In another entry I wrote that the Pope will hear the confessions of young people on 29 March at the Basilica of St. Peter. Commenting on that news item, someone said:
I wouldn’t like to go to confession with the Pope…
It’s just so embarassing!
Not go to confession to the Pope? Embarrassing?
Let’s keep in mind some of Fr. Z’s 20 Tips for making a good confession:
11) …never be afraid to say something "embarrassing"… just say it;
12) …never worry that the priest thinks we are jerks…. he is usually impressed by our courage;
20) …remember that priests must go to confession too … they know what we are going through.
Let’s think about this a little.
Consider that on earth there is no person alive who has his same authority to bind and to loose like the Pope has. Benedict XVI exercises precisely the same fullness of the authority Jesus Christ gave to Peter.
At the same time, if you go to the Pope for your confession, and confess all your mortal sins in kind and number to the best of your ability and with sincere sorrow with a firm purpose of amendment, your sins will not be more forgiven by the Pope than they would be by the humble priest at your local parish.
When you receive Communion from the Pope, you are not getting "more Jesus" than you would at your parish church. If you are baptized by him, you are not more baptized. If you are ordained by the Pope, as I was, you are not more ordained than any other priest in the world. The impact the experience may have on you may admittedly be greater and God may work through that according to His plan for you. Remember: honors and privileges are about God, finally, not about you.
Going back to confession, when exercising this ministry the Pope forgives sins because Jesus Christ acts through him. This is the way it is with everything the Pope does in and for the Church. When Fr. Joe Sixpack at St. Ipsidipsy of Tall Tree Circle forgives your sins, they are forgiven because Jesus Christ is acting in him. Both he and the Pope act in persona Christi. They are both alter Christus. The difference between them lies especially in the Pope’s ability to bind and loose censures and to grant indulgences. Also, the Holy Father has the grace of his office to aid him in insight and counseling.
It would be a great consolation to make a confession to the Vicar of Christ, especially if you were burdened by some truly heavy, or a censure of some sort.
However, every single one of you out there can receive from your local priests precisely the same absolution as the Pope would give you.
There is nothing so bad that you, a little finite human being, can do that the humblest, most obscure priest cannot entirely lift from your soul through the infinite power and mercy of God.
Run, walk or crawl if you have to. Seek that absolution often.