Card. Meisner: converted priests, not ecclesial engineers

This from CNA is a few days old, but it deserves some attention:

World needs converted priests, not ecclesial engineers, Cardinal Meisner states

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2010 / 07:35 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joaquim Meisner, addressed priests from around the world gathered at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday, telling them that nothing is more important for a priest than conversion of heart because only this will enable them to fulfill their mission to bring Christ to others.
Speaking to some 4,000 priests, the German cardinal said that making “corrections” to ecclesial structures is not sufficient to evangelize priests, but rather a “change of heart” must occur because “the greatest obstacle to the transmission of Christ is sin.”

Sin, the cardinal said, “prevents the presence of Christ in our lives.  Therefore, in our mission, nothing is more important than conversion.”
Cardinal Meisner underscored the importance of priests dedicating time to Confession—both to administer it and to receive it—and said one of the “most tragic losses the Church has suffered in the second half of the 20th century” is the loss “of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Reconciliation.”  [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]
“When the faithful ask me: ‘How can we help our priests?’ I always respond: ‘Go to Confession,’” the cardinal said, underscoring that “when the priest is no longer a confessor, he becomes a religious worker.”  [Do I hear an a big "AMEN!"?]
Cardinal Meisner said simply changing the structures of the Church “in order to put on a more attractive show” is not the answer.  “What we need is a change of heart, a change in my heart.  Only a converted Paul could change the world, not an engineer of ecclesial structures.”
A priest who never kneels on the other side of the screen suffers permanent damage in his soul and mission,” [Do I hear a HUGE "AMEN!"?] the cardinal continued.  “Here we see one of the main causes” of the multiple crises facing the priesthood in the last 50 years,” he stated.  “When the priest abandons the confessional, he enters into a grave identity crisis.”  “Why does a sacrament that evokes so much joy in heaven and on earth bring about such antipathy?” he asked. “Only with the humility of a child, like the saints, can we accept with the joy the difference between our indignity and the magnificence of God.”
Priests who receive the sacrament of Reconciliation frequently demonstrate their spiritual maturity, the cardinal taught.  “Because it is in the Sacrament of Penance that I encounter the merciful Father who has the most precious of gifts.”
“To be on both sides of the screen in the confessional allows us, through our witness, to help our people experience Christ.  In order to truly forgive, we need much love.  The only forgiveness that we can really give is that which we have received from God,” he added.
The International Meeting of Priests is being promoted by the Congregation for the Clergy with the theme, “Faithfulness to Christ, Faithfulness of the Priest.”  All the priests of the world have been invited to the event that will conclude the Year of Priests, convened by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the 150th anniversary of St. Jean Marie Vianney.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, SESSIUNCULA, Year of Priests and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. TJerome says:

    Excellent comments by His Eminence. My own hope is that the priest as “glorified social worker” is behind us. By the way, I was a bit disappointed in the attire of most of the participants. I was hoping to see cassocks and habits in the Basilica itself. I think sloppy attire by priests contributes to sloppiness in liturgy, thinking, etc.

  2. TJerome says:

    IN fairness, I should have said “casual” attire. The priests didn’t look sloppy.

  3. The Egyptian says:

    Did we happen to notice the term SCREEN, used over and over, when we lost confession and the “screen” and went to reconciliation and turned it into a hand holding conference, God was left out of the equation and now it is just a fell good conciling session. I WANT MY SCREEN BACK

  4. Oneros says:

    Unfortunately this explains nothing. It is a non-answer. It’s like saying the solution to crime is people following the law, or poverty is private donations, or better politics is just for politicians to pray more. The whole problem is they’re not. And unless you start doing something to incentivize it or enforce it…good luck!

  5. Traductora says:

    The Egyptian makes a very good point (about the screen). I think Cdl Meisner is absolutely right – it is important for the priest to go to confession himself, but also hearing confessions build up his priestliness enormously. However, Vatican II practices confuse confession with school guidance counselor sessions, and I think the resulting combination of trivialization and emotionalism (or sentimentality) have vastly damaged many people’s understanding of the sacrament. One of the reasons some priests may not be too eager to hear many confessions is that they occur in this hand-holding, too-personal face-to-face environment. Aside from obliterating the sacramental aspect, this practice severely disadvantages priests who may not function well in such hyper-emotional and excessively personal situations.

  6. Peter from Jersey says:

    A bit off subject but look at the Toulon website. Bishop Rey is to ordain 13 priests. Not bad for a small diocese. Perhaps we should pray for him and them. What a way to finish the Year of the Priest.
    Par l’imposition des mains et le don du Saint Esprit, pour l’annonce de l’Evangile, monseigneur Dominique Rey ordonnera 13 prêtres le dimanche 27 juin à La Castille à partir de 15h.
    La messe des ordinations sera retransmise en direct sur web TV ( et sur la radio diocésaine (RCF Méditerranée).

  7. Random Friar says:

    Many people look upon Confession as a therapy session, or even random advice, especially in some “Old World” folks, where the priest was seen as the most educated person (and he often was), and so his opinion was valued on many things. I’ve gotten some rather odd questions and petitions for advice.

    Now, if only my favorite sports team owners would come to my confessional and ask *me* about trades and adjustments. THERE’S some useful info I’m just bottling up.

  8. Random Friar says:

    Oh, and it’s amazing how people react when I go to a Confessional as a penitent and not the confessor (which isn’t often, since I use a regular confessor). I just can’t describe the reaction — somewhere between gratitude and wonder. Folks almost always try to push me to the “head of the line,” which, if you know long Confession lines, is something else.

  9. Kate says:

    Huge AMEN!

  10. Sorbonnetoga says:

    Wonderful words from Cardinal Meisner; it follows on from the sermon I heard yesterday about the necessity for confession, for priests as well as laity. Memorable quotation: “If you wouldn’t trust a cook who refused to eat their own cooking, so how can you trust a priests who refuses to go to confession?”

  11. Andrew says:

    A huge Amen to the Cardinal.

  12. Robert of Rome says:

    You hear an AMEN, a BIG AMEN and a HUGE AMEN from me.

  13. irishgirl says:

    A HUMUNGOUS AMEN from me! Way to go, Your Eminence!

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Some of them did look sloppy, TJerome. You were right the first time, and it was my perception also when I watched the film.

    I agree with Cardinal Meisner. Priests are not social workers, psychologists, lecturing professors or activity directors. They are priests and they’d ought to act like it.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    When I go into the confessional, I’m looking for the sacrament of confession–hopefully with absolution. I’m not happy if the priest just wants to visit, or insists on dispensing amateur advice, especially of the pop psychology type. I also don’t want the priest to tell me “I didn’t mean it” when I confess something I did, when I did mean it at the time and that’s why I’m confessing it. (GRRR.) Some priests don’t listen very well, and even more don’t quite get the concept of confession. It’s disheartening.

    Mind you, I’m not the over-scrupulous type. In fact, maybe the opposite. But many priests, I suppose, are no different than the rest of the population. Some of them simply don’t believe in evil & sin anymore and ascribe everything to emotion & disposition. Apparently they believe it’s all about comforting people and being NICE, instead of helping them overcome their sins.

Comments are closed.