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Private Confession / Communal Confession / General Absolution

First Form: Private Confession Return to top
  1. The penitent should prepare to receive the Sacrament of Penance with a careful Examination of Conscience, recalling the Commandments of God, the Precepts of the Church and the duties of a particular state of life. Silent Reflection should be accompanied by prayer, especially to the Holy Spirit, and Scripture reading. One should recall and regret all of the sins committed since the last Confession.
  2. After the penitent has recalled all of the sins to be confessed and mentally expressed genuine sorrow for them, the confessional or other place set aside for the celebration of the Sacrament is entered.
  3. After being welcomed by the priest, the penitent makes the sign of the cross saying: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
  4. The priest may read a short Scripture passage, then the penitent states the time since the last confession and confesses the sins recalled during the examination of conscience, including all mortal sins.
  5. After the sins are confessed, the priest counsels the penitent and asks the penitent to do a penance, usually some prayers or a charitable work. The penitent accepts the penance.
  6. The penitent expresses sorrow for sin in his or her own words, or by saying an Act of Contrition, or by saying short psalm of sorrow.
  7. The priest then gives absolution saying:
    "God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
  8. The penitent replies, "Amen."
  9. The priest then says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good."
  10. The penitent replies, "His mercy endures forever."
  11. The penitent is then dismissed by the priest in the peace of Christ.
Second Form: Communal Confession Return to top

Communal Penance Services are usually held in most parishes. The people gather in Church to prepare for the sacrament by listening to the Word of God, reciting or singing penitential psalms and hymns and participating in community prayer. The priests will help those present to examine their conscience, the penitents will then approach one of the priests. Each penitent individually confesses his or her sins. This would include all mortal sins and any others he or she wishes to confess. You then accept a penance from the priest and receive absolution. Some parishes may, after everyone going to confession, rejoin again for community prayer in thanksgiving for the reconciliation.

Third Form: General Absolution Return to top

This third form is to be used only in cases of emergencies or in cases where people would have to wait a long time to receive the sacrament. These conditions do not normally exist in the United States.

The priest has the main responsibility for this form of penance. Time permitting, each penitent should make an examination of conscience and be sorry for all the sins committed.

The priest absolves everyone.

Each person who has received general absolution must confess all mortal sins individually to a priest at the next opportunity.

In normal circumstances, Catholic should not make use of this form of the sacrament. However, the Church allows the use of this form in extraordinary circumstances so that no one would be deprived of the mercy of God.


Examination based on the Commandments Return to top


Besides telling the nature of our sins, we must also recollect, as far as possible, the NUMBER of times we have committed them, telling also (and only) those CIRCUMSTANCES which at times may either make a venial sin mortal or a mortal sin notably worse.

1. Have I ever failed to confess a serious sin or disguised it?
2. Have I been guilty of irreverence for this sacrament by failing to examine my conscience carefully?
3. Have I failed to perform the penance given me by the confessor or disobeyed any of his directions?
4. Have I neglected the Easter duty of receiving Holy Communion or failed to confess my sins within a year?
5. Have I any HABITS of serious sin to confess first (impurity, drunkenness, etc.)?
First Commandment
1. Am I ignorant of my catechism (Act of Contrition, Apostle's Creed, Ten Commandments, Seven Sacraments, the Our Father)?
2. Have I willfully doubted or denied any of the teachings of the Church(heresy)?
3. Have I taken active part in any non-Catholic worship?
4. Am I a member of any anti-Catholic or any secret society?
5. Have I knowingly read any anti-Catholic literature?
6. Have I practiced any superstitions (horoscopes, fortune tellers, etc.)?

Second Commandment
1. Have I used God's name in vain by way of profanity?
2. Have I murmured or complained against God (blasphemy)?
3. Have I maligned priests or others consecrated to God?
4. Have I sworn by God's name (oath) either falsely or rashly?
5. Have I broken any private vow?

Third Commandment
1. Have I missed Mass on Sundays or holydays through my own fault?
2. Have I been late for Mass through my own negligence?
3. Have I been inattentive at Mass or otherwise failed in reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament?
4. Have I done unnecessary servile work (physical labor) or shopping on Sunday?
5. Have I eaten flesh meat on Friday (especially on Good Friday) or on Ash Wednesday?

Fourth Commandment
1. Have I been disrespectful to my parents or neglected them?
2. Have I failed in obedience or reverence to others in authority?
3. Have I mistreated my wife or children?
4. Have I been disobedient or disrespectful to my husband?
5. Regarding my children:
-Have I neglected their material needs?
-Have I failed to care for their early Baptism or their proper religious instruction?
-Have I allowed them to neglect their religious duties?
-Have I tolerated their keeping questionable company or go steady dating?
-Have I otherwise failed to discipline them?
-Have I given bad them example?
-Have I let boys and girls sleep together or with their parents?
-Have I interfered with their freedom to marry or follow a religious vocation?

Fifth & Eighth Commandments
1. Have I quarreled with any one?
2. Have I cursed anyone or otherwise wished evil on him?
3. Have I taken pleasure in anyone's misfortune?
4. Is there anyone to whom I refuse to speak or be reconciled?
5. Have I lied about anyone (calumny)?
6. Have I rash judged anyone of a serious sin?
7. Have I engaged in gossip (detraction) or spread scandal?
8. Have I lent an ear to scandal about my neighbor?
9. Have I been jealous or envious of anyone?

Sixth & Ninth
1. Have I denied my spouse his or her marriage rights?
2. Have I practiced birth control?
3. Have I abused my marriage rights in any other way?
4. Have I committed adultery or fornication?
5. Have I touched or embraced another impurely?
6. Have I sinned with others of the same sex?
7. Have I committed masturbation or otherwise sinned impurely with myself?
8. Have I harbored lustful desires for anyone?
9. Have I indulged in other impure thoughts?
10. Have I failed to dress modestly?
11. Have I done anything to provoke or occasion impure thoughts in others?
12. Have I read indecent literature or looked at indecent pictures?
13. Have I watched suggestive films or programs?
14. Have I permitted my children or others under my charge to do these things?
15. Have I used indecent language or told indecent stories?
16. Have I willingly listened to such stories?
17. Have I boasted of my sins?
18. Have I sinned against chastity in any other way?

Seventh & Tenth Commandments
1. Have I stolen anything?
2. Have I damaged anyone's property through my own fault?
3. Have I cheated or defrauded other?
4. Have I refused or neglected to pay any debts?
5. Have I neglected my duties or been slothful in my work?
6. Have I refused or neglected to help anyone in urgent necessity?
7. Have I failed to make restitution?

1. Have I knowingly caused others to sin?
2. Have I cooperated in the sins of others?
3. Have I sinned by gluttony?
4. Have I become intoxicated?
5. Have I used narcotics?
6. Have I been motivated by avarice?
7. Have I indulged in boasting or vain glory?
8. Have I received Holy Communion or another sacrament in the state of mortal sin?
9. Is there any other sin I need to confess?

Act of Contrition Return to top
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the occasions of sin. Amen

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