QUAERITUR: Too many people for confession. Priest gives General Absolution.

From a reader:

This past Saturday afternoon, I went to confession (or, rather, I tried to go to confession). The good news is that the line was full of penitents. There were at least 25 people waiting in front of me and a good number behind. After waiting nearly an hour, the priest came out of the confessional and assessed the line. He called everyone in line to gather close, distributed cards with an act of contrition printed on them, and explained that he had to get ready for Mass and would not have time to hear the remaining penitents’ confessions. He asked everyone to pray the act of contrition together and then he gave absolution (the official form) to everyone there. [i.e., General Absolution] I know that, even after receiving a general absolution, penitents are still bound to confess mortal sins if afforded the opportunity in future.

My question, Fr. Z, is whether the absolution was invalid, illicit, or neither. I had mortal sin to confess; I plan to confess it as soon as possible but I did receive the Eucharist at Mass this weekend. I approached communion with humility and begged the Lord to forgive me if it was displeasing to Him. I will probably not be able to confess my sins by number and kind until the weekend of Divine Mercy. Should I refrain from receiving the Eucharist in the interim, or was the absolution valid and can I consider myself properly disposed to communicate? What do you think?

I am sure the absolution was valid.  If you will not have have the opportunity to confess your mortal sins in the normal fashion until Divine Mercy weekend, you can nevertheless receive Holy Communion with clear conscience (provided you do not commit other mortal sin before that).  Do go to confession at the first opportunity as you are obliged by the fact that you received General Absolution.

It is unfortunate that, in many places, confessions are not heard during the Triduum.

Although the absolution was valid, what was done was illicit.

The priest should not continue this bad practice (which, sadly, is not uncommon).

If the priest was not able to hear all the confessions prior to Mass, he should have stated that he would be hearing them afterwards. If he was unable to hear confessions afterwards, he could have said when the next available time for confessions would be.

If the priest does this General Absolution thing regularly, because there are a few unshriven penitents left in line, a letter should be sent to the diocesan bishop or regional vicar simply stating clearly what happened (as you did in your email).

I want to give Father the benefit of the doubt and guess that he thought he was within the guidelines for General Absolution.  In most places, however, he was not within the guidelines for the licit imparting of General Absolution.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying. “Isn’t there a provision that priests can give General Absolution if there are too many penitents?  Isn’t that what this priest did?  You are mean.  You hate Vatican II.”

I respond saying that General Absolution is to be given in cases of grave necessity, emergencies (e.g., airplane about to crash, earthquake traps people under rubble, listeners in a hospital ward, battle about to begin, etc.).  Canon 961 establishes that a grave necessity exists (outside of the clear case of danger of death) when…

“given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available properly to hear the individual’s confessions within an appropriate time, so that without fault of their own the penitents are deprived of sacramental grace or of Holy Communion for a lengthy period of time.”

All those conditions would need to be present for general absolution to be given licitly.  Telling people to “come back next week” would NOT deprive them of sacramental grace for a “lengthy period of time,” which most manualists – and we like manuals – would say is a month or more.

Furthermore, the Motu proprio of 7 April 2002 Misericordia Dei, 5 clarifies that “judgment as to whether there exists the conditions required by canon 961 is [Note bene] not a matter for the confessor, but for the diocesan bishop who can determine cases of such necessity in light of the criteria agreed upon with other members of the Episcopal Conference.”

The local bishops lay down the conditions.  They may vary from place to place.  In Africa, for example, a missionary priest might arrive at a place to find a thousand people waiting.    That conference will lay down the proper conditions for the priest.  In the USA, these problems don’t exist and the bishops have laid down the conditions (more which repeats the point about a month or more).

Also to be abominated is the scheduling of General Absolution, which is as wrong wrong wrong as wrong can be!  You cannot reasonably schedule an emergency.

