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Pope laments 'black-and-white' mentality in priest-confessors

August 25, 2016

Priests should be trained to recognize nuances in their work as confessors, Pope Francis said to a group of Polish Jesuits during his visit there. 

The Pope said that "many people leave the confessional disappointed" because the priest lacks understanding. He said that many priests have been trained "in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined in advance and that set aside concrete situations."

This approach is wrong, the Pontiff said. "The shades of gray prevail in life. We must teach [priests] to discern in this gray area."

The Pope offered these thoughts to an audience of Jesuits during his visit to Poland. The remarks were made public in the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, by the editor, Father Antonio Spadaro, who was present for the talk.


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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 27, 2016 6:16 PM ET USA

    How much training does it take to say, "Three Our Fathers and three Hail Mary's and make a good Act of Contrition"?

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 25, 2016 11:37 PM ET USA

    The last people who need to be told to be more "nuanced" would be a bunch of Jesuits!

  • Posted by: David K - Aug. 25, 2016 9:19 PM ET USA

    Can someone direct me to one of these "black and white" priests? I've never met one, and they sound like they could be helpful.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 25, 2016 4:58 PM ET USA

    I have not seen this problem. Where is the Holy Father hanging out, and how does he get his information, by going to confession?

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Aug. 25, 2016 10:18 AM ET USA

    As usual, no examples, no clarifications in the Crux article of what "shades of gray" means. Imagine teaching calculus or electrodynamics without examples. You would end up with students like the one who decided to get an M.S. in physics at a state-run university. The fellow had just graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in the _philosophy_ of science. He could quote Einstein's relativity theory and Maxwell's philosophy of electrodynamics, but he couldn't solve a physics problem.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Aug. 25, 2016 10:02 AM ET USA

    Overly clear/distinct ideas? The Commandments are clear/distinct; the Lord is often clear: Go and sin no more. Shades of gray prevail where and how in life? The gray often may be discerning imputability for sin in the Confessional not the clarity of the confessor's moral teaching! These remarks sound like another appeal using "shades of gray" to allow the divorce/remarried to avoid the Lord's clear teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. The goal of moral teaching is a conscience certain and correct.