Q: I am facilitating a six-day retreat and will preside over a Second Rite of Reconciliation for retreatants. Am I permitted for pastoral reasons given the number of retreatants and time involved to: (i) give a common penance and (ii) confer absolution to the group as a whole. I do not envisage the latter as a general – third rite – absolution. Alternatively, is it permissible to confer the absolution individually over the course of the retreat, thus separating the absolution from the actual second rite liturgy? This too is in the interest preventing an inordinately long ceremony involving a large group of penitents for whom there is only one confessor available. Prayerful best wishes.
A: The second form of the rite does not permit those variations. The penance and absolution are to be given individually. Absolution should not be taken out of the liturgy into a separate experience.
The Rite of Penance offers another solution. You could conduct a penitential service for the entire group – a prayer service on the theme of repentance to prepare the participants for confession, one that does not include confession or absolution. Then you could schedule the first form (individual confessions) at intervals throughout the six days. That would keep you from having one long penance service that looks like “communal waiting” rather than “communal penance.”