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Shot Widener wrote:

Hi, guys —

My parish has made no mention of the latest announcement (See below) by Pope Francis concerning General Absolution due to the Coronavirus. Only that Mass and Confession are cancelled until further notice.

National Catholic Register: Coronavirus Latest From Rome.
March 20, 4.10pm

In a second of two decrees, the Apostolic Penitentiary today ruled that in view of the difficulty in priests hearing confessions during the coronavirus pandemic, bishops can offer general absolution in cases of grave necessity.

The decree, signed by Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, notes that general absolution is usually only permitted in accordance with Canon 961 – when there is an "imminent danger of death, since there is not enough time to hear the confessions of individual penitents, [or there is a] grave necessity.

The decree then stresses in italics:

This Apostolic Penitentiary believes that, especially in the places most affected by the pandemic contagion and until the phenomenon recedes, cases of grave necessity mentioned in Canon 961, § 2 Code of Canon Law [in cases of grave necessity] will occur.

It adds that any further specification is delegated by law to diocesan bishops, always taking into account the supreme good of the salvation of souls.

The decree continues:

Should there arise a sudden need to impart sacramental absolution to several faithful together, the priest is obliged to forewarn the diocesan bishop as far as possible or, if he cannot, to inform him as soon as possible (cf. Ordo Paenitentiae, n. 32).

Regarding individual confession, it goes on to state that "in the present pandemic emergency," it is "up to the diocesan bishop to indicate to priests and penitents the prudent attentions to be adopted in the individual celebration of sacramental reconciliation, such as the celebration in a ventilated place outside the confessional, the adoption of a suitable distance, the use of protective masks, without prejudice to absolute attention to the safeguarding of the sacramental seal and necessary discretion.

It adds:

Furthermore, it is always up to the diocesan bishop to determine, in the territory of his own ecclesiastical circumscription and with regard to the level of pandemic contagion, the cases of grave necessity in which it is lawful to impart collective absolution: for example, at the entrance to hospital wards, where the infected faithful in danger of death are hospitalized, using as far as possible and with the appropriate precautions the means of amplifying the voice so that absolution may be heard.

It adds that consideration should be given to the need and advisability of setting up, where necessary, in agreement with the health authorities, groups of 'extraordinary hospital chaplains,' also on a voluntary basis and in compliance with the norms of protection from contagion, to guarantee the necessary spiritual assistance to the sick and dying.

Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1452)


  • If I follow the guidelines of Pope Francis, will I receive the General Absolution without having to wait for my Parish Priest to make an announcement?

Shot W.

  { If I follow Pope Francis' guidance, will I receive a general absolution without waiting for my priest? }

Bob replied:

Dear Shot,

General absolution requires that the one receiving the absolution be in earshot of the one giving it, thus your priest or bishop, has to be in the vicinity of the recipients, and secondly, those receiving individuals must intend to go to regular Confession when the circumstances allow.

This measure is for emergency circumstances like when a hospital ward is full of the sick and dying and the priest does not have access for whatever reasons, he could make it at the door so all those who hear him can receive the absolution. It doesn't work for someone who doesn't hear it directly from the giver.

So, the Pope is allowing for this special absolution to be utilized at this time, but the same rules apply. There is, however, something that the Pope is doing that will work right over the TV — the Plenary indulgence that He is giving on Friday March 27, 1:00 pm EST. Be sure and tune in (Try EWTN).

Hear the blessing and follow the precepts he dictates and you can obtain this grace. That won't hinge on your priest.


Bob Kirby

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