on the appearance of any new edition of them is simply to announce it. Nevertheless, we are unwilling to let this new edition pass without making it the occasion of paying the tribute of our respect to the author, and of throwing out some suggestions which may not be wholly unprofitable to our younger aspirants to artistic excellence and literary glory:
We are reviewers by profession, but reviewers of the subjects, doctrines, principles, or tendencies of books, rather than of books themselves, as mere literary productions. We prize literature and art only as they subserve Christian doctrine and morals. Apart from their relation to these, they have little value in our eyes; for so considered they cease to be genuinely artistic, and have at best merely the form, without the substance, of art.
We esteem no literature which treats of matters and things in their generality, without touching any thing in its speciality, for the general without the special is mere possibility ; and we belong to that class of moralists who hold that every human action is either moral or immoral, either good or bad, and that no human action is ever morally indifferent. To us the end is no less important than the principle, and the philosophy that denies the final cause is as atheistic and absurd as that which denies the first cause. Our theology determines our ethics, and our ethics determines our æsthetics. Theology is the queen of the sciences, and they have no rights or reason of existence but to be employed in her service. Art in its most general sense is simply the application of science to practical life. Hence we are always obliged, whether we are reviewing a work of science or of art, to review it under its relation to Catholicity, and to judge it by its bearing on Catholic doctrine and morals.