Like all the faithful, the clergy must themselves be regular practitioners of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The following is a thorough examination of conscience for priests, with questions stemming from each of the Ten Commandments.
1. “I am the Lord your God: you shall have no other gods before me”
• Do I believe in the Triune God?
• Do I believe that God loves me and that I am lovable, not for anything I have done, but simply because I am his?
• Am I open to accepting God’s mercy in my life, or do I try to save myself?
• Is there any relationship that is more important to me than my relationship with the Holy Trinity?
• Is there any project more important to me than my relationship with the Holy Trinity?
• Is there any activity that is more important to me than my relationship with the Holy Trinity?
• Is there any object that is more important to me than my relationship with the Holy Trinity?
• Do I pray every day?
• Do I pray my Office faithfully?
• Do I pray for those who have asked me to pray for them?
• Do I share my thoughts, feelings and desires with the Holy Trinity daily?
• Is Jesus Christ truly my best friend?
• Have I allowed him to live his Paschal Mystery in me?
• Who has my heart?
2. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain”
• Am I careless with God’s name?
• Do I give bad example to my flock by the way I speak?
• Do I speak about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or do I speak generically and impersonally of “God”?
• Have I been true to the promises that I made on my ordination day?
• Have I made false oaths?
• Have I kept my promises?
• Do I respect the names of others and speak them with reverence?
3. “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day”
• Do I pray and find some rest on Sundays, or it is just my busiest workday of the week?
• Do I take my day away faithfully?
• Is my day away a day of rest and refreshment?
• Do I do work on my day away that can wait until my return?
• Is my day away a day away from my priestly assignment, or is it a day away from my priesthood?
• Do I pray on my day away?
• Do I encourage my parishioners, employees and colleagues to rest on the Sabbath?
4. “Honor your father and your mother”
| We must prayerfully consider our sins before confessing them. Shutterstock
• If my parents are alive, do I visit them or at least call them regularly?
• If my parents are deceased, do I pray for them and visit the cemetery on occasion?
• Do I speak well of my parents?
• Do I show gratitude to my parents for creating me?
• Do I stay connected with my siblings, nieces and nephews?
• Do I pray for my family regularly?
• Am I a good example of a Christian to my family?
• Am I a good example of a priest to my family?
• Do I spend an inappropriate amount of time complaining to my family about my ministry?
• Do I take good care of the elderly in my community?
• Do I take care of the senior priests in my diocese?
• Do I honor my superiors and speak charitably of them?
• Have I been obedient to my ordinary?
• Do I tell the truth to my superiors, even if the truth is difficult to tell?
• Do I give good example to my flock of obedience?
• Do I honor Mary the Mother of God and St. Joseph?
5. “You shall not kill”
• Have I killed anyone?
• Have I killed anyone spiritually through gossip, slander, detraction, calumny, etc.?
• Do I intentionally exclude others?
• Do I love my enemies?
• Do I respect human life at all it stages?
• Have I worked to protect life at all its stages?
• Have I been courageous in my preaching and teaching about the sanctity of life?
• Do I respect others regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, religion or social status, and have I encouraged others to do so?
• Have I caused scandal to others by the way I live my life?
• Have I taken care of myself?
• Have I enjoyed food and drink in moderation?
• Have I used illegal drugs or abused prescription drugs?
• Have I exercised regularly?
• Am I a good example of healthy living for my flock?
• Would a young man want to be a priest by looking to my example of priesthood and my daily habits of self-care?
• Am I overly concerned about my looks and appearance?
• Do I retire at a reasonable hour?
• Do I get enough sleep?
• Do I make time for friends, especially good priest friends?
• Do I strive to a healthy diet?
• Do I drive recklessly?
• Am I fit to drive a car?
• Do I treat my body as a temple of the Holy Ghost?
• Am I honest with my doctors about my lifestyle?
6. “You shall not commit adultery”
• Do I see my sexuality as a gift from God?
• Am I honest with God, myself, and my spiritual director about my sexual desires?
