1310 K Sat 4 May 2002
I have been reading the Motu Proprio of Pope John Paul II of 7 April 2002, Misericordia Dei, meaning "By the mercy of God".
Near the end he wrote: "I decree that everything I have set down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Propiro shall have full and lasting force and be observed from this day forth, notwithstanding any provisions to the contary." So I have been trying to work out what changes have been made.
I believe this sentence is important:
So I doubt Cardinal George would write today what he wrote in his column of 3 March 2002:
I think the need to be "respectful of practice in the Archdiocese" has become less important.
Here is my summary of the decrees:
1. Ordinaries (i.e. bishops) are to remind priests who minister the sacrament of the laws.
2. Ordinaries (i.e. bishops), parish priests and rectors of churches are to "periodically verify" that priests are available for confession.
3. "... any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved. ...".
4. The "grave necessity" required for the use of general absolution has been clarified. It is where:
"the priest can visit only once or very few times a year, or when war or weather conditions or similar factors permit."
In judging if the people will be deprived of the sacrament too long, "a period of less than a month" should not be considered "a long time".
5. The judgement of whether there should be a General Absolution "... is not a matter for the confessor but for "the diocesan Bishop ...".
6. Bishops' Conferences "shall send as soon as possible to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments the text of the norms which they intend to issue or update on the application of Can. 961". This "Can. 961" is the canon on General Absolutions.
Diocesan Bishops are to inform their "Bishops' Conferences whether or not cases of grave necessity have occurred in their jurisdictions. It will then be the task of each Conference to inform the above-mentioned Congregation about the real situation in their regions and about any changes subsequently taking place."
I think those are the substantial changes. There is also considerable emphasis on the fact that the priest does not automatically absolve the person:
I see this Motu Proprio as providing specific directions towards bringing about the purification of the Catholic Church which the Pope spoke about in his speech to the US Cardinals on 23 April 2002.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 4 May 2002.