QUAERITUR: Second Confiteor… should I refuse to do it?

From a reader:

I’ve often been left feeling confused about the second confiteor, and have trawled through a few posts on the WDTPRS site regarding this issue.

However, I find it that much more difficult a position to be in being a server at Mass, when our Priest expects me to say it.

I believe in holy obedience, but which way do I go?  Obedience to Pope John XXIII’s Rubricarum Instructum (where it is omitted), or obedience to my Priest, who expects me to recite it again?

… Or would you suggest I not serve any more (which won’t necessarily stop the 2nd Confiteor from being recited again at these Masses)?

Your thoughts please?

I will not suggest that you do not serve.   I am sure it is helpful for the priest and, spiritually, for you.

If there is an expectation that you start the Second Confiteor, then do it.

The provisions of Ecclesia Dei adflicta and Summorum Pontificum are for the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum.  By the time of the 1962MR the Second Confiteor had disappeared from the rubrics (except for Good Friday, before Communion – that section had been plugged in from an earlier edition – but I digress).  So, in a technical sense, there is no call for the Second Confiteor and it should not be done.  As I have been known to write, we have permission for the 1962MR, not an earlier edition.

On the other hand, one hears there are indications received from the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” that, in some communities, it is okay to use it.  Furthermore, there is a long custom of saying the Second Confiteor.  There is a strong expectation from many in the congregation that there should be one.  There is often strong puzzlement when there isn’t one.

This is one of those situations in which I think we have to have a little flexibility and allowances for local usage.  Also, this is a practice which as a really long pedigree.  It isn’t as if the Second Confiteor is an importation from the Novus Ordo.  It isn’t as if it is something profane.  It isn’t as it isn’t in the 1962 Roman Missal at all.

When I travel and I say the older Mass in some parish, I do not ask about the Second Confiteor before Mass begins.  If the server or the deacon begins it, I simply go along and do my part, turning to give the absolution.  If the server or the deacon doesn’t begin it, I simply go ahead with my part, preparing for the Ecce Agnus Dei.

When I have been asked about it before Mass, I make the point that the rubrics no longer call for it, but I will do what they are used to doing.   This is important especially when the servers/deacons are used to doing it.  You don’t throw hard curves immediately before Mass unless there is a matter of serious liturgical abuse.  Saying the Second Confiteor is, technically, a bit offshore, but isn’t anywhere near the Island of Liturgical Abuses.

I warmly urge that this not become a point of contention.  If you have discussions about the Second Confiteor, let them be amicable and brief.  In the end, serve as the priest desires.  This is not in the category of violation of some rubric or principle which constitutes a liturgical abuse.

You can unclench about this one, I think.  If you can’t, well… you are free to serve or not to serve.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mark of the Vine says:

    When we still had celebrations of the EF here in Portugal at the FFI up until a few months ago, when it was a Low Mass the 2nd Confiteor would not be said; when a Sung Mass, it would be said.

  2. iPadre says:

    Might we say that it is a good example of inculturation? It is something that may be done, but not necessary and it doesn’t offend sensibilities to the sacred.

  3. Pastor in Valle says:

    Father, your reply is very sensible and just what I would have said. The reason a second Confiteor was there at all was because, extraordinary to think of these days, Communion was very rarely given at Mass until a little over a hundred years ago. Therefore, when it was given, the Confiteor was said first. They just imported that into the Mass when Communions were distributed. I have seen a schedule of services for Westminster Cathedral from, I think, 1910; Communion was distributed between Masses in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, but not at Mass itself. In a seminary in the south of England, Communion was received only on Sundays before Low Mass; thanksgiving was made during the Low Mass, and then a High Mass was celebrated later in the morning. During the Masses, nobody but the celebrant communicated. This situation has now been entirely forgotten; it seems counter-intuitive to even the most ardent traditionalist to receive Communion outside Mass unless prevented from doing so by ill health or other situation.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    I feel that in our efforts to celebrate the Mass of 1962 in keeping with the emphases of Sacrosanctum Concilium (as Pope Francis recently urged the FSSP… the Vatican II fathers clearly had that Mass in mind as they wrote that document) the single most obvious way to follow the directive to remove from the Mass unnecessary repetitions would be to not include the second Confiteor which already in 1962 had been removed!

