From a reader:
My son recently made his first Confession as part of a Reconciliation service for his entire grade. While they did have individual confessions, there were parts that seemed illicit and possibly invalid.
1. No one was given penance.
2. The act of contrition was said as a group before confessions took place.
3. Everyone was forced to do a face-to-face confession (no option of anonymity/grille).
Does the lack of penance or a personal act of contrition during confession affect the validity? We want him to have a good confession before First Communion.
For sacramental absolution to be valid, from the penitent’s point of view, the penitent must have contrition or attrition concerning the sins, must confession all mortal sins and not purposely conceal any, have the sincere desire to amend one’s life, and do penance for the sins, usually and most easily the penance assigned by the confessor.
It sounds as if there was some expression of sorrow for sin.
I am disturbed that there was no penance given. I hope the tykes knew enough to do something anyway. Since the act of contrition was done ahead of time, I wonder of the penance was also assigned ahead of time.
I am disturbed that there was no option to use a fixed grate. That also could violate the rights of parents to form their children in how to receive the sacraments.
If you have any concerns about the way this was handled and want to ask someone authoritative in your area about the validity of any sacraments, you might address a short note to your local bishop, explaining the simple facts, without editorializing, and respectfully request an explanation.