QUAERITUR: Confessions forbidden on Sunday?

From a reader:

We had a visiting priest today who refused to hear confessions because the CIC forbids the Sacrament of Penance to be celebrated on Sunday.  I’ve checked my own copy of the CIC and found no such Canon at all.  Are you familiar with this?



It is, in fact, licit to hear confessions on Sundays, contrary to what that man said.  As a matter of fact it is a good idea to hear confessions on Sundays, especially to help rebuild the use of the sacrament.

The only thing I am aware of that is prohibited is trying to unite the sacrament of penance together with Mass, as is sometimes done with other sacraments.

The sacrament of penance as fallen into desuetude in many place, mainly because the attitude I am guessing is behind what that priest claimed, above.   I suspect he just didn’t want to hear confessions…. didn’t want to work.

Let us go a little farther.  I would remind every one that it is also licit to hear confessions during Mass, though not as part of the liturgy of the Mass, if a priest is available to do so. 

This was long a custom.  It makes sense: this is a time when people come to church!  Get ’em while they are there!

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  1. Mark Windsor says:

    In Poland, where my wife’s from, they have confession before every Mass…even in the small village parishes. I wish we did the same here. It’s terribly difficult to get places on Satruday afternoons, and my lunch hour is just that – an hour. I’d love it if there were more oppotunities.

  2. St. John Cantius in Chicago has 8 priests hearing Mass every Sunday during Masses and they have lines going out the door. That is true renewal. Thanks God for good Priests and orders like the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. Most of us can’t do this because we are alone. However, how can a priest ever refuse someone Confession! How far have we wandered.

  3. Cel says:

    Even my priest has told me, if needed, grab him before mass for a confession, though try not to make it a habit. And he is a pretty liberal priest, though he seems to be mellowing out as he gets older.

  4. It’s Byzantine (small-t) tradition to hear confessions on Sunday mornings, sometimes before Matins, sometimes between Matins and Liturgy, depending on the parish. It’s Slavic (small-t) tradition to hear confessions on Saturday evenings after Vespers, and it’s rare to find a Slavic parish that will hear confessions on Sundays. My priest also hears confessions after Vespers on Wednesday evenings, or by appointment, of course. Most Orthodox parishes have only one priest, making confession during services a non-issue, but even if the parish has the clergy, confession during services would be, at best, awkward, since one confesses out in the open in front of the icon at the side of the iconostasis. If you were at confession, you’d be in the way.

  5. Ottaviani says:

    Am I the only person out here who doesn\’t think that going to Confession DURING Mass is a desirable practice? [I sincerely hope so.]

    Maybe it is a long-standing custom…

    I would have the same attitude to those who, in attending Mass, spend time praying before a statue in a side Chapel.

    I have even seen penitents enter the Confessional during the Canon of the Mass.

    This just doesn’t seem right…

  6. JC says:

    Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Austin has confessions every day, and in fact the Sunday confessions are set up to be heard before the Traditional Latin Mass, by (of course) the celebrants of that Mass. They often have two priests on hand (one to hear confessions and one to celebrate the Mass).

    For Ottaviani–
    I would add that the Cathedral also hears confession during Mass. however, there is an explanation behind this. They once started only 30 minutes before the Mass began; since many/most confession will go over about 5 minutes, this gives time to hear on 12 confessions (6 per priest) prior to the Mass. There are regularly in excess of 20-30 penitents. Even after they bumped the time back to an hour before Mass, they couldn’t always get through everybody (and there were often up to a dozen people left by the time Mass begins). Now, what happens when those people get sent away without getting to confess, especially if they just spent 45 minutes- one hour waiting in line? Sure, they can come back the next day (maybe), and sacrifice a second lunch break; but the lines may be even longer (thirty people come per day, without any “left-overs” from the previous day’s confession). I actually had the experience of having to come three days in a row, because one of the priests was on vacation and confessions had to stop during Mass (they couldn’t start back up afterward, because Father had other appointments to keep). At this point n time, the Church is trying to attract more people to come celebrate confession; turning them away because Mass is starting will not help with that.

