QUAERITUR: Confessions on Good Friday

Every year I get e-mails about priests who will not hear confessions during the Triduum, especially on Good Friday.  They say the directions in the Missal forbid confessions.

Wrong.

Some priests, liturgical experts, and even diocesan liturgy offices wrongly claim the rubrics of the Missal or “Sacramentary” forbid the sacrament of Penance.

However, this claim is incorrect. 

Here is what the texts really say. 

The previous 1970 and 1975 editions of the Missale Romanum (the Novus Ordo) said of Good Friday and Holy Saturday (BTW… the language of this rubric goes back to Pope Innocent III):

Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments.  

However, since this is in the Missal (the book for MASS), sacramenta refers only to Holy Mass and not the other sacraments. 

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) clarified this in its official publication Notitiae (1977 – no. 137 (Dec) p. 602.

In the 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum at paragraph 1 for Good Friday all doubt is removed. 

The above cited text has been amended to say (the change with my emphasis):

Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.  

Priests can indeed, and probably should, hear confessions during on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday.  

Who can forget the image of the late Pope hearing confession in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday?

Here is a bonus tip, speaking of confessions. 

As I have posted before (some people simply freak out at this idea)… 

It is both permitted and often appropriate confessions to be heard during Holy Mass on other days of the year! 

Want proof?  Try the CDWDS document Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 and also the Congregation’s Response to a Dubium in Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.  

Having a priest in a confessional before and even during Mass on Sundays and feasts could be a very good way to revive the essential use of this ailing sacrament.

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60 Responses to QUAERITUR: Confessions on Good Friday

  1. David says:

    Interesting…our priest announced at mass on Sunday that no one should come looking for confession during the Triduum, because the church forbids the sacraments during that time. [Don’t be asking for marriage or to be ordained. But the book is clear. Confessions can be heard during the Triduum. The Sacrament of Penance is NOT forbidden.] Guess he needs to be brought up to date!

    I can recall similar announcements at other parishes as well, saying that Wednesday of holy week is a person’s last chance to make confession before Easter.

  2. DarkKnight says:

    A nearby parish I sometimes visit does this whenever they have Mass and it is a beautiful idea. Wish it would catch on.

  3. A Random Friar says:

    Thank you for the clarification! I always thought you could, but never had the real answer to back it up. I myself do not mind hearing Confession during someone else’s Mass…although I have heard of the celebrant head off to the confessional while the preacher preached, which is not quite what Rome had in mind, I imagine.

    I agree with your old post about the intention to assist at Mass and making your Confession during Mass. Confession during Mass is one time, however, that I *really* dislike that some folks want to come in for a lengthy spiritual direction and general life advice when there’s a line outside. [As I make clear in my 20 Tips… be brief!]

  4. A Random Friar says:

    David: He may have been taught incorrectly (as I was), and with the old instruction, sans clarification, it is an understandable error. Correct with charity, and he may be open to it.

  5. Andy K. says:

    The parish I go to (FSSP) often will have confession running through the Mass. It is a wonderful thing.

    The priest will “break” temporarily to help distribute Communion.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    We have Confession during Mass. Yesterday I forgot to say my penance (usually I say it right afterwards) due to a wiggly 1.5 year old on my lap. I just thought of it this morning and said it immediately. Do I need to confess again?

  7. Bill in Texas says:

    All we need is more priests. There are so many parishes now with only 1 priest assigned (or no priest at all).

    Pray for vocations!

  8. Geoffrey says:

    One of the parishes in my diocese mad the announcement as Mass yesterday: “In accordance to what the Church recommends, there will be no Sacrament of Reconciliation on Saturday.”

    What a scary thought! What if you NEEDED to go to confession during the Triduum? Could a priest actually refuse?!

    I think the CDW should send out one of their famous “clarrifications”… post haste!

  9. A Random Friar says:

    Jeffrey: I would say not at all.

  10. Patrick says:

    I went to confession during the Good Friday service last year. I was thankful for the opportunity to approach Easter with a clean slate. Plus, what else was I supposed to do during the 2+ hours of veneration of the cross? Might as well stretch your legs and shuffle over and confess.

  11. Definitely confessions should be heard on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, particularly for all those procrastinators.

  12. Kelly Clark says:

    Wow…I never heard of this error. In my parish the confession lines are really long on Good Friday. It’s a joy to see — and to be in the line!

  13. Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s St. Peter in Chains Cathedral seems confused as well. From yesterday’s bulletin announcing the Holy Week schedule:

    PLEASE NOTE: No Confessions are scheduled after Wednesday.

