From a reader…
Whether an absolution is valid if the priest prays the form of the sacrament correctly, but does not make the sign of the cross.
This might just be scruples, but recently, I went to confession to a priest who had a physical limitation and could not use his right arm.
Also, he has difficulty using his left arm. (He may have had a stroke.) Unfortunately, there was no way to go behind the grill, so when it came time for the absolution, I noticed he just prayed the words, and did not move either of his arms. He is a very good and faithful priest, so this is not a critique of him. Now, after several days, I have not been able to find an answer to this question, or to even if he can use his left arm in absolution.
Lastly, as a regular reader and prayer for this blog, I want to add my name to the many others who are grateful to you for promoting confession regularly. Thank you, Father Z.
Thanks for that last part. You are welcome.
All sacraments have both matter and form. The matter of the Sacrament of Penance is the telling, to the best of the penitent’s ability, all mortal sins with sorrow and a purpose of amendment. The form of the sacrament are the essential words of absolution spoken by the priest (with faculties to absolve).
The confessor’s gesture of the sign of the Cross is not essential to valid absolution.
FATHERS! This question reveals how attentive your penitents are to what you say, or don’t say, do, or don’t do. They have the right not to doubt or to be confused, especially in that important moment of exposure and encounter with Christ. In this case the priest probably can’t use his arm. No one is held to do that which he cannot do. However, you able-bodied priests should make the sign of the Cross at the place indicated in the Form.
Also, FATHERS!, use the proper form of absolution, either in the newer, post-Conciliar form or the older, traditional form. SAY IT PROPERLY. Don’t insert stuff, leave things out, or ad lib. Just shut up and absolve!
And GO TO CONFESSION yourselves, Fathers!