    Hearing confessions during Mass does not prevent the penitents from celebrating Mass–we had already been standing in line for quite some time, and were easily able to make examinations of conscience beforehand. I daresay that it brought the Mass more to life for me, especially during the rite of penitence and during the liturgy of the Eucharist (why was it that Jesus had to die? oh yeah, for my sins).

  7. Mary Kay says:

    Ottaviani, mark this on the calendar: you and I agree. In fact, I agree with you whole-heartedly.

  8. ALL: Do not fall into the error of thinking that I posted this so that people could chime in freely and suggest that the Church is wrong to permit confessions on Sunday, or during Mass.

    It is permitted to hear Confessions on Sundays and during Mass. Period.

    There are circumstances in which both of these options are reasonable, useful and a good idea, despite your personal take on Holy Church’s flexibility concerning Christ’s great gift.

  9. Laurence Peter says:

    I’m very grateful that my parish of Sts. Cyril and Methodius here in Michigan offer confessions 1/2 hour before all masses including Sunday. It is a source of great blessing and consolation.

  10. CBM says:

    Here at my parish we “hear confessions” beginning 1/2 prior to each mass and from 11-12 on Saturdays. Many people come especially at the 12:30 mass and we often hear confessions up until the offertory.
    We are two priests only and we do well with our five masses offering the sacraments. One of hears confessions prior to and distributes communion at the mass of the other. Both of us greet the people outside the church following each mass.
    This is “our work”. It seems to me that this has been very good for us as priests and for the good of the parish. Sadly this seems to be a rarity today among our parishes. What else are we ordained to “do” on a Sunday???

  11. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    As you well know, it is customary here in Rome (in almost all the major churches and basilicas of the historic center, and in many parishes in the periferia, as well) for priests to be in the confessional before, during and after Mass.

    There are always a half-dozen or so at the CATHEDRAL Basilica of St. John Lateran starting from about 7:30 AM till lunch time, and again after the pennichella until the close of the Basilica in the evening. The same is true at St. Peter’s, except when the Pope is celebrating at the High Altar, and then confessions in the designated area are only suspended because of logistical considerations – this is true of weekdays, Sundays and great feast days.

    In short, it is not only legal: it is a laudable custom of very long standing in the heart of the Church.

    Reading some of the other things Ottaviani would not be comfortable seeing, I am given to wonder whether perhaps Ottaviani’s scruples arise from a mistaken understanding of the meaning of actuosa participatio?


  12. Henry Edwards says:

    Once can only wonder where this priest was a visitor from. Whereas in former times every Catholic church had confessions on Saturday afternoons and/or evenings, in recent years on Sundays before Mass has been the only time during the week when one can count on confessions always being heard in the typical parish.

  13. Pes says:

    I was in a monastery in eastern Ukraine during a Divine Liturgy attended by the monks and local villagers. During the Liturgy, one of the monks, to the side of the iconostases and close to the floor, sat on a small wooden stool. Parishioners came up to him, knelt, and whispered their confessions into his ear. The monk would listen, his face would change, and at the end, he would give a quiet absolution.

    This, in full view of everybody.

    Thus performed, it was a powerful sign of reconciliation both to God and to the Body of Christ, of which the parishioners were all members, and visible to themselves as such.

  14. Mary Kay says:

    Fr. Z, no one suggested the Church was wrong and for purposes of feedback, I think your LARGE FONT was disproportionate.

  15. Mary Kay says:

    So why is it okay for Chris to make personal comments about Ottaviani?

  16. Maureen says:

    There do seem to be a lot of urban legends running around the Catholic world about what canon law says, some of them fostered by seemingly reputable sources. And let’s not even
    start on what the non-Catholic academic world sometimes believes about Catholic law.

    So if somebody quotes non-existent canon law or bizarre twistings of Vatican documents at you, there’s a reasonable chance that he was fooled by such quoting first.

