From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):
We shall also do well to recall that, for a balanced spiritual and pastoral orientation in this regard, great importance must continue to be given to teaching the faithful also to make use of the sacrament of penance for venial sins alone, as is borne out by a centuries-old doctrinal tradition and practice.
Though the church knows and teaches that venial sins are forgiven in other ways too—for instance, by acts of sorrow, works of charity, prayer, penitential rites—she does not cease to remind everyone of the special usefulness of the sacramental moment for these sins too. The frequent use of the sacrament—to which some categories of the faithful are in fact held—strengthens the awareness that even minor sins offend God and harm the church, the body of Christ. Its celebration then becomes for the faithful “the occasion and the incentive to conform themselves more closely to Christ and to make themselves more docile to the voice of the Spirit.”194 Above all it should be emphasized that the grace proper to the sacramental celebration has a great remedial power and helps to remove the very roots of sin.
Attention to the actual celebration,195 with special reference to the importance of the word of God which is read, recalled and explained, when this is possible and suitable, to the faithful and with them, will help to give fresh life to the practice of the sacrament and prevent it from declining into a mere formality and routine. The penitent will be helped rather to discover that he or she is living a salvific event capable of inspiring fresh life and giving true peace of heart. This careful attention to the celebration will also lead the individual churches to arrange special times for the celebration of the sacrament. It will also be an incentive to teaching the faithful, especially children and young people, to accustom themselves to keeping to these times except in cases of necessity, when the parish priest must always show a ready willingness to receive whoever comes to him.
194 Ordo Pænitentiæ, 7b.
195 Cf ibid., 17.
— Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 32