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Contrition

"Saint Peter Repentant" 1823-25, Goya
Contrition or contriteness[1] (from the Latin contritus 'ground to pieces', i.e. crushed by guilt) is sincere and complete remorse for sins one has committed. The remorseful person is said to be contrite.

It is a key concept to regeneration and ordo salutis). Its elements are hatred and regret for ones sin, a desire for God over sin, and faith in Christ's atonement on the cross and its sufficiency for salvation.

Exhortations to the value and necessity for repentance are quite common: "I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from His way and live" (Ezekiel: 33, 11); "...But unless you repent, you too will perish." (Gospel of Luke 13:5). At times this repentance includes exterior acts of satisfaction (Psalms 6:7 sqq.); it always implies a recognition of wrong done to God, a detestation of the evil wrought, and a desire to turn from evil and do good. This is clearly expressed in Psalm 51 (1-12):

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

More clearly does this appear in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke, 18:9-13), and more clearly still in the story of the prodigal (Luke, 15:11-32): "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee: I am not worthy to be called thy son".

Contents

  • Nature 1
  • Necessity 2
  • Perfect and imperfect contrition 3
  • Qualities 4
    • Interior 4.1
    • Supernatural 4.2
    • Universal 4.3
    • Sovereign 4.4
  • Sacrament of Penance 5
  • Perfect contrition without the Sacrament 6
  • Obligation of eliciting the act of contrition 7
  • Lay use 8
  • See also 9
  • Footnotes 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Nature

This interior repentance has been called by theologians "contrition". It is defined explicitly by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, ch. iv de Contritione): "a sorrow of soul and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future" or also "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again".(Catechism of the Catholic Church:1451) It is also known as animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart). The Council of Trent, however, went further, and defined perfect contrition (which one repents for the love of God) and imperfect contrition (or attrition, in which one repents out of reasons other than the love of God, such as the fear of Hell).

The word contrition itself in a moral sense is not of frequent occurrence in Scripture (cf. Ps. 1, 19). Etymologically it implies a breaking of something that has become hardened. St. John Chrysostom, P.G., XLVII, 409, 410). Augustine includes both when writing: "Compunctus corde non solet dici nisi stimulus peccatorum in dolore pœnitendi" (P.L., Vol. VI of Augustine, col. 1440).

Nearly all the medieval theologians hold that contrition is based principally on the detestation of sin. This detestation presupposes a knowledge of the heinousness of sin, and this knowledge begets sorrow and pain of soul. "A sin is committed by the consent, so it is blotted out by the dissent of the rational will; hence contrition is essentially sorrow. But it should be noted that sorrow has a twofold signification--dissent of the will and the consequent feeling; the former is of the essence of contrition, the latter is its effect" (St. Bonaventure, In Lib. Sent. IV, dist. xvi, Pt. I, art. 1). [See also St. Thomas Aquinas, Comment. in Lib. Sent. IV; Billuart (De Sac. Pœ;nit., Diss. iv, art. 1) seems to hold the opposite opinion.]

The [2]

Necessity

Before the Reformation no theologian ever thought of denying the necessity of contrition for the forgiveness of sin. But with the coming of Baptist sounded the note of preparation for the coming of the Messiah: "Make straight his paths"; and, as a consequence "they went out to him and were baptized confessing their sins". The first preaching of Jesus is described in the words: "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"; and the Apostles, in their first sermons to the people, warn them to "do penance and be baptized for the remission of their sins" (Acts 2:38). The Fathers followed up with like exhortation (Clement in P.G., I, 341; Hermas iii P.G., II, 894; Tertullian in P.L., II).

Perfect and imperfect contrition

Catholic teaching distinguishes a twofold hatred of sin; one, perfect contrition, rises from the love of God Who has been grievously offended; the other, imperfect contrition, arises principally from some other motives, such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, the heinousness of sin, etc. (Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, ch. iv de Contritione).

Qualities

In accord with Catholic tradition contrition, whether it be perfect or imperfect, must be at once (a) interior, (b) supernatural, (c) universal, and (d) sovereign.

Interior

Contrition must be real and sincere sorrow of heart, and not merely an external manifestation of repentance. The Chrysostom, De compunctione, P.G., XLVII, 393 sqq.), and the Scholastic doctors from Peter Lombard on insist on the same sincerity in repentance (Peter Lombard, Lib. Sent. IV, dist. xvi, no. 1).

Supernatural

In accordance with Catholic teaching contrition ought to be prompted by God's grace and aroused by motives which spring from faith, as opposed to merely natural motives, such as loss of Holy Spirit and without His aid a man can repent in the way that is necessary for obtaining the grace of justification, let him be anathema."

Universal

The Joel 2:12 sq.), and Christ tells the doctor of the law that we must love God with our whole mind, our whole strength (Luke 10:27). Ezekiel insists that a man must "turn from his evil ways" if he wish to live.