    [Remember: Schedule choices are one thing… but saying Confession is forbidden is another. The one is might have good reasons, the other is an error.]

  14. RBrown says:

    It’s ironic that the same priests who object to another priest hearing confessions during mass will often hold their “healing masses” and administer the Sacrament of the Sick.

  15. cuaguy says:

    At The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, extended confession times are available from Spy Wednesday to Holy Saturday- 10:00 AM to 6:00PM all 4 days.

  16. Bill in Texas says:

    My guess is that any priest will hear a confession any time someone asks. These bulletin notes are generally a matter of Father not being able to hold to the usual schedule because he just doesn’t have the one to two hours during these three very busy days — see my earlier note about the shortage of priests.

    On the other hand, if these are parishes where there are 2, 3, or 4 priests assigned (including retired priests in residence), then maybe there is a misunderstanding of what’s allowed.

  17. On a ferial mass, at St. Therèse de Lisieux church in Porto Alegre, Brazil (Igreja de Santa Teresinha), I was glad to see that right after mass started a priest went into a real confessional and start to hear confessions!

  18. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr.,

    You write, “Having a priest in a confessional before and even during Mass on Sundays and feasts could be a very good way to revive the essential use of this ailing sacrament.”

    I think this may be a “cart in front of the horse” situation. Many parishes have only one priest, and so this is clearly not feasible for those. Now, if you speak about those parishes with at least two priests in residence, then I take my comment back. [Did you think I meant that one priest could do that??!]

  19. “What a scary thought! What if you NEEDED to go to confession during the Triduum? Could a priest actually refuse?!”

    I suspect that if there were a real, pressing need, even my priest would hear my Confession during Holy Week. But I should point out that practicing Orthodox (as opposed to Pascha Orthodox) go to Confession regularly. I’d like to say I go weekly, but somewhere between once a week and once every two weeks is more accurate, although I have gone to Confession weekly so far this Lent. I know people at my parish who go to Confession twice a week. Sadly, I am not among them.

  20. Romulus says:

    I read quite recently that in extreme cases the Church allows Mass to be celebrated even throughout the Sacred Triduum if absolutely necessary for the consecration of viaticum otherwise unavailable. I mention this not to open a rabbit hole but to offer evidence that as a matter of principle the Church never suspends her salvific ministry of mercy.

  21. little gal says:

    Last night I attended the 7:15pm Mass and there were four priests hearing Confessions throughout the Mass. It is the norm to hear Confessions before and during Mass @ St Mary’s and there are always two confessionals in use. Although there are only two priests who are part of the parish, other priests assist with Confession. The parish is run by Opus Dei priests and they only offer the NO. Opus Dei was given the parish in 1991. I have wondered how they laid the groundwork that resulted in the frequent use of this sacrament at the parish.

  22. On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

    If the list of sacraments that are celebrated on Good Friday includes Anointing of the Sick, it must also include Baptism for those in danger of death, right?

  23. MAJ Tony says:

    I went to Chicago a few years back, and visited St. John Cantius. I noted signs posted on the several confessionals that confessions would be held during mass up to the “Pater Noster.” I reported my finding to our Pastor at Holy Rosary, Indianapolis, who is the VG of the Indianapolis, IN Archdiocese, Msgr. Schaedel. Some months later, I noticed upon having been away, that the confessional lines were still going 15 minutes before mass. We have 2 priests (Msgr, and an FSSP priest, currently Fr. Michael Magiera) who cover for the other during each’s Mass. It’s not unusual to have the line 10 deep up thru the Homily. During our renovation last year, they put in a mirror image of the one confessional we had on the other side of the church. No confession during the Good Friday liturgies, but I suspect both confessionals will be open afterward, as one of our priests (forget which) said we will have confessions after the services.

  24. DavidJ says:

    The primary mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. There’s a ton of things that are not the norm that go right out the window if a soul is in real peril. Certainly nothing that affects validity of a Sacrament, but most things regarding custom and such are able to be dismissed in the case of a legitimate Sacramental emergency.

    At least that’s what I’ve been told by my priestly friends.

  25. PatrickJude says:

    For my parish, the PP normally will have confession half an hour before every Masses. However during the period of the the Triduum, he is unable to, with all the preperations and stuff he has to undertake, so the normal practise here is that, from Monday of Holy Week till Wednesday of Holy Week, the church will be open in the evening from 8pm till around 11pm where two priest will administer the sacraments to the people and usually there’s a huge crowd during those 3 nights.

