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.