Fewer Confessions and General Absolution

Some of you may consider this venting, but I simply must put this problem before a group of people knowledgeable of the faith:

Whenever I go to confession on Fridays or before mass, it seems to be me that I am the only one doing so. Also, I have seen an increase in the use of General Absolution in my Diocese, and not just in Emergency situations. It is being used in place of confession, and the faithful seem to accept this. All those whom I have reminded that nothing can take the place of one-on-one confession in normal circumstances seem to think I’m crazy.
So the grand question is, how do we get Catholics back in the confessional?


i think a lot of it stems from the religious education Catholic youth are getting, or lack there of. Going through CCD, we talked about “reconciliation” the class before our yearly (for >90% of the kids) confession. Most kids in my confirmation class (besides having “graduated” from the Church) think that they can just tell God that they are sorry. i think that it’s up to the family to ensure their kids proper education.

The confession lines are still short? When I was still a Catholic (10+ years ago), I always went to confession, at least for Easter and Christmas. I always noticed how short the confession lines were; however, almost everyone received communion at mass. My sister and her kids are practicing Catholics and I don’t think they’ve been to confession in years.

When I was a Catholic growing up in the 1960’s, our family always went to confession once a month; and there were Sunday’s when we didn’t receive communion, because my mother felt it had been too long since our last confession.

Have the rules changed?

It is also due to a lack of the sense of sin.

A friend of mine, a director of religious education (DRE), told me about the class she was doing for first communion. She was telling the parents about the need to take their children to Confession when several of the parents argued passionately with her about it. The parents honestly felt that because the children were young, 7 thru 9, they were “innocent” and had nothing to confess.

To be fair, this same DRE taught the RCIA class that a person can obtain forgiveness directly from God through prayer for venial sins, but that Confession (the Rite of Reconciliation) is preferred (and of course, is mandatory for grave sins). She said that unforgiven venial sins tend to “accumulate” to build a wall such that a person is separated from God in which case Confession is even more strongly recommended (rather than direct prayer to God for forgiveness). Which actually might be “correct” teaching, but there didn’t seem to be any love for this sacrament!

In this same lecture, the DRE’s assistant told the RCIA class that frequent confession is unnecessary, and held herself up as an example of someone who goes only once or twice each year. So, the problem also stems from setting the bar so low for being “a good practicing Catholic.”

So glad to see this topic discussed.

The sad thing is, you don’t very often hear a priest reminding people about the need for confession before receiving the Eucharist if a mortal sin has been committed.

I admit that I’m guilty of not going as often as I should, but know it’s wrong. Sometimes I find myself convincing myself that a thing I’ve done wrong isn’t so bad. So I’m not holding myself up as perfect. I actually like going to Confession, it’s just that I don’t get myself there more than a few times a year. Laziness or whatever. I vow to do better.

But it is scary to think about how many people, supposedly good Catholics, never go. They simply deny the facts - especially many young people who live together, practice birth control or do things that they don’t really want to give up.

The Church and the family have to take a strong hand about the need for Reconciliation. It’s very hard to do once your children are grown.

God bless - maybe this thread will help get a few people back to Confession.


I was just talking about this with my friend the other night. He wants to go to Confession but was saying he doesn`t need it because he disagrees that certain actions are not really mortal sins, despite what the Church and Bible teach.

I think for some people they think they do not need the Sacrament. But for most, I think they are afraid. They are embarrassed by how much they are strayed, but as cradle Catholics are embarresed to tell the priest they do not remember how to make the Sacrament of Reconcilliation and may not know how to make a proper confession.

I think it would be useful for each of us to write a letter to our parish, asking the priests to hold a special Reconcilliation service for people who have not been to confession in a long time. That way the priests could be prepared in advance for confessions that might take a while. Also, the priests could discuss before how to make a proper confession and an explanation could be put in the Church bulliten to give people time to prepare.

I know some people also had negative experiences with Confession when they were young, and this has kept them away. I returned to Confession after many years away and it was such a blessing to me. God really was there in the Confessional with me! Some of our brothers and sisters need a good reminder, and some support, to help them take that step (literally) into the confessional.

I know the more I go to confession, the closer I feel to God, and the more aware I am of certain sins. It gives me the courage an strength to resist sin. I still fail, but not as often.



Hard to add to some already great replies. The Precepts of the Church require Catholics to go to Sacramental Confession, and recieve the Holy Eucharist, once a year during the Easter Season. ( Easter Duty) General Absolution has long been a practice in the Church, but does not relieve one of the obligation to go to sacramental confession in the case of Mortal Sin. Frequent confession is also recommended as a means of strengthening ourselves against sin,and recieving the additional grace associated with the sacrament. Frequent confession does not neccessarily mean going weekly, but perhaps every three months or so. A final note. To recieve Holy Communion worthily, we must be free of mortal sin.

Remind those who receive General Absolution that the Church requires that they go to individual Sacramental Confession as soon as possible after, if they “survive” whatever justified the use of General Absolution. If they do not die before having the opportunity for individual Confession then their sins were not forgiven in General Absolution.

It would be really nice if some of our PRIESTS would tell people that! Some of our priests are so much as telling people a general absolution service is fine. Takes care of it. There are parishes here that don’t (or didn’t, thank Our Dear Lord it is changing) even have regular confessions scheduled! 2 general absolution services a year, Christmas and Easter. NO INDIVIDUAL! For a long long time in my area, people were mislead. The older crowd thought the Church was just changing with the times. That this was acceptable. Individual confession was “outdated.” (keep in mind that the older crowd has been taught to follow whatever the priest promoted, he knew what was right and he knew what was wrong, you just follow “whatever Fr. says”) Like sheep to the slaughter.:eek: I have heard deplorable church misconceptions, even from Deacons. When individual confessions were being reintroduced, I had people say to me, “what do I need that for? I’m too old to do anything that wrong that I need confession!”:banghead: I realize that people should be responsible for their own souls and their own salvation, but at the same time, at least for a while, people were led to believe that general confession was the “new rite” of the Church. A common abuse that some of the clergy was soley responsible for. A sin as far as I am concerned.