    On Good Friday however, he allocate a time from 9am till 12noon if those who wishes to receive this most precious sacrament. Notice however was made earlier that he encourage people to take advantage of the 3 nights of Holy Week to receive this sacrament so as not to have a last minute rush to the confessional on Good Friday morning. However, he will resume hearing confession on Easter Sunday morning before the Morning Mass and likewise before the evening Mass, so I consider that is quite far considering the amount of time the priest has to undertake to prepare for the liturgy of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday

  26. PatrickJude says:

    i meant quite fair and not quite far as mentioned above… and yes.. the anti-spam word.. review then post should have been heeded lol

  27. Joan Moore says:

    “Opus Dei was given the parish in 1991. I have wondered how they laid the groundwork that resulted in the frequent use of this sacrament at the parish.”

    They preach regularly on the need for confession and urge the laity to encourage their friends and family to make use of the Sacrament.

    The faithful of Opus Dei are urged to confess weekly.

  28. Jayna says:

    I had this discussion with my priest a few weeks ago. I run the parish website and we were talking about what I needed to put up for this week and that came up. I think the way he’s interpreting it is as a confession as a part of viaticum. This is the actual quote from his e-mail: “There are NO CONFESSIONS ON HOLY SATURDAY. (You are right: anointing and Viaticum are always permitted).” He misunderstood what I said, though, when he said I was right. I quoted exactly what you have, Father, and that was his response.

  29. Ruben says:

    I am glad to hear the truth from a reliable source about confessions during the Triduum. I returned to the sacraments 5 years ago after a 24 year lapse. Since then, it has struck me as almost freakishly inappropriate for just about the entire (I hope I’m wrong) Dallas Diocese to not have confessions on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

    I thank God he sent me out of the city on that Holy Saturday in 2004 when I finally went to confession for the first time in those 24 years. I actually had no idea that it would have been almost impossible to find confessions that Holy Saturday in the city. I drove 50 miles outside the city only because the priest I was going to confession with had a reputation as being a rock solid priest and confessor. I had no idea at that time that I might not have been able to find a church in the entire city with confessions on Holy Saturday.

  30. AAJD says:

    I’m very strongly of the view that the more often you have a priest available for confessions, the more times posted, the more people see him in a confessional–the better. If you want people to practice and recover this sacrament, you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Thus there’s nothing wrong with hearing confessions during Mass. I have fond memories of Ukrainian Catholic parishes in Ukraine itself where one priest was in the altar serving the liturgy, and another in an alcove to the side, with a line of penitents throughout most of the liturgy.

  31. Johnny Domer says:

    Re: Confession during Mass; while I’m in favor of it, I do have one question. What does one do in a place where the priest is hearing Confessions, but you’re afraid to go into the confessional for fear of missing the Consecration? Is there some point in the liturgy when the priest should stop hearing penitents for a while (the Sanctus onward? The entirety of the Canon?)? What is the traditional practice in this regard? Do priests just hear Confession the whole way through? It just would seem weird to me to go to a Mass and be in the confessional at the Consecration, or for the entirety of the Eucharistic Prayer/Canon (this seems highly possible if Eucharistic Prayer II is used).

    I’m not trying to detract from the concept of having Confession during Mass; I just want to understand better. This is a difficulty, not a doubt (so to speak).

  32. I’m sorry but evert year I get astonished by this folish thing of non listening to confessions in the most Holy days. I am wondering: what do the bishops say? I can understand that priests don’t like to sit hours and hours listening to the sins of the people, but their bishops should compel them, remembering their duty. I know, because I am a priest, that during the Holy triduum confessions are a stress to bear, but if all the “soldiers” stay at their place, we can all togheter fight sin more effectively and without to much pain in the back (litteraly!!)

  33. John Enright says:

    I don’t understand why it would ever be forbidden. It’s essential for salvation.

  34. Richard says:

    AND…The Congregation for Divine Worship also clarified this matter in 1988 in its document Paschele Solemnitatis. Following are excerpts from paragraphs 59 and 61 of the document. The whole documents can be found at
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWEASTR.HTM

    59. On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.

    61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

  35. FWC says:

    Our Bishop in Kansas City Missouri hears confessions most Saturday afternoons at the Cathedral – he starts around 1:30 and he stops around 3 or 3:15 – in the meantime the first vigil Mass for Sunday has started at 2:30 (I suspect some may wonder if that is too early?)