This whole scenario, in addition, underscores another problem.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Confessions are scheduled from 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm, once a week, before a 4:00 pm Saturday Mass.  The priest sits, lonely in the confessional, until the first penitent shows up at 3:42.  She is immediately followed by 20 people who all want to get their sins shriven before this Mass.  When, at 4:03, the priest has to leave the confessional to start Mass late, they are mad… at the priest!

Keeping in mind my 20 Tips for Making a Good Confession, if you have grave sins you must confess, try to get to church for the beginning of confessions, not toward the end of the scheduled time.

And, everyone, avoid General Absolution.  You cannot receive General Absolution twice validly, except in danger of death, without having made a regular, auricular confession beforehand.  When you receive General Absolution, licitly or illicitly, you are bound to confess all your mortal sins in the normal manner as soon as you can.  If priests are scheduling General Absolution way in advance, blow the whistle on them.  This is a serious abuse of God’s people which has to be stopped.

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49 Responses to QUAERITUR: Too many people for confession. Priest gives General Absolution.

  1. Papabile says:

    It used to be particularly bad among Catholic Chaplains in the Army. My time of service was about really was late 80′s to mid-90′s. In all that time, I was only able to get my confession heard 2 times. Every other time, it was …. gather a group of soldiers around and give them general absolution. Or, surprise everyone right before the Canon and absolve everyone….. including the non-Catholics who attend Mass – as happens quite regularly.

    This was incredibly frustrating, especially when the Chaplains had time to walk the line (I was an infantryman) and talk with everyone. But, bring up Confession, and there was always too little time.

    It was honestly weird.

    I do not wish to impugn all Catholic chaplains. This was just my experience. Frustrating.

  2. St. Rafael says:

    Priests need to just schedule more time for confession. Once on a Saturday for 45 minutes is just plain lazy and disgraceful. There needs to be confession scheduled in parishes during the week on any day from Monday to Friday. Then Saturday confession needs to run longer than 45 minutes. It should be anywhere from 1 hour and half to 3 hours.

  3. mamajen says:

    My parish used to offer confession for 45 minutes on Saturdays prior to the 4:00 mass. If you weren’t there within 5 minutes of the starting time, you could basically forget about getting in before mass–there was always a lengthy queue. Fortunately they have now added more time after mass, and another local priest offers confession several times per week!

  4. pm125 says:

    A weekday eve hour scheduled for workers and Sunday churchgoers when the door could be tended by a Knight or usher.
    A Saturday schedule that gives the Priest a chance (half hour or hour) to refresh for Mass, and the people to pray after Confession also preparing for Mass.
    It seems the half hour before Saturday Vigil begins is busy in and around with distractions anyway.
    It is also high tension for those in line concerned with being a burden on the Priest’s time and that of those behind.

  5. It happens before almost every EF Mass I attend, that there are still people in line for the confessional when the priest has to leave for Mass. In which case — unless he has a conflict set in concrete — he always hears their confessions after Mass, remaining until all have been heard.

    Incidentally, one thing that made an impression on me when I first converted–and regular 7 pm Saturday night confessions (no Mass then) were as standard then as anticipated Masses are now — was the awe-inspiring atmosphere in the darkened and hushed church then, so many people there in absolute silence, many of them kneeling before the Tabernacle. One felt, emotionally as well as intellectually, the Real Presence there in a palpable way that’s difficult in many noisy modern churches.

  6. ejcmartin says:

    Father your comment about General Absolution before battle reminds me of a famous painting (at least to WWI history buffs) of “The Last Absolution of the Munsters” (as in Munster Regiment).
    Of the 22 Officers and 520 twenty men who went into battle that day in 1915 only 3 officers and 200 men survived.

    http://www.roguery.com/cities/naples/history/matania/index.htm

  7. AnnAsher says:

    Fr Z, thank you so much for this clarification. A former priest did exactly this for my son a groups of waiting several times. It was an ordinary practice under him in the military community he served. When I read about the conditions I emailed him directly nicely inquiring. The response I received was mean. I’ve felt distressed over it ever since thinking I was wrong to ask him if what he did was right? I had my son take those sins to actual confession to be safe.
    Clearly the devil wants to keep my family from the Sacrament of Penance.

