It must be disarming to meet Pope Francis in the confessional, as his insights into the sins and foibles of the people of our times are so penetrating. He cuts right to the quick without evasion, and he names often subtle ways in which we abuse the grace God gives us. The section of the apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” on temptations of pastoral workers (Nos. 76-109) unflinchingly identifies numerous defects of the church’s ministers. As an examination of conscience, there’s been nothing like it since C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.
If true reform must grow out of conversion, then Pope Francis truly has the gift of discernment to set the church on the path of conversion. He identifies the most subtle ways in which pastoral ministers undermine their own effectiveness and the church’s mission. The list is long and in this Lenten season deserving of reflection by all Catholics. But the paragraphs on “spiritual worldliness” are particularly worthy of attention.