    The other thing is I do think was good to change the Domine non sum dignus to be for priest and people together, but I personally think it should have been kept threefold. I can’t think at the moment of anything else I personally think should be changed. Maybe the prayers after Mass should be reviewed and keyed more specifically to the needs of the Church today.

  5. jacobi says:

    As and when I get to a Latin Lass, the second Confiteor is always said, which is just as well since I still use my 1956 Small Roman Missal. I would be most unhappy with any other missal since I bought it at enormous expense during my National Service in Germany in 1957. Also, the children got hold of it sometime in the 60/70s and their scribblings keep me amused.

    I once asked the priest if this was OK and got an odd look – as though he regarded me as an advanced case of scruples.

    Of course now that de Mattei has reminded us of “Quo Primum” I suspect our priest is right?

  6. tominrichmond says:

    The FSSP use the second Confiteor. When I inquired, the response was that PCED had specifically ruled that the second Confiteor is licit for use in the Extraordinary Form.

    Not only not near liturgical abuse island, but not even in the waters. Entirely on terra firma.

  7. Fr Tim Finigan says:

    Your advice is very sensible, Father. As tininrichmond says, the FSSP use it – even at SSma Trinita in Rome, and therefore presumably the PCED are OK with it. Therefore I think we can be cool about this. (In my parish, we have the second confiteor as a matter of custom.)

  8. Geoffrey says:

    It’s funny. I am very much a “say the black, do the red” kind of person, and so I do not believe the “Second/Third” Confiteor should be said. And yet, when attending Mass in the Ordinary Form, I pray the Confiteor silently as I approach Holy Communion. Go figure!

  9. slainewe says:

    From the point of view of a sinner, why omit something that allows me to approach the Altar in a condition better prepared not to give so much offense to the Lord God Almighty?

    My first reaction to the additional Confiteor was that it was provided for us to repent of sins made between our first recitation and Communion – among those being sins exposed by a good sermon.

  10. Bryan Baldwin says:

    The other thing is I do think was good to change the Domine non sum dignus to be for priest and people together, but I personally think it should have been kept threefold. I can’t think at the moment of anything else I personally think should be changed. Maybe the prayers after Mass should be reviewed and keyed more specifically to the needs of the Church today.

    I agree the Domine, non sum should be said thrice and the prayers after Mass should be revived.

    My least-favorite adaptation is the loss of the nine-part Kyrie. I cannot understand the reasoning behind taking a perfectly obviously trinitarian formula that had been in use for century upon century and turning it into a call-and-response duality.

  11. Joboww says:

    I would note the ICRSP also includes the second confiteor, but they have permission to offer the mass in pre 1962 missal forms, no not that odd I guess

  12. The Mass I attend, celebrated by the FSSP, has had the second confiteor as long as I remember. I’ve always wondered what the exact status is of that particular aspect.

  13. Father G says:

    The 2014 Liturgical Ordo published by the FSSP states the following:
    “The Confiteor and the absolution preceding Communion of the faithful was suppressed. (However, where it is currently established practice, its continuation is tolerated.)”

  14. MikeR says:

    I just wish the first Confiteor was being said at the NO masses I have to attend here in Australia!

  15. Interesting comments. In my Western Dominican Province, I was taught (in the late 1970s) ,when serving Dominican Rite Masses for priests with permission under the 1969 Rescript to say the Dominican Rite, that the Communion Confiteor was to be omitted per the 1960 rubrics. BUT it was always done at Solemn Masses because it was part of the ceremony of the friars’ prostration on the floor before Communion.