  8. keithp says:

    I walked in my parish for the regular 4PM Saturday before the Vigil and was astounded to see 30-35+ people in line already. I think I walked in at 4:05PM. I am not sure if this was the pre Holy Week rush hour or what. But, there were many more older penitents than I can recall in the past.
    Many spent a rather long time in the confessional, too.

    I started to get a bit nervous with 15 mins left before the Vigil Mass and the “end” of confession for that day. But, fortunatly, the 5pm ce;ebrant arrived a bit early and managed the “overflow” I am pleased to say. We were certainly fortunate that the Fr was able to jump in and help out. I know many parishes that would find that a luxury.

  9. AnnAsher says:

    * for my son and group of waiting soldiers.
    They were all in training- nowhere pressing to be. It is true in my experience that General Absolution is abused by military chaplains

  10. Burke says:

    Perhaps what is needed are more priests like St Charles of Mt Argus
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_of_Mount_Argus
    or St Leopold Bogdan Mandi?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Leopold_Bogdan_Mandic
    heroes of the confessional, both.

  11. PhilipNeri says:

    I worked with a Baby Boomer priest once who regularly gave general absolution. . .not enough time to hear all the confessions before Mass. He also refused communion to those who knelt to receive. In defense of the latter, he cited the bishops as his authority. In defense of the former, he claimed “pastoral privilege” in defiance of the bishops’ authority. When I pointed out his inconsistency, he just grumbled something about my lack of experience.
    [I would then point him out to the local bishop.]
    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  12. AnnAsher says:

    Ha! Fr Philip Neri the inexperienced. Ha!
    God bless you Father!

  13. Andrew says:

    Wow! The “Capuchin” church of Bratislava. Brings back childhood memories. The lines for confession were long there even in the 1950′s.

  14. heway says:

    Our mission priest hears before the 4:00pm Mass that he celebrates….but people do not come early enough. This Saturday he heard more confessions after Mass…before leaving for his next parish. No one should complain except the priest who has to listen to our garbage!
    In the 40′s and 50′s I remember going to evening confessions in Advent and Lent with my dad.
    How I disliked it. Some old lady (like myself now) always was in front of us ….and had to confess for 30 minutes!

  15. mamajen says:

    I finally got to confession this evening. I was SO grateful that my priest offered the opportunity during Holy Week. It can be tough getting in on a Saturday afternoon. Quite a few people were there and I had to wait about half an hour, but I was happy that so many people were taking advantage. Another local priest has scheduled confessions daily Tuesday-Saturday!

    Schedule it (and announce it) and they will come!

  16. Random Friar says:

    First one for me today: someone in Confession line… to have the articles she bought at the religious good store blessed.

  17. Nora says:

    Confession on Saturday morning at 9, right after morning mass works really well in our parish. In principle, confession is scheduled to end at 10, but frequently goes to lunch time. In addition, Father is glad to hear confessions after any mass, except Friday morning when he has to teach a class. He is also accommodating about scheduling another time if that is helpful. He regularly preaches on confession and pretty much insists on confession immediately before FHC, Confirmation, Weddings, and Anointing. He is not a “great confessor” in the Cure of Ars kind of way; he is a good, solid, workman like confessor. He is generous in using the authority he has been given, however.
    Sometimes I wonder if some of the hesitance of priests to offer more confession time/opportunity comes from a sense that they are supposed to offer psychotherapy or twelve step consolation or spiritual direction rather than absolution.

  18. frjim4321 says:

    I am not a fan of the third form of the Rite of Penance, in fact I would assert that at our parish we have the finest observance of the first form in any neighboring parish of the diocese. (As I’ve written, I really can’t stand how people ignore the rite and make up their own communal services.)

