Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Protestant Dictionary: Attrition

ATTRITION. A term defined by Roman theologians as an imperfect sorrow for sin, and distinguished from "Contrition" or sorrow for sin, which has for its motive the love of God. Attrition is said to arise from a motive which is supernatural, that is to say, apprehended by faith, but still falls short of contrition. Such motives are the fear of Hell, the love of Heaven, the turpitude of sin. Attrition is declared by the Council of Trent (Sess. xiv. c. 4) to be "a true gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Spirit. " But the question was long debated by Casuists whether, if a man came in attrition to the Sacrament of Penance and received absolution, he was restored to God s favour. At present the opinion is universally held that attrition with penance suffices. Liguori calls it certain (Catholic Dictionary, sub voce). Such a doctrine is indeed dangerous. Bishop Jeremy Taylor said: "Therefore there is no necessity of contrition at all, and attrition is as good to all intents and purposes of pardon; and a little repentance will prevail as well as the greatest, the imperfect as well as the perfect." But all these quibbles and subtle distinctions vanish like mists of earth before the shining of God’s full and free forgiveness in Christ, and are scattered by the assurance, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light. ... the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." See CONTRI TION and ABSOLUTION.

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