Pope Benedict: “Each confession … a step forward for new evangelization.” Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Every personal sin drags down the entire human race.

Every sacramental reconciliation helps to build us up.

We are in this together.

I have incessantly hollered that no initiative of renewal (New Evangelization, etc.) will succeed if we do not revitalize our liturgical worship.  (Thank God and Pope Benedict for Summorum Pontificum.)

This means, principally, our liturgical worship which is Holy Mass must be revitalized. However, to participate at Holy Mass with the culmination of active participation, which is the reception of Communion, we must be in the state of grace.

Therefore, the Sacrament of Penance must be revitalized.

Use of, celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, is a liturgical action, a form of worship of Almighty God. The Sacrament of Penance must also be revitalized if any other effort to renew Holy Church is going to succeed.

Check out this story from CNA:

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2012 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Confession and true conversion of people’s hearts is the “motor” of all reform and an authentic “force for evangelization,” Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of priests and deacons March 9.

The Pope reflected on confession in an address to 1,300 participants [Holy Cow!  This course has grown over the years.  I took it several times. Repetita iuvant.] in the Apostolic Penitentiary’s annual course on the “internal forum,” a technical term for the area of personal conscience and judgment in the priest-penitent relationship.

In a novel speech, he connected the New Evangelization and confession, saying that the effort to spread the Gospel draws life from “the sanctity of the sons and daughters of the Church, from the daily process of individual and community conversion, conforming itself ever more profoundly to Christ.”  [This is precisely what I have been talking about in regard to revitalization of our liturgical worship, especially of Holy Mass.]

“Thus each confession, from which each Christian will emerge renewed, will represent a step forward for new evangelization.”

Priests are also able to become collaborators in the New Evangelization by hearing confessions, the Pope said. They have as many possible “new beginnings” as sinners they encounter, he noted, because those who truly experience the mercy of Christ in confession will become “credible witnesses of sanctity.”  [What I have been shouting for years is that we need a revitalization of liturgical worship in order to know who we are as Catholics.  If we don’t know who we are, we have nothing of value to contribute in the public square.  Our words and deeds won’t have the authority of being authentic, of being channels as it were of Christ’s own words and deeds.  Christ has no hands and feet on earth but ours.  This is also why I have been hammering away at the need to restore the Sacrament of Penance to its proper use.]

Pope Benedict also reflected on what happens spiritually during the sacrament of confession. The repentant sinner is “justified, forgiven and sanctified,” thanks to the divine mercy, which is the “only adequate response” to humankind’s need for the infinite, he said.

The forgiveness of sins has a direct impact on efforts to spread the Gospel, he explained, pointing out that only those “who allow themselves to be profoundly renewed by divine grace can internalize and therefore announce the novelty of the Gospel.[There it is!]

The Pope also had some words for priests who hear confessions. He stressed the importance of spiritual and canonical preparation, [CANONICAL!  Get that?  We priests need to know the law well and know how to have recourse to proper authority when certain cases arise.] and reminded them that priests must be the first to renew an awareness of themselves as sinners who need sacramental forgiveness to renew their encounter with Christ. [My Jesus, mercy.]

He finished his talk by urging his fellow priests to always make “novelty of Christ” the focus of their priestly lives so that others will see Christ in them.

Reverend Bishops, Brother Priests… for the love of God and neighbor and for the sake of your future and impending judgment before God’s face, hear confessions, preach about confessions, make your own confessions.

A few final points.

Lay people:

  • In the Sacrament of Penance Christ Himself, through the priest who acts in Christ’s own Person, forgives your sins.
  • The Sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means of forgiveness of sins which Christ Himself intended for us all to use.
  • There is no sin that we little mortals can commit which God, in His infinite power and mercy, cannot and will not forgive if we are sorry, we confess it, and we receive absolution.
  • In the Sacrament of Penance, our sins are taken away.  They are not just covered over or set aside.  They are gone, removed, eradicated.  We will remember them and we need to do penance out of justice in reparation for them, but they will not be held against us in our judgement.
  • You are going to die one day and you will be judged.  This life is your time to prepare for that and the Sacrament of Penance is how Christ Himself wanted us to approach Him for forgiveness.  That is why He instituted the Sacrament of Penance: so that we would use it.