    I try to discern the local custom. For example, the Carmelites in Canyon CA, where I say Mass several times a week do not have that custom, so I omit the Communion Confiteor. This even thought some non-Dominican supply priests there include it, even though it is not the nuns’ custom. On the other hand, I do have it there when we have a Missa Cantata or Solemn Mass, but as part of the Communion Rite for friars present. And then there is the Ecce Agnus and its response. Never part of our Rite and basically imposed on us in 1960. So I do it, although I cannot get excited about it.

    I might add that the Confiteor and prostrations for us Dominicans go back to the 1200s: they were part of the “General Communions” of the friars which happened about 9 times a year at the Community Sung Mass. Even up to Vatican II, daily communions of friars were normally at the Low Masses after Prime.

  16. gloriainexcelsis says:

    I always thought that the first Confiteor is for the priest’s confession as he asks Almighty God and
    ” et vobis fratres”(and you brethren) as he leans to server(s) to forgive, and at the end “et vos fratres” asking them to pray for him, then the servers’ second one for themselves and the congregation to God ” et tibi Pater” (and you, Father), and lastly “et te, Pater,”to prepare our souls for the Mass. A dear FSSP priest once told me that the one before communion should be considered especially for the congregation as we prepare to receive the Sacrament. The ones at the beginning of Mass are to ask God to make priest and people worthy to celebrate the Mass. The one before Holy Communion is to ask to be worthy to receive. They are different in intent. Every FSSP Mass I have ever attended, here, in Rome, Norcia, Florence – wherever- had the final Confiteor, Low or High Mass. I particularly love to hear the deacon and sub-deacon chant it for a Solemn High Mass. It’s beautiful. I know it by heart.

  17. Imrahil says:

    On a similar note to what the dear @gloriainexcelsis said, I always thought that the Introductory Prayers are, systematically, prayers of priest, clergy and altar servers.

    There are three “degrees” (to speak of degrees is way insufficient, but I cannot at the moment think of a better word) of praying Mass: the priest who celebrates, the clergy (and substitute-clergy, i. e. altar boys) who serves, and the people who attend. Consequently, there are also three Confiteors at Mass: the priest, the clergy (these are, actually, two) and the people; the latter at Communion.

    We laymen can of course chime in at the beginning , but, systematically, that should be its function. It seems quite obvious (to me) that this is the final step of preparation to say Mass, which (centuries before Trent) probably began with the Introit. This preparation has been judged of as much importance that it is now part of the Mass itself. Little digression; that’s why, though laymen can pray it, it’s in itself for clergy. God is then greeted first; after the Gloria, with the “Dominus vobiscum” the people is invited and requested to join themselves into the priest’s sacrifice.

    And, in fact, in the Sung Mass, the people probably won’t hear the Confiteor; the choir will still be singing the Introit or already the Kyrie. Asperges set aside, the first words they hear from the priest is “Gloria in excelsis deo” (beginning the chant for the choir to proceed), and then, “Dominus vobiscum”.

    Thus the second Confiteor is really superfluous in the Mass which is celebrated with priest and servers alone, and, in my opinion, only then. If there are attenders, either the communicate or they don’t: in the first case, they should be able to say their own Confiteor to better prepare, in the second, to receive at least the absolution* if they cannot communicate. [*Is the term correct? I mean the “miseratur vestri” etc., and I think it is called absolution, though I always associate the term with Holy Penance.]

    The weak point in my thinking is of course that the second Confiteor is obviously said by an altar boy; however, the general liturgical practice that the altar boys generally stand in for the attending populace in doing liturgical actions – and that they practically know the matter – should be sufficient explanation.

  18. truthfinder says:

    I really like the second/third confiteor. I have been to an FSSP Mass where it was not said (in Quebec). I don’t know if it was a one-off sort of thing, or if their community did not have that tradition. This view of the second confiteor, that it should be retained, I’ve gained only since actually attending the EF. Particularly in a high Mass, I find that I’m usually listening to the introit of the choir than praying along with the confiteor. I often feel that the first confiteor is for Father and for the servers. The second/third confiteor is the one for the people.

  19. truthfinder says:

    My bad, it was actually in an Ontario FSSP parish that the second confiteor was not said.

