Confessions during Mass revisited

A reader alerted me that on ZENIT, Fr. Edward McNamara responded to a question about confessions during Mass.

We dealt with that here some time ago.

At any rate, here is what Fr. McNamara said:

 

Hearing Confessions During Mass

And More on Praying for the Departed

ROME, JUNE 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the general opinion on listening to confessions during Mass? — M.G., Malmoe, Sweden

A: This is a point which often stirs heated debate among priests. Some condemn the practice because it easily distracts the faithful from the Mass itself. Others ardently defend it as an excellent opportunity to offer the sacrament when the faithful are present in significant numbers and likely to be moved to confess by the mere fact of availability.

Cultural factors also come into play. Priests and faithful hailing from an Irish, Anglo-Saxon and North European heritage are, by and large, accustomed to a separation of the two sacraments. The priests are generally reluctant to make confession available during Mass.

The practice is more common, although not universal, in Italian, Latino and Polish communities, and many faithful go to confession during Mass even though it is also offered at other times.

From the normative point of view it is certainly not forbidden. In 2001 the Holy See gave an official answer to this question in a letter published in the June-July edition of Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

In its response the congregation affirmed the preference for celebrating reconciliation outside of Mass. But in virtue of the canonical norm that "Reconciliatio penitentium omni tempore ac die celebrari potest" (Reconciliation may be carried out at any time and day, "Ordo Paenitentiæ," 13), it specifically allows the hearing of confessions during Mass. It even recommends that, during large concelebrations attended by numerous faithful, some priests refrain from concelebrating so as to be available for confession.

In the light of this reply we could say that it is clearly preferable that confession and Mass be held at different times so that the faithful can live the Eucharistic celebration to the fullest. This implies that reconciliation be scheduled at times when the faithful are able to go.

Confession during Mass should respond to concrete pastoral needs such as when the habitual number of penitents exceeds the regularly scheduled confession times; when a priest has to attend more than one parish; and other situations that would make it pastorally advisable.

For the sake of clarity by confession during Mass, I mean that one or more priests are hearing confessions while another celebrates Mass.

This might seem obvious, but I have personally found situations where priests heard confessions at the celebrant’s chair during the readings. While such a practice might appear to be pastoral zeal, I believe it is misplaced.

The celebrant should never act as if he were extraneous to the liturgical assembly. He leads the faithful in prayer not only in virtue of his ordination but also through his example, in this case listening attentively to God’s word which is also directed toward him.

It is hard to expect the people to pay attention to the readings if the priest does not do so himself.

Likewise, it should be remembered that reconciliation and Mass may never be combined to form a single rite.

To repeat my position, I think that when it is possible, that is when enugh priests are available in a parish, having confessions during Mass is probably a good idea.

The sacrament of penance is in trouble in many ways.  For decades it has been given less attention than it ought to receive in catechesis and from the pulpit.   Regularly scheduled general absolution, astonishinglt tolerated by many bishops, has given many of the faithful a distorted view of the sacarment and its importance.

Perhaps we need confessions even during Mass to help revive the use of this incredible sacrament.
 

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49 Responses to Confessions during Mass revisited

  1. EDG says:

    It wasn’t just in Italy…priests used to hear confession during Mass in New York City up until the introduction of the Novus Ordo. After Vat II, it took the Mass and practices several years to change. Things continued (with more vernacular but otherwise not radically different) until the formal promulgation of the Novus Ordo, which was the point at which all the changes rightly or wrongly blamed on VatII took effect.

    That said, I’m not sure I think it’s a great practice. However, it’s certainly better than giving Communion to thousands of unconfessed folk who probably rarely go to confession because it’s rarely available in their parishes. More opportunities are always better than fewer.

  2. Walter says:

    At our parish, the priest hears confession beginning 30 minutes before the Mass. When there are two priests, one begins celebration of the Mass while the other hears confessions until the line runs out or until the end of the liturgy of the word.

