Talking with some older parishioners the other day who have been members of the church here since its inception in the 1960s, they claimed that one of their priests would occasionally do common confessions, similar to what Catholics and other High Church Protestants do before the actual Liturgy of the Word begins. Does this happen in other parishes?
To me, this would encourage people not to partake of mystery of confession and absolution.
Catholics do not do a common confession before the liturgy of the word begins as you write.
First off, they may say the "I confess to almighty God" but the priest isn't giving absolution.. it's supposed to be asking God to forgive you, something you should be doing outside of confession anyway.. And the I confess to Almighty God and the prayer of the priest saying "May almight God have mercy on you, forgive USour sins and bring you to eternal life" is part of the Liturgy of the Word, not the beginning of it.
There are actually several options as to what to do at this point in the Mass and the "I Confess" is just one of them.
Totally seperate from private confession.
It's not like the Polish National Catholics or some other Protestants who have their minister/priest actually give the absolution for the sins of the people.. ie, it would count as a private confession if they had it. I know the PNCC near here required people under the teen years to go to private confession however the adults are exempt because of the absolution given after the "I Confess" prayer during the Liturgy of the Word.