Penance Service - Written Confessions


#1

Is it required that sins be specified and confessed vocally?

I’m told that there have been Penance Services when:

  • the person writes down their sins on a piece of paper
  • the person takes the list forward to the priest, who reads it
  • the person vocally expresses sorrow for sinning (but does not vocally specify the sins)
  • the priest gives the person absolution
  • then the person burns the list

Afterwards, there is some sort of communal penance prayer.

Is this OK or do the sins need to be confessed vocally?

I referred to the “Circular Letter concerning the integrity of the Sacrament of Penance”, where I read the following:

In accord with the law and practice of the Church, the faithful must orally confess their sins (auricular confession) , 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.

I want to be sure that I’m reading this correctly. I think the way they use the word “disposition” is throwing me a bit. Is this saying that communal celebrations with written lists are NOT to be considered exceptions to the norm (like the ones previously mentioned) and therefore not allowed?

Thanks.


#2

I never heard of a penance service (or private confession) where you wrote down your sins and then burned them.

I would think the only time that should be permissible is if the person is mute and that is the only way they can communicate to the priest.

Yes, even in a penance service you are required to individually confess your sins…there are prayers before and after with “the group.”


#3

Agree.


#4

You are correct -they are to be confessed vocally (of course there can be exceptions where such is not possible -like one who cannot speak…but what you noted from that document is correct)


#5

You are correct -sins are to be confessed vocally (of course there can be exceptions where such is not possible -like one who cannot speak…but what you noted from that document is correct -such is not to be the norm)


#6

This is “the Franciscan way”. It can be done in special and infrequent situations with specific permission by the bishop of the territory in which it is done.

We have had a Franciscan priest do missions for us during Lent and Advent in which our bishop granted each time the permissions needed for this service to be valid and licit.

I have gone to confession like this and I would have to say if I had a choice to go to a priest writing for a sheet of paper to burn or go into the confessional and sit down and talk with a priest, I would choose the latter. I’m not a big fan of these services. But that’s just my personal opinion.


#7

See the document from the Holy See that corrected such above. (I would doubt that such is the Franciscan way…seems rather like a Franciscan (or some) that was experimenting before --when such had been proposed by some-- when I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville -confessions where how they ought to be)

Confessions are to be oral (aside say from impossibility -like the person cannot speak or similar).

Quote:

“In accord with the law and practice of the Church, the faithful must orally confess their sins (auricular confession), 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.”

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 2000


#8

I’m not disagreeing with you, simply stating what is done. I am not saying it is right. All of the times I have experienced this, probably 6 times, all have been Franciscan priests, Friars; and all have been after 2000 and approved by our bishop.


#9

If the bishop is “approving” this he is most likely outside his authority to do so.


#10

I should not have answered in that way. Whether the bishop was in or out of his authority is not my opinion to make.


#11

Sometimes even a Bishop pr particular Priests – can be late in finding out about something.


#12

Yes.

Confessions are to be oral (aside say from impossibility -like the person cannot speak or similar).

Quote:

“In accord with the law and practice of the Church, the faithful must orally confess their sins (auricular confession), 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.”

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 2000

Auricular means we say the sins and they are heard. Hence the term “hearing a confession”.


#13

Thanks to everyone for your replies.

I suspected that written confessions were not in keeping with the intent of the Church. Sounds like most agree.

The document that was quoted referred to this as an “innovation”, and did so in a negative tone. I don’t understand why people try to push the limits and walk the lines…

Thanks again.


#14

Boy, you and me both. I suppose certain people get excited about a new idea, and don’t bother to check into whether or not it’s allowed?

In any case, others have mentioned it, but just to emphasize - confession by another means is permitted if the penitent has trouble speaking. My grandmother is very advanced in age and cannot properly confess. So she does so by pointing on a paper.


#15

Right, and I agree with that.

When I first heard about the penance services where everyone presented a written list, I thought that it might be OK because the priest did read the list with each person individually and each person did vocalize their sorrow before the priest after he read the list - they just didn’t vocally specify their sins.

I knew that this must be done for people who have difficulty speaking, so I thought it might be OK (suspected not).

Just seems like taking an easy way out to me…


#16

I can see why one would could see it being okay. After all, the sins are confessed (via paper) and the penitent voices contrition!

The snag, that I see, is what if the priest needs to clarify something? Suppose the priest needs more information. Or maybe the penitent accidentally leaves something out? Like say he forgets to write down when his last confession was?

The act of writing down the sins without dialog removes that possibility.

Anyway, just my two cents. You were right to come on here asking about it, I’d probably have thought it was okay too in that situation! :o


#17

So if a person does this in a private confession, with all good intent, does that mean the confession and absolution are invalid?

And what would be the “moral” impossibility as mentioned in the op? I see the reasons for physical impossibility, but not for moral.


#18

Here is a link to an article by Jimmy Adkin concerning this. Might help with the “moral” part.

Here’s an exert:

What about moral impossibility? This category is meant to cover situations where it is physically possible to make an integral confession but there is some other factor that makes it very difficult to do so. Where the precise line on the next obvious question—“Just how difficult are we talking about?”—is a question that requires a judgment call, and it is here that the old moral/pastoral theology manuals play a useful role. This is exactly the kind of question they explore, using examples and principles to sketch out the answer.

For example, to take a very common example, let’s suppose you have forgotten how many times you committed a particular sin. Theoretically, you might be able to think harder and longer on the question and maybe come up with the exact number, but maybe that wouldn’t happen. Maybe you’d never get the exact number—or know with confidence that you had gotten it—and waiting to go to confession in that case would deprive you of the grace of the sacrament indefinitely, which is itself a grave thing. It could also send you tumbling off into the pits of scrupulosity—also a grave thing. Consequently, sound moral and pastoral theologians down through the ages have judged that one should only make reasonable efforts to determine the number of times one has committed a sin. If you’ve made a reasonable effort (i.e., what a normal faithful Catholic, not a living saint, would do) and can’t name the exact number, you are excused from doing so. You should, to the extent possible say things like, “I did this at least once” or “I did it a few times” or “I did it a lot of times,” but you are not bound to name any specific number.

Read more: ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/when-you-dont-have-to-say-something-in-confession#ixzz2xOtWVSNU


#19

Thank you very much. :slight_smile:
I have a lot of difficulty due to being un-churched for most of my life. (Baptized while a child, became Catholic many years later)
The entire confession thing is very very confusing to me.

I just read one of the links. (Akins) it was so very helpful and has brought some relief.
God bless.

ps, I will read the other link as well.


#20

I’m a convert to Catholicism, so I sometimes get confused and have questions too.

Sometimes, it’s just the terminology used that throws me. Just different words or phrases used to approach something that I might already know.

That’s the great thing about these forums. Always someone willing to help us out.


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