    This seems sensible for two reasons. (1) It’s a really convenient time to receive the sacrament of confession, when you’re already at the church. Compare this to, say, 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. This encourages confession because it removes a practical impediment. (2) Equally if not more important, it connects the sacrament of confession with the duty to be properly disposed before receiving Holy Communion.

    I look forward to Sunday mornings because I get to examine my conscience, clean away all the muck with confession, and then receive with a clean soul. What a blessing!

    A new priest is coming in and one of the first things I want to say after “hello” is how much confession before Mass (or during if need be) means to me and others and to encourage him to continue that practice.

  3. Tzard says:

    I’d be happy if they were just scheduled more times during the week. Some schedule confessions before every mass – something I’d relish. As it is, the nearest 90 parishes to my location all have confession at the same time during the week (Saturday at 3:30 local time). And some have it for as little as 10 minutes.

  4. Resonare Christum says:

    At my more-traditional-than-is-typical NO parish, confessions are heard for half an hour before each Sunday mass but the pastor insists that they end before mass begins. Confessions are also heard for an hour before the vigil mass on Saturday afternoon and on weekdays after the midday mass. I am grateful for the ample opportunites to confess my sins but on most weekdays I can’t make it to the midday mass because of my work schedule.

    It would be helpful if on any given weekday evening there was one parish in the area that offered confessions. They could advertise in the dioscean paper as well as the bulletins of neighboring parishes. I know of one local parish that offers confessions on a weeknight.

  5. Fr. William says:

    Shortly after I was ordained (5 years ago) there were many lonely Saturday afternoons in the Confessional and rarely was there a need for more than one priest to hear confessions and then celebrate Mass. Confessions were from 4:00 to 5:15, Mass started at 5:30. No problem! At this time, there are lines for Confession and there is a genuine need for more than one priest: one to hear confessions, often lasting into the Mass itself and one to celebrate the Mass. There is also an hour following Mass on Saturday evenings that Confessions are heard. This is attributed to the Bishop’s ordering of the Sacraments of Initiation; Confirmation and First Communion are celebrated at the same Mass and preparation is to include at least 10 months, preferrably a year, of going to confession at least once a month. The family emphasis (families are to go to confession) has brought many adults and teens back to the sacrament who were formerly very much lapsed in its benefits and necessity. It is not the ideal to have people going to confession during Mass but I would take it in a heartbeat to having them not come or to not know the forgiveness that exists in the sacrament and the life changing effects for individuals and families.

  6. Cerimoniere says:

    It really is amazing that this question is even raised. It is possible for more than one function to be taking place in a church at the same time, without either distracting those assisting at the other, especially when one is a line of people moving silently.

    I suppose it would be possible to argue that someone who goes to confession during the course of a Mass, would not fulfil their obligation at that Mass even if they attended the rest of it, since they weren’t really assisting at the Mass while they were in the confessional. I don’t know if there’s an authoritative answer to that question. If so, that would probably make it wise to make the law clear. It certainly wouldn’t be an argument for not having confessions at all while Mass was being said in the church.

  7. From Pope John Paul II, Misericordia Dei (2002):
    http://www.adoremus.org/MisericordiaDei.html

    2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertised times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.

  8. Fr. Paul Weinberger says:

    “Misericordia Dei ” was published on April 7, 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

    Paragraph #2 reads as follows:

    2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertized times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.

  9. Fr. Paul Weinberger says:

    Please remove my post. While composing it as a WORD document, someone beat me to the punch. Fr. Paul

  10. RobNY says:

    Fr. William,

    That sounds fantastic. If you could, are there any links to the program which your bishop has promulgated, perhaps, on your diocesan website? I’m very interested in reading about it.

  11. RBrown says:

    It seems to me that when the primary time for hearing Confessions is before the Sat even mass, it is encouraging attendance then rather at a Sunday mass.

    IMHO, Confessions often are scheduled at most inconvenient times.

  12. GemmaRose says:

    I think that Confession during Mass, or at least immediately before, would be a great idea.

