Confession, and General Absolution (Repost)

This piece has been reposted repeatedly over the years during the Christmas season–because incredibly, the illegal abuse of General Absolution by some parish clergy is still happening!  Thus it makes sense to repost it yet again.  A very happy and holy Christmas to all readers!

Q: Last year, I visited my relatives at Christmas time, and we all went to their parish to a communal penance service before Christmas. There were probably almost a hundred people there, and only one priest. He didn’t hear each person’s confession, as we expected. Instead, he stood near the altar, said some prayers, and blessed all of us. Then he told us we were absolved of our sins, and that was it. Was that priest wrong to do what he did? Did God really forgive us our sins?  –Robert Continue reading

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When Can a Layperson Be a Pastor of a Parish?

Q: My sister-in-law and I were having an innocent conversation about our parishes, and ended up in a huge fight.  I made some comment like, “the pastor of a parish always has to be a priest,” and she went ballistic, insisting that in her diocese there are parishes with lay pastors, even women pastors.  She named several parishes and specifically told me who their lay pastors were.

I know that in some places, there are more parishes than there are priests, but does that mean you can actually have a pastor who is a layperson?  I’m wondering how that could work since they can’t say Mass … what does canon law say?  If it makes any difference, my brother and sister-in-law live in [a rural diocese with a dire shortage of priests]. –Gene Continue reading

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Overdoing the Anointing of the Sick

Q: I attended Sunday Mass while on vacation … the priest preached about the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Here are some of the statements he made.

“We all need to receive this sacrament.”
“Anointing is not just for people who are dying or very ill, it’s for everyone, because you never know when you’re going to die.”
“Catholics should be anointed regularly.  The Church gave us this sacrament for a reason, we should make use of it.”

The priest chided the congregation, because so many parishioners hadn’t come to him to be anointed.  At the end of Mass, people lined up as they do to receive Communion, and from what I could see, the priest anointed each of them quickly on the hand.  This seems to happen regularly at this particular parish.

I have a degree in theology … [and] I know what the Church teaches about this sacrament.  Almost every single thing this priest told the people about anointing was the exact opposite of authentic Catholic doctrine.  You’ll probably tell me to report this to the diocesan bishop, but that’s not my question.  My question to you is, is this anointing that he’s giving every healthy parishioner even valid?  It doesn’t strike me that it would have any effect, if you’re not dying or seriously ill or otherwise in danger of death. –Maria Continue reading

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Opus Dei and Personal Prelatures

Q:  My mom is a supernumerary [i.e., a lay member] in Opus Dei.  She is freaking out because Pope Francis recently forced changes on Opus Dei’s leadership and now they have to change their statutes.  She says that the Pope is trying to destroy Opus Dei….

I read the Pope’s decree and honestly, I can’t see any reason to freak out.  It sounds like a big bureaucratic nothing.  At the same time I don’t completely understand everything the Pope said, so maybe I am missing something huge?

You can probably understand the significance of the Pope’s decree better than my mom and I can … could you decipher what Pope Francis said and tell us whether you think worrying is justified? –Preston Continue reading

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What’s a Benefice? Eliminating Financial Corruption in the Church

Q: Can you please explain what exactly a benefice is, and how it works in the Church today?

…I recently endured a tirade from an anti-Catholic evangelical, who among a million other things was bashing the Church for its financial corruption.  He kept mentioning “benefices,” but I didn’t know what that term even meant, so I held my tongue.

Later I did some research online … I learned that a benefice is an ecclesiastical office with a salary.  But I don’t know why we Catholics never seem to hear this term today?  Is “benefice” synonymous with “office”?  Is the office of the pastor of a parish a benefice, for example?  I don’t understand why the evangelical was criticizing the idea that a clergy needs a salary to live on … [because] evangelical ministers must earn a salary too…. –Judith Continue reading

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