These next seven sections make up Chapter III of the Rite of Penance, treating the mostly-suppressed form III, the RITE FOR RECONCILIATION OF SEVERAL PENITENTS WITH GENERAL CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
The rubrics are briefer; they reiterate that form II is the guide, and exceptions will be listed:
60. For the reconciliation of several penitents with general confession and absolution, in the cases provided for in the law, everything is done as described above for the reconciliation of several penitents with individual absolution, but with the following changes only.
After the homily or as part of the homily, the priest explains to the faithful who wish to receive general absolution that they should be properly disposed. Each one should repent of his sins and resolve to turn away from these sins, to make up for any scandal and harm he may have caused, and to confess individually at the proper time each of the serious sins which cannot now be confessed. Some form of satisfaction should be proposed to all, and each individual may add something if he desires.
So here are the changes: an explanation of the form, an urging to be properly disposed, a reminder to confess serious sins later, and a common “penance,” or act of satisfaction.
As with form II, there is a GENERAL CONFESSION
61. Then the deacon or other minister or the priest himself invites the penitents who wish to receive absolution to indicate this by some kind of sign. He may say:
Will those of you who wish to receive sacramental absolution please kneel and acknowledge that you are sinners.
Will those of you who wish to receive sacramental absolution please bow your heads and acknowledge that you are sinners.
Or he may suggest a sign laid down by the episcopal conference.
What follows next is as it is in form II: general confession, then a litany or song, then Lord’s Prayer:
The penitents say a general formula for confession (for example, I confess to almighty God). A litany or appropriate song may follow, as described above for the reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession and absolution (no. 54). The Lord’s Prayer is always added at the end.
Two ritual texts are given for the ordinary use of form III. I include them both for comparison. The first seems similar to the solemn blessings used at the Eucharist on special feasts and occasions.
62. The priest then gives absolution, holding his hands extended over the penitents and saying:
God the Father does not wish the sinner to die but to turn back to him and live. He loved us first and sent his Son into the world to be its Savior. May he show you his merciful love and give you peace.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was given up to death for our sins, and rose again for our justification. He sent the Holy Spirit on his apostles and gave them power to forgive sins. Through the ministry entrusted to me may he deliver you from evil and fill you with his Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, the Comforter, was given to us for the forgiveness of sins. In him we approach the Father. May he cleanse your hearts and clothe you in his glory, so that you may proclaim the mighty acts of God who has called you out of darkness into the splendor of his light.
And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
PROCLAMATION OF PRAISE AND CONCLUSION
63. The priest invites all to thank God and to acknowledge his mercy. After a suitable song or hymn, he blesses the people and dismisses them, as described above, nos. 58-59, but without the concluding prayer (no. 57).
The inclusion of the following SHORT RITE leads me to believe that the present interpretation of General Absolution as being an “emergency” rite is a false one. I believe the original intent was that form III was to be used for penitents with venial sins. A provision was made for the participation of penitents with serious sins, but with the careful provision for using form I or II with the particular confession of each serious sin at that later time.
Despite the seriousness of John Paul II’s approach to the Sacrament of Penance, I still view the limitation placed on form III as ill-advised. The Rite makes a clear distinction between emergency use of General Absolution and an ordinary use. The rubrics make clear that form III is very suitable for penitents with venial sins. The decade-plus this rite was in place isn’t enough time for a true assessment to be made.
64. In case of necessity, the rite for reconciling several penitents with general confession and absolution may be shortened. If possible, there is a brief reading from scripture. After giving the usual instruction (no. 60) and indicating the act of penance, the priest invites the penitents to make a general confession (for example, I confess to almighty God), and gives the absolution with the form which is indicated in no. 62.
65. In imminent danger of death, it is enough for the priest to use the form of absolution itself. In this case it may be shortened to the following:
I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
A second reminder:
66. A person who receives general absolution from grave sins is bound to confess each grave sin at his next individual confession.
Have at it; this is your last chance to weigh in on General Absolution.