Perfect Contrition
#1
I have a question on perfect contrition. I've tried to do a preliminary search on this on the forum, and also all around the internet, but have found nothing. My apologies if this subject has been done to death on some thread I haven't found.

My understanding is that the view advanced by folks like Fr. Hardon, in his Catholic dictionary, is quite common, namely that "... in the act of perfect contrition other motives can coexist with the perfect love required." Garrigou-Lagrange, in his work Reality, chapter 49, article 6, number 2, seems to concur with this sort of language:
Quote:Love of God leads to hatred of sin, as harmful to the sinner and offensive to God. This hatred of sin is contrition, perfect contrition if sin is hated chiefly as offensive to God, imperfect contrition if sin is hated chiefly as harmful to the sinner.
Some who hold this view might conclude that perfect contrition is actually quite attainable by almost any sinner in a state of mortal sin.

On the other hand, I have heard trusted sources claim the opposite: perfect contrition is sorrow for sin motivated by supernatural charity alone, with no other motive mixed in. This particular view would hold that perfect contrition is actually quite rare, and that it could even be considered a sort of special grace.

Which of these two views—if I've actually detailed them correctly—is the traditional understanding of the subject? Should we view perfect contrition as being extremely rare, or something any faithful Catholic can have so long as they make an act of perfect contrition with devotion and intention?
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#2
(07-29-2015, 02:54 PM)BenedicamDominum Wrote: Which of these two views—if I've actually detailed them correctly—is the traditional understanding of the subject? Should we view perfect contrition as being extremely rare, or something any faithful Catholic can have so long as they make an act of perfect contrition with devotion and intention?

Both are correct.

The problem with your opposition of the two statements is that you fail to see that perfect contrition is essentially and inherently supernatural.

Contrition that is of any value in the supernatural order is always and necessarily motivated by supernatural Charity, and therefore by an actual grace. The source of such grace is God. And thus, of ourselves, we cannot do anything to obtain such contrition.

Since both contrition (aka. perfect contrition) and attrition (aka. imperfect contrition) are both motivated by supernatural Charity, we often forget that even attrition requires Charity, thus a grace. If we desire to make our confession, that itself is a grace, a free gift given by God. Nothing obliges God to move the sinner to repentance. He would not be unjust to allow a man committing a mortal sin to never confess and die in that state, unrepentant, since it was the man who abandoned God and rejected the grace God offered to avoid the sin in the first place.

The question then is can one have both a pure motive along with impure motives.

It seems to me that it's possible. The only reason two things cannot co-exist is if each is mutually exclusive as regards the same thing at the same time in the same way. I am not both in Bermuda and New York city at the same time in the same way. But were I holy enough, I might be able to relax on the beach and appear to my friends in some other non-physical way in New York ... or perhaps I'd not be relaxing on the beach.

Let's apply that to contrition/attrition. Let us also say that we're presuming they are co-existing in time, so now, the question is does the hatred of sin for the love of God (filial fear) exclude the hatred of sin for the fear of punishment (servile fear). I don't think it does, because one could subject the lesser motive to the greater. I can hate my sins because I love God, principally, but also knowing that God's justice demands sin be punished, thus I know those sins merit for me punishment, I fear it as well, since it is just.

If the attrition (even if prior in time), is subjected to the contrition, I think they can coexist, just like a good deed can both be done for love of God, and to help neighbor.

Just because I want to help my neighbor does not mean the act cannot be done with a pure intention of love for God. In fact if an act is to be meritorious, it must be done for love of God, but that does not mean we ignore the natural benefit it has.

But, beginning with an impure motive (love of my friends, and desire to help them) without reference to God is not meritorious, but could be purified and made so, if I subject this motive to acting well out of the love of God. Thus, the impurely supernatural, or even natural action could be purified and elevated, but it does not mean that it is destroyed, just purified and elevated.
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#3
A Polish leaflet on the subject matter (and also EENS) published in Poznań in 1911 states that it is actually quite easy for us to achieve perfect contrition. And since I wouldn't suspect the then-Polish archbishop who gave the imprimatur of modernism, I think we can be optimistic.

Edit: Sorry, the 1911 publication is on EENS, and the one on perfect contrition is from 1946, Warsaw. Still, the same arguments apply.

A fragment (translation mine)

Quote:Let us imagine a sinful soul who, due to her miserable past, would not dare to say, 'I love you, God', but only wishes, 'God, how much I would want to love you! Why cannot I have even a bit of this love that ardent souls have?' What would you say to such a longing? You have to know that each and every theologian agrees that it is a very good example of perfect love.
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#4
(07-29-2015, 04:06 PM)PolishTrad Wrote: ...It is actually quite easy for us to achieve perfect contrition....

Yes it is, provided the actual graces necessary to make such an act.

The problem is we have a fallen human nature. That makes our correspondence with such graces somewhat difficult.

We need grace even to avoid sin, and since God does not fail to give the necessary graces, yet we do sin, we do fail to correspond to certain graces. If we do this for some, it is quite easy to do this with the grace to be perfectly contrite, thus fail to be perfectly contrite.

If we need such contrition because of a mortal sin, even the worse for us, since it is only be an habitual rejection of graces to avoid venial sins that we have progressed to the point of mortal sin. Thus we're in the habit of rejecting graces, and it's quite easy to continue.

That's why we need confession. Thankfully, in His mercy, God has given us a means that if we only have an imperfect contrition for our sins, we can still be absolved of them.

Remember, though, all of this requires grace ... of ourselves (natural creatures) we can do nothing supernaturally good. With God's grace elevating our acts, they can be supernaturally good and meritorious.
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#5
Quote:Remember, though, all of this requires grace ... of ourselves (natural creatures) we can do nothing supernaturally good. With God's grace elevating our acts, they can be supernaturally good and meritorious.
Naturally, no doubt about that.
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#6
(07-29-2015, 04:25 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote:
(07-29-2015, 04:06 PM)PolishTrad Wrote: ...It is actually quite easy for us to achieve perfect contrition....
Yes it is, provided the actual graces necessary to make such an act.

I'd say that anyone who regularly devotes themselves to God in various ways, would likely be given this grace. It was believed by many saints, including Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, that the devotion of the Three Hail Maries (said each morning and each night), was sufficient to obtain (among other things) the grace of final perserverance.

I'd say anyone who does that, who isn't trying to use God's mercy as an excuse for sin (and such people likely don't have attrition for their sins), will likely get perfect contrition. Yet always, the focus must be to go to confession as soon as possible.

However, if I do a sin I make an act of perfect contrition to the best of my ability, and live as if I was forgiven at that point, which I think is the appropriate way to go about it.
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#7
(07-29-2015, 03:51 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: Since both contrition (aka. perfect contrition) and attrition (aka. imperfect contrition) are both motivated by supernatural Charity, we often forget that even attrition requires Charity, thus a grace.

Thank you for your response.

I would point out what Garrigou-Lagrange had to say with regard to attrition and Charity, however:

Quote:Must we go a step further? Must we admit that this salutary attrition, which disposes us for sacramental justification, implies also an initial benevolent love of God, which nevertheless is not an act of charity, however small? The Thomists above cited say Yes.

That is, I would of course agree that attrition is the result of grace, but I'm not sure I could agree that it is motivated by supernatural Charity as such.

Your points regarding attrition and contrition coexisting were extremely helpful, thank you for them. While I believe that you show why attrition and contrition could be present at the same time, I do wonder, nonetheless, how likely it is that a person would be given the grace of contrition at all, even if this grace could coexist with simple attrition.

(07-29-2015, 04:06 PM)PolishTrad Wrote: A Polish leaflet on the subject matter (and also EENS) published in Poznań in 1911 states that it is actually quite easy for us to achieve perfect contrition. And since I wouldn't suspect the then-Polish archbishop who gave the imprimatur of modernism, I think we can be optimistic.

I appreciate this insight, especially since both of my parents are from Poland.

This does seem to be the majority opinion I've always heard on this question. Frankly, the only reason I bring this up, is that I've heard one Fr. Chad Ripperger make the contrary argument: that perfect contrition is not like leaves, it doesn't grow on trees, and is actually very rare. I don't want to put words in his mouth, perhaps I misheard him, but I did make an attempt to contact him, and perhaps he'll offer some clarification.

In fact, if anyone is familiar with Fr. Ripperger's view on this matter, I would especially appreciate your chiming in.  :)
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#8
We can never know for sure in htis ilife. This is why you should never omit going to confession when you have the opportunity to go.
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#9
(07-29-2015, 07:11 PM)Leonhard Wrote: It was believed by many saints, including Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, that the devotion of the Three Hail Maries (said each morning and each night), was sufficient to obtain (among other things) the grace of final perserverance.

The grace of final perseverance cannot be merited. No amount of prayer in this life will guarantee our salvation, because, it is a free gift of God.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's argument is thus:

M: The state of grace is the principle of merit and perseverance in that state, but
m: The principle of merit cannot itself be merited
      (ad minorem: If the principle of merit could be merited, we would have a casual loop -- the foundation of merit would be merited by acts of the foundation before it exists)
cl: The state of grace cannot be merited

M2: The initial production of the state of grace is not less than the preservation of that state, being the continuation of that initial act
m2: But the state of grace cannot be merited
cl2: The preservation in the state of grace cannot be merited.

A second argument is made, less syllogistic:

Quote:Strictly condign merit or merit founded in justice presupposes the divine promise to reward a certain good work. But God has never promised final perseverance or preservation from the sin of final impenitence to one who should keep His commandments for any length of time. Indeed it is precisely this obedience until death in which final perseverance consists; hence it cannot be merited by that obedience, for otherwise it would merit itself.

That doesn't mean we should not pray for final perseverance. We must! It simply means that just as in no way is God obliged in justice to put a man in the state of grace, he is in no way obliged in justice (no matter a man's previous merits), to preserve a man in grace. It is by God's mercy that we are in the state of grace, and by the same mercy that we are preserved in it.

And it is important to note that we can and must merit the reward of eternal life. Once in the state of grace, and maintained in the state of grace by God, we possess the principle by which we can merit our heavenly reward.

This also answers the question about the rarity of perfect contrition. Since it is a grace that God in in no way obliged to give in any kind of justice, but solely out of His mercy, it is impossible to say when and how He will give it and under what conditions. Contrition, which restores the soul to grace, is just like the initial state itself -- if the initial state of grace and perseverance in it cannot be merited, neither can a return to it once fallen from it. It must then be a free act of God, and is as frequent as God's will wishes it.
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#10
(07-29-2015, 07:49 PM)BenedicamDominum Wrote: I would point out what Garrigou-Lagrange had to say with regard to attrition and Charity, however:

Quote:Must we go a step further? Must we admit that this salutary attrition, which disposes us for sacramental justification, implies also an initial benevolent love of God, which nevertheless is not an act of charity, however small? The Thomists above cited say Yes.

That is, I would of course agree that attrition is the result of grace, but I'm not sure I could agree that it is motivated by supernatural Charity as such.

You're right. I stand corrected. Thank you.

That's what happens when you fire off a quick response without having looked over one's notes on Charity.

Attrition and contrition both require actual graces, but only the latter, strictly speaking, requires Charity, since one may have attrition for his mortal sins, yet never confess, and he would be damned for it.
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