Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/87

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


ATTRITION


65


ATTRITION


T)tf sm in Ihe Linht of Modern Science and Philomphii (New Yiirk. 1899); Lado, The Philosophy of Religion (New York, 1905); Illingworth, Personality, Human arid Divine (London and New Y"ork, 1903); Fhaseu, Philosophy of Theism (Edin- burgh, 1899); RoYCE, The Conception of God (New York, 1898); HnNTF.R, Outlines of Dogmatic Theology (New Y'ork, 1896), 11.

James J. Fox.

Attrition, or Imperfect Contrition (Lat. aiiero. "to wear away by nibbing"; p. part, atiritus). — The Coun- cil ofTrent (Sess. XlV.Cliap. iv) has defined contrition as "sorrow of soul, and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future". This liatred of sin may arise from various motives, may be prompted by various causes. If the detes- tation of sin arise from the love of God, Who has been grievously offended, then contrition is termed perfect; if it arise from any other motive, such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, or the heinousiiess of guiU, then it is termed imperfect contrition, or attrition. That there exists such a disposition of .■<nul as attrition, and that it is a goodly thing, an impulse of the Spirit of God, is the clear teaching of the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, iv). "And as to that imperfect contrition which is called attrition, because it is commonly conceived cither from the consideration of the turpitvide of sin, or from the fear of hell and of pimishment, the council declares that if with the hope of pardon, it excludes the wish to sin, it not only does not make man a hypocrite and a greater sinner, but that it is even a gift of God, and an impul.se of the Holy Spirit, who does not indeed as yet dwell in the penitent, but who only moves him; whereby the penitent, being assisted, prepares a way for himself unto justice, and although this attrition cannot of itself, without the Sacra- ment of Penance, conduct the sinner to justification, yet does it dispose him to receive the grace of God in the Sacrament of Penance. For smitten profitably with fear, the Ninivites at the preaching of Jonas did fearful penance and obtained mercy from the Lord." Wherefore anent attrition, the council in Canon V, Sess. XIV, declares: " If any man a.ssert that attrition ... is not a true and a profitable sorrow; that it does not prepare the soul for grace but that it makes a man a hypocrite, yea, even a greater sinner, let him be anathema." This doctrine of the council is in accord with the teaching of the Old and the New Testament. The Old Testament writers praise without hesitation that fear of God which is really "the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. ex). One <)f the commonest forms of expression found in the Hebrew scriptures is the "exhortation to tlie fear of the Lord" (Ecclus., i, 13; ii, 19 sc|q.). We are told that "without fear there is no justification" (ibid., i, 28; ii, 1; ii, 19). In this fear there is "confidence of strength" and it is "a fountain of life" (Prov., xiv, 26. 27); and the Psalmist prays (Ps. cxviii, 120): " Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear: for I am afraid of thy judgments."

New Testament. — Even when the law of fear had given way to the law of love, Christ does not hesitate to inculcate that we must "fear him who can de- stroy both soul and body into hell" (Matt., x, 28). Certainly, too, the vivid account of the destruction of Jerusalem, typical of the final destruction of the world, was intended by Jesus to strike terror into the hearts of those who heard, and those who read; nor can one doubt that the last great judgment as portrayed by Mattliew, xxv, 31 sqq., must have been described by Christ for the purpose of deterring men from sin by rea,son of God's awful judgments. The Apostle appears not less insistent when he exhorts us to work out "our salvation in fear and trembling" lest the anger of God come upon us (Phil., ii, 12). The Fathers of the earliest days of Christianit.y have spoken of fear of God's punishments as a goodly virtue that makes for salvation. Clement of Alex- II.— .5


andria (Strom., VII) spealvs of righteousness which comes of love and righteousness arising from fear, and in the Strom., II, ch. vii, he speaks at length on the utility of fear, and answers all objections brought forward against his position. The most striking sentence is the one wherein he says: "cautioas fear is therefore shown to be reasonable, from which arises repentance of previous sins ", etc. St. Basil (4th interrogatory on the Rule) spealvs of the fear of (!od and of His judgments, and he asserts that for those who are beginning a life of piety "exhortation based on fear is of greatest utility ", and he quotes the wise man asserting, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom" (P. G., XXXI). St. John Chrysostom may be quoted in the same sense (P. G., XLIX, 154). St. Ambrose, in the fifteenth sermon on the Psalm cxviii speaks at large on godly fear which begets charity, begets love : Hunc timorem sequitur charitas (P. L., XV, 1424), and his disciple, St. Augustine, treats fully the godliness of fear as a motive to repentance. In the 161st of his sermons (V. L., XXXVIII, 882 sqq.) he speaks of refraining from sin for fear of God's judgments, and he asks: "Dare I say such fear is wrong?" He replies that he dare not, for the Lord Christ urging men to refrain from wrongdoing sug- gested the motive of fear. " Fear not those who kill the body ", etc. (Matt., x). True, what follows in St. Augustine has been subject to much dispute, but the general doctrine of the godliness of fear is here pro- pounded, and the difliculty, if aught there be, touches the other question hereinafter treated anent "Initial Love ".

The word it.self, attrition, is of medieval origin. Father Palmieri (De Pcenit., 345) asserts, on the au- thority of Aloysius Mingarelli, that the word is thrice found in the works of Alanus of Lille, who died at an advanced age in the year 1203; but its use in the school is contemporaneous with William of Paris, Alexander of Hales, and Blessed Albert. Even with these men its meaning was not so precise as in after years; though they all agreed that of itself it did not suffice to justify the sinner in God's sight. (See the Scholastic traditions in article Absolution, and Pal- mieri, loc. cit.). This fear is godly, since it excludes not only the will to sin, but also the affection for sin. There would perhaps have been little difficulty on this point if the distinction were kept in mind between that fear which is termed servilis, which touches will and heart, and that fear known as serviliter servilis, which though it makes man refrain from perform- ing the sinful act, leaves the will to sin and the affec- tion thereto.

Attrition in the Sacrament op Penance. — The Church not only regards the godliness of fear as a motive to repentance, but expressly defines that attrition, though it justifies not without the Sacra- ment of Penance, ne^'ertheless disposes the sinner to receive grace in the sacrament itself (Sess. XIV, iv). This particular phase of the doctrine of contrition in penance is first taught with clearness by the Schoolmen of the twelfth century, and particularly by St. Thomas, who gathered into a united whole the jarring opinions of his predecessors (See the Scholas- tic in article Absolution). Though some still pre- ferred to follow the Lombards who insisted on perfect contrition, after St. Thomas there was little division in the schools up to the time of the Council of Trent. At the council there was some opposition to a clear definition, some of the Fathers insisting on the ne- cessity of perfect contrition, and it was perhaps for this reason that the decree was couched as above, leaving it still possible to doubt whether attrition was a proximate, or only a remote, disposition for justification in the sacrament. To-day the common teaching is that the council simply intended to define the sufficiency of attrition (Vacant, Diet, de th^ol., col. 2246-47). And this would seem reasonable.