Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bonaventure contra Feeney

Each of these excerpts should be of interest to Protestants and those who encounter Protestant ideas. It's always nice to see an old author affirm something that people accuse of being a modern innovation. Each excerpt is from In Sent. IV. Dist. XVII. Pars I. Art. I. Q.IV, on whether confession is necessary for justification, and I translate without providing the Latin:

Again, it seems so from reason, for everyone having grace and justice enters into the kingdom of heaven, nor can anyone close the gate, justice and grace being preserved; but no one can enter into the kingdom of heaven except through the doorward [ostiarium] Peter, since the keys are given to him, from which no one is exempt: therefore no one can obtain grace nor have remission of guilt, unless he has it through the authority of the supreme Pontiff and those who are in communion with him. But no one is absolved by a priest without confession first, ergo etc . . . it should be replied that to enter without the power of the keys can be understood in two ways: either without the power, understood contrarily, as though despising the key of Peter; or without the power, understood privatively, and this [can be understood] in two ways: either simply privatively, so that one does not have the effect of absolution, neither in work nor in devotion nor in desire; or so that one has it in devotion and intention [proposito], and so has it in a certain way. In the first and second way one does not enter, nor is justified, but in the third way one may enter, and this in some way through the key, although not just as he who is actually absolved.


And the second:

God is more prone to being merciful than to condemning . . . God does not restrict his power to the sacraments. Therefore whenever man does what is in himself, God does what is in himself: therefore, if someone is sorry for his guilt in his heart, [even] if there is not a confessor or external confession, God does what is in himself: therefore he justifies.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"God is more prone to being merciful than to condemning . . . God does not restrict his power to the sacraments. Therefore whenever man does what is in himself, God does what is in himself: therefore, if someone is sorry for his guilt in his heart, [even] if there is not a confessor or external confession, God does what is in himself: therefore he justifies."

Isn't this just alluding to 'Perfect Contrition'?

Michael said...

Well, Bonaventure's not distinguishing between perfect and imperfect contrition here, but rather stating that, while contrition is necessary for justification and forgiveness of positive sin, sacramental confession is not, absolutely speaking.

Anonymous said...

It's simply that I suspected that perhaps Bonaventure might be talking about what theologians call "act of perfect contrition" precisely because of what he mentions here:

"...therefore, if someone is sorry for his guilt in his heart, [even] if there is not a confessor or external confession, God does what is in himself: therefore he justifies."

In the case of such an act on the part of a Protestant or Catholic, even if that person were unable to receive the sacrament, he would nonetheless be saved were he to die in such a state due to the perfect act of contrition, wherein one is genuinely sorry for one's sins and intend to to become reconciled with God, even in spite of their inability to receive the sacrament.

Michael said...

I'm familiar with the notion of perfect contrition, e.g. as defined by the new Catechism in paragraphs 1532-3, but again, Bonaventure is not here distinguishing between perfect and imperfect contrition, which distinction concerns the motivation of the contrition felt. It just doesn't come up here: he's not talking about why the penitent is sorry for his sin, just that he is. I don't know where the distinction arises, but I don't see it in Bonaventure, nor do I find it in St Thomas, who discusses contrition in the Summa, Supp. q.5. Thomas distinguishes between contrition as informed by grace and not informed by grace, which might be the same thing, but he doesn't define it as modern theologians do.

That's not to say that the distinction between perfect and imperfect contrition is false or irrelevant, just that Bonaventure does not seem to be alluding to it here.