Was this general absolution valid?

Hi everyone! I’ve been a member here for a long time, but this is my first post in a long while. Anyway…I went to my parish for confession on Good Friday. The time allotted was two hours, but there were many more people than expected (a wonderful sight!). Unfortunately, there were not enough priests to hear everyone’s confession within the allotted time. There was a stations of the cross service to start at noon, and a few minutes before, the sacristan told everyone still in line (about 30 of us) that there was not any time left to hear confessions. One of the priests came out the confessional and gave us general absolution after having us recall our sins in silence. This priest is a very holy and orthodox man, and I trust that his intentions were proper. However, I am concerned about the validity of this confession. Can anyone clarify for me? Thanks!

No. This was not licit. Please read what the Circular Letter on the Integrity of the Sacrament of Penance states (from the Holy See):

  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
  1. Local Ordinaries and priests, to the degree that it applies to them, have an obligation in conscience to ensure that penitents have regular and frequent scheduled opportunities for individual and integral confession of sins in all parish churches and insofar as possible in other pastoral centres.14 In addition, priests are called upon to be generous in making themselves available outside of those scheduled times to celebrate individual and integral confession whenever the faithful would reasonably ask for it.15 "Other works, for lack of time, may have to be postponed or even abandoned, but not the confessional."16
  1. The Holy Father has pointed to the personal nature of sin, conversion, forgiveness and reconciliation 17 as the reason why the Rite of Reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession and absolution “demands the personal confession of sins and individual absolution”.18 Since individual and integral confession of sins is not only an obligation "but also an inviolable and inalienable right"19 of the faithful, any innovation which would interfere with their fulfillment of this obligation, such as when penitents are invited or otherwise encouraged to name just one sin or to name a representative sin, is to be eliminated.

Those who were in mortal sin at the time this happened need to go to confession as this General Absolution was not valid.

I would think that it was valid for you. If the priest came out and told everyone that, then thats what he meant. If you were truly there with sorrow in your heart, and your trying everything that you know to stay away from sin, why wouldn’t it be valid? If you have any doubts, go back again this weekend. I believe that frequent Confession is good for our souls anyway. Frequent Confession keeps our thoughts on God where they should be, and keeps our consciences more aware.

No, unless the church was burning and there was no way out…

Please return to confession as soon as you can. Make an appointment if you have a mortal sin on your soul.

It wasn’t the Sacrament of Confession, it was a General Absolution and requires you and the other 30 people to go to individual Confession As Soon As Possible. In my opinion it really was not justified because individual Confessions would be available again within a few days to a week and there was no danger of death.

Based on the document that I quoted, which comes directly from the Holy See and was promulgated by the Venerable Pope John Paul II, it was not the priest’s call to make. This should never have been done. Someone else could have led the Stations of the Cross, since it is a devotional and not a liturgical service. The hearing of confessions takes priority.

However, the OP asked whether the absolution was valid, not whether it was licit. I’m not sure of the answer to that, but it’s definitely a different question.

It was not supposed to have been done. It does not count. Please read the documentation that I quoted. It was invalid because there was no confession made. This is a problem, a very serious one.

Here’s what Canon Law has to say on the topic:

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.

§2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop to judge whether the conditions required according to the norm of §1, n. 2 are present. He can determine the cases of such necessity, attentive to the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the conference of bishops.

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.

§2. Insofar as it can be done even on the occasion of the reception of general absolution, the Christian faithful are to be instructed about the requirements of the norm of §1. An exhortation that each person take care to make an act of contrition is to precede general absolution even in the case of danger of death, if there is time.

Can. 963 Without prejudice to the obligation mentioned in can. 989, a person whose grave sins are remitted by general absolution is to approach individual confession as soon as possible, given the opportunity, before receiving another general absolution, unless a just cause intervenes.

These sentences are a complete non-sequitur. “Not supposed to be done” = illicit; “does not count” = invalid. Mass is not supposed to be done with liturgical dancers, glass chalices, and a pantsuit-nun homilist, either, but those won’t invalidate it.

To the contrary, the validity of an illicit general absolution isn’t particularly discussed in the portion you quoted. To the extent it is, the document might be taken to imply that it is valid: “[C]ommunal 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.” In other words, general absolution, although not “legitimate,” is an instance of “the administration of the Sacrament of Penance.”

This is helpful.

Mark, the document that I posted makes the same references to the Canon law section that was also posted.

The Holy See is not about to contradict itself.

Thank you to everyone who replied. This was very helpful!

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