    One thing I’ve never understood is why, if, say, Confessions are Saturdays from 4:00-5:00, why will the priest run out at 4:10 is no one is waiting. Maybe someone is running a little late, but will be there at 4:15 expecting a priest to be there? Surely, in the busy life of a priest, even if no one comes for Confession after the first ten minutes or so, would this not be an excellent time for rest, prayer, spiritual reading, the Rosary, etc.?

  13. GemmaRose says:

    I think that Confession during Mass, or at least immediately before, would be a great idea.

    One thing I’ve never understood is why, if, say, Confessions are Saturdays from 4:00-5:00, why will the priest run out at 4:10 if no one is waiting. Maybe someone is running a little late, but will be there at 4:15 expecting a priest to be there? Surely, in the busy life of a priest, even if no one comes for Confession after the first ten minutes or so, would this not be an excellent time for him to take a breather, pray, do some spiritual reading, say the Rosary, etc.?

  14. Calleva says:

    I have no problem in theory with confessions during Mass. Confession has become the invisible sacrament, hardly ever preached from the pulpit and rarely used by the laity who come for communion in increasing numbers. Something is clearly wrong here. I wish confession were more widely scheduled and available everywhere. I note in one ‘liberal’ US parish, there is no set time in the week for confession, you have to make an appointment with the priest. This rather removes the anonymity factor.

    I think having confession during Mass might remove the ‘cocktail party’ aspect that face to face confession can induce. Because of the potential embarrassment with certain sins there is a temptation to ramble on, mention the psychological aspects, etc. One does not want to miss much of the liturgy so the confession will be to the point.

  15. Ben says:

    I think that it is great to have confessions right before the Mass and then into the first two readings if needed. I loved being in Italy and being able to go to confession anyday of the week! It is hard to go to confession when it is only offered at the same time on Saturday (4-5pm) at every parish! Besides being at a weird time if you want to go to confession any other time then you have to make an appointment (which I just find to be strange).

  16. Franzjosf says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot of good things would happen if more emphasis were placed on the ‘Domestic Church.’ If a Pastor or Bishop would really get behind people having shrines in their homes around which the family prayers together daily, a lot of blessings would flow. Maybe have a parish picnic with lots of articles for sale in the school gym, and give out holy water for people to put in their houses, Lourdes water too, etc. And then get the families to organize when they’ll go to confession together.

  17. Rachel says:

    I think confession during mass is a good thing. Many faithful in 2 parishes in the city I am in take advantage of it. Although, one parish has face-to-face and the other FSSPparish has the old fashioned kind.

    ” Because of the potential embarrassment with certain sins there is a temptation to ramble on, mention the psychological aspects, etc. One does not want to miss much of the liturgy so the confession will be to the point.”

    Calleva: I’ve caught myself making this mistake in face-to-face confession. It’s unsettling. A I’ve noticed a natural reaction to want to put my hands on the table and cover my face or look away. I do not like looking at the priest, I only like to think of Christ, it helps me make a more humble confession. I also like the option to go to confession anonymously. It kind of depletes the purpose of going into the box on the other side when you have to walk by a huge glass window where the priest is hearing mostly face-to-face confessions. I hate feeling forced to go to face-to-face confession. The schedules for confessions at every parish are different so when you respect these schedules and show up to go to confession and see yet another face-to-face it’s frustrating.
    Overall I appreciate the gift of being able to go so thank you all priests!!!

  18. AnnaTrad says:

    We have confession at our Parish 30 minutes before every Mass during the week and on Sundays. We usually have another priest hearing confessions during Mass and it never fails when Father has given a very good homily the confessing line grows by the beginning of the Creed.