    That being said, I’m not convined that the example cited here is illicit. A large number of penitents presented themselves in such a way that the second form of the rite was not possible. That clearly satisfies the requirement for the third form. [No. You are wrong. I verified this with reliable canonists.]

    That being said, if at the said parish the first form had been promoted during the penitential season of Lent, undoubtedly this situation would not have occurred.

    If the first form of penance is provided at a parish in a suitable way, with the second form also provided as an adjunct, the third form should never be necessary, and the requirements for the third form should never really be present.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    Further, I agree with our ordinary that the conditions for the third form do not exist within this see, but that is related to a very long tradition of providing the first (and therefore preferred) form at almost all of the parishes here.

  20. robtbrown says:

    I wonder whether the unusual number of penitents was a consequence of the not so unusual practice of making Confession only available 30 minutes a week–and often at inconvenient times.

  21. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Jim, what makes it illicit is the fact that it is not up to the confessor to determine when recourse to General Absolution is legitimate – that is a decision left to the local ordinary (outside of danger of death situations). In addition, it (GA) can only be licitly offered if the faithful would not have recourse to auricular confession for a “lengthy amount of time.” In just about any North American parish (the far reaches of Canada and some areas of Central America might be exceptions), this condition simply is not fulfilled.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    Tim, is that a requirement found within the rite itself or something that was added later?

  23. Glen M says:

    I believe having long Confession lines is a good sign. The laity is rediscovering this Sacrament and the clergy hasn’t caught up yet. The standard half hour prior to the Saturday vigil Mass won’t be sufficient for the post-spirit of Vatican II generations.

    The emphasis on Confession during Lent and Advent is troubling. I fear it may influence people to only participate in this Sacrament annually or semi-annually. In reality if you commit a mortal sin then you need God’s grace – now.

    Thank you Fr. Z for explaining when General Absolution is appropriate. It never felt right anyway as thankfully I’ve yet to experience such emergency conditions.

  24. Volanges says:

    I live in a diocese where General Absolution was offered twice a year (Advent and Lent) for about a decade. People got out of the habit of ‘going to Confession’, they simply waited for the seasonal Penitential Service with G.A. During that time, in our parish, Confession was scheduled for 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, starting 45 minutes before Mass. Safe to say, Fr. could have done his taxes without interruption most days but still, he was available for those who wished to receive the sacrament.

    In 2002, our diocese ordered the end of the use of General Absolution. Our next Penitential Service offered individual confession and we saw a dramatic drop in attendance. That has continued to the point where last week’s Penitential Service had 7 in attendance — unfortunately, I was working and couldn’t attend.

    In 2004 we got a new Pastor who almost immediately made the decision that he was not going to sit in the confessional waiting for people who never came so scheduled Confessions came to an end. At the same time, he often proclaimed in his homilies that “God loves us and forgives us no matter how bad we are” but never, ever did he say “we must repent and confess our sins.” Never had a priest made Confession seem more unnecessary.

    Make confession seem unnecessary –> fewer people confess –> fewer opportunities for confession are provided –> even fewer people confess.

    He was of the opinion that anyone could tap him on the shoulder and ask him to hear their confession when he got there before Mass but not everyone feels comfortable doing that and when he only showed up 5 minutes before Mass, well, you get the picture.

    Recently a closet was converted into a traditional confessional and he announced that a few parishioners had asked him to be present in it for 15 minutes before each Mass. The look on his face when he announced the ‘new confessional’ said it all. And his response to the parishioners’ request was “I’ll try.” Now there’s a response that makes Confession seem important.

    I was there early on Sunday morning and he didn’t show up and since he routinely cancels the 2 scheduled weekday Masses and the Saturday evening Sunday Mass, that still doesn’t leave much opportunity.

    There is only one thing I miss about working at the parish and that’s the opportunity to ask for a priest to hear my confession any time I needed to confess.

