Question: You recommend that people go to Confession every month. Why would anyone go to Confession unless he had committed some serious sin? Why do I have to tell my sins to the priest; can't he just give me absolution?
Answer: Actually, we recommend Confession at least once a month; more frequently would be better. Anyone in the state of serious sin ought to make a Sacramental Confession at the earliest opportunity.
Catholics view Confession as an opportunity to strengthen their resolve and receive the graces needed to avoid serious sin. One should not put off Confession until it is too late. A regular nightly examination of conscience and frequent Confession help to put one in the spiritual state where serious sin becomes unthinkable.
Infrequent Confession is another of the Modernist errors that have infected (even traditional) Catholics in recent years -- no one goes to Confession but everyone receives Holy Communion. Sin has become a trivial concern. For the Modernist, for sin to take place, there must be a victim; someone or something must be injured. If the action goes undiscovered, or if no one is hurt by it, or if all parties consent to it, then there is no sin. And there are no sins against the first, second, and third Commandments, since God is not a someone or a something that can be hurt. In any event, the Modernist will tell you that everyone is going to be saved anyway, so why should a little sin bother anyone? As Modernist man claims to perfect himself through his human activities with others, sin takes on the guise of "alienation" from the community, to be healed by "reconciliation," which the community freely grants without any humbling activity like Confession.
The truth, of course, is quite different. The consequence of sin is Hell, which is both real and eternal. Sin is primarily an offense against God, who is both merciful and just. Sin is an assertion that the sinner has placed himself above the right of God to obedience. Sin always diminishes, and may even eliminate grace, the life of God in the soul. Forgiveness of sin always requires contrition and the desire to do better in the future. Perfect contrition -- sorrow for sin because it offends God and not for the simple fear of Hell -- brings forgiveness even for serious sins, but must be accompanied by Sacramental Confession because contrition is rarely perfect. Sacramental Confession is the means appointed by Our Lord Himself for the forgiveness of sins, and must be received after serious sin and before receiving any Sacrament except Baptism.
The requirement to confess one's sins is contained in the Our Lord's words instituting the Sacrament. The priest may "forgive" or "retain" the sins of the penitent. This implies making a judgement -- one that can be made only after heariing the Confession.
General absolution -- the granting of Sacramental forgiveness to a group of people without individual Confessions -- is possible only for an urgent reason when it is not possible for the priest to listen to each Confession. Traditionally, the urgent reason urgent enough is danger of death -- perhaps an imminent air raid, soldiers unexpectedly called to battle, or a sinking ship. Bishops may allow their priests to grant absolution if an integral Confession will not be possible for a very long period of time. A large number of people gathered for a major holy day observance does not constitute a reason for granting general absolution. In all cases, those who receive general absolution are required to make a complete Confession -- including the sins absolved by general absolution -- at the earliest opportunity.