  17. Nothing personal in there, Mary Kay.


  18. Mark says:

    Ottaviani, you apparently have a very modern view of active participation.

    There is nothing wrong with confessions during Mass. Nor praying at a side chapel. Nor praying ones rosary.

    Nowadays, many of us (including, I confess, myself) subconsciously (or consciously) imagine that the idea is a person sitting there with a hand-missal following along with every word and action like a script.

    But as I’ve studied the Middle Ages more and more, I’ve realized that this is a textualist bias.

    In the Middle Ages people came to church while the liturgy was going on, but did any number of other things that we might see as private-devotional but which happened in a way connected with the flow of liturgy.

    Think of the Eastern Churches still, there Liturgy is behind an iconostasis! And you will see them singing other hymns during it, wandering around the church venerating icons, etc.

    Now, during the consecration, I do have to agree more. And indeed most places I know that have confessions during Mass…stop from the Sanctus Bell until after the elevation of the chalice or even, at one place, until the priest’s communion (actually, the “dominum non sum dignus” bell seems to be the indicator they use).

  19. moon1234 says:

    Confessions are heard 30 minutes before and after all Masses on every day at our parish. I never have to worry if I will be able to go confession. I sure hope this practice returns to all parishes.

  20. Mary Kay: Time to relax, perhaps.

  21. meg says:

    Pes – reminds me of my absolute favorite picture of Don Bosco – please check it out and look at the faces of the boy and the saint:


    To all: I have had my confession heard during Mass several times. It is actually quite a beautiful experience.

    Please don’t take this as criticism of the OF – I am live and let live in that regard – but the EF is different from the OF in ways that are difficult to explain. I would guess that because in the EF one doesn’t have a “speaking role”, and therefore the Mass is sort of more internal, that at a certain point it becomes absolutely instinctual. Having confession during Mass just isn’t a problem. But this might be hard for OF attendees to understand because active involvement on the part of OF attendees is required. The priest faces you and is addressing you directly the whole time; if you didn’t respond it would be awkward. In the EF the priest is mostly facing and addressing Christ. We witness the consecration in a different way.

    We have confession before every Mass and if people are still on line a priest stays in the confessional if possible. They will switch priests if one is due up on the altar and I actually heard a cute exchange between the switching priests – one said to the other: “Sorry about that – the sins just kept pouring out!” And the other said: “Oh, I’ve been there!”

  22. Mary Kay says:

    Fr. Z, that’s twice today that you’ve read more in a post than was actually there. However, it does give me a clear picture when telling people to relax is your automatic response.

  23. Mary Kay says:

    Meg, you’ve made an assumption that those not comfortable with confession during Mass are fans of the OF when the posts I’ve read of Ottaviani is that he supports the EF and I grew up with what is now called the Extraordinary Form.

    Even when not outright bashing, the condescending tone towards the OF is a commonality of at least some posters on this blog.

    I would have much preferred an explanation of why confession during Mass (other than “the sins kept pouring out”) is desirable.

  24. Marcin says:

    Mark Windsor:

    Your wife is of course right. Being from the same country I may add that confessions are very often heard also during Mass, with obvious exception for the Canon. Now I mostly attend Divine Liturgy the Melkite parish, and the custom is very similar, that is confessions are heard before Liturgy (incl. during Orthros), and during the preceding Great Vespers on Saturday evening. It looks like a natural thing for both East and West.

  25. Fr. Z., Do you regularly help out hearing confessions anywhere?
    If we were in the area it would be a great privilege to get to go to confession to you!

  26. Henry Edwards says:

    Mary Kay,

    One reason for a possible difference of perspective between OF and EF types is this. Almost everyone at the typical EF Mass seems acutely conscious both of the necessity of being in a state of grace when receiving Holy Communion, and of the possibility of not being in a state of grace. So if the priest leaves the confessional before an EF Mass with people still in line, you likely will see folks not going to communion, and then going to confession when the priest returns to the confessional after Mass.