  25. Volanges says:

    frjim4321, this is what Canon Law says:

    Can. 961 §1. Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to many penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

    1/ danger of death is imminent and there is insufficient time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

    2/ there is grave necessity, that is, when in view of the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available to hear the confessions of individuals properly within a suitable period of time in such a way that the penitents are forced to be deprived for a long while of sacramental grace or holy communion through no fault of their own. Sufficient necessity is not considered to exist when confessors cannot be present due only to the large number of penitents such as can occur on some great feast or pilgrimage.

    §2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop to judge whether the conditions required according to the norm of §1, n. 2 are present. He can determine the cases of such necessity, attentive to the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the conference of bishops.

  26. ContraMundum says:

    @Tim Ferguson

    It looks to me like that is an either/or situation, not both/and.

    A good example of a situation for which general absolution is intended would be the firefighters about to rush into the two towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11. It could be foreseen that this would be a *very* dangerous situation (even though the collapse of the towers was not at first expected to happen so quickly, if at all) and that some of those firefighters would not make it back alive. Given the need for speed, the number of firefighters, and the danger involved, general absolution would have been appropriate. My understanding is that GA was given by the chaplain, who himself died that day.

  27. Papabile says:

    One strategy I have seen work is when the Parish has a Priest who prioritizes Confession before every mass.

    Immediately pull together a bunch of people, buy a huge Brass plaque that is affixed permanently to the Church announcing Mass times and Confessions before every Mass. It corners their successors who don’t like to offer Confessions.

    We did this once for about $3000. We pulled it together with just 15 parishioners and the willing Pastor at that time.

  28. robtbrown says:

    IMHO, when a pastor makes Confession times scarce, he is unwittingly de-emphasizing the life of the parish because many people will try to go to Confession elsewhere, often at a parish staffed by Religious or a House of Religious.

  29. Manhattan Trid says:

    Here in the three downstate New York dioceses we had “Reconciliation Monday” where all the parishes have Confessions from 3PM to 9PM. I checked out eight parishes here in Manhattan and four were participating. Of the other four, two were reduced “mission” parishes, at one the pastor (and only priest) has additional duties at the seminary and other special projects, and the other one was open and preparing for the Triduum but I didn’t know if one of the workmen was actually one of the priests on staff. For more information: http://www.archny.org/about-us/reconciliation-monday/

  30. Andrew says:

    Looking up the schedule of confessions for the church in the picture you get: every day of the week including Sunday: 6am to 8pm. Is it any wonder the people show up?

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.dokostola.sk/kostol/kapucini-kostol-sv-stefana-ka-cko

  31. irishgirl says:

    Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, I would go on Saturday to a 12:10 Mass in the parish where I was baptized. In those days, there was always a pastor and at least one ‘assistant pastor’ on staff. Confessions were always heard an hour before Mass.
    I know that, more than a few times, there were occasions when the pastor would emerge from the confessional to go and prepare for Mass, then he would see a line of penitents he wasn’t able to confess. So he would give them General Absolution instead.
    I didn’t turn around in my pew to see it done; I could hear it.
    The pastor wasn’t a flaming liberal-he was very much loved by the people, having served as an assistant pastor for several years before becoming pastor. I don’t know if anyone ever reported what he did regarding General Absolution to the bishop.

  32. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Jim, it is not found in the rite itself but was “added later,” by the same authority who promulgated the rite, and therefore is just as binding as the rite itself. It’s in the motu proprio Misericordia Dei of 2002.

    ContraMundum, the situation of 9-11 is not analagous, since that was clearly a “danger of death” scenario, which is covered by canon 961, 1.1. Unless the parish church in which this was happening was falling down, we’re not talking about a danger of death scenario, but rather a scenario of inconvenience, which would require the determination of the local ordinary for the licit use of general absolution.

  33. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Generally speaking, it is a good thing there are so many penitents. Showed up at the posted Confession time yesterday at one of our downtown parishes. There were two priests and probably >60 penitents total that I saw during the near 1 hour I waited for my turn. One of the priest continued with confessions while the other said Mass; at the end of Mass there was still >10 penitents waiting in line.

