Bad communal penance service idea

[FONT=Times New Roman][size=3]The Advent Communal Penance Service will be held today (Sunday, December 17th), in church at 11:30AM. It will be based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and will feature the 3 Spirits of Advent Past, Present, and Future, and, of course, old Ebenezer Scrooge himself. These 3 Spirits will examine our consciences to see whether we are more like Scrooge or more like Jesus Christ. Our choir will also provide music and singing to accompany this dramatic service. It will conclude with the more traditional Communal Absolution


Certainly communal penance services have reached an all time low. Don’t get me wrong…I love Dickens’ Christmas Carol but somehow I just can’t help this heartache coming on. Give me a couple aspirin and club me in the head. Pray I wake in the morning and forget that I read this in the parish bulletin my DH brought home.

Oh… my.

I shouldn’t be surprised, this is the New Springtime after all…

Kind of reminds me of the parish in my area that has the traditional “Mime Stations of the Cross”.

(oh look, Jesus in a box!)

Don’t bet on that. Someone will come up with a lower one next year. :frowning:

The liturgical book gives a lot of flexibility to the Examination of Conscience. After the readings it has:
52. The homily which follows is based on the texts of the readings and should lead the penitents to examine their consciences and renew their lives.
53. A period of time may be spent in making an examination of conscience and in arrousing true sorrow for sins. The priest, deacon, or another minister may help the faithful by brief statements or a kind of litany, taking into consideration their circumstances, age, etc.”
(Rite of Penance, from The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 552. This is from Chapter 2 “Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution”. But Chapter 3, the ceremony with the General Absolution, says to do it the same way as Chapter 2, with extra parts in the homily about the need to individually confess serious sins.)

At Appendix III there is a suggested “Form of Examination of Conscience” which should “be completed and adapted to meet the needs of different individuals and to follow local usages”. (The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 625).

Examples of its questions are:
“7. Have I obeyed legitimate authority and given it due respect?’”
“9. Have I been truthful and fair, or have I injuried others by deceit, calumny, detraction, rash judgment, or violation of a secret?”

I think Scrouge and A Christmas Carol could be an effective theme for the homily and Examination of Conscience at the Sacrament of Penance.

It could also be done badly, made into a play to entertain an audience. But I do not think there is enough in the notice to justify condemning it.

Yes, I wonder what Pope Saint Pius X and all his Papal predecessors would have thought of such kinds of ‘themed’ services.

Its very banality is enough to condemn it - it isn’t Catholic in the slightest.

A penance service is a serious preparation for a serious sacrament, and should be conducted as such. Fictional characters and episodes have no place, unless it’s done in an incredibly ‘straight’ fashion (and the highlighted mention of a ‘dramatic’ presentation doesn’t promise anything like it).

A traditional communal absolution?!! Bah humbug!!!

Scrooge was Anglican.

That is what caught my eye. Traditional communal abslolution? What the heck is that?

Not Catholic, I know that.

Communal absolution? Didn’t see the mention of that. Is that even permitted? :confused:

Could someone explain to me what you guys are talking about? My parish also has a communal pennance service… I have NO IDEA what that even means?? Am I supposed to go? :confused:

In a parish I attended in Cleveland, the pastor would fill the place, to the brim and out the door by stating that he could not possibly hear every one of the confession (probably true). He then did an examination of conscience and a general absolution.

People would drive from all over the area to come. It was a loophole used to our advantage. When the priest would always lay it on thick before passing the basket.

I’m not sure but this may be the same thing.

Haven’t been to one in decades, but they are a way of doing in an hour or so what can be done in 5 minutes or less (usually) in the confessional. Very tedious.

I don’t think ‘communal absolution’ is allowed except in extreme circumstances such as soldiers going off to war, etc. where it would *really *be impossible (not just inconvenient) to hear everyone’s confession. And, I could be mistaken, but I think even in that instance, the Church says those absolved should make a private confession *when and if *it is possible at some point in time. I’m sorry I don’t have time to look up official references right now - maybe someone else can verify this.

LilyM was asking if a “communal absolution” was allowed. Another term for it is “general absolution”. It is in the liturgical book Rite of Penance, so yes, in some circumstances it is allowed. Concerns have been expressed by the Vatican about it being used in the wrong circumstances. John Paul II wrote in the 2002 Motu Proprio MISERICORDIA DEI
"… in some places there has been a tendency to abandon individual confession and wrongly to resort to “general” or “communal” absolution. In this case general absolution is no longer seen as an extraordinary means to be used in wholly exceptional situations." The correct circumstances are clarified in this document, at n. 4, which is at .

