Communal penance services

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Sometimes a Presider at a Reconciliation Service has given a general penance for the congregation.  For example stay and pray for until the end of the service.  I haven’t come across any thing that states this is licit or not licit.  My understanding is that each priest give a penance.  I find your blog a great help.


A:  Thanks for your comments on my blog.

The Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with individual Confession and Absolution says this at paragraph 55: “Then the penitents go to the priests designated for individual confession, and confess their sins. Each one receives and accepts a fitting act of satisfaction and is absolved.”

I too have been at penance services where the presider offers a common penance to all. But these should be administered individually, and the penitent should accept the penance. Such acceptance cannot be done in common.

Each priest should give each penitent a penance.

By the way, it’s unfortunate that staying for the end of the service is considered a penance. The committee that designed the communal service back in the 1960s would have been horrified to imagine this development. To me, it’s a sign that something is wrong in the design of communal penance services. But that’s a dialogue for another day.