SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
RESPONSUM AD QUAESITUM
A question about general absolution
In the case of a certain ecclesiastical jurisdiction “X ”, special penitential services in preparation for Easter were planned, specifying places and times in which general absolution would be given, together with provision for preparation of the people for such services.
This pastoral plan was favorably received by the faithful, and general absolution was given in the presence of several priests, some of whom were also penitents.
Is the case described above in conformity with the norms for general absolution?
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replies that the case described does not conform to the 1972 “Normae pastorales circa absolutionem sacramentalem generali modo impertiendam” (AAS, vol. 64, 510-514) because the conditions listed for the use of the extraordinary practice of general absolution are not necessarily verified.
1) Norm III requires that the faithful, too large in number for the small number of priests to hear their individual confessions properly within a suitable period of time, would have to go without sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time and through no fault of their own.
The case described does not offer any reason why the faithful could not find other opportunities for confession and holy communion, which are normally offered on a regular basis in their parishes; such a reason might be present, for example, where a priest could visit a remote mission station only infrequently.
2) Norm IV requires that bishops and priests dispose the arrangement of pastoral duties so that a sufficient number of priests will be available for the ministry of sacramental confession.
The case described does not offer any reason why the available priests could not arrange for the normal confession procedures according to nn. 15- 21 and 22-30 of the “Ordo Paenitentiae”.
Franciscus Card. Šeper,
* Documenta, 138-139.