  19. Jacques says:

    Rachel,
    I fully agree with you regarding face to face confession: I hate this.
    I don’t understand why such a number of priests have stopped hearing confessions in the good old wooden confession boxes. I am afraid that in doing so they have prevented timid penitents to list their sins with sincerity while not enabling them of a good contrition.
    Face-to-face looks more modern, up-to-date and friendly to some priests, but IMHO the faithfuls don’t care. On the contrary perhaps that’s a possible & partial reason of the confessions attendance drop

  20. I see pros and cons. I like the point Calleva made, about it being “to the point.”

    Some folks asked about priests having confessions right before Mass. I agree that has advantages, but I would point out some practical difficulties.

    Many times the priest will get “caught” in the confessional, and can’t get out to get ready for Mass. It’s not fair to all concerned to have Mass start late, and it’s really a problem on a Sunday when Masses are back-to-back.

    The priest usually does have things to attend to before Mass; ideally someone else does all the set up, but in reality there are always questions for the priest, and the servers often need guidance about anything unusual. It’s not good to have the priest rushing through all that.

    I’m all for having confessions on a weekday evening, the problem is I have so many meetings at those times, and I think we’d want to have confessions on Tuesdays every week, not three weeks out of four, that sort of thing. But it’s something to think about.

    I am not keen on having people miss part of Mass, but then, I’m northern European!

  21. Fr. William says:

    RobNY: the site address follows and has much information as well as the rationale:
    http://www.dioceseoftyler.org/confirmation.htm

  22. Trey says:

    Many times the priest will get “caught” in the confessional, and can’t get out to get ready for Mass. It’s not fair to all concerned to have Mass start late, and it’s really a problem on a Sunday when Masses are back-to-back.

    – The parish I know that has confession before each Mass. It is 30 minutes. That leaves 15 minutes before mass. Line, or no line, the priest leaves on time.

    Unf. I also know of a priest that comes out of the confessional 5 minutes before mass and give s everyone “general absolution.”

  23. Judy says:

    I do not thing Confessions during Mass is a good idea at all. How can a person participate in Mass if he is also contemplating receiving the Sacrament of Penance? Can a person really participate in the Mass fully? The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium even states that to participate fully, one should be in attendance for the whole Mass, especially the Liturgy of the Word. Being in the confession line doesn’t seem to be faithful to that. It reminds me of the 50′s and 60′s when people were doing all manner of devotions while the priest said the Mass inaudibly on the altar. We don’t need to go back to those days. And for those who criticize dumbing down the Faith by moving around feast days for convenience, this seems to be of the same ilk. Offer confessions because you’ve got the people there? Maybe a better catechesis from the pulpit would be a better remedy.

  24. Fred says:

    You might be interested to know that at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City Missouri, our bishop, Robert Finn, hears confessions some Saturday afternoons (actually as often as his weekend schedule allows), beginning an hour before the first scheduled Mass and then continuing during that Mass (usually 1:30 to 3:00 PM or 3:30 to 5:00 PM – as to the latter the 2:30 Mass is usually not over by 3:30 so he is hearing confessions during a bit of both the Saturday vigil Masses) – the Cathedral rector or other priest in residence is available to celebrate Mass at the appointed time.

  25. Terry says:

    Yay! Confessions even during Mass – it is a good thing.

  26. Rachel says:

    My parish has no scheduled confessions on Sundays. But every weekday there are confessions before and during the 8 am, 12 pm, and 6:30 pm Masses, and it’s usually two priests at once, or even three. On Saturdays there are confessions at the 8 am Mass and then from 4 pm to about 9 pm; I hear the priests have sometimes stayed as late as 10 pm.

    I know that doesn’t add much to the discussion; I just wanted to brag.

  27. G says:

    Rachel, Code of Canon Law, you are ENTITLED to the opportunitty to confess in a confessional with a fixed grille if you so wish.
    PERIOD.

    Can. 964 §1 The proper place for hearing sacramental
    confessions is a church or oratory.

    §2 As far as the confessional is concerned, norms are to
    be issued by the Episcopal Conference, with the proviso
    however that confessionals, which the faithful who so
    wish may freely use, are located in an open place, and
    fitted with a fixed grille between the penitent and the
    confessor.

