10 September 2015

A Tad Mystified Here

I suppose I must thank(?) the friend who sent me the link to this article bearing the headline, Pope Francis: ‘If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian’. It represents to me a new summit in the strawmanity of papal criticisms. Excerpt:

Francis also said priests who “can’t manage to be merciful” should stop themselves from hearing Confessions.

The Pope said: “If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in administration but please don’t go into the confessional box! A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional box! He beats people.”

I've gone to confession to all kinds of priests for forty years or so, and not once did I encounter a priest who was unwilling to forgive my confessed sins. I mean, really?

As my friend said, "I challenge somebody to give me one documented case in the last 30 years of a priest not being willing to forgive somebody in the confessional."

And I'm not talking about absolutions that can't be given because the person does not have contrition for them or intends to continue to commit them.

I mean, really?


Hildebrandon said...

The pope isn't talking about a priest being unwilling to give absolution, but rather that he might be lacking in the virtue of mercy, which could potentially make him a bad confessor.

I mean, really, don't you have better things to do than hunt for straws amidst the strawmen?

Tamsin said...

go to your doctor who will give you some pills to make you less stressed!

Oh dear. And I have been wondering if the Pope himself may be on antidepressants based on his lack of self-awareness as he disparages people for disparaging people.

Based on my experience with two close family members who are on antidepressants, they lose the ability to feel (social) pain; and they think they are the life of the party.

It's difficult for those of us who are not on antidepressants.

DJR said...

I was refused absolution once back in the early to mid 80s. Saint Jude's parish, Elyria, Ohio, Diocese of Cleveland. Don't remember the exact year.

The stated reason: The priest said that I had come to confession too soon after my last one. I don't remember how long it had been since my prior confession, but it had to be at least a week, and was most probably two weeks.

I proceeded to go to the next parish, which was the next town, and informed the second priest that I had just been refused absolution. That second priest was a very good one, old school. I remember what he told me about it.

I was quite irritated, as I had taken the time to get ready for Church, drive to the parish (it wasn't my parish), examine my conscience, and wait in line.

That's what I get for being lazy and driving to the nearest modern parish (about four minutes away from the house) for confession instead of sticking with confessing at my own parish or one of the many other traditional venues then available to me.

Oh, well. I never again went to that priest for confession.

You can use this as a documented case. I can swear under oath that it happened.


thetimman said...

Isn't the act of mercy saying "deinde ego te absolvo?

Or do you just mean being "nice"?

thetimman said...

DJR, ironically, I would guess that that priest would not have thought himself unmerciful.

Steve said...


I am glad that you have never encountered a priest lacking in mercy. However, I have on at least one occasion (possibly two) confessed to a priest who chided me, at length, for the sin I was confessing. He did not say something along the lines of, "That sin is harmful to your soul, harmful to your relationship with those around you," but rather something like, "That's something you should be ashamed about. It's a bad thing, you insult God when you do that. You can't be God's friend if you do that." Well, duh, Father, maybe...um...maybe that's why I went to the trouble of coming to confession? (I did not say that, but I couldn't help thinking it.) I ask you, Timman, in all sincerity, whether you believe that priest, assuming he takes that approach on a regular basis with sinners who are confessing, is likely to make those same sinners turn to the sacrament of penance the next time they fall? Does that approach encourage the struggling sinner to persevere, or does it lead the sinner to believe he will be condemned for stepping into the confessional and bearing his soul? I understand that you eschew much of post-Vatican II Catholic practice as "touchy, feely," but is there such a thing as an effective priest in the confessional who is not patient and ready to offer encouragement to the struggling sinner? Is the Pope asking for too much when he asks priests to bring mercy with them when they prepare to celebration the sacrament of penance? I can tell you, there ARE a few priests out there who have the ability to make a sinner want to jump overboard even though he or she was intent on righting the ship ten minutes earlier.

Finally, may God bless and keep every priest--of every idealogical and liturgical stripe--who strives to bring sinners back into a healthy relationship with God. Their numbers are significant, as is the effect their vocation has on their parishioners. The priest without mercy, I"m convinced, is in the minority.

DJR said...


The man is fortunate that I'm a Walter Mitty type. The next parish is 15 minutes away, and I had plenty of time to fantasize about his demise. I had to add that to the list the second go-around.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I just came from Saint Jude's, and I want to beat the living daylights out of Father X."

I know a few people who would have just gone home, gotten their Uzis, AK 47s, and perhaps a hydrogen bomb or two, and returned to the confessional.

Me? I just daydream about it. Still a sin though.

But who is anyone else to judge?

Anonymous said...

During a homily on confession a former pastor made an analogy to the license office and it really clicked for me. If the person behind the counter at the DMV is attractive and pleasant and courteous it makes for a very nice experience. If they're crabby and sour it can almost ruin your whole day. But what both experiences have in common is that if you have your paperwork filled out correctly and everything's in order you're still going to walk out of there with your new license.

Good priests are good and bad priests are bad. Sometimes a word of encouragement in the confessional can make all the difference, sometimes a bit of admonishment might be needed if the penitent doesn't seem particularly penitent. I suspect the priest often tries and fails to tell the person just what they need to hear. I've had all those experiences in the confessional, both good and bad. But it's very, very important for me to understand that if I confess my sins in kind and number with a contrite heart and a resolve to amend my life and if the priest says the right words in the right way then my sins are forgiven no matter his disposition. Therapy can be great, but it's not required in the confessional. Since that homily my expectations of the priest are greatly reduced and very specific.


Lynne said...

I think the priest who yelled at me because I wanted to go to the TLM (I missed the weekly N.O. Mass for a while because of it) was lacking in mercy?

chantgirl said...

The most unmerciful priests are those who tell penitents that their confessed grave-matter sins are not really sins. These priests encounter a struggling soul, and then point them to the smooth path that leads to damnation. They actually block mercy from taking hold in a soul's life.

A relative tried to go to confession after many years away and was told by the priest that it was not necessary to confess any individual sins, but to just be sorry. This relative came out of the confessional confused, and doubted the Church. He was eventually convinced to try a different priest for confession at a Latin Mass and the priest kindly guided him through the process of confessing thoroughly. The second priest showed him true mercy.