FIRSTLY, make the distinction between General Absolution and General Confession.
- General Absolution is validly done with the mandate of the local bishop in special circumstances when there are not enough priest for individual confessions and there is some imminent deadly event about to take place, such as for soldiers who need to respond to a surprise attack in the throws of war. They make a quick examination of conscience, an act of contrition, and intend to go to individual confession to confess their sins if and when (as soon as possible) that they can do so. This does not include big parishes with few priests, or pilgrimages with large numbers of people. The absolutions for the latter circumstances are invalid. Get that? Invalid. Moreover, people who say that like this absolution of a crowd thing really don’t like it at all. Let them do it a few times and then they’ll stop. They know it’s just wrong, vacuous, not what Christ or the Church or their souls want. They just stop going even while they lie about how nice it is. Then they stop going to Church. Just that simple. Go to Confession. Go to individual Confession. You’ll continue to go to Church. You’ll continue to go all the way to heaven.
- General Confession is another thing altogether. It is not for everyone. It might be hurtful to the scrupulous. It is not for them. It might be helpful to some people. For instance, those who are about to get married, or enter the seminary or religious life, or be ordained or profess vows, or become bishops or someone elected to be bishop of Rome. They all might want, with renewed contrition and thanksgiving for Jesus’ forgiveness, to confess past sins which were already forgiven, not to be forgiven more (that would be heretical), but to give to Jesus a more apt sorrow for past sin, more apt because they are now, thanks be to God, hopefully a bit closer to Jesus and, from that perspective closer to Him, can have that more apt sorrow. This is really very wonderful. I did that yesterday. Very cool indeed.
SECONDLY, make sure you are ready in two ways:
- Do an examination of conscience.
- Confess with a priest who goes to Confession himself, who loves Confession, preaches about the joys of Confession, who is happy that you would like to do a General Confession.
THIRDLY, make it easy on yourself and your Confessor. Remember the four words beginning with the letter “C”, thus, the four “Cs”. Be…
- Clear… Don’t use ambiguous words like: “I kinda, well, you know, like that” because in saying that the priest won’t know what you’re talking about. If you say something like “I struggle with impatience,” the priest won’t know that you confessing a sin. He might think that you virtuously carrying the cross of your weakness well. Just confess sins.
- Complete… You must confess all grave sins in kind and number and circumstances which add more sin or change the gravity of the sin. “I killed an old man” is not the same as “I killed my dad.” “I committed an impure act” is not the same as “I’ve been committing adultery weekly for two years, destroying both families.”
- Concise… Priests DO NOT want to hear useless details. No congratulating yourself. No making excuses for yourself. No confessing the sins of other people.
- Contrite… Having confessed your own actual sins clearly, in kind and number, make an act of contrition which necessarily includes a firm purpose of amendment. If you intend already in the Confessional purposely to continue committing sin, then you are not contrite and you cannot receive fruitfully any absolution you might otherwise have tricked out of a priest.
FOURTHLY, be thankful, joyful.
Oh, and, by the way. I didn’t make a General Confession because of any foreseeable life change like becoming a bishop. ;-) I just did it because I love Jesus and I want to go to heaven.