    §3 Except for a just reason, confessions are not to be
    heard elsewhere than in a confessional.

    (Sve the Liturgy, Save the World)

  28. Legisperitus says:

    I was probably about 10 years old when I first heard someone use the term “the Blessed Sacrament.” Which one of all the seven Sacraments deserved to be called “Blessed,” I wondered to myself? My first guess was Confession– because it takes away all your sins and you can receive it as often as you need it. (So I guessed wrong! But the Sacrament of Penance is still a wonder of God’s mercy that can bring you to tears if you really think about it.)

  29. joe says:

    Could not disagree with you more.
    We go to confession on Saturday nights at 7:30. As a separate event, you totally focus on Penance.
    During Mass leads to a mentality of both distraction and convenience of checking off religious obligations. Multitasking is not of His world.

    Shame on you, Father Zuhlsdorf. [I am compelled to wonder if Joe even read the top entry. - Fr. Z]

  30. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Re face to face confession: if I wanted to have coffee and donuts and gossip about my failings with my pal “Pete the Priest”, I don’t need to go to a confessional, I can just bother the man in the office. *I go to confession to talk to Jesus!* (Yes, I am shouting. I want all the priests who think the grille is silly to hear me.) The priest is there because he’s Jesus’ agent in the matter, not because of himself. And it’s hard enough to confess my sins even when I don’t have to look Father in the eye. I think the fad for face to face confession is why people don’t go.

    God bless you Father Z.

  31. jacobus says:

    Joe, maybe you should say, “Shame on centuries of Catholic practice.” Whether we like it or not, the fact that penitent Catholics have been doing it for centuries should suggest that the practice has some value. Maybe in an ideal liturgical and Catholic world, such a practice wouldn’t exist, but we are no where near that. This idea that we should be rid of things from which people get authentic spiritual benefit (the forgiveness of sins! Is there any greater benefit?) just because it offends our personal ideas of what the Church should be (rather than is and has been) has had dangerous and lasting effects over the last century.

  32. Ben D. says:

    Fr. Fox, what about hearing confessions after mass, at least where the schedule allows? I don’t know about other families, but for my family weekday evenings aren’t a good time for anything that requires leaving home. We have two small children — one *very* small — and it’s all we can do on a weeknight to get dinner on the table and our older child to bed at a decent hour, and then get things cleaned up and ready for the next day. I always wonder, somewhat ruefully, why all our parish activities seem to be scheduled for the magic weeknight hour of 7pm. I couldn’t imagine a worse time.

    In lots of Catholic families there will be small children in the home for the first 15-25 years of the marriage, if not longer. This impairs one’s mobility, to an extent that might not be immediately apparent to someone who is celibate.

    By the same token it’s easy for us laymen to say “why don’t you just sit in the box more? St. John Vianney!” when we haven’t the slightest clue what it takes to run a parish (or two parishes, in your case).

    At any rate we’re all in church on Sunday, which makes it an ideal day for confession.

  33. LPD says:

    If confession is treated as the poor relation of the Sacraments, it is the fault of all of us. Timing should not matter but obviously it has its effect, particularly with families. Pastors need to be more sympathetic. As the book ‘The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living’ (John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak, Crossroad, 2005) reads: “The availability of priests to hear confessions tells you something about the priorities in your parish. Few pastors schedule the weekly collection for 15 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.”

  34. RBrown says:

    If confession is treated as the poor relation of the Sacraments, it is the fault of all of us.
    Comment by LPD

    Nonsense. That sounds like the sentimentalism that says that we have the Church we deserve.

    The time and timing of Confessions is determined by pastors and the recommendations of bishops. I have made it a point to say to various priests that Confession needs to be made more available–but nothing has changed. It’s still usually about 30 minutes a week–or, worse, Confessions by Appointment (goodbye, anonymity).

    With all due respect to Fr Fox, his mention of having to attend meetings says it all: With the bureaucratization of the parish, the primacy of the Sacraments has been undermined.

