Saturday, June 15, 2019


I copy a portion of a post from Father Jerabek’s blog on hearing confessions during Mass. I must admit I am somewhat adverse to doing so but also intrigued by doing it.

I think part of my problem with it is that I am personally distracted by people in the pews getting up during any portion of the Mass where I can see them doing so, especially at the consecration! And usually it is to go to the restroom.

But then again, if they are getting up to go to confession and not to go to the potty, then maybe I should cut them some slack?

Of course Mass ad orientem would completely solve distractions I experience by people coming and going during Mass! But the poor laity still have to see it!

So what do you think?

Confession during Mass?

May confessions be heard during Mass?
There is still rather a lot of confusion about this question — both among priests and laity. It is not unusual to hear of a priest who, with a great sense of certitude, declares that confessions may not be heard during Mass — we don’t do that anymore! (Such priests are wrong.)
And then among laypeople, there is the concern whether one could go to confession during Mass and have that Mass still “count” toward their obligation — for example, when confessions are offered during a Mass on a day of precept like Sunday or a Holy Day. (The answer is yes.)
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments helpfully clarified these matters back in 2001. You can read the complete text of their official response HERE. But I will summarize:
  1. Confessions may be heard during Mass, as long as it is not the main celebrant of the Mass who is hearing them (in other words, Mass and confession cannot be combined by the same priest — it needs to be a different priest hearing confessions).
  2. The faithful are encouraged to form the habit of going to confession at other times. This favors better participation in the Mass (i.e., by not interrupting hearing Mass to go to confession) and having a better sense of tranquility in going to confession.
  3. However, it is acknowledged that having confession offered during Mass often has a real advantage. Therefore, this decree does not discourage that possibility at all.
  4. It is suggested that one or more priests who might otherwise concelebrate that Mass hear confessions instead.
  5. The decree doesn’t specifically say it, but it is certainly implied that one can go to confession during Mass AND fulfill any obligation one has to attend that Mass simultaneously. This is the traditional understanding and I do not consider it in doubt.


mf said...

While there are circumstances where some faithful may not be able to get there any other time, for most it is a matter of convenience. We live in this world of one stop shopping - get everything at once, and in one visit. People now find it too inconvenient to set time aside for that extra trip. If one is in line for confession during Mass, are they paying attention to the Mass or preparing for a good confession. One of the two will suffer. Is this really the way to treat Mass as a custom? Also how many show up at the start of Mass and get in line for confession rather than come early when it is held before Mass? Is our time so valuable and stretched that we can't spend an extra 20 -30 minutes before Mass? To do this as a general custom is not fair to the sacrifice of the Mass and our participation with it, it is not fair to a good preparation for communion.

John Nolan said...

Who is more praiseworthy - the person who makes his confession during Mass and then approaches the rail in a state of grace, or the more typical communicant who sees receiving the Eucharist as a routine part of the 'Mass experience' and never goes near the confessional?

Carol H. said...

I wish that I could go to confession during Mass. I have had a medical condition for 23 years. There have been days that I was traveling to the church, but had to turn around and go home because I started to feel terrible. Other days, I have felt terrible all day, but suddenly started to feel better, and changed my clothes and arrived at Mass 15-20 minutes late. I have a 35-40 minute commute. I am sure that I am not the only one in this situation, and the opportunity to go to confession during Mass would be a most welcome blessing!

Mark Thomas said...


Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the general opinion on listening to confessions during Mass? — M.G., Malmoe, Sweden


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

If you’re in confessional during Mass, does the liturgy ‘count’?

By Father Kenneth Doyle • Catholic News Service • Posted January 31, 2017

Q. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that in order to fulfill your Sunday obligation, you were required to be present for three parts of the Mass -- the Gospel, the offertory and Communion. Our parish just started hearing confessions at the very time the Sunday Mass is being celebrated (i.e., not just before or after Mass).

So my question is this: If you are in the confessional during any of these three parts of the Mass, have you fulfilled your Sunday obligation? And what about receiving holy Communion? (Coon Rapids, Minnesota)

A. Your memory is two-thirds correct. Half a century ago, Catholics were taught that if you wanted the Mass to "count," you needed to be present for the offertory, the consecration and Communion.

Now, though, the church views the Mass as an integrated whole, a single act of worship from the entrance rite through the dismissal prayers, and canon law simply says, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass" (No. 1247).

If you happen to be in the confessional for part of that time, I would say that you are "morally present" at the Mass (your intent is certainly to be there) and that you are eligible to receive holy Communion.

Your question, though -- about a parish's practice of hearing confessions during Mass -- deserves further comment. That practice is a source of some pastoral debate among priests.

Since the faithful are gathered in largest numbers during Mass times, some view this as the opportune moment to make the sacrament of penance available; others, though, feel that it easily distracts people from the eucharistic liturgy itself.

Strictly speaking, there is no universal prohibition of the practice. In fact, the Vatican has spoken directly to the point: In 2001, the church's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, while expressing a clear preference that confessions be heard outside of Mass, specifically allowed that they can be heard while Mass is being celebrated.

Some dioceses, though, have issued their own guidelines:

The Archdiocese of Chicago, for example, says in its published sacramental policies that "the sacrament of penance shall not be celebrated while a Mass is being celebrated in the same place."