Lately, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit has been moving among the laity to check this out, because to a lot of people this “new concept” eventually just didn’t “feel right.” We also have a younger generation of priests that are much more in tune with what Church Law really is. More “orthodox” if you will. These younger priests are bringing back the “Real Catholic Church” as I phrase it.:thumbsup: What a blessing that is!! God is good!!

In my diocese, there are only a handful of area parishes that even OFFER confession on a regular basis. General absolution (with no individual confessions available) has become the norm here. People have been left with the impression that confession is pre-Vatican II and somehow unnecessary. I know Catholics in my diocese who have said "You don’t have to go to confession–God loves you just the way you are!"
When it comes right down to it though, the main reason a person doesn’t go to confession is pride.

I bet it is hard to find anyone who actually enjoys confession. I enjoy the feeling I have AFTER confession, but I am usually more nervous in a confessional line than I am in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. It is indeed an uncomfortable experience, and that is why I think the confession lines are short.

The priest is the instrument of Jesus Christ. His advice and absolution are those of Christ. It is a chance to hear Christ forgive you and offer you advice.

If it were comfortable and easy, I wonder how many people would have issue with confession. The voice of Satan is filling them with this idea that they can go directly to God. Jesus gave the power of forgiveness to His Church and the ordained.

(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:21-23

Acording to John’s gospel, these are the first words uttered by the risen Jesus to His disciples! He didn’t come in and say “Peace be with you. All is complete now. You don’t need to concern yourself with sin anymore. If you do something sinful, just ask God directly for His forgiveness.” Instead, Jesus instructed them to hear the confessions of His people and to forgive them by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you truly talking about General Absolution or did you mean Communal Penance services? Just curious, because General Absolution is not supposed to be used except in exceptional circumstances, such as a nuclear bomb is expected to hit, so the priest could give general absolution to all his parishioners that he could gather together quick. Alright, perhaps there are some less extreme circumstances than that, but that is the example I thought of in the moment:) . And even so, mortal sins still must be confessed to a priest privately if the time of crisis pasts and the opportunity arises.

I do see the Communal Penance services becoming a “norm” for many people. These are held by most parishes at least twice a year, and a communal penance service will also allow time for individual confessions following the communal prayer portion. My own family generally uses these opportunities, because we enjoy having many priests available, and we appreciate the reminder that “it’s time to go!” We probably should go more, and I always have good intentions of going more, but it does at least satisfy our Catholic obligation, unless we are in mortal sin.

Have to wonder where some Bishops are in regard to parishes offering no Confessions. While the lines on Saturday may be a little shorter, I know of no parishes in the Mobile Archdiocese which do not offer regular Confession.These offerings are at a specifed time period, or by appointment.

I would just like to pipe in with my 2 cents. I hear a lot of discussion about confession and how it’s a shame more people don’t go. But my parish offers confession for 1 hour a week, from 3-4pm on Saturdays. IMO that’s a bad time, and a bad policy. Even if you aren’t working, 3pm on a Saturday isn’t always a good time for people with other activities and things going on with the family. Yes, confession should be very important. But if you want people to go more often, you have to make it more available. At least 2 or 3 times a week, at different hours.

I work saturdays for most of the year so I have to make appointments for other times. Even doing that takes a bit of work, getting the priest on the phone and getting him to schedule a time that works for you. Last time I went it took 3 days to track him down. The church isn’t exactly making things easy on those who do want to go.

It should be offered at least one weeknight every week, as well as on Saturday. Heck, it used to be that priests lived on church property and you could get one done at any time of the day or even night. Now you’re lucky to get a priest on the phone for a few minutes to get an appointment to come in.

IMO, the layity should go to confession willingly and often. But the church should make it an available sacrament as well.

I must be living in a time warp. My parish has confessions every day from 5:00 to 5:30 pm before weekday Mass, & on Saturday from 3 to 4, and there are always lines. If you miss the 3-4 pm Saturday time, the next parish down the road has 4 to 5 pm Sat. confessions. Thursday afternoons there is a group of teenagers who attend Mass together, and nearly always form a long confession line. Often a 2nd priest will come out to help with confessions.

Such places like your parish while rare, are not that uncommon. I’ve seen several Churches with daily confession. How are the churches in your surrounding area compared to yours?

I’ve not done a lot of checking, but most of the nearby parishes which have daily Mass do have confessions before Mass. Although some have early morming Mass, which is OK for the early risers; I’ll take the afternoon Mass and confessions. The downtown Cathedral has confessions at noon, I believe.

Great point.

I’m seeing something very different at my parish.

Confession used to be available 15 minutes prior to the Friday noon mass and ‘by appointment’.
Now … it’s available for 45 minutes every day of the week.

My buddy went to confession two weeks ago (first time he went in 20 years).
He told me that when he went, he was surprised at how many people were there, in line. …Also, he said it was all men.
Isn’t this fantastic!?

Also, the many teenagers of my parish have no problem stopping by the church any day of the week to go to confession in the priests office, face-to-face.
Again … fantastic!

I do think we are having a renewal.
I see that LIFETEEN has done wonders.
Retreats such as ACTS and CRHP are scooping up the rest of us that didn’t have LIFETEEN when we were that age.
I’m very happy to see this renewal.


I am half afraid of Confession and think its scary.I hate sin and go out of my way to avoid it. I prefer general Absolution, because it still clenses you of sin.

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