  36. Mila says:

    At St. Peter’s in downtown Chicago, the Franciscans hear confessions practically all day long! I remember going there for the Triduum several years ago, and confessions were heard during the Mass on Holy Thursday. On Good Friday, they had confessions up to when the service began and then resumed after it ended.

    My present parish–in Florida, far from Chicago!–has confessions 15 minutes before Mass. But unfortunately, those are the only scheduled times. There isn’t an hour set for confessions, except for once a year, and even those held 15 minutes before Mass don’t always happen, depending on… who knows? Maybe when one of the two priests is away? No idea. I should ask.

  37. Joseph Fromm says:

    Dear Fr. Z

    Priests who hear confessions during Mass is the norm in Poland. Typically confessions are heard up to the Gospel. The priest then will stop hearing confessions and prepare for the Eucharist, for he will then participate as an ordinary minister of Communion. It is not uncommon for a Polish priest to celebrate Mass at a side alter, “ad orientum”.

    JMJ

    Joe

  38. Catherine says:

    I just called a church in Topeka, Kansas to find out about adoration and confession times and was told that there are no confessions until after Easter!

  39. Supertradmom says:

    I am so glad for the clarification about Confessions during Mass on Good Friday. We had one very good priest who wanted to stay in the Confessional, as the lines were so long. He continued hearing Confessions despite criticism. People were grateful, and I am happy to see that this can happen. It does in Westminster Cathedral in London.

  40. Sid says:

    No ceremony of the year prompts contrition more than the Commemoration of Good Friday. So the idea of no confessions on Holy Saturday or Good Friday is rather stupid.

    I have read with interest some reports above that state that confessions are indeed heard in Europe. I would be curious to learn if the no-confessions rule is the invention of wacho Gringo liturgists (of whom there are many), and everywhere else confessions are heard.

    Didn’t Our Lord Himself hear a confession on Good Friday, on the Cross — that of the Good Thief?

  41. Dino says:

    In one parish, they announced at the beginning of Lent that there would be NO Confessions the last two Saturdays of Lent, but that a communal penance service with general absolution would be available on Tuesday of Holy Week. The parish has three priests, and there is an ethnic chapel staffed by two or three priests within the parish that is approved by the local ordinary.
    In my other parish, wit only one priest, he won’t hear confessions beyond the first three weeks of Lent.
    I try to get to the Sacrament of Penance when any of the priests chooses to be in the confessional.

  42. Joe Williams says:

    I once had a military priest decline to hear the Confessions of my nine-year-old son and myself on Holy Saturday. He did it with a smile and explanation to the effect that it is forbidden. Now I ask you, putting myself quite aside, how does one refuse to hear the Confession of a nine-year-old boy? The whole thing wouldn’t have taken 10 minutes. [It sounds like he was poorly informed. So, it is time for you to let go of that and move on.]

  43. A priest in Spokane, WA says:

    Father Z.,
    Can I find a translation of the Palm Sunday Mass Collect of the Novus Ordo in your postings from the Wanderer columns? I found the Super Oblata and the Post Communion.
    Thanks for your help.
    Father V. [here]

  44. Dominic says:

    Last year I phoned my PP on Holy Thursday to check whether there would be Confessions before Easter Sunday (as the newsletter didn’t schedule any). He told me that Confessions weren’t allowed during the Triduum. I checked what was happening in other parishes. No confessions anywhere. Apparently a diocesan directive was responsible for this situtation. It seems the same thing is happening this year (in a southern England diocese). I just find it unbelievable that any priest or bishop might think it is possible that the Church would prohibit the Sacrament of Penance on any day, especially on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

  45. Joe Williams says:

    On the other hand, since I told a negative story about a priest and Confession, let me balance it with a positive story.

    Years ago, when stationed in Alaska, I had occasion to be associated for a few years with the Ruthenian parish in Anchorage. I remember Fr. Steve Greskowiak telling us on more than one occasion that he would be happy to hear our Confessions when we were ready–“any time of the day or night.” While not about the Triduum, it still impresses me to this day. It is a mark, I think, of a priest who cares about the souls of his parishioners.

  46. MargaretMN says:

    I always wondered why it was so hard to find a place to go to confession during Holy Week! For the first time this year, our pastor (who is very much on board with the agressive promotion of the sacrament of penance) made an announcement that they will be offering confession on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Also during the 9 am Sunday Mass. (They can’t do it both Masses because only one priest is present!) There is simply no excuse anymore that it’s hard to find the time to go. This contrasts sharply with when I was in college at a large public university when they offered it at the student parish for one hour on Fridays from 4-5 pm. It was almost like they didn’t want anyone to turn up. The weirdest confession I ever made was at another student parish where they had no confessionals so we had to go up to the three priests in something like a communion line. We were also only allowed 3 sins each! Not exactly a full confession of number and kind. I guess it was supposed to be a hybrid between personal confession and general absolution.