    Whereas at the typical OF Mass virtually everyone present always appears to receive Holy Communion, even though simple arithmetic — parish population versus weekly hours of confessions provided — suggests that only a smallish portion of them have been to confession in the last so many weeks or months.

  27. Gloria says:

    St. Stephen’s, Sacramento, has a very large congregation. Confessions are heard before every Mass, every day, including Sundays, plus Saturdays 8:30am-10am. On Sunday, with parishioners attending from 17 different counties in Northern California, confessions start 1/2 hour before Mass, and, especially for the High Mass, always crowded, they go on well into the Mass. At least two priests hear confessions before Mass, sometimes all three, until one has to leave to say Mass. Confessions stop before Holy Communion because it takes all three priests to distribute the Sacrament. Often one of them will return to the confessional right after Mass to continue hearing confessions. There is always a line, no matter when. I can attest as well that this is a parish of frequent confessions.

  28. freddy says:

    I must admit that I go to confession far more freqently since I’ve had the opportunity to go before Mass. It’s a great grace and a wonderful blessing!

  29. Mary Kay: Please lose the chip. For an explanation of confessions during Mass you might refer to the top entry. There is a link there. That link will take you to an entry about confessions during Mass.

  30. In my parish, confessions before and during mass is the standard practice for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. It is a great blessing, and I am proud to say that there’s always a long line.

  31. Subvet says:

    There’ve been times that having Confession before Sunday Mass was the only thing that allowed my sinful butt to receive the Eucharist. And I wasn’t the only one in line either!

  32. Richard says:

    I grew up in the Church before Vatican II. Many people occupied themselves during Mass with private devotions (even though they had the English-Latin St. Joseph missals). Prayer books, rosaries, the parish bulletins were all read while the priest and the altar boys murmmered the prayers in Latin on the altar. Despite the nostalgia that some have for the “good old days”, the main reason for this was that the average person in the pews did not understand the Latin (neither did the altar boys [of which I was one] – they just memorized the Latin prayers phonetically). One of the express purposes of using the vernacular “back then” ws to make the Mass more accessable to the congregation. Although our parish did not offer confession during Mass, I am sure it would have been well attended. Like it or not, the teaching was that one only had to be in the church from the beginning of the offetory until the priest took communion to fulfill the Sunday obligation. As a result, people came in late and left early, spending the required time doing something other than paying attention to the Mass.
    I realize some of this is non-sequiter.

  33. Lola in Spain says:

    Here in Spain, it’s not unusual for churches to have confession avialable right before, and even during, Sunday Mass. Some especially busy churches (such as the Basilica of “Cristo de Medinaceli”, which receives many pilgrims) have confessions going on during weekday Masses, as well. I’ve taken advantage of that gift several times, the last one at the magnificent cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

  34. Victor says:

    I’d like to share an anecdote:
    Some years ago, I was in a small village in Western Ukraine. I wanted to go to liturgy, but my friend pointed out that there wouldn’t be one today, as it was friday and the parish priest, while (greek-)catholic, was of the, as he said, orthodox conviction that divine liturgy should only be celebrated on saturday, sunday, and feast days. Turns out there was a liturgy that day – it was the first friday in that month, ergo Sacred Heart friday (which is not at all a byzantine tradition…).
    Anyway, this priest made it possible, while being alone, to celebrate liturgy AND hear confession at the same time! How? Very simple, actually: in the byzantine liturgy, there are some parts that are sung only by the people; if the choir sings slow enough (not a problem in a village with many old women), and the penants are quick, the priest can easily hear at least one confession plus admonishing and absolving the confessant per hymn.
    Now, I am not an expert in CCEO, but I really doubt this was after the book. On the other hand, people in Ukraine take confession and communion still seriously; some would not go to communion had they not confessed immediately before. This way the priest made sure that as many as possible of the people profited of the salvific gifts Holy Eucharist gives.

  35. meg says:

    Mary Kay – your prickly tone notwithstanding I’ll respond. I made an assumption but so did you – you assume that I feel superior because I attend the EF but you know nothing about me. Let’s stick to the topic.

