QUAERITUR: leaving the “and” out of the form for absolution

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Forgive the scrupulosity of the question:  At my most recent confession, the priest, who I confess to with some regularity on and off, absolved as follows – while making the sign of the cross:  I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. 
While that seems substantially correct, are the words "and the" necessary for validity?  i.e.  the Father AND THE Son AND THE Holy Spirit?  Was it a valid absolution?  I presumed, with some doubt, that it was valid at that time.
If it was not valid, do any serious sins confessed therein have to be re-confessed in a subsequent confession?

I believe that absolution was valid.

This is another example of why priests should SAY THE BLACK and DO THE RED.

People should never have to doubt that they were validly absolved, even for a moment.

If you confess regularly to a priest who regularly does something a little dodgy with the form of absolution, I would politely bring it up, and that it has been a point of concern for you.  I think people are within their rights to have the form of absolution spoken as it is in the book.

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  1. SonofMonica says:

    Of course it’s valid. God is faithful, even if priests aren’t. Remember that God LOVES you, and has no desire to trick you. You are not a reject who is having to beg for a grumpy God’s forgiveness in the confessional. You are God’s child, and there is a fount of abundant mercy which is instantly available from the Father the moment you step into the confessional. Go, and sin no more!

  2. chcrix says:

    SonofMonica: Well said.

    I begin to worry sometimes that folks get too pharasiacial.

  3. I would add “ecclesia suplet”. Unless the priest makes a huge mistake or says something that is not even close to what it should be then “the church will provide”. Remember “and the” are not stressed parts of the sentence in English and it is grammatically correct to use the unstressed forms and not the stressed forms. It would be grammatically odd, yes GRAMMATICALLY odd, to use the stressed forms in the form of absolution. I would put IPA letters up to illustrate my point but I am not sure if everyone could read them.

    What all this means is that the priest might actually have said the words but due to the fact that he has to repeat the phrase many times and the words “and the” are not stressed he might have “subvocalized” them, that is said them in a way too low and too fast to be heard by others. Thus getting the priest to slow down when giving the form of absolution will probably get him to naturally produce the words in a manner that can be heard even if you don’t bring up the exact problem with him.

    Ah, stress beats versus uniform pacing, another reason why Latin is suck a better language than English; in my opinion of course.

  4. WGS says:

    Listen to a group recitation of the Rosary. In many instances, you will not be able to detect an “and” in “now at the hour of our death. Amen.” For some, it’s a matter of getting through the required words of a prayer or invocation as fast as possible without any concern for the meaning or intent.

  5. Jayna says:

    I have a somewhat similar question on absolution. I’ve heard priests do both a kind of short form and a long form absolution. Some of them just do the last part “I absolve you from your sins…” while others do the whole “God, the Father of mercies…” My confessor always does the latter (though he never asks me to say the Act of Contrition, I’ve always found that weird), but is there a validity issue if a priest leaves out the first three-quarters of the formula?

  6. Jayna, my priest only does the “Ego te absolvo” but prays the other part silently, that’s probably what the aformentioned priest does.

  7. wolfeken says:

    I see some Latin in the comment thread and have a feeling that most are talking about the new form of absolution but some are referencing the traditional form.

    If one is fortunate enough to receive absolution using the pre-Vatican II Roman Ritual, the priest has three options, with the shortest (in non-emergency circumstances) being 40 words:


    BTW, you may request this of your pastor, as specified in Summorum Pontificum.

  8. padredana says:

    I also encounter, quite frequently, brother priests who say “I absolve you from your sins, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is annoying to me, but I think it is still valid.

  9. chonak says:

    While this questioner’s example involved only a small deviation from the formula, there are sometimes more troublesome cases: a pastor once heard my confession, and seemed to pray briefly and made the Sign of the Cross. He probably intended to absolve, but since I did not hear him say any of the formula, I couldn’t tell whether he said it at all. I explained my uncertainty to him, and he, a bit annoyed, then said it audibly. OK, thank you. I guess he was in a hurry.