I doubt that the circumstances exist in the case of this notice, since it has: “a) It refers to situations which are objectively exceptional, such as can occur in mission territories or in isolated communities of the faithful, where the priest can visit only once or very few times a year, or when war or weather conditions or similar factors permit.”

Another ceremony described in the Rite of Penance is a penitential service. It is not the sacrament of penance, it does not have an absolution and a priest is not required for it.

The value of it is expressed in the Rite of Penance:
“37 … Penitential services are very helpful in promoting conversion of life and purification of heart.
It is desirable to arrange them especially for these purposes:
– to foster the spirit of penance within the Christian community;
– to help the faithful to prepare for individual confession that can be made later at a convenient time;
– to help children gradually form their conscience about sin in human life and about freedom from sin through Christ;
– to help catechumens during their conversion.
Penitential services, moreover, are very useful in places where no priest is available to give sacramental absolution. They offer help in reaching that perfect contrition that comes from charity and enables the faithful to receive God’s grace though a desire for the sacrament of penance in the future.”

Some parishes offer these communal penance services during the seasons of Advent and Lent as supplemental confession times since Advent and Lent are penitential seasons. Parishes often invite priest from neighboring parishes to help hear confessions. This is a common occurence in large parishes, and even in our tiny little parish we have communal penance services in Advent and Lent.

It is simply the Rite For Reconciliation With Several Penitents And Individual Confession And Absolution.

Communal penance is not the same as “communal absolution”.

In many parishes, such as the parish I used to attend, Reconciliation is done in this form every week. Form 2- Penance Without the Confessional. We used this form every Saturday morning with individual confessions in the confessional on Saturday afternoons.

Sorry to sound so dumb… too many words that I have no idea what they mean? :o OK, first off… what does the bold mean?

Is this whole thing something like confession but without actually confession out loud to a Priest but rather, in a service sort of thing as a group (like confession in your head) or is this the thing where they get lots of Priests & everyone still goes into the little room?

And finally, why is this a bad thing (OP) - was it just the theme w/ the Scrooge & the ghosts of the past, present, etc. that was dumb - but not the concept itself?

still :confused:

If you’re Catholic, and you’ve never been to one, it’s a good experience to have. I enjoy the ones that we have at my parish - they are very reflective and prayerful.

At the end, several priests are available to hear Confessions, and you can go to whichever priest you want - it doesn’t have to be your regular Confessor.

But the one described in the opening post sounds like a bomb waiting to go off - I don’t think I would want to attend that one. :eek:

Communal Penance Services are optional. I think it was instituted after Vatican II to encourage people to confess before the 2 major feasts of the Church (ie- Christmas and Easter) since regular confession has fallen off.

It has a parallel in the Jewish Day of Atonement in which the worshippers would all gather at the Temple. At one part of the ceremony, all the worshippers would stand, beating their breasts and, saying aloud all their transgressions for the year. Afterwards, the priest would sprinkle them with the blood of the sacrifice, ritually cleansing them from their sins. (source - working from memory - from ‘This is My God’ by Hermann Wouk - an excellent read for anyone wanting to know more about Jewish practices, past and present)

Our practice here for a communal reconciliation service is to have the first part ie - the Homily and an Examination of Conscience then our 3 priests (and sometimes a visiting priest) will each take a seat in secluded parts of the church, not in the confessionals but visible. Each of us, individually, make our way to the priest, confess and receive absolution. After confessing, we are asked to remain in the church until everyone who wishes has confessed . The service is concluded with a blessing. It generally takes about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how many people come and how many priests we have available.

The time after confessing, while waiting for others to have their turn, can be used to say your penance or just to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. It is a very reverent service.

In some ways, I find this service more humbling than regular confession because you are there confessing in front of everyone and although they cannot hear you, everyone knows that you are owning up to your sinfulness.

There is no General Absolution, this being seen as inferior since you still need to confess individually anyway. We tried it one year but I think everyone, priests included, found it unsatisfactory. As far as I can see, it has the same effect as the general absolution at the beginning of Mass - which is to say, it is alright for venial sins but serious sins must still be confessed. Why bother going to a separate service then, when you will receive the same thing at Mass? I see a danger in it, in that some people might think that it has taken the place of individual confession and believe that they have fulfilled that requirement - especially those who haven’t been to Mass for a while.

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