Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke
1. General confession is necessary for all who have made in-valid confessions. St. Alphonsus remarks on this subject that it is a frequent experience in missions that bad confessions have to be set right; hence he advises missioners that since the good of missions consists mainly in setting right bad confessions,they should in all their discourses be urgent in explaining the heinousness of sacrilege and how many souls are lost by concealing mortal sins in confession. Experience teaches that manypeople are overcome by false shame so as to conceal their sinseven in the confessions which they make to the fathers givingthe mission. If at so solemn a time as a mission such peoplefail to set right their bad confessions, what hope is there of theirsalvation ? If in the confession which they make to the missionerthey cannot overcome their shame, how will they do it whenthey confess to the local priest? There is indeed good reason for ever and again insisting on the general confession. Hence it is very desirable that the local priests at the time of a mission should refrain from hearing confessions, and surrender their confessionals to the fathers who give the mission (or to some strange priests called in for the special work of hearing the confessions), for some of the faithful, if they see their usual confessor in attendance, may be deterred from going to a strange priest and continue to make sacrilegious confessions. It not unfrequently happens that people whom we would never suspect have most need of freedom in this respect. It frequently happens that a confessor thinks a general con-fession necessary when the penitent is not at all convinced of its necessity. Whether the penitent is to be advised in such a case to make a general confession will be determined by the rules which are given as- to the duty of instructing the penitent 01leaving him to himself (§ 55); for if the penitent suspects nothing of the nullity of his previous confessions, the confession which he now makes in good faith and proper dispositions is valid, and by virtue of it the sins mentioned in former invalid confessions are indirectly remitted and need only be repeated when the conscience awakes to the fact. Moreover, a prudent confessor, if he fails to persuade a penitent of the necessity of a general confession, may succeed by a few questions in making the confession practically a general one. Indeed, unless the penitent takes it in bad part the priest may by a little adroitness elicit a general confession; then he must, before giving absolution, let the penitent know that he has made a general confession. The case may also occur where the penitent has made one or more sacrilegious confessions and, quite forgetful of this circumstance, has begun to make valid confessions without ever setting right the bad ones; this not unfrequently happens to children. In this case the general confession need only extend over the sacrilegious confessions.