Communal penance service

I’ve never been to one. What is it like?

[quote="Hoosier, post:1, topic:179393"]
I've never been to one. What is it like?

[/quote]

It can take two forms. Usually beginning as a liturgy of the Word with some Prayers, Scripture readings, Reflection or Homily. Some type of an examination of conscience and then either dismissal with people returning at a later day and time for individual Sacramental Confession.

OR

Individual Sacramental Confessions being available at that time, usually with several priests available.

To supplement what Br Rich posted, it's important to keep in mind that the "communal" part of the service is done to help prepare people for the actual Sacrament of Confession, which is always done on an individual, private basis.

Some people think they can attend a service like this, and that the individual Confession part is optional. It's the other way around. The "communal" is optional, the individual confession & absolution is the essential part.

Is it not true, though, that during a Mass, when we say 'I confess to Almighty God...' and 'Lord have mercy', that our venial sins are forgiven en masse so that we are in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion? I read that somewhere, is it correct?

No, it isn’t. I realize that you’re only posting “what you’ve heard” but this trend is really disturbing to me–and for some reason (coincidence perhaps?) I’ve been seeing it a lot lately on threads here. Too many people are being taught that the penitential rite of Mass (or some other part of Mass) is a substitute for sacramental confession and absolution. That isn’t the case.

There are many, many different ways in which we can be forgiven for our venial sins, outside of confession. We are forgiven because we repent of them, not necessarily because we engage in any particular acts or prayes. Yes, of course, some prayers or acts can be more penitential than others, and can help us along as we seek that inner conversion. In the case of the penitential rite of the Mass, or (for example) praying one of the penitential psalms, or the corporal works of mercy, etc. etc. these prayers/acts are an expression of our interior desire to be forgiven, but of themselves they don’t forgive sins.

In the penitential rite, we may be forgiven for venial sins, but we are not absolved. Absolution can occur only within the sacrament of Confession (even the most abreviated form in an emergency). The problem arises when people use the penitential rite as a substitute for confession, they are denying themselves the absolution which comes only throught confession.

Even though we might not be conscious of any mortal (grave) sins, we cannot simply assume that the penitential rite by itself prepares us to be in a state-of-grace to receive the Eucharist. It might, or it might not. It certainly helps to prepare us, but it might not always go far enough.

Here’s a link to St. Thomas on the distinction between Confession being “necessary” or “absolutely necessary” newadvent.org/summa/4084.htm#article5

Unlike the sacrament of Confession where we know with certainty that we have been forgiven and absolved (assuming the penitent is sincere, of course), we cannot have that same level of certainty through the penitential rite.

And indeed, the problem is that if we take this idea of substitution too far, it can actually lead to sin, because we thereby deny and reject the necessity of sacramental confession–it becomes the sin of pride when we say “I don’t need confession.”

Yes, and in addition to that we are also forgiven venial sins when we cross ourselves, are blessed with holy water, when we say ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you…’, and when we receive the Eucharist.

[quote="Nowhere_Man, post:6, topic:179393"]
Yes, and in addition to that we are also forgiven venial sins when we cross ourselves, are blessed with holy water, when we say 'Lord I am not worthy to receive you...', and when we receive the Eucharist.

[/quote]

However you do not receive the Sacramental Grace you would normally receive through the
Sacrament of Confession.

So there may or may not be an opportunity for an indivudual Sacrament of Confession at one of these services. I will plan accordingly.

That’s true, however usually when a parish announces a “penance service” during Advent, Confession will be available. Most likely, you’ll have the opportunity to go to Confession, but it won’t hurt to, like you said, “plan accordingly.”

Firstly, thank you all for your replies, and I apologise to Hoosier for hijacking the thread to ask a question of my own!:slight_smile: But it’s all related, anyway.

I’m getting two different responses to my question - Fr David says no and Nowhere Man and Br. Rich say yes. ??? :confused:
I have a few more questions arising from these posts.
What is the difference between forgiveness and absolution?
What conditions are there for the Sacramental Grace to be present? And what is this Sacramental Grace?
Lastly I just want to say that I don’t see the Penitential Rite as a substitute for Confession, but I had begun to wonder about the necessity for confession if sins were forgiven during Mass. I suppose it’s a tricky theological point, but I’d really appreciate any further insight into this. Thanks again!

Actually, we’re all saying the same thing. We’re just using different words, or concentrating on different aspects of the same answer.

As for the other questions, would you be willing to consider starting a new thread?

In my Archdiocese they put a stop to Communal Penance sometimes termed as (“General Absolution”) even though the priest had mentioned that serious sins had to be absolved through sacramental private confession, too many in the laity were abusing this service as a means of actual absolution. For years many complaints from my archdiocese went to the Canadian Nuncio about this liturgical abuse. It has since in the last year been remedied. No more Communal Penance Service. Praise be to Jesus and Mary.

Fr.'s answer is more accurate than mine.

But a Communal Penance Service does not have to mean General Absolution. Yes, I know, in the Atlantic Provinces that’s what it usually meant but Form II of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Communal Service with private confession and absolution.