• Have I kept my promise of celibate chastity?
• Have my thoughts been pure?
• Do I see my brothers and sisters as made in the image and likeness of God, as persons and not as objects?
• Do I speak of sexuality and sexual things in a holy, dignified and reverent manner?
• Do I have custody of the eyes?
• Do I flirt?
• Do I lust?
• Have I committed acts of impurity with myself or another?
• Have I viewed pornography?
• If pornography and masturbation are a struggle for me, have I used confession as a crutch to relieve guilt rather than as a sacrament to heal me of my sin?
• Have I been too embarrassed to ask for help with my sexual sin?
• Do I believe and practice what the Catholic Church teaches about human sexuality?
• Do I lovingly and mercifully preach and teach in line with the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality?
• Am I in an exclusive relationship with anyone?
• Do I have conversations with others about intimate matters (not necessarily sexual) that are inappropriate?
• Do I avoid near occasions of sin?
• Am I a living witness of a good chaste life?
7. “You shall not steal”
• Have I stolen anything from anyone or any institution?
• Do I blur the lines between business and personal expenses?
• Am I honest with my records and my taxes and the records of my parish or institution?
• Do I give my best at my priestly work?
• Do I give adequate time to prepare for homilies and teaching moments?
• Do I begin Mass on time, come to meetings and appointments on time and return phone calls and emails in a timely manner, showing respect for the dignity of others and for their time?
• Do I set a good example of work ethic for my colleagues and employees?
• Do I encourage co-workers and employees to rest as well as work?
• Am I a micromanager?
• Do I practice the principle of subsidiarity within my ministry?
• Am I a good steward of my own money?
• Am I a good steward of the money of my parish or institution?
• Do I love the poor?
• Do I serve the poor?
• Do I give generously to the poor and marginalized?
• Do I speak and preach boldly and courageously for those with little or no voice such as the poor, unborn, immigrants, refugees, etc.?
• Do I give my time to the marginalized via hospital visits, Communion calls, nursing homes, youth group, etc.?
• Do I pay just wages to my employees?
• Do I show gratitude to those who work with me and for me?
8. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
• Am I honest with God, others and myself?
• Am I duplicitous — one person with my clerics on and another when dressed in casual clothes or on vacation?
• Do I stretch the truth to protect myself or my interests?
• Do I steer clear of prophetic preaching because I am afraid?
• Do I witness the Gospel with my life in word and deed?
• Do I tell the truth to my superiors and to those who are entrusted to my pastoral care?
• Am I guilty of flattery or just telling people what they want to hear?
• Do I boast or brag?
• Am I true to Church teaching and diocesan policy?
• Do I tell people that certain things are “Church teaching” that are actually my own opinion or preference?
• Do I love the truth?
9. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”
• Do I strive to live a chaste life?
• Are my intentions and motivations pure?
• Do I love women as Christ loves his Church?
• Do I honor and respect women?
• Do I listen to the women of the Church?
• Do I have purity of vision?
• Do I love others purely as a celibate?
• Do I understand my celibacy as a gift and not a burden?
• Do I sometimes forget that “the grass is brown on both sides” — that celibate love and married love both have their crosses?
• Am I present to my bride the Church and my spiritual children, or am I a deadbeat dad?
10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods”
• Do I live a simple life?
• Is my lifestyle a good example to my flock?
• Am I envious of brother priests?
• Am I an ecclesial “climber,” thinking that a higher rank will make me happier?
• Do I want to be a famous priest?
• Do I focus on the gifts of others and forget about the unique gifts that God has given me?
• Am I a hoarder? Do my office and living quarters witness a life of simplicity and moderation, or a life of excess?
• Do I try to keep up with cultural standards rather than witnessing the Christian standard for the culture?
• Do I live beyond my means?
• Do I set a good example for others of a healthy priestly lifestyle?
• Do I spend more time living in the past or in the future than truly living in the present moment?
• Am I generous?
Father Damian Ference is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland. He is the director of human formation and assistant professor of philosophy at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio.