Pope Francis gave some penetrating insights into the Sacrament of Penance and human nature during a homily yesterday. Here are some excerpts from an article appearing in the National Catholic Register:
Often, noted the Holy Father, we seek to justify our sins by making excuses and saying that “we are all sinners.”
“If we don’t recognize this, we will never be able to have God’s forgiveness,” urged the Pope, “because if being a sinner is a word, a way of speaking, a manner of speaking, we have no need of God’s forgiveness. But if it is a reality that makes us slaves, we need this interior liberation of the Lord.”
Pope Francis then emphasized that the most important element for St. Paul in finding a way out of this justification was to confess his sin to the community, noting that “he doesn’t hide it,” and that the confession of one’s sins with humility is something that the Church requires of us all.
“Confess your sins to one another,” he said, repeating the words of St. James, not to be noticed by others, but, rather, “to give glory to God” and to recognize that it is only he who can save.
This is why, stressed the Pope, we go to a “brother priest” to confess, urging that, when one confesses, it must be done with “concreteness.”
“Some say: ‘Ah, I confess to God.’ But it’s easy; it’s like confessing by email, no? God is far away. I say things, and there’s no face-to-face, no eye-to-eye contact.” While for “others [say]: ‘No, I go to confession,’ but they confess so many ethereal things, so many up-in-the-air things, that they don’t have anything concrete. And that’s the same as not doing it.” …
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis stressed that, in the face of confession, we should have the attitude of a small child, because “when a child comes to confess, he never says something general.”
“‘But Father, I did this, and I did that to my aunt; another time I said this word,’ and they say the word. But they are concrete, eh? They have that simplicity of the truth.”
Such simple observations, yet so profound and relevant.
There are few things that the devil fears more than the Confessional. If there’s one thing that dangerous ‘reformers’ of the Church would like to do away with, it is the Sacrament of Penance. If they cannot get rid of it altogether (which they cannot do, of course) they will seek to transform it into exactly what the Pope is saying it cannot become, namely a discussion of foggy generalities, with no mention of particulars.