What does Pope Francis mean by the “sin of corruption”?

Pope Francis distinguishes the situation of the sinner and the corrupt. There can be great sinners, but who keep the consciousness of their sin: the corrupt, he no longer identifies himself with his sin. Explanations.

Who does not remember, among the members of the Roman curia, this vigorously medicinal speech of Pope Francis? delivered on December 22, 2014, on the 15 diseases and temptations that can be encountered at all levels of the life of the Church? Disease of petrification, of “marthalism”, of “spiritual Alzheimer’s”, of the “funeral face”… The one which occupies the eighth rank (in the middle therefore) seems to manifest itself particularly these days:

It is the disease of those who lead a double life, the fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of the progressive spiritual vacuum that diplomas and academic titles cannot fill… They thus create their parallel world, where they put aside everything where they teach others harshly and where they begin to lead a hidden and often dissolute life. Conversion is rather urgent and indispensable for this very serious disease.

And of us to refer to the meditation of the gospel of the prodigal son (Luke 15, 11-32).

If, to this disease is added the fifteenth, “the disease of worldly profit, of exhibitionism, when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into merchandise to obtain worldly profits or more power”, the evil seems to be impossible to cure… Struck by scandals of all kinds at the highest level of the Church, beaten down by sadness, inhabited by anger perhaps or discouragement, we make the connections with the uncompromising word of the Head of the Church. We wonder if we can still recite these words: “I believe in the Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic…”

The sinner and the corrupt

Is there still hope? Yes, because it is necessary to go further in the diagnosis. In his book The name of God is Mercy (2015), Pope Francis leads us to distinguish between the situation of the sinner and the corrupt. “Corruption is sin which, instead of being recognized as such and making us humble, is erected into a system, becomes a mental habit, a way of life. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, we justify ourselves, and justify our behavior… The corrupt ignore humility, do not consider that they need help, and lead a double life. Corruption is not so much a matter of the amount of sin as of the inner attitude. Thus, the Pope continues, “one does not become corrupt overnight: there is a long degradation, during which one ends up no longer identifying with a series of sins”.

It is the disposition of the heart that distinguishes the sinner from the corrupt. “A person can be a great sinner and yet not fall into corruption. When reading the Gospel, I think, for example, of the characters of Zacchaeus, Matthew, the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the good thief: in their sinful heart, they all had something that saved them from corruption. They were open to forgiveness, their hearts knew their own weakness and it was that ray of light that let in the strength of God. »

The communion of forgiven sinners

This distinction is important if we want to keep faith in the holiness of the Church, and the hope of conversion for the sinner who recognizes his fault. In his closing speech at the Plenary Assembly of Bishops in Lourdes, on November 8, 2022, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort reminded us: “The Holy Church is not the meeting of “good people”; it is the communion that pardoned sinners try to live, not amnesty, not dispensed from taking responsibility for their actions, but forgiven and made strong by forgiveness. »

Strong by forgiveness, what does that mean? “The world of sin faces the world of grace like the reflected image of a landscape, at the edge of deep black water. There is the communion of saints, there is also a communion of sinners,” said Bernanos (The Diary of a Country Priest). Grace alone which, without making us forget justice, allows us to hate sin, while wanting the conversion of the sinner.

Also discover the thoughts of the great saints on mercy:


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What does Pope Francis mean by the “sin of corruption”?

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