Bishops and Priests:

  • You are sinners who need to use the Sacrament of Penance.  Go to confession often.
  • You were ordained to say Mass and to forgive sins.  Hear confessions according to the offices you have been given.
  • You were ordained to help as many people as possible avoid hell and get to heaven.  Hear confessions.  Teach about the sacrament.
  • You are going to die go before your Judge not just as any ordinary person, but as a priest, forever. You will remain a priest in heaven or in hell and your reward will be proportioned to what you have been given, how you have used that gift, and how you have loved in response to God’s gift.  Hear confessions.
  • If you don’t willingly hear confessions and teach about the importance of the sacrament – according to the mandate you have been given – your judgment will be harsh. Hear confessions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mark Windsor says:

    And please – Bishops and Priests – I beg you to hear two points.

    First, no line is so long that you can’t listen to the Act of Contrition in the confessional. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to do my contrition in the chapel or down the hall. I’ve even been told “no, there’s a line” when I offered to do it before the priest.

    Second, for those of us in the working world, weedays during business hours are not a substitute for more than the one hour we’re given on Saturdays. Saturday afternoons are really hard for those of us that work 45-50 hours a week. Saturday mornings would help. A weekday evening would be good too.

    I don’t personally need help with motivation. I need help with logistics.

  2. benedetta says:

    Viva il Papa! And, great rant, Fr. Z, thanks.

  3. acroat says:

    Your “Holy Cow” comment reminded me of the homily at Mass yesterday. The priest talked at length about vulgarity & the second commandment at that regard. He views such terms as a sort if “cleaned up” version of a vulgar expression & believes they also offend God. He is trying to stop using the term phooey. I’d be interested in your comments.

  4. SonofMonica says:

    Father Z — thank you for repeatedly hammering home the point that if we’re going to evangelize we need a liturgy that is attractive and and transmits truth, beauty, timelessness and mystery. I cannot tell you how apprehensive I am to evangelize, because I am embarrassed at the state of our corporate worship. What am I to say to a 20-something male friend of mine about why he should come back to the Church? I can’t imagine telling him the truth of how campy it it would be. “Hey, get up on Sunday morning and come with me to sing along to really, really bad hippie/baby music on out-of-tune guitars and oboes. Sometimes there’s an organ, but it’s really loud and no one sings along with it. Our priest will wear thin tablecloths with 1970’s felt logos, and you’ll get a chance to hear 5 minutes of talking about a vague necessity of loving your neighbor. Then about 6-8 people in blue jeans will bum-rush the sanctuary and receive communion with the priest around the altar. Ta da! Doesn’t that make you want to go back to confession?” Facepalm.jpg

  5. Blaise says:

    Sonofmonica – you make a really good point. I too have often thought “how could I invite someone to come to Mass on Sunday given the liturgy I put up with.” In my case we probably have the same music but sung without accompaniment, out of tune and v e r y v e r y s l o w.
    The sermons last ten minutes (but then sometimes so do the notices!) and while they have some good points occasionally chance is that most of it will be disconnected; besides if you aren’t used to listening to Nigerians speaking English it is hard to follow.
    My fear is that the priests of the parish, while generally orthodox in most regards (they aren’t English by background) just don’t know any better when it comes to the liturgy.

  6. Jenny says:


    I’m with you on the logistics. Every parish I know about has Confession from 4-5pm on Saturday afternoon which is a terrible time for me. My parish also offers time on the weekdays after daily Mass at 9am, but I am at work 45 minutes away. I have asked for other times to be made available every now and again but to no avail. I don’t expect a weekday afternoon/evening to be set aside every week but once a month would be nice. Or every other month. Or quarterly. Something outside of Holy Week and Christmas week. Please?

  7. digdigby says:

    The world’s on fire and this priest delivers long homilies on not using the word ‘phooey’??!!
    He sounds like what we call down South “An old maid in britches”. A priest railing against ‘niceties’ must always keep in mind that the tormented sinner out their desperately wanting to confess adultery will think twice about confessing to such a ‘paragon’ who wrings his hands about saying ‘phooey’.

  8. acardnal says:

    I’m not sure I understand your message behind the cartoon you chose of two priests hearing a the confession. May confuse people. Then again my brain is a little dense at times so perhaps the message is flying over my head.

  9. digdigby says:

    That’s Jesus behind the Priest.

  10. Alice says:

    The two priests are the priest-confessor and Jesus. It’s a fairly common theme in art, although, I think the artist would have done us a favor if he had given Jesus a halo or something more than just a beard to help us identify Him.

  11. plemmen says:

    Confession and the impartation of (reversion to) the State of Grace has been the greatest boon in my life. In the Sacrament of Penance, our sins are taken away. They are not just covered over or set aside. They are gone, removed, eradicated. We will remember them and we need to do penance out of justice in reparation for them, but they will not be held against us in our judgement. On this I rely, in this I believe, by this I am saved from the fires of Hell, the just punishment I deserve but that which I am spared by my true confession of my sins, valid Act of Contrition and Absolution of my sins by the expiatory act of Christ’s crucifixion as administered by the priest. Thanks Father Z.

  12. acardnal says:

    @digdigby and Alice: Thank you . That makes sense. I just did not see Jesus in the “art”. Wow! Where’s Michelangelo when you need him. ;-)

  13. Marie Teresa says:


    I don’t personally need help with motivation. I need help with logistics.

    i completely agree!

    priests in this area have a note in the bulletin to see them before/after Mass or by appointment for Confession. the nearest priest with a scheduled time is over 2 hours away.

    Father arrives just in time for Mass and makes visits to the sick immediately after Mass — rules out before/after Mass.

    when you call for an appointment, it’s as though you’ve requested spiritual direction or counseling.

    it’s disconcerting for a priest to repeatedly ask, “what’s the sin?” must one fall into grave sin so father doesn’t feel his time is wasted?

    imho, too many priests suffer from rockstar-itis and equate parishioners with adoring fans. i’m in no way needy or wanting counseling, just wanting to confess sins (by name and number). i need less than 5-7 minutes in the confessional.

    i used to go once a week. now, it’s down to a few times a year … but not for lack of desire on my part!

  14. FaithfulCatechist says:

    Our permanent deacon did his usual excellent homily yesterday and laid it on the line with respect to Confession. Among other things, he told the story of the priest who heard a confession in an airport, after he notice he had a line of penitents waiting for their turn.

  15. We are so blessed to have a priest who is in the confessional 7-8 hours each week, minimum.

    Yesterday’s homily repeated at least four times: “Do not receive Holy Communion if you are in mortal sin.” He then read the entire examination of conscience pamphlet aloud to assist anyone who may have been in doubt as to what would or would not classify as a mortal sin. He offered to relax whatever Lenten observances we had made if we would just come to confession. (“What a great offer!” said our boys, who frequent confession and would gladly trade off Lenten sacrifices for one confession~ but I digress.)

    We have heard confession promoted (and offered) regularly over his years as our pastor, and some of us are truly changed people as a result of making confession a regular part of our journey with Christ.

    We have also watched many pews empty out, and a stream of people now head across town to a parish 3X the size with the ‘half hour on Saturday’ confession system (where those remaining outside in line when it ends are offered general absolution for their trouble).

    We are so blessed, so very blessed to have a priest who truly believes in confession and makes such sacrifices of his time for our souls.

  16. acardnal says:

    @BridgetTheresa: There are good and holy priest out there. And in many places. Deo Gratias

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