|Fr Jean Marie F.SS.R. performs the Ritus Aspersionis. Outside Eastertide, the accompanying|
chant is about how we want to washed 'whiter than snow.' In Eastertide, the focus is on the
flow of this cleansing water, from the side of Christ on the Cross.
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.
Note (351): In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 , 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid. , 47: 1039).
While this might not be as clear as one might like, I don't see what the fuss is about here.
On the main text, it is perfectly true that one can commit an act which is objectively sinful, without incurring the guilt of a subjective sin, if one is non-culpably ignorant that the act is sinful. This may be the result of ignorance about the nature of the act, as well as about the application of the moral law to the case at issue. 'Conditioning', in the sense of one's moral and practical education, may be involved in such mistakes.
It should be mentioned that ignorance of the most general principles of the Natural Law is not, in fact, possible, since is it written on our hearts (Romans 1:19f). Aquinas explains, accordingly, that moral ignorance is possible only of specific applications. Suprisingly, he then gives the example of ancient Germans apparantly not knowing that theft was wrong, which suggests that pretty basic parts of the Natural Law could still be at issue. Nevertheless, none of this is any use to liberals, as section 301 (discussed in my last post) makes clear, because the cases they want to focus on don't involve moral ignorance, however widely or narrowly construed. On the contrary, they want to talk about lifelong, practicing Catholics, well-informed about the Faith, constantly on the phone to the bishop and writing to the Catholic papers, 'churchy' people, or, as they say in Austria, 'candle cormorants' ('kurzlschlucker'). People who pay the Church tax. And naturally, if ignorance were an issue, it could be dispelled by a little teaching.
In light of this, the footnote, which anyway only repeats what Evangelii gaudium already said, is a statement of the obvious. The phrase 'the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy', reminds me of the splendid Fr Magdala Maria F.SS.R. at our recent Family Retreat, who after telling about the danger of eternal damnation in classic Redemptorist fashion, reminded us that his spitirual father and model, St Alphonsus, was 'a lion in the pulpit and a lamb in the confessional'. No one should be too afraid to go in the box.
And what of the Blessed Sacrament? Is it 'not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak'? Yes, this is perfectly true. Not for those in mortal sin - no, they are not weak, they are dead. They need to be brought back to life by sacramental absolution, in Confession. But when you crawl out of the Confessional, alive but weak, you should go to Holy Communion, and do so frequently.
Perhaps Pope Francis meant something else? I can only comment on the text we have. It went through a complicated process of editing and refinement, no doubt. Efforts were made, as they always have been made with important documents, to avoid statements which are wrong. At any rate in this passage, those efforts were successful.
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