From a reader:
Thank you for your reminders about confession. It’s appreciated.
My question is, what recourse does a layperson have for the forgivness of a mortal sin in the absence of sacramental confession?
Some of us live in very rural areas that don’t get the regualr
services of a priest, let alone a confessional. What is the best
cource of action when one finds himself in a state of moral sin
without a priest available?
God does not ask us to do what is impossible. If it is truly impossible for a person to confess to a priest confessor, he can make a sincere act of contrition.
However, if you are mobile, I would sometime soon make a little field trip to a place where you know ahead of time confessions will be heard. This would be worth your time and effort.
Another point, sometimes absolution is given by priests without have heard the confessions of the penitents in what is called “General Absolution”. This is not your situation, dear questioner, but I include it here anyway. It is important for people to know that “General Absolution” is to be given only in an emergency situation. Of course emergencies cannot be scheduled ahead of time, can they? But that is, in fact, what some priests do: they schedule “General Absolution” in their parishes year after year usually during Advent and Lent.
DO NOT GO TO THESE “GENERAL ABSOLUTION” SERVICES!
You cannot validly receive absolution without a confession of sins twice in a row unless you are in danger of death. When a person receives “general” absolution, without having confessed all mortals sins in kind and number because of an emergency (e.g., the airplane is going to crash, there was an earthquake and people are trapped in rubble, battle is about to begin, a missionary finds 5000 people waiting, paramedics and first responders are working on people, etc….), people must, as soon as possible afterward, make a regular, “auricular” confession of all sins. Again, you cannot validly receive absolution repeatedly without confession.
So, there are three forms for receiving the sacrament of penance.
1. Regular, inidividual, auricular confession.
2. Communal penance service with individual confession.
3. General absolution without confession in an emergency.
Don’t confuse “General Absolution” services with penance services which have a liturgical dimension followed by individual confessions.