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1973 Decree

A Fourth Rite of Reconciliation for Queensland?

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 Contents - Apr 2006AD2000 April 2006 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: New cardinals: Benedict XVI signals his intentions - Michael Gilchrist
Conscience: Dissenters' appeal to Rome 'a real hoot' says Cardinal Pell - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Books: Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
EarthSong: Green Christianity or a new paganism? - Michael Gilchrist
Salesian Missions: Cardinal Pell visits East Timor - Michael Lynch SDB
Creation: Intelligent Design and the war against God - Stephen Hitchings
The Domestic Church: The Christian Family Movement: re-evangelising through families - Leslie Sammut
Has just punishment had its day? - Fr Matthew Kirby
1973 Decree: A Fourth Rite of Reconciliation for Queensland? - AD2000
Music and Culture: Benedict XVI, Mozart and the quest for beauty - Mark Freer
Letters: Religious education - Saskia Ebejer
Letters: Action needed - Kevin McBride
Letters: New Age - Yana Di Pietro and Magenta Ray
Letters: Translations - George Simpson
Letters: National suicide - Greg O'Regan
Letters: Anti-life politicians - Robert Bom
Letters: RU486 - Brian Harris
Letters: Courageous example - Arnold Jago
Letters: Inclusive language - Ottavio Kos
Letters: Overseas priests - Peter Gilet
Letters: Leadership needed - Tom King
Letters: Church of England - Jim Turley
Letters: Religious life - Barbara Chigwidden
Books: Swear To God: The Promise and Powers of the Sacraments, by Scott Hahn - Jacinta Cummins (reviewer)
Books: Mother Angelica, by Raymond Arroyo - Stephen Hitchings (reviewer)
Books: Fr Martin D'Arcy: Philosopher of Christian Love, by H.J.A. Sire - Michael E. Daniel
Events: Holy Week 2006: Classical Roman Rite in Melbourne
Books: Stimulating reading from AD Books
Reflection: The redeeming Cross: at the centre of Christian faith - Cardinal George Pell

Contrary to what some have asserted, Pope John Paul II did not relax the requirements for use of the so-called Third Rite of Reconciliation (communal rite with general absolution) in or around 1998.

In effect, he told the Australian Bishops at their ad limina visit to "read the instruction book", namely, the introduction to the Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship on the Rite of Reconciliation (1973), especially paragraphs 31-33.

The Third Rite was never intended to be the norm. In fact, par 31 states quite clearly: "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church."

The Decree then outlines the strict conditions for legitimate use of the Third Rite - "particular, occasional circumstances may render it lawful and even necessary to give general absolution to a number of penitents," for example, in battle conditions.

Par 33 makes it clear that those aware of grave sins must "resolve to confess in due time each one of the grave sins" (in a subsequent confession). This is required for the validity of any general absolution.

It is worth repeating that the above and other necessary conditions were set out clearly in the 1973 Decree. Pope John Paul II added nothing.

Yet correction of abuses of the Third Rite continues to present difficulties in some dioceses, with general absolution still being made available in the Toowoomba Diocese in recent times.

In another Queensland diocese (Rockhampton), it would seem there has been offered what might be described as a "Fourth Rite of Reconciliation".

Two sample penitential services were distributed to all parishes for use or adaptation as part of their preparation for last Christmas. They "were written by participants" in the 2005 Pastoral Liturgy Course.

The prayers contained in the services did not present any obvious problems. However, there were some disquieting features:

* an inadequate examination of conscience;

* the note at the end of one of the services which states: "Individual confession may be offered after the penitential service" (emphasis added). In other words, sacramental confession seems to be merely an option. This note is not included at the end of the other services;

* the services can be conducted by a lay person, as the end blessing in each case is given in the "lay form";

* in one of the services the "Presider" states: "Now let us turn to God our Father and ask him to free us from evil" - which could easily be construed as some form of absolution;

* the impression could easily be conveyed that all that is required for forgiveness of sins is for an individual to attend one of these services in Advent and/or Lent.

The services are not examples of the Second Rite nor of the Third Rite. So what else can they be other than what amounts to a "Fourth Rite"?

Involved here as well is a further blurring of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the laity.

As has been the case for far too long regarding the Church's liturgical and sacramental practices, confusion continues to reign supreme.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 19 No 3 (April 2006), p. 11

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