    Ottaviani posted an objection to confession during Mass, you seconded it. Now it’s being discussed. Simple. No one said it was “desirable” as in one should try to go to confession during Mass. Explain your position if you care to.

    Also, it would be interesting to know if you, as someone who grew up attending the EF, still do and why or why not.

  36. pelerin says:

    A friend told me that when she learnt that her priest had spent some time hearing confessions in a foreign country during a visit, she was surprised to learn that he did not actually understand the language in which the penitants were confessing. The priest told her it was not necessary to understand them and that their confessions were sufficient to receive absolution.

    This surprised her, and me when she told me. I am curious to know whether this is really true.

  37. Danny says:

    I know from personal experience that Sunday confession leads to much more frequent confession. In the parish where I lived prior to last summer, we had confession before (and during) each Mass, and it was rare that three weeks would pass before I would avail myself of the sacrament (since we were usually early to Mass, the occupied confessional served as a visual reminder of my need for repentance). Now, where I live, I have to drive across town for confessions at a particular time on a Saturday afternoon, and even then, I am not guaranteed that I will be heard, as with but one priest in the parish, he has to finish up before the Saturday OF Mass begins. As a result, much to my shame, the time between confessions lengthens, as with a family also demanding my attention, sometimes the time set aside for confession passes me by unawares.

  38. Hans says:

    I have to say that I had always thought it wasn’t allowed to hear confessions during Mass, but then in the rural parish I grew up in, most of the time I was old enough at least, there was only one priest for about 20 miles, and he couldn’t do both at once.

  39. The only time Confessions should not be heard is during the Consecration.

    I’d love having Confession during the Mass, heck daily, it’s a good thing I have network of priest friends who I can call to hear my Confession at anytime, I’d be lost without them.

  40. Michael J says:

    Sorry Richard, I’m not buying it. Not only is your characterization of the Church before Vatican II incredibly cliched, it has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand. Additionally, if you truly were an altar boy, how would you know how “many people occupied themselves during Mass”?

  41. ETMC says:

    I’m very grateful that my parish of Sts. Cyril and Methodius here in Michigan offer confessions 1/2 hour before all masses including Sunday. It is a source of great blessing and consolation.

    Comment by Laurence Peter — 22 June 2009

    Yes! Another St. Cyril’s parishioner! :) Ss. Cyril and Methodius is my parish too, and I am so grateful for the many, many opportunities to go to Confession there – all together, confessions are heard for 15-16 hours a week. (Not only that, but all the confessors are really good!) I go much more often now than I used to (especially since confessions are available on Sundays – I’m already at church, so it’s really convenient, especially since we typically get to church about 1/2 hour before Mass to be there for the Rosary), and have grown greatly in my appreciation of this wondrous sacrament.

  42. Melody says:

    Most of my recent confessions have been on a Sunday at St. Michael’s Abbey. As they are real sticklers for the GIRM, I doubt this is in error.

    I agree that confessions should not be all during mass, especially not during the consecration. Without confession, we cannot partake worthily of the sacrifice of the mass, but confession should not be allowed to dominate the mass. To me, respect for the sacrament requires that we aim to be singularly focused on the divine presence at the time of consecration.
    However, it seems just that confession should be allowed during mass, so that, as JC noted, if Confession is before mass, the priest need not rush people in order to be finished “on time” should a larger group than expected appear.

    I think people must have been more balanced about these things in the past, which is why we needed less exacting instruction and were content to move with tradition. But today, there is a danger of an all or nothing mentality.

  43. Bookworm says:

    I would like to see more parishes offer confessions before Sunday Mass as well. I have to admit that the idea of intentionally going to confession DURING Mass strikes me as odd, and I’ve never done it. But if you have one priest hearing confessions, another getting ready to say Mass, and there is still a line of penitents waiting when Mass starts, the priest hearing confessions should be allowed to continue until all are heard.