  10. Doc Angelicus says:

    Let’s not forget that the Latin has no definite articles, so their omission in the English is not especially problematic as long as a valid Trinitarian formulation is used (ie, not “Creator, Redeemer, Sacntifier” or some such nonesense). And while we do want to guard against being too pharisaical, we ought not reduce validity to the bare minimums, either. Things ought to be done right, because doing them wrong can invalidate a Sacrament, and doing them right ensures validity.

  11. Gail F says:

    Good point. It’s better to say it right to begin with. But sometimes even a priest makes a slip of the tongue, or says things so many times that he shortens them perhaps without even meaning to. (“And the” could be considered to be implied in this sentence, as well as “subvocalized” as the writer above says.) That is not a reason to worry. But people DO tend to worry.

  12. Hidden One says:

    I often hear, “I absolve you from all your sins…” or “,i>all of your sins”.

  13. English and Japanese: two languages where ‘n’ is a word. And where said word is often silent. :)

  14. chonak says:

    I have also heard “all your sins”. The expression is probably intended to help the penitent avoid scruples about any sins omitted.

  15. ikseret says:

    chcrix, the reader has a legitimate question and is worried.

    The real Pharisees think they are superior to Christ’s requirements and make light of the law of Christ in order to try to ease their own consciences.
    Such people seem to have no problem with disregarding the teachings of Christ’s Church, for example, on the necessity of the proper form of the sacrament.

    SonofMonica, you may be well-meaning, but your answer is not helpful. God does loves us which is why He gave us the sacraments as a means of His grace. And through Penance He forgives us even if our motive of sorrow is fear of hell. But, in itself, fear of hell is not enough to gain God’s forgiveness. In a marvelous way, God uses human instruments, priests, to minister His forgive, bind, and loosen. So, it is an important matter that those instruments act properly towards the penitent.

  16. sejoga says:

    When I went to confession last week, the priest said the absolution fine, but I thought it was odd that he didn’t invite me to say an Act of Contrition, and I specifically asked him for a penance, to which he said, “Say three Hail Mary’s for the people who are going to die tonight,” nothing about penance for my sins. Has anyone had this before? The absolution was valid I’m sure, but it was an odd experience for me otherwise. Is this common?

    Also, I was made to give my confession face-to-face, and I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to have the option of giving it behind the screen.

  17. Jono says:


    Some priests forget, others intentionally do not provide a penance or ask for an act of contrition. I think, in the case of some, if you conclude your the confession of your sins with “. . . for these and any sins I may have forgotten, I am truly sorry,” they may assume that it your act of contrition was contained therein.

    Also, if they have been to many Lenten Penance Services, where the act of contrition is made in common, and where a general penance is imposed, they may simply forget in the case of individual confessions.

    This does not excuse the fact that they are supposed to give a penance and ask for an act of contrition. Still, if you ask for these, I’ve never known a priest who didn’t say something (even if it was just “spend some time in prayer”). Again, some priests seem to deliberately leave these points out.

    For what it’s worth, the 3 Hail Mary’s for those about to die was a good penance. We can always use reminders to pray for the dead. Further, you know when your penance has been satisfied.

  18. papaefidelis says:

    I recall reading a discussion some years ago as to what words were necessary for validity of absolution. Clearly, “ego” is superfluous, already understood in “absolvo” while “te” is clearly understood from the context; likewise, the “a peccatis tuis” is superfluous, since it is understood in “absolvo” (what else would the priest absolve if not sins?). The author, whose identity I have long since forgotten, did not deem the “in nomine Patris…” essential for validity. In Latin, I hardly think the omission of “et” would in any way touch the validity of the sacrament (“…in nomine Patris, Filii, Spiritus Sancti”) so I would opine that the same holds for English. Yet it’s better to look towards carrying out Divine Worship and the sacraments with utmost care and full ceremony rather than looking to do only what’s absolutely essential for validity.

    How much water is necessary to pour/sprinkle to effect baptism? As much as is needed!

  19. jesusthroughmary says:

    To the OP:

    For the record, the formula is “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and OF the Son and OF the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

    If you’re going to be scrupulous, at least be scrupulous about the correct formula. ;o)

  20. pelerin says:

    Last year I was taken by surprise when I was asked what penance I would like to receive. The Priest was American and I presumed that was usual in America but I have never been asked this in England.

    On another occasion I was asked whether I would like the old absolution in Latin – beautiful. It took me back to my first confession.

  21. C.B. says:

    If the priest does not ask me to say an act of contrition, I just start saying it anyway while he’s saying the words of absolution. None of them have ever objected.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    quomodocumque, you beat me to it.

    Subvocalized words (especially conjunctions and definite articles) are VERY common in the American South, as are vanishing consonants not only at the end but in the middle of words (e.g. ‘twenny’ for ‘twenty’). We don’t even notice their absence in most cases.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    pelerin, nobody around here has EVER given me a choice!

    Once, due to a misunderstanding/language barrier, I thought I had been given all four sets of mysteries of the Rosary as a penance. That seemed to take forever . . . but I’m sure it did me no harm. My knees may disagree.

  24. rahook says:

    What if the priest says “I FORGIVE your sins”, instead of “I absolve you from your sins”? Would this be a valid confession? I actually experienced this in the confessional a few years ago.


  25. Bornacatholic says:

    I always carry with me a copy of the From of Absolution. If a Priest does not say the correct Form, I hand him the correct one and request that he say that.

    If you do that with humility and politeness, you’ll find the Priest will not only say the right form, he will ask if he can keep the copy of it.

    This has happened to me at least four times.

    It’s the springtime of the new evangelisation, baby :)

  26. joan ellen says:

    What a welcome thread. In the past this has been something that I did not know what to say or do. Now thanks to Bornacatholic I know exactly what to do. I will have with me a copy of the Form of Absolution and request, if need be, that Fr. say that. The Form of Absolution is my Blessed Assurance.

  27. pelerin says:

    AnAmericanMother – ah so it was not an American thing! Amusingly I had chosen this Priest because the name on the door seemed so very English. The following year in the same place I chose one with an Irish name and he too proved to be American!

    Being English I would not be able to follow the advice of bornacatholic. On one occasion the Priest (wearing jeans) had his stole folded on a shelf by the side which made me wonder whether my confession was valid. He was American too!

  28. Bornacatholic says:

    The Form of Absolution. Don’t leave home without it.

    God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;through the ministry of the church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

  29. robtbrown says:

    I would add “ecclesia suplet”. Unless the priest makes a huge mistake or says something that is not even close to what it should be then “the church will provide”. Remember “and the” are not stressed parts of the sentence in English and it is grammatically correct to use the unstressed forms and not the stressed forms. It would be grammatically odd, yes GRAMMATICALLY odd, to use the stressed forms in the form of absolution. I would put IPA letters up to illustrate my point but I am not sure if everyone could read them.
    Comment by quomodocumque — 8 April

    1. Strictly speaking, Ecclesia Supplet has nothing to do with the issue that has been raised. ES refers to supplying jurisdiction (ecclesia supplet iurisdictionem) in situations in which the minister lacks the faculties for the Sacrament (Confession, Confirmation, Matrimony). The SSPX is a prime example.

    NB: Ecclesia Supplet does not refer to suspended priests giving absolution in cases of emergency. The pope himself has given jurisdiction is those cases–it is specified in canon law.

    2. Sacramental Form is distinguished as substantial or essential, acc to St Thomas. The substance of SF can be broad. For example, in the second consecration the substantial SF includes the “pro multis”–and some have insisted–incorrectly, I think–on invalidity when the celebrant says for all.

    The essence of Sacramental Form, however, is that which designates the Sacramental Matter. Thus, in the second consecration the essence is “Hic est calix sanguinis mei”. Invalidity of SF comes from violation of its essence.

    The same is true for the SF of absolution. Although it can be said that the entire formula (God the Father of mercies . . . ) is substantially the SF, the essence is “I absolve you . . .

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