  47. ssoldie says:

    Fr.Art Hoppe hears confession’s every Sunday at T.L.M before and after Mass,at Flensburg Mn, and he will be hearing confession’s on Good Friday, before the Sacred Liturgy begins at 1:00.

  48. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    I teach elementary students, and so I strive to be painfully clear. So much for developing their inferring skills, eh?

  49. Immaculatae says:

    Interesting that one of the very poorest parishes in our area recently installed two real confessionals. I was there the evening they were blessed. They had several Priests hearing confession in various languages all during the Mass. I thought it was wonderful. It is good to learn here that it is permitted.

  50. [Remember: Schedule choices are one thing… but saying Confession is forbidden is another. The one is might have good reasons, the other is an error.]

    Sure, but unfortunately “one thing” lends credence to “another.”

  51. George says:

    Interesting post, I went to Confession today! I still go to the parish located at the school I recently graduated from, a large Jesuit university. As liberal as are the Jesuits on the faculty and administration, it will never cease to amaze me how orthodox and old school (which can seem brutal in the Confessional, but I wouldn’t have it any other way) are the Jesuits who have long served the parish on campus.

    Fr. Z — I was partly inspired by your chicken cartoon reposting. Needed to go again and that kind of put me over.

    While I am at it … I was going to ask my Confessor afterwards about helping to enroll me in the Brown Scapular but I got the feeling that it would have been inappropriate in the Confessional. My priority was confession. I would not want him to get a feeling otherwise. Am I correct in that assumption? I will probably call up the rectory of my home parish, where I temporarily attend Mass while job searching, for help with the Scapular.

  52. joshua says:

    I went to my local parish for confession Holy Saturday…the priest told me and several other that he had received instruction from the chancery not to hear confessions…but he caved and did anyways. Imagine if one were in mortal sin and died because the priest refused…would not want to be in those shoes judgment day

  53. Adam says:

    Confessions are heard in my parish during 5 of the 8 Sunday Masses, on Friday evenings and on Saturday afternoons. As far as Holy Week is concerned, Confessions are to be heard on Thursday and Friday.

    If we in Los Angeles can do it, anyone can!

  54. opey124 says:

    Maybe, Fr, you could suggest what one can do if this sacrament is not being offered on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The chain of command would be priest, then Bishop, then…CDW?

    We are so thankful for the internet and for various bloggers who do dedicate a large amount of time addressing and answering and teaching. But reality can be quite different. Accepting that you have done what you can, and moving on.

  55. Jimmy says:

    In our deanery in Gary, Indiana there are no confessions for all of Holy Week. The last opportunity for confession was a communal service in a school gym last Friday – a week before Good Friday. Fr. Z’s research gives one some hope.

  56. Joe Williams says:

    Fr. Z,

    “Move on?” What is that supposed to mean? It was just a story–to the point, I thought. “Sigh.” [Don’t let it fester.]

  57. MAJ Tony says:

    Don’t remember the occassion, but we had something worthy of a plenary indulgence at Church some time ago (IIRC a “Te Deum”). Fr. offered to have confessions *followed by communion* AFTER Mass for those who hadn’t been able to get absolution prior.

  58. MAJ Tony says:

    Come to think of it, I believe the plenary indulgence was part of a Thanksgiving Mass for Summorum Pontificum, and I’m pretty sure it was a Te .

  59. Daniel Nekic says:

    My NO parish doesn’t offer confessions at all for the duration of Holy Week.

    Thank God for the Maternal Heart Community of Lewisham.

  60. Just Saying says:

    Yesterday, Good Friday, we attended the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy of the Passion and Death of the Lord According to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Very beautiful and included Communion. Our experienced FSSP priest knows what he is doing, so I don’t know why the modernist missal would say from ancient times there is no celebration of the sacraments on Good Friday.

    As for Confession, the lines were literally out the door for two hours with four priests hearing confessions for the NO parish that hosts our Latin Mass Community. Confessions ran over into the start of the Liturgy and I thought it was nice for the NO parishioners to see the Extraordinary form. Many of them knelt on the stone floor while waiting in line.