Questions on General Absolution for Individual

Hi -
Is a priest authorized to provide general absolution in an individual confession (during regular sacrament of reconciliation) when all sins cannot be told, or does he need special permission from a bishop before it is given, or does the bishop himself need to do this?

After a general absolution, is any follow up necessary on the part of the penitent, such as confession of specific mortal and/or venial sins when possible, or can the penitent consider absolution a “done deal”?


The technicallity of it is that a priest need not hear your confession to give a valid absolution. But if its not out of necessity, it would be illicit.

Sounds like the priest was playing fast and loose with the rules. General absolution is for emergencies. For example, you’re on a cruise ship out in the ocean, and the ship starts sinking fast! Everyone wants to go to Confession, but there’s no way the one priest has time to hear all those Confessions, so he gives everyone a General absolution! That counts. BUT, if they survive, they still have to go to regular Confession.

So, in your case, just go find another priest and go to Confession. Hopefully, one that doesn’t think he can make up his own rules. :slight_smile:

I see that you live in Atlanta. If you are of a mind to, you could go to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (EWTN) in Irondale, AL (on the east side of Birmingham). They have Confession every day at 11am. Sometimes, there’s more than one priest. I can guarantee you’ll get the straight stuff there! No monkey shines with these guys! They’re straight as arrows! :slight_smile: You could also attend noon Mass there, if you have time. You’re about 2 hours away from the west side of Atlanta, I’d say, give or take.

The term “general absolution” always refers to the reconciliation of several penitents, as the rite says, which means, many people at one time. It is never individual. Could you please clarify the exact situation to which you refer? Thanks.

There has to be a valid reason (i.e. an emergency) for a general absolution to be given.

I belive I heard that priests in the area of the WTC on 9/11 gave general absolution to the folks in the buildings.

General aboslution should be the exception, not the norm.

However, if one survives the event, they are expected to still confess their sins.

Giving general absolution just because a priest doesn’t want to schedule (more) time for individual confessions is not a valid reason.

Thanks for all the input…perhaps some clarification will help:

What happened is that when the priest heard the person’s confession, he asked when they happened. When he heard they were 20 years old, he told the person “No longer confess your old sins. They are all forgiven, EVERY one of them. From now on, only confess new sins.” and then did the absolution.

Does this constitute a general absolution? Is this person still to confess old sins, or are they absolved?

An interesting read on this subject is by Thomas Aquinas here , but I don’t think it really addresses this situation.

But, knowing the person and their situation, I would be quite certain that they are very sorry and probably do have “perfect contrition” ie: there is evidence of real repentance because the person’s attitude and life is dramatically different.


We are required to confess sins since our last confession, plus any that we may have forgotten. The emphasis should be on the time since your last confession.

The priest may have suspected that the person confessing 20-year-old sins was suffering from scrupulosity. Forbidding the penitent to confess old sins is indeed a valid response to scrupulosity and an important step in healing. If the person is very clearly not scrupulous, he should return to the same confessor and ask for an explanation. We cannot speculate what other reasons he may have had.

And again, the term “general absolution” does not apply here.

Thanks. This was in regards to a person who had been away from the church for a while, which the priest was aware of. So, now I’m curious - if this is not considered “general absolution”, then what do you call it, and are his instructions “valid”? (meaning: should the person no longer confess old sins because they are all forgiven?)

I understand what your saying, for me the real question is Mortal or Venial Sin? If you avoided communion or attended not being in a state of grace? I fail to see where Mortal Sins are forgiven.

Even with General Absolution, myself I would attend confession and seriously talk to the father and come clean. In my mind I feel God certainly knows all. So it comes right down to personal intent and honesty.

no this is not general absolution, and entirely different thing.

this is an individual priest giving individual counsel within the sacrament of confession to an individual penitent, for the good of that penitent’s soul. If he was absolved all his sins were absolved. a penitent who keeps on confessing old sins over and over, even though they have been absolved before, may very well be a victim of scrupulosity, so the priest’s counsel took that into account.

Agree’d, that was confession and not General Absolution.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit