ASK FATHER: Can confessions be heard during Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

From a reader:

Is it appropriate for a priest to be hearing confessions while Extraordinary Form Mass has started? My priest seemed to think it was never done in the “old” days as he called it.

Yes, confessions were often heard during Mass in the “old” days.  It was fairly widespread where there were more than one priest available in a parish or at a chapel.

As a matter of fact, this last Sunday we had confessions during my Sunday Mass.  A priest was available and generously gave of his time and heard quite a few confessions for about 45 minutes.   Of course the people who attend the EF are generally pretty good at making their confessions.  They confess sins in both kind and number and they don’t ramble.

But I digress.

It is entirely appropriate that confessions be heard during Mass.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 we read:

Furthermore, according to a most ancient tradition of the Roman Church, it is not permissible to unite the Sacrament of Penance to the Mass in such a way that they become a single liturgical celebration. This does not exclude, however, that Priests other than those celebrating or concelebrating the Mass might hear the confessions of the faithful who so desire, even in the same place where Mass is being celebrated, in order to meet the needs of those faithful. This should nevertheless be done in an appropriate manner.

Cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio), Misericordia Dei, 7 April 2002, n. 2: AAS 94 (2002) p. 455; Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Response to Dubium: Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. One of those TNCs says:

    I always see confessions going on during Mass at Mater Misericordiae, and always wondered about it. Thanks for the answer.

    However, I also always wondered why anyone would, unless they must, miss out on part of the Mass in order to go to confession at that time?

  2. Darren says:

    A priest often hears confessions during the High Mass at St. John the Baptist in Allentown, NJ. The last time I was there there was quite the line!

  3. iamlucky13 says:

    The question was limited to during the Extraordinary form, but if I understand the context of Redemptionis Sacramentum, then this allowance extends also to the Ordinary form, correct? [Yes, either EF or OF.]

    One of those TNCs:

    “However, I also always wondered why anyone would, unless they must, miss out on part of the Mass in order to go to confession at that time?”

    At a Dominican-run parish I used to frequent, even with two priests hearing confessions, the line would often stretch across the entire back of the church from roughly the scheduled starting time until Mass began. Nobody planned to be in that line after the start of Mass, but it sometimes worked out that way.

    Despite them offering confessions 7 days a week for at least an hour a day, including twice on Saturday, and for 30 minutes before each of their multiple Sunday Masses, I don’t recall ever arriving to find no line, even if I was there before the scheduled time. My respect for the Dominicans is heavily influenced by how available that particular community made confession, and how successful they were at drawing people to it.

    Eventually, they stopped hearing confessions once Mass began, which didn’t surprise me. I’d had some reservations about the practice since I didn’t realize it was explicitly allowed.

    Is there a potential conflict between going to confession during Mass and fulfilling your Sunday obligation? [Nope.]

  4. iPadre says:

    There are often confessions going on in St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St. Mary Major while multiple Masses are going on throughout the basilicas. Only the liberals are agains Confessions during Mass, because screwed up theology.

  5. Elizabeth M says:

    Now I’m thoroughly confused about Masses that advertise especially during Lent, a kind of “blanket confession” during Mass. Wish I could find the bulletin to get the wording right.

    To keep it simple we attend the Extraordinary Form.

    One of those TNCs – It’s been my experience that while standing in line for confession I was still able to follow along with the Mass being said. Maybe it depends on where the confessional is? Father stops hearing confessions right before consecration and then starts up again so no one misses that portion.

  6. Deo Credo says:

    We always have confession during mass (institute of Christ the king). Always a line, but even when standing in line one can still follow along with mass. Being a fairly fallen son of the church I appreciate the ample opportunity to make my amends with my Lord and savior. I have noticed that the NO churches have Saturday and maybe appointment only confession, have few people show, then lament the lack of people going to confession. By all means, make it as easy as possible for people to go to confession on a whim, it might surprise everyone how many people want to go.

  7. St. Rafael says:

    At a parish in my diocese, confessions are heard during all Sunday Masses. Both in the Novus Ordo and the TLM. When it’s time for the distribution of Communion, the second priest hearing confessions, will leave the confessional, and go help the celebrant distribute Communion.

  8. TWF says:

    Confessions are often heard at the cathedral in Vancouver, BC while mass is celebrated. Sometimes I will be in line waiting for confession throughout the entire liturgy of the Word.
    There are usually 6 or 7 priests in residence and they all stay busy… 4 daily masses 6 days a week, 7 masses on Sunday, 14 scheduled confession times per week (and always with line ups)….and when not celebrating mass, the other priests are scheduled to return to the church during the distribution of communion to avoid the use of EMHCs. It is the only Latin cathedral in North America that I know of where EMHCs are a rarity… and also at least half of the congregation receives kneeling at the altar rail at all masses (these are all OF masses). Vancouver has been blessed with a steady succession of solid archbishops…the archdiocese is a completely different world from the rest of Canada.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    The one time I experienced this was when I attended the Michael Voris “Retreat at Sea” where we had several priests attending and therefore one would offer confession while Mass was going on, discreetly in the back of the room we were using as a church (cruise ships do not generally come equipped with chapels and definitely not confessionals).

  10. nzcatholic says:

    I’ve never understood why so many people have an issue with this. The Fssp church in Rome does when I was there for Easter.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If Judas had interrupted the Last Supper or the Crucifixion to confess his sins to Jesus, that would have been a good thing.

    Moreover, Jesus does advise us to make peace with one’s brother as a worship priority, so how could it be wrong to make peace with God as a worship priority?

    I can understand that some people don’t like their worship peas touching their worship carrots, but one of the principles of Mass is that we worship together but also individually; and that a lot of things are always going on at once during Mass, and in our souls. We move as one Body by being different kinds of members with different jobs and gifts; and the Church runs to meet every need, with great generosity. There is no harm and plenty of good in a Mass full of reminders of human repentance and God’s compassion.

  12. JesusFreak84 says:

    My Ukrainian parish does do this; for people who want to confess IN Ukrainian, they don’t have many other options, really. Just about any time Fr. D isn’t the one celebrating the Divine Liturgy or whatever’s going on, (Forgiveness Vespers, Good Friday prayers, etc.,) he’s “in the box.” (I prefer to confess to him vs. the other priest anyway simply because English is his mother tongue, whereas it’s the third language for the other priest. For Certain Sins, I have a hard time being blunt in Confession, and Fr. D’ll realize what I’m getting at and drag it out of me whether I like it or not; the other priest totally misses those things.)

  13. MAJ Tony says:

    Holy Rosary has been doing it for maybe a decade, sometime after I reported to Msgr. Schaedel that they apparently do this at St. John Cantius in Chicago (signs on the confessionals read that confessions would be heard up through the Pater Noster.) I don’t know if it was directly related to my discussion with Msgr., but they were hearing confessions during Mass some time after that discussion, and continue that practice whenever a second priest is available. Deo Gratias!

  14. If you offer it, they will come (to paraphrase from “Field of Dreams”)

    My normal parish is holding one of those ‘Penance Nights’ on Thursday evening this week: one hour, 25 priests, in the elementary school building and gym. NADA till after Easter, including a note in the bulletin that ‘no appointments will be accepted’ either.

    One would think, at this time of the year, offering the graces of this great sacrament would be a bit more lavish and freely given…maybe it would be better to concentrate on this rather than taking inventory of the flowers and decorations for the Vigil?

    I know the Triduum is a lot of effort for our decimated ranks of priests…but, somehow, other less ‘progressive’ parishes seem to have the light on over the confessionals during Holy Week…fwiw, my other parish I assist at, smaller in size, less ‘rich’ in offerings on Sunday, seem to have confession available before all the Masses on Sunday even up past the start of Mass.

    To me, it should not be an ‘either/or’ situation, God willing.

  15. germangreek says:

    I can’t recollect if I ever went to confession during Mass when I was a child; the first time I did as an adult was during a daily (EF) Mass in Norcia, Italy in 2012, although I’d seen that confessionals were open during Sunday Mass at St. Josaphat’s in Detroit the few Sundays I attended before that. One thing that struck me was not that I was missing some of the Mass, but that uniting the two sacraments temporally in that manner emphasized, for me, how the graces of the sacrament of Confession flow from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, re-presented for us in Mass.

  16. stilicho says:

    We regularly have confession during mass at our parish and monseignor has even gone as far as to restore the original altar rails after an absence of 40-plus years. Life is good!

  17. Prayerful says:

    I usually get Confession a little before I hear Mass. Sometimes the wait for Confession cuts into Mass by a few minutes, so Confession might be a few minutes into Mass. I see no problem.

  18. Susan G says:

    That would be great! And a wonderful way to promote the sacrament of confession! Alas… with one priest, it’s not a possibility for my parish. Half an hour on Saturday afternoon, is our only scheduled time, apart from the Lenten penance service and Advent penance service.

  19. Skeinster says:

    We are an EF parish, with three priests. Confessions are heard before and after daily Low Masses for
    about half an hour, both sides. At least one, and sometimes two, of our priests hear confessions during the Sunday Masses.
    An usher knocks on the door at the beginning of the “Pater Noster”, to alert the priest who is helping
    with Holy Communion.

  20. FrankWalshingham says:

    It is disrespectful to the Lord to go to confession during Mass. Do not short your weekly obligation by trying to do two things at once. This is not a situation where you can expect to get a twofer!

  21. Diricawl says:

    I work a lot during the week as well as the weekends. The only time that I am able to go to Confession is before Mass (or sometimes during Mass when the line is very long). I used to have scruples about not being present at the consecration when in the Confessional but now I find that merely being at Mass suffices. I receive all of the graces that I need from both sacraments.

    I am always at a loss as to why more priests don’t offer at least 30 minutes of Confession before Masses on Sundays, though. I mean, what else could they be doing that is “more important” than the salvation of souls? Watching football? Wanking off? If you are reading this Fr. Z, please let me know the reason for this lethargic approach to reconciliation.

  22. Gerard Plourde says:

    I can understand the situation of people who have no opportunity to go to confession other than during Mass and that our society seems intent on eliminating time for the Sacred. I have reservations, though, about being too comfortable about taking time out from participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to go to confession. To use a secular example, unless there truly is no other time, it feels like interrupting an intense conversation with someone to place a cell phone call. The call may also be important but it could wait or, to better fit the analogy, have been placed beforehand. Increased access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a possible solution. My OF parish schedules confessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

  23. notenoughflair says:

    For those against Confession during Mass: I go to a Latin Mass parish (FSSP), and they offer Confession before and after all Masses, plus throughout the Masses on Sundays. We too tend to have a line through all three Masses on Sundays.

    Our priests encourage us to go to Confession at least every 3 weeks so that the norms for the gaining of indulgences can be maintained, and they also recommend to go at least every other week if possible. They have also preached from the pulpit that going to Confession during Mass does not invalidate your participation in the Mass, and it still counts as fulfilling a Sunday obligation.

    Many of the families who attend our parish drive long distances (an hour or more) on Sundays. And many of these families have multiple children. They are not able to make the long trek during the week for Daily Masses. Offering Confession during Sunday Masses allows the members of these families to go to Confession on a regular basis as recommended by our priests.

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