  35. Stephen says:

    I have to say that priests seem to have far too many meetings.They are a waste of time. Priests where I live regularly cancel Mass because of a meeting. Confession has suffered without doubt because of the loss of the sense of sin, and because the laity are not reminded of the absolute necessity of it. Thankfully the Catholic Church is absolutely crammed full of saints with no need for it!
    stephen

  36. Chaplain USN says:

    As a Navy Chaplain, I am currently stationed at the Marine Corps boot camp Paris Island, SC I have a civilian priest hearing confessions during my two Masses for the recruits. It is the only time in the training schedule we have to offer it to them and he is always busy. [Excellent! That was a great comment. Thanks! - Fr. Z]

  37. RBrown says:

    I have an old friend who after ordination spent two years in a parish before being sent to Rome for study. We would usually talk at least once a week. He told me exactly the time to phone so that he could start the meeting with a blessing but then soon afterwards be called to the telephone.

  38. Geoffrey says:

    Joe said: “Shame on you, Father Zuhlsdorf.”

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf didn’t give the permission that confessions can be heard during Mass, the Holy See did… so perhaps you mean “Shame on you, Holy Apostolic See?” Hmmm…

  39. Daniel Muller says:

    I posted about this before, but not on the referenced thread. The first paragraph will be repetition, then.

    Our downtown businessman’s chapel has two Masses daily (used to have three on Holy Days) during lunch hour. They used to have confessions — a lot of confessions — during this time as well. In fact, I would say that more confessions were heard there than in all but one or two diocesan parishes. So the bishop shut it down. Why? Because of this “simultaneous” nonsense. Never mind that these were weekday Masses. Never mind that there is nowhere else and no other time to go. I hope that the new bishop rectifies this situation, but I am afraid that precedent has already been set.

    Some commenters here seem to talking about their suburban Catholic warehouses with parking lots the size of Connecticut. Sure they can drive on over on a Saturday and then drive back again on Sunday. But some of us travel a lot to other cities (downtown, no auto) and we appreciate it when the cathedral (e.g., in Mexican cities) offers confessions for several hours a day. So what if some times overlap Masses? That is availability. That shows how important this indeed “blessed sacrament” is.

  40. Daniel Muller says:

    One more thought: if Masses during Mass are okay — think pilgrimage and tourist churches — why not confessions during Mass?

    Daniel

  41. Cathomommy says:

    Not that she is a great example to use, but I know my mother, a cradle Catholic, has not been to confession in 35 years. When I asked why, she said it was because she couldn’t stand the idea of sitting face-to-case with the priest. When I assured her that the grille is still available, she still didn’t believe that anonymity would be maintained, and she won’t go to Confession without it.
    As for me and my family…as a Mom with 4 boys age 6 and under, I am lucky to be able to get us out the door to Mass. (Plus we drive 45 min to Mass). It would be an extreme benefit to us to have ample time for Confession before and during Mass. As it is, my husband and I take turns going to Confession before Mass while the other watches the kids, but most Sundays, only one of us gets to go, as Confessions are cut off 10 min before Mass.
    And believe me, with 4 young boys BOTH my husband and I NEED confession. EVERY WEEK!!!

  42. RBrown:

    With all due respect to you, a priest receives the triple munera from our Lord, of priest, prophet and king, which means he has the responsibility to sanctify his people, proclaim the Gospel and to teach them, and to administer the parish under his care. I would be more than happy to omit meetings, but they serve a purpose, in service of all three munera. (And the early Church had the same situation–they took up collections and the priests and deacons had to attend to these things.)

    Just to review: last Tuesday, a meeting concerning our Catholic school; before that I had Mass for the sisters, dinner inbetween. Wednesday we had confessions at 5, Mass at 6, and I had a Bible study at 7, then Knights of Columbus at 8. Thursday, tonight, I will check in with a picnic for the parish (someone did the work, should the pastor not show up?), then a Pastoral Council meeting. And so it goes. I also have meetings with families and couples in the evening, since it’s very hard for them to come during the day. I meet with people on Saturdays who can’t come during the week, such as couples preparing for marriage–preparation for a sacrament.

