From a reader…
I would like to know why many parishes do not offer the Sacrament of Penance on Holy Saturday? There’s only 1 parish in my area that hears confessions on Holy Saturday and I often wonder is there a law forbidding the Sacrament of Penance on Holy Saturday?
In answer to “why”, I have no idea. It’ll depend on the parish priest.
In answer to “is there a law against hearing confessions”. NO!
Each year one sees confusion about the Sacrament of Penance during the Triduum. Confusion is rarer now than before because there have been official explanations and also changes to the wording in the Roman Missal. But, the less than informed and some liberals who don’t care to keep up to date, cling to their past errors.
Some priests, liturgical experts, and even diocesan liturgy offices wrongly claim – or claimed – that the rubrics of the Missal (or in the old, obsolete editions in English, “Sacramentary”) forbade the sacrament of Penance.
However, this claim was and is incorrect.
Here is what the texts really say.
The previous, obsolete 1970 and 1975 editions of the Missale Romanum (the Novus Ordo) said of Good Friday and Holy Saturday (BTW… the language of this rubric goes back to Pope Innocent III +1216):
Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments.
However, since this is in the Missal (the book for MASS), sacramenta refers only to the Eucharist, Holy Mass, and not to the other sacraments.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) clarified this in its official publication Notitiae (1977 – no. 137 (Dec) p. 602).
In the 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum at paragraph 1 for Good Friday all doubt is removed.
The above cited text has been amended to say (the change with my emphasis):
Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat…
On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.
Priests can indeed, and probably should, hear confessions on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday.
Who can forget the image of the late Pope – Saint – hearing confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday? Who can forget Pope Benedict? Pope Francis? Francis even made his own confession on Good Friday!
So, it is absolutely FALSE that it is forbidden to hear confessions during the Triduum.
That said, there may be other reasons why the priest has decided not to hear confessions. It may be, for example, that he has been hearing confessions every day during Lent before Masses.
PEOPLE: Go to confession. Don’t wait until the last minute. In my 20 Tips I recommend that people go to confession at the time confessions are scheduled to begin, not a few minutes before they are to end. Why? So you don’t lose your chance to go. Similarly, go to confession now, before the Triduum.
Here is a bonus tip, speaking of confessions.
As I have posted before, it is both permitted and appropriate in many instances for confessions to be heard during Holy Mass on other days of the year!
Want proof? Try the CDWDS document Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 and also the Congregation’s Response to a Dubium in Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.
Having a priest in a confessional before and even during Mass on Sundays and feasts could be a way to revive the use of this ailing but essential sacrament.
GO TO CONFESSION!