In Speech to Curia, Pope Offers Conscience Exam to Prepare for Confession

Follows Desert Fathers in Proposing ‘Catalogue of Illnesses’

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Pope Francis’ speech to the Curia today was presented in some forums and headlines as the Pope «denouncing» ailments characteristic of the «Church’s governing body.» The Holy Father himself, though, characterized his reflection not as a denunciation, but as an examination of conscience «for us all»: «a support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for Holy Christmas.»

The Pope traditionally addresses the Curia each year for an exchange of Christmas greetings. 

He spoke of the Curia as a model of the Church, of the Body of Christ, adding, «like every body, like every human body, [the Curia] is also exposed to sicknesses, to malfunctioning and to infirmity. And here I would like to mention some of these probable illnesses, curial illnesses – they are the more usual illnesses in our life as Curia. They are sicknesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord.»

Presenting his conscience exam, he said, «I think a ‘catalogue’ of illnesses will help us following the way of the Desert Fathers who made those catalogues of which we speak today. It will help us to prepare ourselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for us all to prepare ourselves for Christmas.»

In an address just hours later, given to Vatican employees and their families, the Pope spoke of his speech to the Curia, saying, «I exhort you paternally to meditate on that text, making it an idea of reflection for a fruitful examination of conscience in preparation for a Holy Christmas and New Year. I exhort you also to approach the Sacrament of Confession with a docile spirit, to receive the mercy of the Lord who knocks at the door of our heart, in the joy of the family!»

The 15 «spiritual ailments» that the Pope put on his «catalogue» ranged from the sickness of «Martha-ism» to the «sickness of bad coordination,» which makes the orchestra «produce noise.» He spoke of «spiritual Alzheimer’s disease» and «existential schizophrenia» as well as the problems of gossip, tattling and grumbling, and the «mournful face.» 

Regarding this last one, the Holy Father said he prays daily a prayer of St. Thomas More, which includes the petition, «Give me, Lord a sense of good humor.»

He also spoke of the sin of indifference to others and of that of accumulating things just to have more.

With each of the 15 ailments, the Pope gave an explanation, often referring to Scripture, the saints or the Magisterium to further illustrate the temptation being discussed. 

Many of the points are those he has discussed on other occasions, sometimes repeatedly, for example, in his daily homilies in the Casa Santa Marta.

«In order not to fall in these days in which we prepare for Confession, we ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin that each one of us bears in his heart and to support the Church and the Curia so that they are healthy and restored; holy and sanctifying, to the glory of her Son and for our salvation and that of the whole world,» he said at the end of his address. «We ask her to make us love the Church as Christ loved her, her Son and our Lord, and to have the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of His Mercy and of not being afraid to leave our hands between her maternal hands.»

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