General Absolution

Canon Law provides for General Absolution to be given in an emergency, but I have found it to be common at Masses in my archdiocese. Of course, these are cases which are far from being emergencies.

On a related note, is this confusion (practically a catholic urban myth) the reason the lines at confession are so short and the lines for communion so long? Should we be worried?

What can be done about this?

General absolution common at Mass? You’re sure you’re not just mixing it up with the penitential rite? If this is really going on then it is a pretty serious abuse. A letter to your bishop might be in order.

General absolution was given before Mass at my former parish for years. If fact the priest told me at confession that I didn’t really need to go to confession since my sins were forgiven automatically every Sunday. That is one reason why it is my former parish.

This is such a grey area in this country!!! And I don’t believe it should be!!! I believe the teaching is very specific: General Confession in an emergency or before a major feast day emphasized by the priest to please make your personal confession as soon as possible. That’s the way I understand it. The parishes in my area seem to go the way of just general confession. I actually heard a parish priest say to a parishioner after the service-“There just aren’t enough of us to go around, would be here for days if I had to hear personally, this way I hit everyone.” Of course they all know that we have a large seminary nearby and they do hear personally twice weekly, so I think they are just letting them handle personal confessions. I think they might be falling back on the general confession as there are so few priests to handle even their own parishes in my area. I can understand that most of them are stretched to the breaking point, but I think this is causing alot of confussion on the matter. The priest shortage is a real problem at least in my neck of the woods. We might be getting to the point that we are actually starting to FEEL it in a very real way.

This is taken from the Catholic CatechismL
Even in communal celebrations, it requires individual absolution!

1482 The sacrament of Penance can also take place in the framework of a communal celebration in which we prepare ourselves together for confession and give thanks together for the forgiveness received. Here, the personal confession of sins and individual absolution are inserted into a liturgy of the word of God with readings and a homily, an examination of conscience conducted in common, a communal request for forgiveness, the Our Father and a thanksgiving in common. This communal celebration expresses more clearly the ecclesial character of penance. However, regardless of its manner of celebration the sacrament of Penance is always, by its very nature, a liturgical action, and therefore an ecclesial and public action. [Cf. SC 26-27] 1140]
1483 In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution. Grave necessity of this sort can arise when there is imminent danger of death without sufficient time for the priest or priests to hear each penitent’s confession. Grave necessity can also exist when, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors to hear individual confessions properly in a reasonable time, so that the penitents through no fault of their own would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a long time. In this case, for the absolution to be valid the faithful must have the intention of individually confessing their grave sins in the time required. [Cf. CIC, can. 962 §1] The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist. [Cf. CIC, can. 961 § 2] A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity. [Cf. CIC, can. 961 § 1] 1401]

1484 “Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession.” [OP 31] There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: “My son, your sins are forgiven.” [Mk 2:5] He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them. [Cf. Mk 2:17] He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church. 878]

I am so glad I found this thread and I am thankful for the replies I got on another thread regarding this subject. Confusion doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt when I found out that you are actually suppose to follow up with a one on one Confession. No one told us we had to do this so I didn’t. I most certainly would have had I known. I now have to break this news to my family who has been attending this type of service for a very long time. So the question becomes, what do I do about those sins I confessed during this service? Keep in mind it has been several years since I participated in a service like this.

Confess them in your next individual Confession. Next week possibly!

I will give it a try. My guess is when I tell the priest about this situation he will tell me to forget about it. I live in a very “liberal” diocese. I just hate it when I have to use that word. I may have to cast about to find a priest that will listen to me. Thanks for the advice.

Buy your priest a copy of the Catechism…and is general absolution what you see in movies before a battle scene when the priest sprinkles the soldiers with water?

Certainly if you don’t have too many mortal sins you’d do well to confess them, but bear in mind that you didn’t know general absolutions were wrong, so if you were given wrong advice about them by your priest and followed it in good faith then it’s his bad.

Hmmmm…Maybe what I should do is just confess the sins and not explain the situation unless I am asked? Does that sound like an OK thing to do?

If you intention is to Confess them in the Sacrament of Confession and are prohibited from doing so by the priest hearing your confession, they are forgiven.

I have only had general absolution once - because of Three Mile Island
We did have a priest doing general absolution instead of confession but when discovered he was “retired” by the bishop. :slight_smile:

Perhaps it is, although I don’t watch any such movies, and water has nothing to do with absolution. Perhaps it is a non-Catholic’s misunderstanding.

I certainly hope every Catholic priest has a copy of the Catechism, but if I meet one who does not I will gladly give him one of mine.

A major feast day is not considered an emergency for the purposes of general absolution.

It is common practice to have a parish penance service before a major feast, but this is supposed to include individual confession and absolution. Usually there are many visiting priests available to hear the confessions of the gathered crowd.

But that is very different from general absolution. I understand that it sometimes happens that a parish penance service is held, and the priest declares it impossible to hear all those confessions (as if he didn’t know it was going to draw a large crowd) and give general absolution. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s not as if there were no opportunity at all to go to confession during Advent or Lent. For heaven’s sake, you can find it somewhere nearby (if not in your own parish) any Saturday, and sometimes during the week. Nobody in an ordinary city or suburb is deprived of the sacrament for a long time (one of the requirements for general absolution).

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the bishops and priests got together and reminded the people that they should make an effort to get to confession during the holy seasons, and then provide some extra hours instead of having these gigantic services that confuse people. Or even reminded them that going monthly or more is an even better idea??


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