From a reader:
There is a parish in our diocese that offers a rather unique penance service with no individual confession offered. A penance service is held and people simply file up in a line, say to the priest “I am sorry for my sins” and he gives them absolution one by one. Is this valid?
That doesn’t sound valid to me, if that is what is being done. Unless there has been an earthquake or there is a meteor about to strike, that is not valid.
Absolution without individual confession of sins may not be given except in an emergency. Furthermore, a person who receives a valid absolution must seek individual confession of sins and absolution at the earliest opportunity.
Except in the case of an emergency (i.e., there are too many people for one priest and too little time, there is a disaster, people are too close and listening and there is a chance of death, etc.) for the sacrament to be valid a penitent must confession all mortal sins.
Saying “I am sorry for my sins” can suffice for an expression of sorrow for sins. The priest must have a reasonable certainty that the person is truly sorry. But that statement does not substitute for confession of the mortal sins themselves.
It may be that the priest there is unaware that what he is doing is wrong. Perhaps he can be instructed or persuaded.
If there is printed material available describing this service, a video/audio recording of the people being instructed to do this, I would get hold of it and put a question about it to the local bishop or even to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. If you have some sort of proof that this is what is done, the Congregation would be very interested to hear about it, if the local bishop is uninterested.
Hearsay does not suffice.