Attrition

Attrition in the Romish theology, means imperfect contrition. SEE CONTRITION. The term was introduced by the schoolmen in the twelfth century, to make a distinction between a perfect and an imperfect repentance, after they had brought penance into the number of the sacraments. By contrition they mean a thorough or complete repentance (contritio cordis), the spirit being crushed under a sense of sin; by attrition they mean an inferior degree of sorrow, such as may arise from a consideration of the turpitude of sin or from the fear of hell (timor servilis). Alexander of Hales distinguishes as follows (p. 4, qu. 74, membr. 1): Timor servilis principium est attritionis, timor initialis (i.e. that with which the life of sanctification begins) principium est contritionis . . . . Item contritio est a gratia gratum faciente, attritio a gratia gratis data. Comp. Thom. Aquinas, qu. 1, art. 2; Bonaventura, in lib. 4, dist. 17, p. 1, art. 2, qu. 3 (Hagenbach, Hist. of

Doctrines, § 198). This distinction is maintained by the Council of Trent as follows: "Imperfect contrition, which is called attrition, commonly arising from a consideration of the turpitude of sin and a fear of hell and punishment, the intention of continuing in sin with the hope of receiving pardon at last being disavowed, not only does not make a man a hypocrite and a greater sinner, but is really a gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Spirit; not that the Spirit does as yet dwell in the soul, but merely excites the penitent, who, thus aided, prepares his way to righteousness. And although it cannot of itself conduct the sinner to justification without the sacrament of penance, yet it disposes him to seek the grace of God in the sacrifice of penance" (Sess. 14, c. 4). To Protestant eyes, attrition seems to have been devised to make a way of salvation easier than contrition. If attrition, with penance and priestly absolution, avail before God unto justification, then imperfect repentance, arising from fear, is all the repentance necessary in practice to a sinner, whatever the theory may be. So Dens: "Imperfect contrition is required, and it is sufficient; perfect contrition, though best, is not absolutely required, because this last justifies without the sacrament" (Theologia, t. 6, no. 51). This is one of the worst features of the Romish theology. "A belief in sacerdotal power to procure acceptance for those who merely feel a servile fear of divine wrath is one of those things that require to be plucked up by the roots," if human society, in Roman Catholic countries, is to be preserved pure. The better class of divines in that church seek to palliate this doctrine; they would do better to conspire for its subversion. Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, bk. 2, c. 10; Bergier, Dict. de Thiologie, 1, 210; Perrone, Prcelect. Theologicae, 2, 337; Gibson, Preservative against Popery, 2, 36 (fol. ed.); Soames, Latin Church, p. 98; Ferraris, Prorata Bibliothecat, s.v. Baptismus.

 
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