RP 35: The Rite of Form III

mary-the-penitent.jpgOne section covers the RITE OF GENERAL ABSOLUTION with the format of form II where appropriate:

35. For the reconciliation of penitents by general confession and absolution in the cases provided by law, everything takes place as described already for the reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession and absolution, with the following exceptions.

a. After the homily or during it, the faithful who seek general absolution are to be instructed to dispose themselves properly, that is, to have a personal sorrow for sins committed and the resolve to avoid committing them again; the intention to repair any scandal and harm caused and likewise to confess in due time each one of the grave sins that they cannot confess at present. [SCDF, Pastoral Norms for General Absolution, 16 June 1972, Norm VI.] Some expiatory penance should be proposed for all to perform; individuals may add to this penance if they wish.

The “dreaded” group penance is part of form III, not form II. The rite presumes a level of personal awareness and familiarity with the sacrament I’ve rarely encountered, to add to the given penance for one’s own situation.

b. The deacon, another minister, or the priest then calls upon the penitents who wish to receive absolution to show their intention by some sign (for example, by bowing their heads, kneeling, or giving some other sign determined by the conferences of bishops). They should also say together a form of general confession (for example, the prayer, I confess to almighty God), which may be followed by a litany or a penitential song. Then the Lord’s Prayer is sung or said by all, as indicated in no. 27.

c. Then the priest pronounces the invocation that expresses prayer for the grace of the Holy Spirit to pardon sin, proclamation of victory over sin through Christ’s death and resurrection, and the sacramental absolution given to the penitents.

d. Finally, the priest invites the people to give thanks, as indicated in no. 29 and, omitting the concluding prayer, he immediately blesses and dismisses them.

Any comments?


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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to RP 35: The Rite of Form III

  1. sacerdos says:

    I notice that the document says: “in the cases provided by law”. Todd, in a previous post you suggested that the application is wider than I have expressed. Would you kindly cite what the law provides as to the use of general absolution?

  2. Todd says:

    We know the law has been narrowed since the time the rite was formulated. But the description of the rite of form III seems to indicate its envisioned use was for venial sins to be forgiven in an explicit sacramental setting of Penance. (Rather than a private act of contrition or reception of the Eucharist) I still believe that understanding would have promise for use in the US, given that clergy were prepared to underscore that ordinarily, form III is intended for many non-serious sins. I’d say especially the ones that wouldn’t require an insightful act of penance.

    I remember a bishop saying once that he found little use for form II, but he thought if form III were applied to venial sins generally, and form I used for penitents with serious sins, that would be in keeping with the vision of the rite.

    It’s an interesting discussion to have, even if it seems more theoretical than practical these days. I’m not convinced bringing people back to the sacramental practice is as simple as offering more hours and availability. You tell me how much time you’d need to invest if most of your parishioners confessed monthly. I suspect that if the practice of going to confession hadn’t trailed off in the 50’s and 60’s, that form III for venial sins would be far more common. As it is, the only thing saving you guys from ten to twenty hours a week or more is the reality that lots of people prefer therapy, 12-Step groups, or nothing at all.

  3. John Heavrin says:

    “You tell me how much time you’d need to invest if most of your parishioners confessed monthly.”

    If this were the case, we’d have a lot more vocations being fostered, and soon many more priests.

    “I suspect that if the practice of going to confession hadn’t trailed off in the 50’s and 60’s…”

    I’d love to see some evidence for this claim. Until I do, I’ll presume it to be completely false.

    “…the reality that lots of people prefer therapy, 12-Step groups, or nothing at all….”

    This is another wholly unsupported assertion, but I’m actually inclined to buy this one. I can buy that most Catholics, like most people, care more about “feeling better” than about being forgiven for their sins; sadly, that is plausible. The Church and this sacrament must be offered for supernatural reasons, not therapeutic reasons. The latter is an incidental benefit. The Church needs to communicate to all Catholics the indispensibility of the Sacrament of Penance, and why there is no substitute for the forgiveness of sins. Emphasizing the “therapeutic” side of it is a loser’s game.

    And by the way, we need to pray for priests who are zealous for souls, and willing to hear confessions for hours, not priests who need to be “saved” from such a state of affairs.

  4. FrMichael says:

    I would gladly spend 10-20 hours a week in the confessional if that’s what was needed for parishioners to make more frequent confessions. I don’t think I’m unique in that viewpoint.

  5. Todd says:

    “I would gladly spend 10-20 hours a week in the confessional if that’s what was needed for parishioners to make more frequent confessions. I don’t think I’m unique in that viewpoint.”

    God bless you for it. Likewise I’d consider leading a lot more liturgical music if we had people rolling in off the streets to go to Mass.

  6. sacerdos says:

    Todd,

    Regardless of what may be envisioned with form III, I still think there is great value in regular and individual confession even for those not conscious of mortal sin.

    The individual encounter, which entails humility and a true desire to grow in holiness, is a great deal more adept at sharpening the conscience. I don’t think a general confession (even, if only of venial sins) and absolution has the same effect.

  7. Todd says:

    “Regardless of what may be envisioned with form III, I still think there is great value in regular and individual confession even for those not conscious of mortal sin.”

    Oh, I agree. The popularity of the 12-Step systems is proof of this. A searching and fearless moral inventory shared with another addict is about as sharp a tool as one can find outside ther sacramental world.

    But I do think God’s grace is strong enough to overcome the lack of human agency in naming venial sins. The rite presumes well-formed consciences on the part of penitents–perhaps this is where we falter.

    If the Church were ever to discern an extraordinary ministry of confessor outside of the clergy, some of the need for form III would vanish.

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