    However, in situations where you have only one priest in a parish, or only one priest serving multiple churches or parishes, he obviously cannot say Mass and hear confessions at the same time. So I don’t think the practice was ever “forbidden” as such, but has simply become less available to the point where most people assume it no longer exists or cannot be done anymore.

  44. Richard: Despite the nostalgia that some have for the “good old days”

    In the traditional Mass communities I’m familiar with, there’s not enough nostalgia to justify questioning your memories. What it was or was not like way back when really has little relevance now.

    The reason being that almost everyone there is (unlike me) far too young to have memories of any “good old days”. They mostly are folks who grew up with the newer Mass, but somehow discovered that it’s at the older Mass where the full and prayerful, active and conscious participation recommended by Vatican II is the norm rather than the exception.

  45. Navin K says:

    In Bangalore, India, where we have an adoration program from 9 am to 12 am followed by Mass, confessions start at 8:30 and usually go till 12:00. There are long queues with about 6 priests every Sunday.

  46. Melody says:

    Henry Edwards wrote:
    “The reason being that almost everyone there is (unlike me) far too young to have memories of any “good old days”. They mostly are folks who grew up with the newer Mass, but somehow discovered that it’s at the older Mass where the full and prayerful, active and conscious participation recommended by Vatican II is the norm rather than the exception.”

    Pretty much. I’m only twenty-five. I keep hearing people who think as Richard does go on and on about nostalgia, but the average age at the Latin masses is always much younger and more participatory. I see lots of young families with children and singles as well as the elderly. The attendance is also a lot more ethnically diverse. Everyone chants the prayers in Latin along with the choir. After mass, many kneel and pray. No mad rush for the door. No one leaves early except when a baby is crying.
    Occasionally I’m forced by time to go to the more free-wheeling parish near my apartment. Almost the entire congregation are middle-aged white baby-boomers with unhappy teenagers who all stand there uneasily like wooden posts. The modernized mass parts are just listened to and not sung or said. Over half of those attending leave early after Communion.

  47. Mark says:

    Today we seem to treat our liturgies like some sort of play. We want to follow along in the script, understand the lines, preform our part.

    But really liturgy is more like an opera. Many people go to an opera without understanding Italian or whatever. And though one may if one likes, I do nothing think I’d claim it is the ideal to follow along in a translated script the whole time, nor (God forbid!) to translate the opera to the vernacular.

    It is an experience beyond that. Of purely absorbed beauty. And, in liturgy, of the Sacred. As one sees it several times and becomes more familiar, one should start to pick up on the gist of what is going on in the “story”. And if one is particularly educated or particularly literate and interested in the specifics, one can read a translation (though perhaps the best time is at home beforehand, not during the event itself).

    Not to say that liturgy should be a concert or theatrical! I know some places with good music programs that unfortunately treat it that way. But analogous to an opera inasmuch as you dont need to be following along obsessively in a translation or understand the literal meaning of every word specifically to have a religious experience. In fact, religious experience throughout history has in large part involved that veiling, that lack of understanding; as ultimately we can speak of God only apophatically.

  48. Joe says:

    Let’s get back to the topic of confession. Henry says “…but somehow discovered that it’s at the older Mass where the full and prayerful, active and conscious participation recommended by Vatican II is the norm rather than the exception.” So if you’re supposed to be active and conscious of what’s going on in the EF, how can you do that if you are in the confessional concentrating on your transgressions and praying for forgiveness and mercy? This is a bit confusing, isn’t it?

    Another thing. Someone said “it’s a good thing I have network of priest friends who I can call to hear my Confession at anytime, I’d be lost without them.” So you can do confession over the phone? I didn’t know that. If that is so, can you do confession by email? (and hope the priest hits the delete button shortly thereafter).

  49. qfnol31 says:

    If a person attending Mass misses much of the Consecration and/or the Gospel, does this mean that he has still fulfilled his Sunday obligation?

    I don’t mean to question the practice of hearing confessions during Mass or on Sunday by any means; I’m just curious about fulfilling Sunday obligations.

