From a reader:
I went to confession last evening at my parish after the Advent Penance Service, and one of the visiting priests (there were several), after hearing my sins, said something like "Your sins are forgiven, go in peace." No absolution, no penance, no Act of Contrition… no Sacrament as far as I can see. So I went to our pastor in the confessional, told him what happened, and he gave me absolution, had me say the Act of Contrition, and gave me penance.
Isn’t the Sacrament invalid if the words are not there? Was I right to go to the pastor to receive a real absolution? I feel like our pastor, who is very spiritual and holy and traditional, in inviting other priests into the parish, opened the door to at least one wolf, who came in and attacked the sheep by sabotaging their confessions… and some of those who suffered this were children making their first confessions.
First, don’t be too tough on the pastor. He is trying to offer the sacrament of penance and took the effort to invite priests to hear confessions. Also, it might not be entirely fair to paint the priest in that light, since you have no idea what happened with the other people who went to him.
Second, the words of absolution must be pronounced by the priest. Also, the priest should be assured that there is true remorse and firm purpose of amendment, which is partly what the Act of Contrition is for. Also, there must be some kind of penance.
Thus, you were right to go to the other priest and explain what happened.
We need a revitalization of the sacrament of penance.