I recall being home in NB for Christmas back in 2003 and the parish priest asking me if we still had General Absolution in Nfld. I said no, it had been discontinued by Lent 2002 IIRC as it had been throughout the Atlantic Provinces. That’s when he told me that the Dioceses that had French parishes had not stopped offering G.A., only the English parishes had. Made little sense to me that in one town you could have a parish forbidden to offer G.A. and two miles down the road you had one that was still allowed to offer the same.

As you suggested, I started a new thread, to be found here forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=6054376#post6054376
Thanks for your help:)
God bless

Frankly, the communal penance service is becoming very popular at our church during Advent and Lent. I wonder which sin is less attractive to the church, a Catholic member not going to the one-on-one for forty years or the person who had the Priest lay his hands on a member twice a year and saying: “By the authority of the Holy Catholic Church I absolve you of all sins.”?

Hardliners might not like this but, then again, if hardliners controlled everything we would still be in the pre-vat II era.

The church evolves slowly, but it still does evolve. I admire people who do the “one-on-one” but if people can get absolution twice a year, communal style, and it is completely valid. Which it is. Then it is a good thing.

[quote="spec4tom, post:16, topic:179393"]
Frankly, the communal penance service is becoming very popular at our church during Advent and Lent. I wonder which sin is less attractive to the church, a Catholic member not going to the one-on-one for forty years or the person who had the Priest lay his hands on a member twice a year and saying: "By the authority of the Holy Catholic Church I absolve you of all sins."?

Hardliners might not like this but, then again, if hardliners controlled everything we would still be in the pre-vat II era.

The church evolves slowly, but it still does evolve. I admire people who do the "one-on-one" but if people can get absolution twice a year, communal style, and it is completely valid. Which it is. Then it is a good thing.

[/quote]

With all due respect, I do not think that you fully understand the concept of the Communal Reconciliation service. First of all, these services should not be featuring General Absolution.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II took the Australian Bishops Conference to the sacramental woodshed because of the conference's liberal and ilicit use of General Absolution. General Absolution should only be used in times of life-threatening situations (war, natural disaster, emergency situations and religious persecutions) where individual confession would be next to impossible and death is eminent.

Please read this reference from the Circular Letter on the Sacrament of Penance:

  1. The divine constitution of the Sacrament of Penance requires each penitent to confess to a priest all mortal sins, as well as specifying moral circumstances that he remembers after a diligent examination of conscience.4 For this reason the Code of Canon Law states clearly that "individual and integral confession and absolution is the sole ordinary means by which a member of the faithful who is conscious of mortal sin is reconciled with God and with the Church. Physical or moral impossibility alone excuses from such confession".5 In specifiying this obligation, the Church has insistently reiterated that "all the faithful who have reached the age of discretion are bound faithfully to confess their mortal sins at least once a year".6 "Energetic efforts are to be made to avoid any risk that this traditional practice of the Sacrament of Penance fall into disuse."7 Indeed, in this Jubilee Year Catholics are called in a particular way "to encounter anew the uniquely transforming experience that is individual, integral confession and absolution".8 In accord with the law and practice of the Church, the faithful must orally confess their sins (auricular confession)9, except in cases of true physical or moral impossibility (e.g., extreme illness or physical condition inhibiting speech, speech impediment, etc.) This disposition would exclude communal celebrations of the sacrament in which penitents are invited to present a written list of sins to the priest confessor. It should be noted that such innovations also risk compromising the inviolable seal of sacramental confession.

Furthermore, the document goes on to say that:

. . . communal celebrations have not infrequently occasioned an illegitimate use of general absolution. This illegitimate use, like other abuses in the administration of the Sacrament of Penance, is to be eliminated.

The teaching of the Church is reflected in precise terms in the requirements of the Code of Canon Law (cf. esp. canons 959-964). In particular it is clear that "A sufficient necessity is not ... considered to exist when confessors cannot be available merely because of a great gathering of penitents, such as can occur on some major feastday or pilgrimage" (canon 961, § 1, 2°).

You can find the whole document at:

adoremus.org/6-72K.Penance.html

Before you accuse people of being "hardliners", I would invite you to rethink that statement. The Church remains the Church. The Second Vatican Council should not be taken as a rupture from the past, but, a continuation. Those who would use the term "hardliner", as I see it, succumb to the alleged "Spirit of Vatican II" without bothering to read what the Council actually said and did.

What is not very well understood is that the Absolution given in the Communial Penance service although valid, does require that a person who is capable of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation (what you call “one-on-one”) do so as soon as possible.

Communial Penance service is NOT a substitute for the “one-on-one” reception of the Sacrament.

As a Catholic trying to return to the church after 30 years, I continue to be confused about Communal penance services. If the absolution at these services is valid, how can the penitent then be required to participate in the face to face confession “ASAP?” At what point does the abolution received at the communal penance service expire or become invalid. Thank you.

Best to start a new thread and link to this one.

But in any case, there is no absolution during the communal part of these services. The communal part is really preparation. It likely includes an examination of conscience and perhaps a communal act of contrition.

The absolution comes after individual confession.

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