    It is tempting to delegate all “administration” to others, and “teaching” to others, and the priest becomes a, quote, “sacramental minister”–but that is not the Church’s vision of the priesthood, and very problematic.

    Ben:

    It’s an idea. I’d prefer to do it before Mass, since that emphasises the right sequence; if someone needs confession, but has to wait through Mass, that person cannot receive the Eucharist, or might be drawn to receive unworthily. I think having confessions routinely after Mass sends a cross-signal about the right sequence.

    I think you or someone wondered what the priest has to contend with. Here’s my weekend schedule (two parishes, and I have help):

    Sat:
    Confessions 9-10 am (after which I have appointments or do other work)
    Mass 4 pm. Baptism or Anointing following.
    Confessions 3:30-4:30(or :45 as needed)
    Mass 5 pm

    Sun:
    Mass 7 am, 9 am, 10:30 am, Noon. Baptisms or Anointing following.

    Now, I could have one of the other priests hear confessions while Mass is going on, or while I run to the next Mass. Here’s the problem. One priest is 90, the other is in spotty health. And we have calls to the hospital and other things even on Sunday. We have RCIA and religious education on Sunday mornings, afternoons and evenings and various other activities. I don’t do all these things, but the problem is being sure someone can be there for confessions every week.

    When I first took over two parishes, I was scheduling baptisms at parish “a” when Mass was scheduled at parish “b.” Only right away, one of the priests was unable to take a Mass, due to his spotty health. I had to take his Mass; who would do the baptism I’d promised? The family was in the pews. I called the third priest (90 y.o.), thankfully he could come. After that I stopped scheduling baptisms at one parish when Mass was scheduled at the other. You can appreciate the problem.

    And, I will hear anyone’s confession almost anytime who asks. I know, people don’t like to ask, and I do not mean to put everything on the penitent, but by the same token, people do have the responsibility to make their needs known as well.

  43. eyeclinic says:

    Point of information: Are we talking about people leaving Mass, going to Confession, and then returning for the remainder of Mass, or are we discussing the scheduling of Confession during normal Mass times, with the penitents attending a different Mass at a different time?

  44. Ben D. says:

    Fr. Fox,

    Good point about the sequence, but on the other hand, attending Mass and refraining from communicating (assuming a state of serious sin) can be a very good way to prepare for confession. And you could perhaps also argue that routinely hearing confessions before Mass encourages scrupulosity — a certain type of soul starts to think, or at least leans toward thinking, that he can’t receive Holy Communion without confessing first, no matter what the state of his conscience.

    You would know far better than I whether this is true, but I suspect that a lot of people simply *want* to go to confession, and don’t strictly speaking *need* to. In their cases it doesn’t matter whether they go before or after receiving Holy Communion.

    I wonder if having confessions in any sort of proximity to the Mass does enough to promote in people’s minds the connection between Penance and the Eucharist, that any potential negative associations — whether in the direction of laxity or rigor — are not worth worrying about.

    That said, your Sunday schedule looks pretty packed. I don’t see a whole lot of room in there for confession before or after Mass. Guess that only leaves during Mass… ;-)

    but the problem is being sure someone can be there for confessions every week.

    Maybe so, but is it necessary to schedule it officially? Could you just have confession on those Sundays when it’s feasible? Sometimes the red light is on, sometimes it’s not? Obviously this would be totally unacceptable during a blocked-off-time-for-confessions, i.e. Saturday afternoon, but on Sundays, people are going to be in church anyway.

  45. MikeL says:

    eye – Mostly, I think this refers to having confessions in the church while Mass is going on. We do this in my parish, beginning 30-45 min before Mass, but confessions stop at the Gospel. In our case, there are many who travel long distances for the TLM, good sacred music and solid preaching. For most, making 2 trips of over 20 miles per week may be too much to ask (some are as far as 100 miles one-way). So, although confessions are available (and well-attended) on Saturday afternoons, evening and Thursday evening before first Fridays, many must make recourse to the opportunity offered on Sunday before and during Mass.

