What are the guidelines for General Absolution in an Advent penance service?


#1

Our Pastor is planning an advent penance service that will end with general absolution. He claims that this is pastorally necessary because he is the only priest in the parish and it would take too long for everyone attending to make an individual confession. What are the best references to demonstrate authentic Church teaching regarding the conditions necessary for general absolution?

Thanks,


#2

According to the *Code of Canon Law * and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the communal celebration of General Absolution is allowed only in case of grave necessity (see below).
The situation you described would not constitute a grave necessity.

In his Apostolic Letter Misericordia Dei, Pope John Paul II clarifies what constitutes “grave necessity”:

  1. a grave necessity exists, that is, when in light of the number of penitents a supply of confessors is not readily available to hear the confessions of individuals in an appropriate way within an appropriate time, so that the penitents would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a *long time * through no fault of their own; it is not considered sufficient necessity if confessors cannot be readily available only because of the great number of penitents, as can occur on the occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage” (emphasis is mine).

Full text is here.

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. 986 §1. All to whom the care of souls has been entrusted in virtue of some function are obliged to make provision so that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them are heard when they reasonably seek to be heard and that they have the opportunity to approach individual confession on days and at times established for their convenience.

§2. In urgent necessity, any confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of the Christian
faithful, and in danger of death, any priest is so obliged.

Further reading:
Pope seeks to correct misuse of 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 www.catholic.com.