  50. Dear qfnol31,

    I am a little confused by your question. I am assuming that, when you say, “misses” you do not mean “arrives after” but rather, “does not hear/see” the Gospel/Consecration because one is in the confessional.

    If you are ATTENDING the Mass, then you cannot be MISSING the Mass.

    Beyond this logical consideration, it were worthwhile and even necessary to make some further theological and spiritual ones regarding the Mass, its essence, and what happens during it, as well as how we may participate in it.

    First, the Mass is essentially the bloodless, painless renewal of Christ’s own sacrifice on the Cross.

    During the Mass therefore, in the Sanctuary that has been set off as a privileged place in which Heaven and Earth meet, time is in a sense suspended – or protracted – so that the whole sacred action is one, single moment.

    Why is this important?

    It is absolutely indispensable because it means that we can, at any moment, unite our own prayers to the sacrifice. You were confessing during the Gospel? Make an inward act of oblation in thanksgiving for the remission of your sin.

    You were distracted during the consecration? Do the same.

    There are dozens of little prayers and parts of prayers that merit our special attention at each Mass. One who chooses a single prayer or fragment or element of the sacred action and prayerfully recollects himself in meditation, uniting his spiritual efforts to the sacrifice, is actually, fully participating in the Mass, even if it looks like he is muttering to himself in a side chapel or sitting in a back pew staring into the void.

    After all this, consider the law regarding Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation: Catholics are required to attend a Catholic rite, either on the Sunday or Holy Day, or on the evening prior to the Sunday or Holy Day.

    That is it, and all of it.

    If the people in the back of St. Peter’s square smoking and chatting are going to Mass, then so are you if you are in the confessional during the Mass.


  51. Joe says:

    Chris- I don’t think you mean to be sarcastic, but it sounds like just being at Mass is ok like alleviating a guilt trip. “I was there- so what if I wasn’t paying attention to the altar action?” I can pray and ask forgiveness while mowing the lawn and delude myself into thinking I am fulfilling a Sunday obligation.

  52. Dear Joe,

    I do not think that just being at Mass is ok, “[L]ike alleviating a guilt trip.”

    I think that just being at Mass is what the law requires of the faithful.

    There are lots of times I am at mass and not concentrating on the altar action – at least not as a spectator, e.g. in the same way I might watch a baseball game and keep score in my head.

    Often, I am worried about some matter or another; sometimes, frankly, I’d rather be someplace else. In the first case, if I can’t stop thinking about it, I ask God to accept my anxiety – I ask that it be united to the sacrifice; in the second, I remember that I am basically an ungrateful, self-centered and generally rotten fellow, and thank God for letting me be in His house and to worship Him, nevertheless (that’s on a good day).

    The point is, the law governs actions – it requires us to attend Mass at certain times. It cannot, by its nature, require that we have a properly pious disposition when we attend.

    In sum, if you got your body there, you did fulfil the obligation.

  53. Mark says:

    Actually, ironically, I have considered starting just praying my rosary at the Novus Ordo that I have to attend in the summers on Sunday, to focus myself on worship and tune out the hoakey kindegarten atmosphere and carnival music (and this is at a “by the books” conservative parish! There is no liturgical abuse, just the whole kitschy atmosphere inherent in the American Novus Ordo even when done according to the rubrics). There is pressure not to, but it’s what people did for centuries and it is certainly fine. I just find it ironic that it has come to the point that I am more likely to follow along actively at a TLM, but pray my rosary at a Novus Ordo.

  54. fxr2 says:

    Mary Kay ans Ottiviani,
    My understanding is I’m sure simplistic, however it comes from the Baltimore Catechism.

    “55. Q. Why is this sin called mortal?
    A. This sin is called mortal because it deprives us of spiritual life, which is sanctifying grace, and brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul.”

    I understand this to mean in a state of mortal sin we can not receive God’s grace, even from the sacraments, except for confession. Someone in a state of mortal sin entering the confessional is allowing him to again receive God’s grace. This is the equivalent of the return of the prodigal son and is an occasion of great joy to the Father.

    On a lighter note It reminds me of one of Father Z’s previous posts I think it was ‘Is it ok to say the rosary while drinking beer?’. The answer is, of course, it is ok to say the rosary while drinking beer, but it is not ok to drink beer when saying the rosary.

  55. Ohio Annie says:

    mark, the parish is not “by the book” if it doesn’t have chant and traditional music and has a kitschy atmosphere and carnival music. my NO parish has chant, etc. and is so by the book we have communion kneeling at the rail served by priests only (followed by an altar boy with a paten). there is a difference in NO parishes.

  56. JC says:

    Pelerin: “A friend told me that when she learnt that her priest had spent some time hearing confessions in a foreign country during a visit, she was surprised to learn that he did not actually understand the language in which the penitants were confessing. The priest told her it was not necessary to understand them and that their confessions were sufficient to receive absolution.

    This surprised her, and me when she told me. I am curious to know whether this is really true.”

    I actually had this experience when I first moved to Austin; many of the parishes here have one priest who knows Spanish (but not English), and I accidentally went to one of the Spanish-speaking-only priests. He could only understand a part of what I said, and I only a part of what he said (I did, however, understand the penance). I later asked the priest at another parish whether this confession “counts.” He replied that it did, essentially because the priest was acting on God’s behalf, and that God understands all languages. Thus, I think your friend’s confession “counts,” but I could be wrong.

  57. Dear Ohio Annie,

    Actually, it very well might be, if we allow for the expression, “carinval music” to be a colorful exaggeration.

    One of the problems with the new books is all the “optionals” they contain.

    That said, I thoroughly agree with the distinction you make.

    There are far more places out there that do a good job with their liturgies using primarily the new books.

    Sometimes, folks around here talk as though the clown Mass were the norm for parishes that use the new books. That is untrue, and certainly unhelpful.

    I do not want to contribute any further to the rabbit-holing of this entry, though, so to get us back on track, let me respond to Joe vis à vis the telephonic confession question: the answer is, “No.” Confession over the phone is not valid. This was clarified at some point definitively, though I do not recall precisely where.


  58. Bookworm says:

    I often find myself unable to fully concentrate on the “action” during Mass. I attend regular, Novus Ordo rites, done properly and reverently with no liturgical abuses, so it’s not the fault of the priest, readers, choir, or anyone else involved. I worried about this a lot, until a priest pointed out to me that if we turn our attention to God the same way we would focus on a loved one, we do not have to be “talking” at every moment.

    Now those of us who are married or have children know that it is possible to do something else while conversing with them — fix dinner, fold laundry, wash dishes, drive to or from school/church/soccer practice, etc. In fact some of the most productive and significant conversations between spouses or parents and children can take place while they are doing something else. This is a healthy and normal form of interaction in most families. Just “being there” is a big part of family life.

    To assume that you cannot truly communicate with your spouse or children unless you sit perfectly still, face one another, shut out all potential distractions, do absolutely nothing else, and talk continuously without interruption would be impractical and ridiculous.

    On the other hand, to immerse oneself in TV, the internet, a football/baseball game, or some other activity to the point where one does not hear or is not even aware of your spouse or child even talking to you, or worse yet, treats their presence as an annoyance or burden, is inconsiderate and hurtful to the other person, especially when it becomes a habit.

    So if you apply my analogy to Mass attendance, that would seem to mean that it “counts” and is pleasing to God as long as you are there and are lending your attention to God in some way. There would be no reason why one could not go to or finish a confession, or say the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or think about various problems and worries in one’s life and lay them before God. Perfect concentration or understanding of everything said in the homily or in the readings would not be absolutely required. However, to sit and chat with one’s neighbor, or call or text message one’s friends, or surf the internet with your BlackBerry, unnecessarily and in a way that takes one’s attention completely off the Mass, would be wrong.

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