Weak Sense of Sin Seen Undermining Use of Confession

Regent of Apostolic Penitentiary Addresses Course for Young Priests

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Disuse of the sacrament of reconciliation is due to the crisis of the sense of sin, said an organizer of a course given by the Holy See to young priests.

The intense course on the “internal forum,” questions of conscience, that priests are involved with, especially in the sacrament of penance, is being held through Saturday by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Conventual Franciscan Father Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the penitentiary, spoke about particularly delicate situations that confessors face.

“In an age of profound changes, it is not difficult to see that the sacrament of penance has suffered an obfuscation in practice in recent times,” the priest said on Vatican Radio.

“A first aspect that catches the attention is the weakening of the sense of sin. The weakened consciousness of sin runs the risk of leading the penitent to simply externalize his state of spirit instead of acknowledging his own sin,” Father Girotti said.

The Franciscan noted: “John Paul II has reminded priests that, in imparting grace and forgiveness to the faithful in the sacrament of penance, they carry out the highest act of their priesthood, after the celebration of the Eucharist.”

“I am personally convinced that there are many priests who, in the hierarchy of their tasks, reserve a privileged place for the silent and not always gratifying service, from a human point of view, of confession,” the priest said.

In the administration of this sacrament, he added, “a good confessor must show himself to be accepting, serene, without haste; he must show the greatest courtesy, without forgetting that the confessor carries out a paternal task, as he reveals the heart of the Father to people and personifies the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

To have the faithful understand the importance of confession, the regent of the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary suggested “an appropriate and profound catechesis.”

He explained that “in sacramental reconciliation the forgiveness of God is the source of spiritual rebirth and effective principle of sanctification.”

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