  34. Concerning the length of time, check THIS from the site of the USCCB:

    Canon 961§1,2o – General Reconciliation

    §1: Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to a number of penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

    2o: a serious necessity exists, that is, when in light of the number of penitents a supply of confessors is not readily available rightly to hear the confessions of individuals within a suitable time so that the penitents are forced to be deprived of sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time (diu) through no fault of their own; it is not considered a sufficient necessity if confessors cannot be readily available only because of the great number of penitents as can occur on the occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage.

    §2: It is for the diocesan bishop to judge whether the conditions required in §1, n.2, are present; he can determine general cases of such necessity in light of criteria agreed upon with other members of the conference of bishops.

    Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops interprets the meaning of diu of canon 961§1,2o to be “one month,” by which the diocesan bishop judges whether and when the conditions of grave necessity for general absolution are verified in his diocese.

    Approved: General Meeting, June 1988

    Reviewed: Holy See (Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments) (oral communication) Action not considered a decree (c. 455§2); therefore, does not require recognitio of the Holy See

    Promulgated: Memorandum to All Bishops, December 15, 1989

  35. James Joseph says:

    Regarding the scheduling of Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation… I have gones weeks…. no, months trying to get into the time scheduled. If my mind isn’t betraying me, I believe at one-point I became resolved to skip out of work in order to make it on time. (Something I entirely deserve due to my sinfulness, of course… I am not entitled grace.) But, seriously 15-minutes per day…. err…. more like 10-minutes in practice when the schedule reads 30-minutes each day does make it cumbersome and disappointing. This particular church was a cathedral church with (I dunno ahh… 5-priests and 2-bishops). The best confessor by far was a much retired, rickety old Irish fella named Fr. Gallagher, who could read your conscience, and (your colleague Fr. Z.) Fr. Jim Moroney. These two men were always good to their word and never missed the scheduled time and always stayed the whole time! All the priests are good that is for sure. It seems to me that certain men are particularly gifted for the confessional. (I understand that the times for Confessions are often difficult on both the cleros (priests and religious alike), the educated, and those without university-level degrees (a.k.a. the lay-folk).

  36. Philangelus says:

    The priest sits, lonely in the confessional, until the first penitent shows up at 3:42. She is immediately followed by 20 people

    Looking at it as a layperson, I’m going out on a limb here: the priest in your scenario has scheduled Confession for half an hour before the Saturday evening Mass because…it’s convenient.

    Well, it’s not convenient for the people who plan to show up for the 4pm Mass, so they follow the priest’s cue and come at a time that’s convenient for them. Since it’s not convenient to hang around a church for 45 minutes before the start of Mass, they come right at the end.

    What I’ve seen happening ever since I was a kid is that many parishes are making Confession less and less of a priority, and when the priests tell us in effect that hearing our Confessions is something they schedule into the narrowest slot possible so as not to inconvenience themselves, people infer that it’s not very important after all.

    To avoid that crush of people in the ten minutes before Mass, maybe the thing to do is schedule Confessions at a time when Mass isn’t going to be held immediately afterward.

  37. ContraMundum says:

    @Tim Ferguson

    I didn’t say 9-11 was analogous to the situation described in the main post. I said that 9-11 was an example of a *proper* use of general absolution. I assumed that the differences between 9-11 and a long line on Saturday afternoon would be obvious.

  38. Tim Ferguson says:

    my apologies for misunderstanding, ContraMundum – I’m not certain then what you mean by it being an “either/or not a both/and” situation.

  39. ContraMundum says:

    I meant either too long until the next available opportunity for individual confession (say, 6 months or more) or imminent threat of death (as in 9-11, where confessions next Saturday would be too late for many).

  40. lh says:

    Years ago we lived in a small city and attended a parish where the lines for confession were always long. No one complained, we just got there early, sometimes an hour to an hour and half early just to get in and the priest would always extend the time for confession. If he had Mass to say, he would tell those who could not get in to wait until after Mass. BTW, confession time was for an hour 3 to 4, he would, depending on his schedule, begin confessions early because the crowds were so large. It was a great parish.