The Scholastics inquired rather subtly into this question when they asked whether or not there must be a special act of contrition for every serious sin, and whether, in order to be forgiven, one must remember at the moment all grievous transgressions. To both questions they answered in the negative, judging that an act of sorrow which implicitly included all his sins would be sufficient.

Sovereign

The Council of Trent insists that true contrition includes the firm will never to sin again, so that no matter what evil may come, such evil must be preferred to sin. This doctrine is surely Christ's: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?" Theologians have discussed at great length whether or not contrition which must be sovereign appretiative, i.e., in regarding sin as the greatest possible evil, must also be sovereign in degree and in intensity. The decision has generally been that sorrow need not be sovereign "intensively", for intensity makes no change in the substance of an act (Ballerini, Opus Morale: De Contritione; Bonaventure, In Lib. Sent. IV, dist. xxi, Pt. I, art. II, Q. i).

Sacrament of Penance

Contrition is not only a moral virtue, but the Council of Trent defined that it is a "part", nay more, quasi materia, in the Sacrament of Penance. "The (quasi) matter of this sacrament consists of the acts of the penitent himself, namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction. These, inasmuch as they are by God's institution required in the penitent for the integrity of the sacrament and for the full and perfect remission of sin, are for this reason called parts of penance. "In consequence of this decree of Trent theologians teach that sorrow for sin must be in some sense sacramental. La Croix went so far as to say that sorrow must be aroused with a view of going to confession, but this seems to be asking too much; most theologians think with Schieler-Heuser (Theory and Practice of Confession, p. 113) that it is sufficient if the sorrow coexist in any way with the confession and is referred to it. Hence the precept of the Roman Ritual, "After the confessor has heard the confession he should try by earnest exhortation to move the penitent to contrition" (Schieler-Heuser, op. cit., p. 111 sqq.).

Perfect contrition without the Sacrament

Regarding that contrition which has for its motive the love of God, the Council of Trent declares: "The Council further teaches that, though contrition may sometimes be made perfect by

Since the act of perfect contrition implies necessarily this same love of God, theologians have ascribed to perfect contrition what Scripture teaches belongs to charity. Nor is this strange, for in the Clement in P.G., I, 341 sqq.; and Hermas in P.G., II, 894 sqq.; Chrysostom in P.G., XLIX, 285 sqq.) and this is particularly noticeable in all the commentaries on Luke, vii, 47.

The Hurter, Theol. Dog., Thesis ccxlv, Scholion iii, no 3; Schieler-Heuser, op. cit., pp. 77 sq.).

Obligation of eliciting the act of contrition

In the very nature of things the sinner must repent before he can be reconciled with God (Sess. XIV, ch. iv, de Contritione, Fuit quovis tempore, etc.). Therefore he who has fallen into grievous sin must either make an act of perfect contrition or supplement the imperfect contrition by receiving the Sacrament of Penance; otherwise reconciliation with God is impossible. This obligation urges under pain of sin when there is danger of death. In danger of death, therefore, if a priest be not at hand to administer the sacrament, the sinner must make an effort to elicit an act of perfect contrition. The obligation of perfect contrition is also urgent whensoever one has to exercise some act for which a state of grace is necessary and the Sacrament of Penance is not accessible. Theologians have questions how long a man may remain in the state of sin, without making an effort to elicit an act of perfect contrition. They seem agreed that such neglect must have extended over considerable time, but what constitutes a considerable time they find it hard to determine (Schieler-Hauser, op. cit., pp. 83 sqq.). Probably the rule of St. Alphonsus Liguori will aid the solution: "The duty of making an act of contrition is urgent when one is obliged to make an act of love" (Sabetti, Theologia Moralis: de necess. contritionis, no. 731; Ballerine, Opus Morale: de contritione).

Lay use

By extension, the term is used for intense -but not necessarily moral- regret of a committed error. Contrary to the religious definition, this also applies to attrition without moral repentance, i.e. when it is only motivated by fear for its consequences.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Free dictionary
  2. ^ Augsburg Confession, Article XII: Of Repentance

References

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Christian Pesch, Prælectiones Dogmaticæ (Freiburg, 1897), VII
  • Sylvester Joseph Hunter, Outlines of Dogmatic Theology (New York, 1896)
  • St. Thomas, In Sent. IV, dist. xvii, Q. ii, a 1, sol. 1
  • Suarez, De Pænitentia, disp. iv, sect. iii, a,2
  • Bellarmine, De Controversiis, Book II, De sacramento pænitentiæ
  • Salmaticensis, Cursus Theologicus: de pænitientia (Paris, 1883), XX
  • Denifle, Luther und Luthertum in der ersten Entwicklung (Mainz, 1906), I, 229 sqq., II, 454, 517, 618 sq.
  • Collet in Migne, Theologiæ Cursus Completus (Paris, 1840), XXII
  • Palmieri, De Pænitentia (Rome, 1879; Prato, 1896)
  • Petavius, Dogmata Theologica: de pænitentia (Paris, 1867).

External links

  • Etymology on line
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