Who is the Pope’s Confessor?

Published: March 4, 2019

By Jim Lichtman
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Whomever he is, I hope he’s got a lot of juice with the Almighty.

When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was voted by his colleagues to become the next Pope six years ago, replacing the retired Pope Benedict XVI, little did he know that a scandal, literally of Biblical proportions, would soon envelop him.

The Catholic Church is supposed to be a refuge for the poor and disadvantaged. Instead, court case after court case has proven that the Church has been a hiding place for pedophile priests who have taken advantage of young naïve souls.

“In August 2018,” Britain’s Guardian reported, “a Pennsylvania grand jury named more than 300 clergy in a report which found more than 1,000 children had been abused.”

After the 2015 film Spotlight revealed the tip of the iceberg of abuse, the chickens were finally coming home to roost.

In December 2018, NPR reported “…Pope Francis, whose blind spot on clergy sex abuse conspired with events beyond his control to threaten his legacy and throw the Catholic hierarchy into a credibility crisis not seen in modern times. …

“Early missteps included associating with compromised cardinals and bishops and downplaying or dismissing rumors of abuse and cover-up. Francis finally came around in 2018, when he publicly admitted he was wrong about a case in Chile, made amends…”

Francis must’ve endured many long hours on his knees for that one, and for his moral blind spot in taking “the word of the clerical class over victims.”

What are the chief qualities of a good confession?

The Baltimore Catechism – the standard text used to teach children about Church doctrine – states that a good confession “must be humble, no excuses; sincere, no falsehoods; and entire, no omissions.”

Francis must’ve been listening closely to the Almighty after his last confession because the last two months have seen some signs of change.

In January, Francis released an eight-page letter to American bishops.

“The church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes,” the Pope said of the abuse of children by Catholic clergy, “but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them.”

“God’s faithful people and the Church’s mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled, as well as the pain of seeing an episcopate (body of bishops) lacking in unity and concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation.”

He urged the bishops to “abandon a modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships, and instead to make room for the gentle breeze that the Gospel alone can offer.”

“Let us try to break the vicious circle of recrimination, undercutting and discrediting,” he continued.

“We will do this if we can stop projecting onto others our own confusion and discontent, which are obstacles to unity, and dare to come together, on our knees, before the Lord…”

And now, we are seeing the beginning of actions taken.

“In February 2019,” The Guardian writes, “it was revealed that high-ranking Australian Cardinal George Pell had been found guilty of abusing two choir boys in 1996 – he was convicted nine months earlier, but a court initially banned the press from reporting it.

“Theodore McCarrick, a former Roman Catholic cardinal in the US, was defrocked over claims he sexually assaulted a teenager in New York in the early 1970s.”

On February 24, The New York Times reported, “Pope Francis ended a landmark Vatican meeting on clerical sexual abuse by calling ‘for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors’ and insisting that the church needed to protect children ‘from ravenous wolves.’

“But for all the vivid language and the vow ‘to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of our mission,’ the pope’s speech was short on the sort of detailed battle plan demanded by many Catholics around the world.

“ ‘Pope Francis’ talk today was a stunning letdown, a catastrophic misreading of the grief and outrage of the faithful,’ said Anne Barrett Doyle, a leader of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks incidents of abuse in the church.”

As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the responsibility – papal ferula (the pastoral staff) – stops with him! Considering the decades-long trail of broken trust, Francis needs to saddle-up and take unambiguous and decisive steps before he loses all credibility.

My advice to the pontiff: while confession is good for the soul, desperate times call for desperate measures and no one knows “desperate” better than St. Jude the apostle, the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations.

Get down on your knees, Francis, and pray your ashtabula off:

Oh, glorious apostle St. Jude… Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (humbly mention your request), and that I may bless God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity.

P.S. AND that I may prove myself worthy in your eyes, oh Lord, for the authority conferred upon me.

Now say 100,000 Our Father’s, 140,000 Hail Mary’s, and 500 Glory Be’s.


  1. As a life long Latina Catholic, I am sickened by the past behavior of our trusted priests.

    I don’t know how much the Holy Father can do, but I guess the boss is always responsible for the past and for change. I truly pray for those who were harmed and I am worried that people are and were leaving The Church because of this. I have used confession and I assume the Pope does also. We can all be forgiven.

  2. Jim Lichtman needs to follow up on his insightful and relevant assessment of the Holy Father’s unholy predicament by having a conversation at the Vatican with Pope Francis on what still needs be done regarding how best to use papal power to right all the wrong now coming to light.

    True, it might be a stretch to think that Jim can get a private sit-down with Francis. But wait: miracles happen, don’t they? I’m for keeping the faith that they do. And I certainly have faith that Jim is up to it. Rome, here he comes!

  3. To me, with the ordination of women and married priests – with respect to issues of celibate male only priests – a denomination that gets it right are Episcopalians.

  4. Only on your ethics blog Jim, would a topic this hot be smoothly handled. I am sure Pope Francis has a confessor and yes we need to help all of those victims and prevent more from being hurt.

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