General Absolution

Where can I find explanation that general absolution does not take the place of the sacrament of reconciliation

in the reformed rite for the sacrament, 3rd form

In 2000, the Holy See faced a similar issue with the Australian Bishops Conference. As a result, the venerable Pope John Paul II ordered the promulgation of the Circular Letter on the Integrity of the Sacrament of Penance. The letter says in part that:

  1. In giving consideration to the authenitic discipline of the Church concerning “general absolution”, the recent interdicasterial meeting of the Roman Curia with a representation of Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Australia noted 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°).

The bishops will exercise renewed vigilance on these matters for the future, aware that departures from the authentic tradition do great wrong to the Church and to individual Catholics.10

  1. With respect to the administration of “general absolution”, the exclusive authority enjoyed by diocesan bishops to determine whether a grave necessity is truly present in a given case in their diocese 11 does not permit them "to change the required conditions, to substitute other conditions for those given, or to determine grave necessity according to their personal criteria however worthy."12 Indeed, the Diocesan Bishop makes "this judgment graviter onerata conscientia, and with full respect for the law and the practice of the Church."13

You can read the whole letter here:

I hope this helps.

Quote - from your “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” - - -

" 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.
The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist.
A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity."

In our parish we have communal Reconciliation services.

Upon hearing that term, some might assume that our Church is practicing illicit general absolution.

However, when you attend one of these services (at Advent and at Lent) you’ll realize that this is not the case.

We communally come together on one day at one hour (Sunday at 3 p.m.) and the diocese brings in 8 or 9 priests from different surrounding cities.

We have a service which includes Scripture Readings on absolution. Then the priests are assigned selected areas of the Church to stand and the laity line up for individual reconciliation.

Your definition of communal confession is not the definition used by the Church. See the CCC.

Beautiful to read, Barbkw. Our parish holds a communal Reconciliation service each Lent, too.

there are 3 forms of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
the first is individual confession to a priest
the second is a communal penance service with readings, prayers, perhaps a guided examination of conscience, and within that context, individual confession to a priest
the third is general absolution, and the form for the rite specifies when and under what circumstances it is appropriate and allowed. It specifically states that simply because there is a large number of people and only one or two priests, because of a pilgrimage or the season of the year, that is not a reason to confer general absolution.

Just find a copy of the revised rite for the sacrament, the USCCB has a little pamphlet with it for one source, and read it.

Even in cases such as wartime, natural disaster, public emergency where general absolution is appropriate, or when there is real danger of death, it is still part of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, it is not some stand alone innovation.

To clarify part of what is mentioned in post # 4 (quoting from my Code of Canon Law Annotated, Latin-English edition; University of Navarra Faculty of Canon Law, and St. Paul University Faculty of Canon Law; Wilson & Lafleur 1993, [too many copyrights to cite - almost 1 page] that even in the event that all of the other aforementioned conditions are met, with general absolution that final condition is always pending (green highlights mine) :

Code of Canon Law
Can 962 - §1.

For a member of the Christian faithful validly to receive sacramental absolution given to a number of people simultaneously, it is required not only that he or she be properly disposed, but be also at the same time personally resolved to confess in due time each of the grave sins which cannot for the moment be thus confessed.

Here’s the wording from The Code of Canon Law at the Vatican 's website :

Can 962 -§1.
For a member of the Christian faithful validly to receive sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required not only that the person is properly disposed but also at the same time intends to confess within a suitable period of time each grave sin which at the present time cannot be so confessed.

Even in a grave situation, for example where a soldier who was about to embark on a perilous combat mission received general absolution, if he or she returned from that mission still possessing the capacity to go to individual Confession, they would be required to do so.

General Absolution is not a substitution - that interpretation is how it comes to be abused.

General Absolution is a provision.

So let’s consider an abuse in light of that final requirement, ; why not the same one quoted earlier ? -

“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”


Even if an ordained minister were to (I use the term loosely here) “grant” general absolution to all those penitents/pilgrims , each one of them would still be required to go to individual Confession.

Anne, the Catechism is the Church’s teaching document; however, it is not a legislative document like the Code of Canon Law and the various documents and instructions set forth by the Curial Congregations, such as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (the Circular Letter on the Integrity of the Sacrament of Penance that I quoted).

What Barbkw described is, in fact, what is supposed to happen at these services. There is no general absolution imparted there; in fact, there should be individual confession.

Furthermore, even the Holy Father has taken part in these communal penance services, often presided by the Apostolic Penitentiary. The Holy Father goes into a confessional and hears confessions during these services.

I lived in Hong Kong at the time of the SARS crisis which killed many people. To avoid the risk of catching the disease a dispensation was given to all Catholics waiving the Sunday Mass obligation until the crisis was over and a general absolution was given to all Catholics there. Of course after the crisis at our next Confession we had to mention any mortal sins that were covered by the general absolution.

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