  20. When I went to the TLM at St Therese in Alhambra, we did not do the 2nd Confiteor, and so, am not accustomed to it. (Although I have gone to TLM’s where this practice is maintained)…as I’ve said before, on the list of “Liturgical Abuses” this is far down the list.

  21. AgricolaDeHammo says:

    Hmm I just learned something new!
    I only learned to serve a few years ago and the second confiteor was always included. Good to know.

  22. Jack007 says:

    Bryan, I fear that you misunderstood the intent of Miss Elizabeth’s post.
    She said “review” not “revive”.
    Being that she has only recently found her way to tradition it is understandable. A HUGE mistake in thinking, but understandable. The idea that we should consider altering the Leonine prayers “more to the needs of the Church today” is the worst sort of thinking. “Aggiornamento” is how we got into this mess. Calling the Devil out by name and praying for Holy Mother Church is even more prescient today than it was in Pope Leo XIII’s day.
    Using Father Z’s own expression, the TLM is not a “fly in amber”. Yet I don’t think NOW is a good point in time to make too many adjustments or changes. The Second Confiteor is a wonderful way to start the Communion of the Faithful, which as most people are aware, is not a part of the Mass. Whenever someone presents themselves for Communion outside of Mass (the choir after Mass etc.), our FSSP priests go through the entire process. While to many this may seem excessive, the common practice in the NO is to simply open the tabernacle and distribute. Is that really the direction we need to be headed?
    Vote the Second Confiteor and vote often. LOL
    Tie one on while you’re at it too! LOL
    Jack in KC

  23. Elizabeth D says:

    Jack in KC feels that my “idea that we should consider altering the Leonine prayers “more to the needs of the Church today” is the worst sort of thinking.”

    My concern is this: At various times there have been various intentions prescribed for these prayers. The collection of prayers has, I think, been slightly adjusted at various times. I believe it does not fully make sense to have the Leonine prayers without a clear idea WHY we, today, are adding this little collection of prayers just after we have celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is itself the best, the ultimate prayer.

    Basically, “the conversion of Russia,” which is still sometimes stated as the intention, is not the thing at the top of the list to pray for today. It actually sounds anachronistic, or a reminder that the Mass froze in amber in the 1960s and normal adjustment has not been able to occur. There was one celebrant here who rejected the Third Secret of Fatima and insisted Russia hadn’t been consecrated (basically he considered JPII and Sr Lucia liars) and to him it was explicitly praying for that. I have little patience for dissident Fatima theories, didn’t agree with him and did not welcome the prayers being assigned this meaning. The whole world needs conversion. I think if these prayers are used the intention should be reviewed and either the Holy Father specify what is the intention for these prayers when they are prayed now, or perhaps it should become the norm that the priest formulate an intention. But frankly, I am not clear what we are praying for in the Leonine Prayers. An end to Marxism or anything substantially like it and return to the Gospel and Christian unity? Fine then say that. If there’s no clarity what these prayers are praying for then I suggest omitting them.

  24. Jack007 says:

    Elizabeth, the “conversion of Russia” is as you stated, a personal intention. It was not the original intent for the composition and insertion by Pope Leo. The story, as well as the full text of the prayers are widely available online.

    It is the original intention, the protection of the Church from the Evil One that supersedes all personal intentions on the part of the priest or the faithful. My point was, and is, now is not the time for tinkering, especially with such powerful prayers.

    Now the whole issue of Third Secrets and consecrations is a rabbit hole I’d rather avoid. Personally I couldn’t care less.

    I do love your blog though! :-)
    Jack in KC

  25. DanW says:

    This is something that has always confused me. I am 66 years old and was a server in grade school starting in approximately 1957, and served low and sung Masses till I entered high school. This was mostly prior to 1962 and I cannot remember EVER saying a Confiteor before Communion. I am from the Midwest and was wondering if this is something that wasn’t done in some locations?

  26. Jim of Bowie says:

    Dan, I’m 72 and don’t recall it either. I lived in the South and East. But I do like it. I wish it were done at all masses. I feel it gets me prepared to receive.

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