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ROBERT GROSSETESTE'S TREATISE ON CONFESSION, "DEUS EST." Among the sermons attributed to Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (1235—1253), occurs a longer work variously entitled Summa magistralis de vitiis et virtutibus or Quomodo examinandus est penitens quando venerit ad confessionem. It can, however, hardly be called a sermon, for it is by far too long and too compact for oral deUvery and lacks the features one would usuaUy find in a sermon, such as theme and rhetorical devices of persuasion. On the contrary, its author refers to his audience as legens (see epilogue, p. 293), to himself as scribens (epilogue, p. 293), and to his work as a liber (p. 293). The work is, therefore, a technical treatise on the questions to be asked in confession. As such, it belongs to the vast bodyof pastoral manuals which sprangupin response to the emphasis placed by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215—1216) on the reformation of Christian morals and especiaUy on the sacrament of Penance. Grosseteste 's treatise, however, has so far not received the attention it justly deserves. The work is not analyzed and hardly noticed in the standard works on confessional literature or the history of Penance.1 Yet it is an important work, possessing a number of features that are highly interesting and even unique. In contrast to the much larger contemporary Summae confessorum, which include plenty of canonical material and frequently use a casuistic approach,2 and in contrast to the equally long contemporary catechetical handbooks, which survey the entire field of popular religious instruction * I wish to express my gratitude to the Bodleian Library for permission, to edit part of MS. Rawlinson A. 446; and to the University Research Council of the University of North Carolina for a grant permitting the purchase of microfilms. 1 S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, 1235—1233 (Cambridge, 1940), discusses the work briefly (pp. 125 and 176). P. Michaud-Quantin, Sommes casuistiques et manuels de confession au moyen âge f-XlI*—XIVe siècles) ("Analecta mediaevalia Namurcensia," 13; Louvain , 1962), only lists it among relevant works ("Index," no page). Father L. E. Boyle, in his unpublished D. Phil, thesis, "A Study of the Works Attributed to William of Pagula" (Oxford University, 1956), mentions it briefly in a footnote (I, 231, note 86) and lists the manuscripts (II, 29—30). 2 For example, Thomas de Chobham, Summa confessorum, ed. F. Broomfield ("Analecta mediaevalia Namurcensia," 25; Louvain, 1896); or Robert of Flamborough, Summa confessorum, ed. in progress by F. Firth. Robert Grosseteste's Treatise on Confession, „Deus est"219 including confession,3 "Deus est" is a specialized treatise dealing exclusively with the subject-matter a confessor should ask his penitent about in confession, i.e., the virtues and vices. On the other hand, in contrast to the shorter confessional questionnaires,4 it is a genuine scholastic treatise which develops a rational system and places it neatly into the wider frame of Christian theology. An especiaUy outstanding feature in this respect is Grosseteste's attempt to present a logical rationale for the virtues and the vices he discusses.5 Thus, the work is of great interest in terms of its genre, its ideas, and its structure and style. Contents and Structure The contents of this treatise may best be summarized in the foUowing table : I. PREAMBLE: Theology of redemption (p. 239) i. God—Creation—Man 2.The FaU 3.Redemption a)Incarnation b)The seven sacraments II. THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE A. CONFESSION (p. 247) I. QuaUties. Need for inquiry II. Order of inquiry — the seven virtues i. Sins against Faith (p. 250) a)BeUef in the twelve Articles of Faith (p. 250) b)Acts or words against Faith (p. 252) c)Practice of the Articles of Faith (p. 253) d)Breaking faith; informing the infidel (p. 258) e)Faith without works — the seven works of mercy (p. 258) f)Other sins against Faith (p. 259) 2. Sins against Hope: Despair and Presumption (p. 260) 3 For example, Richard Wethersett, Summa brevis ("Qui bene presunt presbyteri"). 4 See the discussion in my book, The Sin of Sloth. Acedia in Medieval Thought and Literature (Chapel Hill, 1967), pp. 83...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 218-293
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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