URGENT: for priests

Molteni Giuseppe La confessioneToday at Crisis Fr. George Rutler is the purveyor of salutary advice to young priests.  HERE

Of particular interest to me, since I harp on the need for frequent confession:

The Holy Mass is the heart of the Christian life, but to be that, it must proceed from the Sacrament of Confession. With exquisite subtlety the Risen Christ prompted Peter to confess before he sent him out to offer the Eucharist to the heart of the empire. The parish priest should not let a day pass without some time in the confessional, and if no one shows up, that time can be one of prayer, and eventually the people will come. Weekly confession should be the goal for the priest himself. Often the Anti-Christ will tempt the priest to absent the confessional for one reason or another just before a seriously burdened penitent is about to ask to be heard. Humble confessions heard in the sacred tribunal often inspire the priest beyond anything the penitent could understand. Humility is never discouraged by a good examination of conscience, for the Good Physician always has a cure for sickness of soul, be it a defect of the intellect or a weakness of will.



If you don’t, you are running the risk of eternal perdition.  No, really!  We still believe that stuff!

Remember also:

Of course an examination of conscience goes hand in glove with the need for confession and absolution.

Again, for priests, I share now something that a priest friend in my native place, Fr TD, sent me recently.   This is posted at the site of God’s Plan For Life.

UPDATE NB: There is a serious hole in this examen, however, as pointed out in a comment below.  There is nothing about liturgical worship.  One the first things mentioned in the Code of Canon Law is the duty of the pastor to see to the Eucharist, which is not only the Blessed Sacrament, but also its celebration.  It is a constant disappointment to me that, when I read offerings from certain bishops and muckity-mucks about “what the Church needs”, they almost never bring in liturgy.   However, we are our rites.  No initiative we will undertake with all good will can succeed if it is not rooted in and returning to proper sacred liturgical worship of God.

That said…

Examination of conscience for pastors


This examination of conscience is designed for all pastors as they eagerly strive to meet the challenges of our time. It assumes that the pastor who is exploring its contents has already achieved self mastery of the emotions and therefore it omits the many questions that are typically included in a general examination of conscience written for all members of the Church. It focuses on the fundamental mission of the Church which is to proclaim the Good News, to combat sin and save souls for everlasting life. These weighty core values should form the epicenter of every pastor’s mission directed toward a culture that in large part does not “repent of their murders, their magic potions, their unchastity, or their robberies.” Rev. 9:20. The examination of conscience may seem very challenging. Indeed, that is what an examination of conscience is supposed to do! A zealous pastor will quickly see that this examination has the potential to greatly assist in propelling the entire Church forward toward its glorious destination.


“When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Mt 7:28

  1. Do I preach with authority?
  2. Do I claim the authority given to me by Christ and his Church?
  3. Is my tone emboldened by truth, faith, righteous authority to rebuke sinners, as well as meekness and humility, with each tone appropriate for the time, place and audience?
  4. Do I present the Gospel as a choice with serious consequences for acceptance or rejection? Or do I dilute the message, presenting the Gospel as a proposal, that is, something which can be implicitly rejected without consequences.
  5. Do I avoid difficult parts of the Gospel under the guise of being more loving and gentle?
  6. Do I proclaim the problem of sin and the call to repentance?
  7. Do I mention specific sins that are rampant in our culture in our time?
  8. Do I proclaim the Particular and General Judgments of Jesus?
  9. Do I proclaim the Particular and General Judgments of Jesus while at the same time acknowledging that they apply to me?
  10. Do I imitate as closely as possible the powerful teaching ministry of Jesus Christ?
  11. Do I humble myself in the presence of righteous believers?