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  42. Bender says:

    Yes, general absolution in this situation would seem to be obviously improper.

    On the other hand, I can understand the thinking of — “what happens if I tell them ‘come back next week, I can’t hear any more confessions now,’ and they end up dying before now and next week? What happens if they die during that time without making a confession and without absolution? Sure, God is not bound by that and, with contrition and the intent to confess, the penitent can still receive forgiveness if he dies beforehand, but do you want to leave the people in line with that apprehension until next week?”

    I don’t know that that is a valid way of thinking, but I can understand the concern.

  43. Red Cardigan says:

    Confession scheduled for 45 minutes before Saturday evening Mass? Oh, that would be nice. Around here, 30 minutes is the most common standard. If the priest is on time, there’s still really only 25 minutes available, because Father will have to leave the confessional a few minutes early to prepare for Mass (which is both understandable and necessary).

    Even if every penitent regularly confesses and is thus ready, prepares ahead of time, knows that the confessional is not for rambling conversations or therapy, and understands that one need not confess one’s *venial* sins in kind and number during a confession of devotion, how many people can realistically receive the Sacrament in 25 minutes? I suppose if both penitent and priest speak quickly and clearly, perhaps 17 (assuming just under 90 seconds for each Confession). But considering how many priests (especially on the Internet) exhort the faithful to go to Confession at least once a month if not more often, hearing 17 Confessions a week would only allow for a parish size of between 68 and 85 people over the age of reason while still making it even remotely possible for those people to go to Confession once a month.

    In fact, hearing 17 Confessions a week totals out at 867 Confessions for the whole year (subtracting Holy Week as so few parishes offer Confession then), so if the parish has more than 867 parishioners over the age of reason there’s no way that 25 to 30 total minutes of scheduled Confession time is adequate, as each person might technically be able to go once each year. A parish with 433 parishioners over the age of reason would only be allowing each parishioner to go to Confession twice annually.

    I think this is why many Catholics of about my age (mid-forties) are under the impression that Confession is a sort of quaint little Sacrament, and that if you haven’t murdered anyone you are fine if you make it to one or both of the parish’s twice-annual Penance Services (Advent and Lent) when extra priests are on hand for an hour or so. It does little good for priests to preach about the importance of frequent and regular sacramental Confession and then schedule so little time for it, alas.

  44. Red Cardigan says:

    Above: that should have been “all of one’s venial sins in kind and number…” etc.; obviously you have to confess some of them in a confession of devotion. :)

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  46. Our parish has a schedule of 40 hours of Confession for Holy Week.

  47. justanothercatholic says:

    Recently I was in a conversation about the subject of possible numbers of confessions per priest

    Imagine a parish of 3000 families = more or less 12 000 people. At 3 minutes per person (utopic)
    =36000 mins or 600 hours.

    600 hours a month. And that is with utopic statistics (little people, and no women confess that fast)

    Sure its a lot.

    But if you really had 12000 going to confession you’d have holy families providing lots of vocations.

  48. Glen M says:

    With most parishes having websites now there is a clear link between the orthodoxy of the parish and the Sacrament of Confession. When news of a particular liturgical abuse or other novelty makes the rounds on social media, if you locate the offending parish’s website 99.9% of the time Confession will be 30 mins on Saturday afternoon or ‘By appointment’. In contrast, when good news breaks out most of the time you’ll discover the Sacrament is offered much more regularly at that parish.

    Example: Watch the video about St. John Cantius Parish on their website http://www.cantius dot org Fr. Phillips describes how the Sacrament was rediscovered there. He said all he needs to do is turn the green light on and people show up.

    Fathers, if you sit there, they will come. They need to. Souls are at stake.

  49. cecelia tone says:

    Can the music director sing only one Lent hymn on the 5th Sunday of Mass?