Raymond C. Mann points out that the long lines for confession are gone and no other form of reconciliation has come about (“The Empty Box,” February 29). Although confession has often been considered essential by those interpreting reconciliation as a judicial process, church practice testifies that confession is not essential. The deaf and mute can receive the sacrament by an indication of contrition and the absolution of the priest. They are not obliged to write their sins. Also, soldiers in war receive the sacrament and forgiveness by general absolution. Even if they later transgress by neglecting the church law to confess these sins when there is an opportunity, the sins are already forgiven. The sacrament is not revoked.
In short, it seems the time has come for a change in how the church thinks about administering the sacrament. There is no theological obstacle for optional individual confession and general absolution as the norm. People still hunger for mercy even if they are not in line, and occasional attempts at general absolution have had a tremendous response.