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

In the Russian tradition, Confessions are heard during the Divine Liturgy. A great way to be worthy to receive Communion. If there are the priests to have this happen, by all means I think it could and should be done. Until recently it was only the priest at my parish, now we have a 2nd priest, where I think it will be easier.

Pretty much every Roman parish save a few offers confessions at similar hours, so it makes it hard for people to get to confession. Offer it, and they will come (eventually). Obviously one wouldn't hear confessions at the consecration.


John Nolan said...

With reference to Fr Doyle's comments, reported by Mark Thomas:

The faithful need to be present at the Offertory, Consecration and priest's Communion in order to fulfil their obligation. This was laid down by the 4th Lateran Council (1215) and has not been rescinded. The promulgation of a new rite of Mass in 1969 in no way alters this provision. The idea that everyone needs to be present and paying attention from start to finish is a conceit of 20th century liturgists - it's not the only one, and unfortunately the Novus Ordo is infested with such conceits (of which more later).

The extent to which a bishop can proscribe a practice which is expressly allowed by the Holy See is a moot point. In the case of female altar servers the legislation allows him, or indeed any individual priest, discretion in the matter - he may proscribe their use in his diocese, but cannot mandate their use.

I would suggest that a blanket ban is wrong-headed and ultra vires. A large church served by a number of priests may have confessions scheduled for Saturday morning. While they are in progress there could be one or more Low Masses celebrated at side altars. Why should one sacrament displace the other?

John Nolan said...

In my last post I mentioned the conceits of 20th century liturgists. They have no authority, but they have had a considerable effect on the Novus Ordo in the way that it is perceived and celebrated. I do not intend to criticise the NO per se, although I believe it to be deficient in many respects, which is hardly surprising in that it was cobbled together in a little under five years, to replace a liturgy which had developed over two millennia.

If I call them 'Novus Ordo conceits' it is simply because they didn't exist in the liturgy prior to 1964, but many of them have a longer provenance. Herewith some of the more egregious ones.

1. The idea that unless one attends Mass from beginning to end one is not fulfilling the obligation. This is wrong in point of law (vide supra).

2. The notion of the chant before the Gospel being a 'gospel acclamation'. The interlectionary chants are essentially meditative. This has led to such liturgical solecisms as placing the Sequence before the Alleluia and suppressing the Tract in Lent.

3. The idea that the homily is integral to the liturgy, rather than an interruption of it. This is clearly contradicted by what happens in the traditional Roman Rite.

4. The so-called 'Great Amen' embellished by bombastic musical settings. In the Latin rite transubstantiation is effected at the Consecration. The Byzantine rite sees the whole Eucharistic Prayer as effecting the same. The shifting of emphasis to the doxology, with the 'minor elevation' (which does not even exist in many medieval uses) turned into a major event, is a conceit of those liturgists who wanted to make the Latin rite conform more closely to the Greek. Why can't Greeks be Greeks and Latins be Latins?

5. This is the silliest of all - the so-called 'Communion Procession'. It is a queue, not a procession, whether one is queueing to take one's place at the rail, or standing in line to receive standing. I have actually read that some US bishops have ordered the congregation to remain standing until the last person has received. I hope they treat this with the contempt it deserves. But then, dragooning the faithful in terms of posture is another Novus Ordo conceit.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

I am surprised that liturgical lefties in order to "attract" the faithful and make the Liturgy more "relevant" to modern man, that they haven't advocated a "drive up" window at the side of the church to receive Communion and in place of the Offertory collection, install a coin box to toss their contribution into prior to receiving the host!

John Nolan said...


There's many a true word spoken in jest!

Seriously, in the 1960s and 1970s we were all sold a pup - laity, clergy, seminarians, even Paul VI who does not escape culpability on that account since he set the whole thing in motion and signed it off at the end: this includes the heretical preamble to the Novus Ordo (1969) which would have stayed in place had not Ottaviani and Bacci intervened.

What passes for liturgy in most Catholic parishes is so dire that even the late unlamented Cardinal Danneels had to concede that it wasn't worth getting up for. The dwindling number who still attend have little liturgical sense and if you took away their four hymn sandwich would probably lapse.

Jacob said...

Father I am for it. At traditional masses I attend all over the world it is done. It is beautiful at the consecration warning bell, all the priests come out of their confessionals all along the sides of the church,kneel down and remove their birettas. Afterwards the put their hats back on and return to the confessional.

Virginia SoCon said...

It is interesting that the Archdiocese of Chicago states that this shouldn't be done. I wonder if this is a recent change under the current Archbishop, because when I was in Chicago this was done during Mass at the parish I attended. I found it useful, not because I couldn't (and didn't) go to Confession outside of these times but because I would recall or commit sins that occurred since my last confession that I greatly preferred being absolved of before receiving Holy Communion. The confessionals were in the church, not off in some other room, so I (and the many other penitents) were able to hears the readings/homily, recite the Creed, etc. even while waiting.

And yes, the priest(s) hearing confession would come out at the end of consecration, perform their duties as the Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and then return to the confessional for any remaining penitents. It worked quite well.