Pope Francis on Confession: Confessionals Are Not Dry Cleaners

Pope Francis cautioned the public against treating the confessional like dry cleaners — viewing the Sacrament of Reconciliation like a quick negotiation to wipe away one's sins and obtain false vindication.

"You did not go there ashamed of what you did. You saw some stains on your conscience and you were mistaken because you believed the confessional was a dry cleaners to remove stains," the pontiff stated during his homily at Domus Sanctae Marthae on Tuesday, March 21.

Pope Francis said that while forgiveness is "God's great work of mercy," many Christians nowadays take this gift for granted. He stressed that penitents should be truly remorseful and ashamed of their wrongdoings when they go to the confessional.

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He stated that penitents shouldn't leave the confessional with the belief that "we got away with it." Pope Francis stressed that this feeling of false and expected absolution is "the hypocrisy of stealing forgiveness, a pretend forgiveness."

The pontiff referenced how the people of Israel humbly asked God for forgiveness for their sins in the Eucharist's first reading from the prophet Daniel. Pope Francis emphasized that shame is the "first step" in asking for absolution,

Pope Francis also recounted the parable of the ungrateful servant in his homily. A Gospel reading from St. Matthew, the parable tells the story of a selfish servant who refused to give mercy to another person even though he was granted forgiveness for a debt.

"If you are not aware of being forgiven you will never be able to forgive, never," Pope Francis stressed. "There is always that attitude of wanting to take others to task. Forgiveness is total. But it can only be done when I feel my sin, when I am ashamed and ask forgiveness of God and feel forgiven by the father so I can forgive."

Pope Francis acknowledged that forgiveness is "a difficult mystery" to understand, however, he urged Christians to stop regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a "bank transaction" of sorts.

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