Each year one sees confusion about the Sacrament of Penance during the Triduum.
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 +1216):
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 the Eucharist, 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 on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday.
Who can forget the image of the late and soon-to-be-beatified Pope hearing confession in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday?
Here is a bonus tip, speaking of confessions.
As I have posted before, it is both permitted and often appropriate for 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 way to revive the use of this ailing but essential sacrament.