QUAERITUR: priest adds a word to words of absolution

From a reader:

Father, i went to confession this afternoon and instead of the usual “I absolve you from your sins…” the priest said instead, “I now absolve you from your sins…”. Was my confession valid?

Yes, it was valid.

In a sense, “I now absolve” isn’t too far from “Ego… absolvo“, given that absolvo is present tense.

That change to the form isn’t enough to invalidate the absolution.

That said, priests should stick to the form as it is given by the Church.   Just say the black words on the page while doing the red words.  In this way, priests don’t a) impose themselves on the rite and b) lead anyone to have a doubt about what happened.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Rich says:

    I here a lot of, “And, I absolve you of ALL of your sins…” I have prayed at the same moment about whether or not it’s valid, and have sensed the confirmation that the absolution was as good as gold.

  2. Rich says:

    HEAR, that is…

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Most priests in my area say “I absolve you” as if they learned to say that….

  4. Supertradmum says:

    sorry, continuation. I am assuming this correct way is taught in the seminaries. Perhaps the “now” is merely a personal quirk, but I am glad your comment was so clear and easy, Father Z. I think I have heard the “now” a few times. What is more common, and with FSSP priests, is “I absolve you of all of your sins…”

  5. MrD says:

    I went to confession yesterday and the priest said “of all of your sins”.

    I understand the importance of saying the black and doing the red, but I get the distinct impression that there are people out there LOOKING for trouble with their parishes and priests. Where it is glaring and obvious, you should be concerned and report to the bishop if it cannot be resolved at the parish. At some point, we lay people, must have faith in God and the Church. We must put our trusts in the Bishops and priests.

    My main concern – are we being constructive or destructive? Are we focused on living according to God’s will and fostering a good relationship with Him?

  6. moon1234 says:

    Luckily our priests all use Latin for the prayers of Absolution. Word for word and the pre-vatican II version.

    Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis (sespensionis) et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

    May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
    He will pray a prayer for you:

    Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mail sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae.

    May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints obtain for you that whatever good you do or whatever evil you bear might merit for you the remission of your sins, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life.

  7. Peggy R says:

    The DRE at our parish does not have our children taught the proper form for confession. (“Bless me father…”). I helped a 2nd grade PSR/CCD teacher last year who did not teach much of anything about what the children should do at their first confession. That is apparently parish policy. The first confession (er, reconciliation) was a confession service for all the 2nd graders in the parish–diocesan school and PSR students. [The only thing I liked about that idea was that it gets the parents out and encourages them to confess as well.] I was amazed when I checked with the DRE b/c our oldest is in 2nd grade this year, that she claimed that the confession service negates the need for an individual confession to follow the proper form. I don’t believe her for a moment. I googled and found no indication that the traditional form of individual confession is abbrogated in any way. The only things I’ve seen in writing, which I don’t think are desirable, are that the congregation recites the act of contrition together and they have a shared (rather weak and general) penance. Yes, some priests are less formal and proper in their part, as Fr Z’s example shows, but there’s no need for us to deviate from what is proper for us penitents to do.

    So, the children in our parish grow up not knowing what to do if they go to confession any time other than at our parish’s Advent or Lent confession service. Our children need to be equipped with the full knowledge of this (and all) sacrament. The priests from an order in a nearby city who help out at the parish are confused by these proceedings. I asked one young priest from the order to hear my confession recently and we followed the proper traditional forms. I appreciated his hearing my confession and following the order of things as well.

  8. danphunter1 says:

    I have heard on several occasions the priest, in English, say “You are absolved of all your sins…”
    He did not say “I absolve you”
    I wonder if this absolution is valid?

  9. wolfeken says:

    With Christmas on the way, here is a mere $10 gift your pastor may find useful if he is willing to use the traditional Latin form of absolution: http://www.cantius.org/go/webstore/product/confessional_wall_card/

    It’s hard to make stuff up in Latin.

  10. Ogden says:

    I am reminded that Thomas Aquinas handles the adding of additional words to the Sacraments and whether that affects their validity. The example St Thomas used was of baptism. In the examples he asked, does the added word destroy the essential character of the baptismal form? He gives some examples. “I baptise you in the name of the Father, who is greater; and the Son, who is lesser,” and of course that would be invalid, because it destroys the true and essential nature of the form of the Sacrament, to baptise in the Name of the Trinity. But “I baptise thee in the name of the Father Almighty, and of the only Begotten Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,” would be valid, because the additions do not destroy its essential character. So this is the test that can be used in such situations. (This is article 8 under question 60 in the Tertia Pars of the Summa for reference.)

    Now that’s a separate question of whether you should do such a thing. As Father says, just say the black! It’s lovely enough as it is. ;)

  11. rahook says:

    What about “I forgive you your sins”? I know a priest who uses this term regularly in the confessional. Do “forgive” and “absolve” mean the same thing, and if not, would his absolution be valid?

  12. The Astronomer says:

    My most egregious modification to the formula for absolution was after confessing to an English speaking priest at the great Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in 2004 while on a business trip. He actually told me, after a short discussion of my spiritual and temporal failings, while making the Sign of the Cross “Jesus will now make sure your sins are forgiven. Go in peace…..”

    I had a hard time falling asleep that night.

  13. aladextra says:

    I actually think I hear “I now absolve…” as much as the other in the two dioceses (both in the upper echelon of U.S. dioceses) in which I spend my time. It makes me wonder if it was taught as a translation of the absolvo. I have heard it from pretty solid priests and never gave it a thought. Now at our parish we mostly use the traditional form in Latin so the point’s pretty moot.

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