    Fr. Fox – you may find it efficacious to do as one of our priests and post a note that confessions must stop 15 minutes before Mass, when he has the Mass. That way we know not to get in his line if it’s long. In our case, though, we do have the luxury of 3 able-bodied priests and sometimes help from a friendly group of religious priests nearby. We are blessed with younger orthodox priests that the more liberal parishes disdain to have. But we love them!

    This will change, because that’s about all there is coming out of the seminary now. Then my good pastor will have more challenges without the aid of his little leper colony of refugee priests.

  46. Ben D. says:

    I should also point out, as a slight aside, that good catechesis on confession should help to overcome any potential negative associations that might arise from the timing of confessions relative to the Mass. I seem to recall a very good post on confession on your blog, Fr. Fox, which reminded me of a hard-headed little book called “Pardon and Peace” by Father Alfred Wilson. I started reading it recently and was flabbergasted by how little I actually knew about this sacrament — and that after 17 years in Catholic school. Apparently ignorance of the sacrament was also thoroughly widespread in the 40s (or 50s?) when the book was first written.

  47. RBrown says:

    RBrown:
    With all due respect to you, a priest receives the triple munera from our Lord, of priest, prophet and king, which means he has the responsibility to sanctify his people, proclaim the Gospel and to teach them, and to administer the parish under his care. I would be more than happy to omit meetings, but they serve a purpose, in service of all three munera. (And the early Church had the same situation—they took up collections and the priests and deacons had to attend to these things.)
    Comment by Fr. Martin Fox —

    My comment above said that meeting undermine the PRIMACY of the Sacraments, which seems to me very much in line with your comment that your meetings preclude hearing Confessions on weekday evenings.

    I well understand that you–like many American priests–are now stretched thin. But I have to admit that one of my biggest gripes is the lack of availability of Confession. Although I don’t expect the availability that I had for years in Rome, esp. at Santa Maria Maggiore, nevertheless, it is still frustrating that even with going to daily mass, I still have to drive 10 miles or so for Confession. Regularly scheduled Confession in the 5 parishes here only runs to 30 minutes a week in 3 of those parishes–at at a most inconvenient time.

    BTW, one of my professors at the Angelicum, also spiritual director where I lived, once mentioned to me out of the blue that American pastors have become too much bureaucrats. This priest-prof had once been socius for the Intellectual life of the Dominican Order, so he was familiar with the world wide picture.

    BTW, although it’s a topic for another time, I don’t buy the triplex munera concept, whose roots are to be found in Calvinism, with its governance by the Predestined. I do think, however, that at one time the triplex munera could have been applied to the Prince Archbishops of Germany.

  48. Resonare Christum says:

    Fr. Fox: Thank you for all that you do for the Catholics in your little corner of the world. Thank you to all priests who do their best to serve their parishes.

    Perhaps my idea of having one parish in a given area with scheduled confessions each weeknight is more feasible in larger cities than in the rural/small town area you serve. I think any increase in the scheduled confession times would be a benefit, even if it is only once a month. Just my 2 cents.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post my parish has confessions scheduled after each midday weekday mass. The priest stays until all are heard. It seems to work. The parish is staffed by Dominican friars who don’t shy away from the subject of sin and the need for sacramental confession, so our parish is probably better catechised than most American parishes.

    I also mentioned that confessions are heard for 30 minutes before each Sunday mass. The people who were in line for conession but didn’t get theirs heard will sit near the confessional so they can be first in line for the next round of confessions. I know because I’ve done it myself! Of course this don’t work if you go to the last mass.

    My prayers to you and to all priests.

  49. Of course, one modest Byzantine proposal for the Latins is to eliminate the anticipatory Mass on Saturday altogether and reestablish the proper place of Saturday evening Vespers with Confessions…

    Gordo