Danilo Perez Ngo
SFC: What advice can you give to people who still have questions about confession, if Christ is really present in the confessional?
Fr Mandía: This is a matter of faith, in the sense that if you believe in the things that Jesus said and did, then it will follow from that. It is faith that tells us that Jesus is really there. I think we should base it in the Scripture. The Church from the very beginning already had this practice. So from the history of the Church, this is what is actually believed, and so it is guaranteed that Christ is really there. The priest in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”), the Head of the Church, absolves.
Which brings me to another point. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he spoke to priests on a few occasions, he was telling them and inviting them to consider many times the fact that they are ministers of mercy. Then he added, “It’s a great thing to be an instrument or minister of the mercy of God. However, as a priest, the mercy that he can give to others can be most effective if the priest himself receives mercy through confession as well. Which is why Pope Francis goes every two weeks, and Pope Benedict goes to confession every week. Even St Pope John Paul II would go to confession every Saturday. But there is a pope who would go to confession every day – Pope Pius XII. When I read that, I thought, wow! It must really be difficult to be a pope. He must have realized, “My burdens are so great, even the smallest mistakes are significant, I have to bring this to the mercy of God.” So, that is what Pope Emeritus Benedict is pointing out to the priests, that they themselves must experience the mercy of God so that in turn they can pass on to the mercy of God to the lay faithful. The attitude of the priest is very important. The lay faithful can sometimes have fear of confessions if the priest doesn’t have the heart of a shepherd.
SFC: I really believe that the confessional is the safest place. The people are terrified because they are afraid to be judged especially if the priest knows them personally.
Fr Mandía: That’s understandable.