More than 5,000 New Jersey Catholics have receive general absolution of their sins in a series of five massive public penance rites conducted as part of the diocese's Advent observance.
The Newark rites were patterned after similar general absolution services a year ago in Memphis by Bishop Carrol Dozier. Bishop Dozier was criticized by conservatives in the Church for his unusual use of the rite.
In public penance rites, the entire group of worshippers is led en masse by the priest through an examination of conscience, prayers fro forgiveness and ultimate granting of absolution by the priest. The rite originally was devised for emergency situations, such as the case of soldiers going into battle, where traditional individual confessions are not possible. Bishop Dozier last year maintained that the large numbers of Catholics who have drifted from their faith justified the use of emergency meas
As in the Memphis services last year, the Newark generaabsolution rites were designed to encourage lapsed Catholics to become active once again in the Church. Planning and preparations for the massive penance rites had been f under way in the archdiocese since September.
Newark Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, one of the more progressive bishops in the American hierarcy, conducted two of the five rites. Others, including one attended by 700 Spanish-speaking Catholics in Jersey City, were led by the three auxilliary bishops of the archdiocese.