From a reader…
Can a bishop give the priests under his authority the faculty to dispense or commute a Mass obligation in the confessional? If I was unable to contact my pastor or out of town would I be able to ask for a dispensation or commutation during my confession?
Canon 1245 gives to pastors the right to dispense or commute the obligation of observing Sunday, a Holy Day of obligation, or a day of penance.
Canon 136 clarifies that the exercise of executive power (that’s what a dispensation is) is valid over one’s subjects. even when they are outside of one’s territory, as well as over travelers who are present in one’s territory.
Many bishops grant this dispensing power to all priests, not just to pastors of parishes.
Hence, if you are looking for a dispensation or commutation, you generally need not look too far.
If you are outside of your parish, or not able to contact your parish priest for whatever reason, you might inquire of another priest. Ask if he has the faculty to dispense or commute. Otherwise, you can call the local chancery office and speak to the vicar general (who would have power to dispense), the chancellor (who would either have it or would know who does), or someone in the tribunal (who would usually know who has dispensing power).
This dispensation need not be done in the confessional. As a matter of fact, dispensations aren’t strictly a matter for the confessional, which is the tribunal of mercy for sin, not for transacting other business like getting dispensations, seeking advice on local restaurants, obtaining sports updates, or engaging in social media commentary such as your thoughts about this blog.
Everyone: When you are in the confessional, stick to making a confession of your own sins. Be brief.
I hope this helps.