As I noted yesterday, many pastors have become wary of hearing confessions after daily Mass on a regular basis.
The principal reason is this: Confessions after Mass have a tendency to become extended spiritual direction or counseling sessions, and sometimes a rather small circle of parishioners, including those with significant emotional and psychological needs, or an unhealthy attachment to the priest, tend to take over this time slot.
The pastor should first assess whether he is providing sufficient time before Mass for confessions. If he is not hearing confessions throughout the scheduled time before Mass, yet finds a significant number of people wishing to make their confession afterwards, this may be a sign that parishioners are developing a two-tiered approach: a quick sacramental “clean-up” before Mass, or a lengthy conversation in the Confessional afterwards.
The pastor who has scheduled confessions after Mass may then wish to do two things: First, offer a simple explanation from the pulpit concerning the differences between confession, spiritual direction, and counseling, perhaps expressing a willingness to offer spiritual direction or counseling -- or to refer parishioners to qualified Catholic spiritual directors or counselors -- but at a different time and place than the Confessional. Second, the pastor may address these issues directly in the Confessional with a penitent who seems to want something more than, or different than, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
All of this having been said, there is still great value in offering confessions after Mass. More about this tomorrow.