“But we will more fully understand this power of discernment if we study the example of the first shepherd. For Peter, who by God’s authorization held the position of leadership in the holy Church, refused immoderate veneration from Cornelius (though the latter had acted well by humbly prostrating himself before Peter), but Peter recognized him as an equal saying: “Arise, do not do this, for I am also a man.” But when he discovered the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, he immediately showed the extent of power he had over others. For by his word, he ended their lives when he overtook them with his penetrating spirit. He had a self-awareness that he was the head of the Church in the battle against sin, but he did not acknowledge this honor when he was in the presence of upright brethren. In one case, holy conduct merited the communion of equality; in the other, avenging zeal revealed the just use of authority.”[1]

Teaching while preaching

“About this we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain, for you have become sluggish in hearing. Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, (and) not solid food.
Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.” Hb 5:11-14

  1. Do I study and teach the meaning of Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Papal Encyclicals and Church documents?
  2. Do I expound on the finer points of these invaluable sources?
  3. Do I teach the Ten Commandmentsand explain how they must be fulfilled in Spirit and Truth?
  4. Do I teach the seven capital sins – pride, greed, jealousy, anger, lust, gluttony and sloth? [3]
  5. Do I teach virtues and vices and how vices may be disguised as virtues? [2]
  6. Do I make any of the following excuses[5] when it comes to the more difficult moral teachings?

o    Talking about serious moral issues would scandalize the children.

o    It’s okay to talk about these matters in RCIA, marriage preparation classes and to provide pamphlets on these issues in the vestibule, but not at the pulpit.

o    These issues are contentious. They will produce strife and discord.

o    Collections will go down.

o    People will go to another church because they don’t want to hear this.

o    When the bishop talks about it, I’ll begin to talk about it.

o    I’m not prepared to speak about these issues because I wasn’t trained in the seminary for this.

o    The recent clergy sex scandals make it impossible for me to talk about sex today. I have no credibility.

  1. Am I mindful that if I do not warn a sinner and rebuke his sin, the Lord will hold me responsible for the sinner’s death? Ez 3:18-20
  2. Do I teach the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord?
  3. Do I teach and foster the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit – expression of wisdom, expression of knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment and tongues?
  4. Do I teach the five precepts of the Church?[4]
  5. Do I teach on issues of social justice and urge the laity to participate in the building of a just society by establishing a hierarchy of values with prominence given to the right to life?
  6. Do I strive to protect the souls entrusted to my care by warning them about heresies?


  1. Am I faithful and regular in daily prayer, including the Divine Office?
  2. Do I pray the Rosary as earnestly requested by Our Lady of Fatima?
  3. Do I implore those encharged to my pastoral care to fervent daily prayer, including the Rosary?
  4. Do I invite those encharged to my pastoral care to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
  5. Do I offer up all sufferings, annoyances and inconveniences to Christ for atonement of sins?
  6. Do I foster prayer meetings?


“Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord.” Words of Our Lady of Fatima spoken to little Jacinta.

  1. Do I place obedience to God as my number one priority?
  2. Do I implement the requests of my religious superiors?
  3. Do I obey my religious superiors in their requests that I live very modestly so as to imitate Christ and not bring scandal?
  4. Am I faithful to my religious or priestly vows?


  1. The Book of Pastoral Rule by St. Gregory the Great. Translated by George E. Demacopoulos; St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Crestwood, New York, 2007, section 6, p. 64.
  2. ibid, section 9, page 76.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Part Three, Section One, Chapter One, Article 8, Section V, Paragraph 1866, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano, 1997.
  4. ibid Part 3, Section One, Chapter Three, Article 3, Section II, Paragraph 2041-2043.
  5. Getting Beyond “I Can’t” By Fr. Daniel McCaffrey, STD  and Fr. Matthew Habiger, OSB, PhD.

The questions above cannot possibly explore every aspect of the pastoral spiritual life. For example, missing are questions involving the diligent performance of the Sacraments. While important, these are well governed by ritual rules of discipline and generally do not present difficult challenges. The questions above are tuned and focused on the difficult challenges of our time, a time when authoritative preaching has faded while the world labels evil good and good evil. This examination was composed by Brian Murphy and first posted September 15, 2016.

Endorsed by:

Very Rev. Charles Wright, OSB, Oceanside, CA
Rev. Matthew Habiger, OSB, Atchison, KS
Most Reverend Timothy Freyer, Orange, CA
Rev. Frederick Parke, Jacksonville, FL
Rev. John Putnam, Huntersville, NC
Rev. John Paul Hopping, Maplewood, MO
Rev. Shenan J. Boquet, President, Human Life International, Front Royal, VA
Fr. Tom Cusack, St. Columbans, NE
Most Reverend James D. Conley, Lincoln, NE

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  1. KT127 says:

    I was very grateful a local priest held confessions at an “odd” time last week. Middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. There were two people in front of me and two behind me and I left within the first 20 minutes. Confession isn’t dead.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    It seems to me (as a mere layman) that this “Examination of conscience for pastors” may be deficient. Shouldn’t it include a section dealing with the quality of the liturgy in the parish for which the pastor is morally responsible?


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. Matt R says:

    I would add the church fathers to the examination under studying and preaching. Too many homilists never give us the Fathers, which means they don’t know enough or fail to use the breviary to teach us.

  4. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    Our new pastor has announced that Confession will be heard First Thursdays of the month at 5:30. And if no one is here at 5:35, I’m going back to the rectory. So be early. [Oh dear! That’s awful.]

    On a positive note, he is reminding us of Holy Days of Obligation. He told us to look in the bulletin for the schedule for the Assumption. Then said something like, “I know it’s almost 10 days away, but I want you to have plenty of notice.” YAY! after 10 years of never being reminded either verbally or in print of upcoming days of obligation.

  5. benedetta says:

    Over the last decade or so, between this and that, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking, praying, and reading about a lot of disturbing things occurring involving the Church which I’ve had to witness. Perhaps it’s not at all a bad thing, but for the “had to” part, to do a certain amount of thinking, praying, reading…about things that others may not for whatever reason fully consider…I’ve attended in that time all manner of liturgy, prayer service, lectures, listened to many a sermon in person and via laptop, read a lot of philosophical things about the times we are living in, consulted many a saint and many a previous pilgrim’s path to glean some wisdom, some glimmer of hope to carry through…

    There really is no single better piece of advice to be found than this — for anyone who might attempt to live the Catholic Faith today, than to be serious about the sacrament of confession in one’s routine. One can speak all the day long of liturgy and political things, of ideology and the culture of death, and none of it is wrong. After ten years it really only boils down to this one simple but also difficult thing which Father Rutler concentrates on here.

    All I can say after ten years of struggle is that one can never be prepared, no matter all the rigorous debate on Catholic blogs and how tos and programming, for the extremely fierce blowback experienced when one undertakes even the smallest, most terribly thought out, ill advised, seemingly tiny or innocuous, innocent, perhaps testing tentative step towards living an authentic, serious spiritual life as a Catholic. For this and a whole host of mysterious uncountable problems and reasons, not amounting to one doubt, as has been said, one is going to need a confessor, an equipped, patient, courageous, indefatigable one, who will listen and absolve, tirelessly, with every fibre of strength left between all the crazy and countless demands already placed upon his shoulders. The times will distract endlessly and in endless contortions and emergencies away from this one simple requirement and the most selfless of pastors who understand the weight of the salvation of the souls entrusted them, take this seriously. Those who do not, do not, there is nothing more that one can say after all is said, and done, as to them. The faithful would be stupid to throw their salvation away because their pastor thinks little, for vain philosophical reasons, of the sacrament of penance.

  6. LeeF says:

    #4 under preaching is really important. I’ve heard priests over the years complain that if they have regular scheduled confession times (fulfilling the faithful’s canonical right to go anonymously), they sit in the box and nobody comes. But that is not only because they don’t frequently mention confession in homilies (a great little add-on at the end of any homily), but most importantly because they don’t teach that the possibility of going to hell is real, and that vague good intentions and not being a serial killer won’t get you to heaven. People need to be taught the grave consequences of sin and the requirement for repentance to receive God’s mercy. Only then will they see the value and necessity in regular confession.

  7. guans says:

    I seem to vaguely remember confessions being offered at 8:00 pm on a Sat night?

  8. KSCoy says:

    In many churches in Rome the confessionals are almost always occupied by a Priest waiting to hear confessions….I was floating after having my confession heard and being absolved of my sins at St. Peter’s Basilica. What a precious gift we have been given in the Sacrament of Confession.

  9. Sword40 says:

    We are so Blessed at our parish as we have two resident priests. Confessions are heard 7 days a week and during High Mass until just before communion when both priest appear to give the Eucharist. after Mass confessions begin again for at least 30 minutes more.

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