Liturgical/Sacrament abuse


I am trying to find information about the correct norms for Communal Penance Service. We have a new administrator at our church who wants to try something new at this service during advent. He wants people to write their confession on a piece of paper, hand it to him to read, he will give absolution an then give it back to the person to put in a hibatchi to burn. I know this can’t be right but I need to find something in black and white to present so this won’t happen. Any assistance/direction is greatly appreciated.

Thank you and God Bless

This is not communal penance, which is strictly prohibited. In communal penance people are supposed to get absolution w/o any individual confession. That is allowed only for extreme emergencies, like war or imminent danger of mass catastrophe.

This is not auricular confession, but still individual and integral confession with all its implications, with the advantage that the priest can give absolution to hundred people in an hour, instead of 20 or so.

Here are the canons:

Can. 960 Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility excuses from confession of this type; in such a case reconciliation can be obtained by other means.

Can. 961 §1. Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to many penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

1/ danger of death is imminent and there is insufficient time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2/ there is grave necessity, that is, when in view of the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available to hear the confessions of individuals properly within a suitable period of time in such a way that the penitents are forced to be deprived for a long while of sacramental grace or holy communion through no fault of their own. Sufficient necessity is not considered to exist when confessors cannot be present due only to the large number of penitents such as can occur on some great feast or pilgrimage.

Actually it is general absolution that is prohibited except in extreme circumstances.

Communal penance services are one of the forms of the sacrament. Typically a parish arranges to have multiple priests available to hear confessions as part of the service. Absolution is given by each priest to the penitent during the individual confessions.

Someone else will have to comment on the idea of writing down your sins rather than confessing them to the priest. It’s not something I would want to participate in but I don’t know the legalities of it.

Is your priest planning a communal penance service or is he planning to celebrate a Penitential Service with individual confessions heard during the service. To get the details of how that can be celebrated you’d need to get hold of the correct ritual book. The The Prænotanda for the Rite of Penance can be found here.

Maybe the priest is a little hard of hearing and needs to see the lists to know everything…I’ve heard of stories where that was the case.

Is the person you have referred to as a new ‘Administrator’ actually a priest? I can’t imagine any ordained Catholic priest suggesting a ‘new’ way to hear confession or give absolution. That’s why we have the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition of the Magesterium, so somebody doesn’t have to make it up. Didn’t the people to whom this was suggested fall out of their chairs?

Usually other priests are available at these communal services. So you are free to pick a priest. It usually occurs twice a year in my community, Lent and Advent. I don’t go to them let alone to something like what you’ve explained above. Have you or others voiced your concerns directly to the Administrator, whether you can back them up legally or not is another thing, you still should tell this priest what you think, maybe if enough people say something he won’t do it.

Fr. Corapi talked about this (because he himself saw it being done in parishes). If the priest does this, the peoples’ confessions are not absolved at that service.

People need to know that they MUST go to individual confession.

It makes no sense whatsoever for the priest to perform this service. He has got to already know this. How rediculous to come out of seminary (or whereever) and do this.

Notify your bishop immediately.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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 sins in the time required.**91] The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist.[92] A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity.[93]

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.”**94] 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.”[95] He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them.[96] 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.

As SuscipeMeDomine has already mentioned about general absolution. You are talking about general absolution and that is prohibited under the norms you have posted. The OP I believe is is talking about the Communal reconciliation service performed twice yearly which is one of the forms of the sacrament. Individual confession and absolution is heard/given at these services. In fact in the described scenario in the op it does sound like the priest is giving individual absolution/confession. The only thing that is strange is handing him a written list of your sins, rather than hearing them he reads them. I believe he is doing this to save time. Rather then the list he should just request that everyone confess only grave sins and also to keep it short not have any counseling which I believe is just fine to do. And of course burning the list in an hibachi is just too strange! I would just eat it! Just kidding. :smiley:

Nowhere does the Catholic Church teach this is an acceptable way of celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. You don’t need to find a reference, those who support such a practice need to.

Let me pose a hypothetical question at this point: During a commercial airplane flight, the announcement is made that the plane is about to crash. A priest stands up and “absolves” the sins of everyone on the plane. Is this valid? Is it licit? Can non-Catholics, or even non-Christians, be absolved in this manner?

if this administrator is not a priest, he (or she) reading, hearing or in any other wise demanding knowledge of individual’s sins is about the gravest sacramental abuse that exists, other than direct offense to the Blessed Sacrament, this should be reported to the bishop without delay, with full details (not hearsay or rumor).

If this person is a priest they should know better than to engage in such silliness. In no way does that substitute for sacramental confession.

totally off topic, but yes

me pose a hypothetical question at this point: During a commercial airplane flight, the announcement is made that the plane is about to crash. A priest stands up and “absolves” the sins of everyone on the plane. Is this valid? Is it licit? Can non-Catholics, or even non-Christians, be absolved in this manner?

I don’t think so! It is valid for baptized Christians (provided they accept it / are repentant). But the non-baptized? We entrust them to the mercy of God, and we pray they may have received some form of baptism of desire … but they are not able to receive absolution if they are not baptized.

  1. The administrator better be a priest. If not and he is going to see the sins the faithful need to confess, he is breaking a serious seal and is asking for excommunication only the Holy Father could undo.

  2. Even if so, this sounds really really foolish. What a risk – that others could see the paper, it could slip, get lost, etc! And then burning it – from what Catholic tradition did that idea come from?

The Church already has an approved form for communal penance servies. To our leaders: if you are going to do this kind of service, USE THE APPROVED FORM, please.

so you think the priest should take time to quiz everyone on their baptismal status? get real

Dear puzzleannie, you are misunderstanding me if you think that’s what I’m saying.

The priest should give general absolution on a crashing plane, of course. But those who don’t repent will still not be absolved, the priest cannot overpower their wills.

And those who are not baptized … the absolution just won’t apply to them. Absolution just doesn’t make any sense when we are taking about the unbaptized, based on what it means.

So when you answered “yes” to the question, it should have been limited. “Yes it is licit” and “yes, it is valid absolution for those who can be absolved.” But not for the unbaptized, though I’d still hope for their salvation through some other means.

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