Norms for general absolution

JUDICIAL VICAR

  1. General Absolution can be given outside the danger of death whenever there exists great necessity, that is, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available to properly hear the individual confessions at a given time, so that, without fault of their own, the penitents are deprived of the sacramental grace of Holy Communion for a lengthy period of time.

These conditions may be verified in the cases that follow, according to the judgment of the diocesan bishop:

a) When priests go once a year or very seldom during the year, to remote barrios or islets, or to other places where there is a serious difficulty in the access to the sacrament of confession on the part of the faithful on account of distance or geographical or climatological reasons.

b) On Christmas, Paschal Triduum, local religious fiestas, popular missions and school graduations; whenever the conditions set above exist.

2. On these occasions the priests may be granted to give the General Absolution, only after having undertaken all means to give opportunity to the penitents to make their individual confession. For example, making a schedule for individual confessions during some fixed hours during the Mass, in such a way that the priests who are available can help one another in hearing individual confession and when the time for Mass comes, still many penitents have not made yet their individual confession, and so, are being deprived of the sacramental grace of Holy Communion.

The priests, before giving General Absolution, shall help the penitents to be properly disposed to receive it, by making a sincere act of contrition, and to remind the penitents of their obligation to confess each of the grave sins which can not for the moment be thus confessed, as soon as possible, when the opportunity occurs, before receiving another General Absolution, unless a just reason intervenes, as prescribed in cc. 962 and 963.

Signs of Intention to Receive General Absolution

The sign whereby penitents signify their intention to receive General Absolution in penitential celebrations is left to the presiding minister; he invites participants, for example, to bow their heads, to kneel or to give some other signs.

Commentary:

Individual confession and absolution are still regarded the ordinary and ideal way for the faithful to be reconciled to God and the Church (c. 960).

The practice of general or group absolution is merely an exception to the rule, and may be resorted to only in cases of emergency or necessity under certain conditions.

The special situations that could justify the administration of collective absolution will arise – aside from the cases of danger of death –whenever on account of a dearth of confessors coupled with a large number of penitents, it will be impossible to properly hear the confession of each individual within a suitable time with the result that the penitents, through no fault of their own, would be forced to do without sacramental grace or holy communion, (c. 961,2).

It is not considered a case of necessity if confessors can not be readily available only because of the great number of penitents as can occur on the occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage.  Neither is the religious felt need of the penitents to receive holy communion during important festivities like Christmas, Aguinaldo Masses, the Paschal Triduum, local religious fiestas, academic graduations and popular missions a sufficient reason to impart general absolution if there are confessors available or if the faithful can avail themselves of the sacrament of holy communion in another place and occasion within a reasonable period of time.

It desolves on the local bishop, in consultation with his fellow bishops, to decide whether the circumstances obtaining in a given case warrant the administration of general absolution (c.961, 2).  When a serious need arises for general absolution and recourse to the bishop is not possible, the priest will do well in applying those principles of moral theology which are applicable in similar situations.

Finally, it is to be stressed again that in normal cases there is no substitute for an individual reconciliation with God through a private confession to his minister.  Certainly, in this age of rank individualism a collective and impersonal absolution is but a makeshift or occasional expedience that can hardly give entire fulfillment and peace of mind to a Christian.