QUAERITUR: I heard “excommunication” in the words of absolution!

From a reader:

While I am praying my Act of Contrition in the Confessional, I hear
the priest praying in Latin. Sometime I hear him say the Latin word
for excommunication and this always makes me afraid that he has judged
that one of my sins was extra bad… something that needed an
un-excommunication. Is it normal for a priest to use that word?

No, do not make that assumption and don’t worry about this at all.

The older form of absolution, which more traditionally-minded priests of the Latin Church can use, includes a line about lifting whatever censure might have been incurred to the extent that he has the faculty to lift them and there is need.

The usual form was and is, with my emphases:

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you. And I by His authority release you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, in so far as I am empowered and you have need. And now I absolve you from your sins; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. R.: Amen.

You can see the logic of the formula.  First, the censure is lifted so that the person is able to receive the absolution of sins, and then the sins are absolved.

Also, it is not uncommon that priests start reciting the formula quietly once they hear you getting on with your Act of Contrition.  That is pretty standard.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    You will know if your sins have been forgiven. The priest will say most of the prayer quietly then wait for you to finish the act of contrition. Then he will say out loud Ego Te Absolvo…. so that you know you have been absolved.

  2. padredana says:

    Can one pray the traditional absolution in English? I think the answer is no, but would like Fr. Z’s thoughts on the topic.

  3. moon1234 says:

    Which begs the question: Why don’t bishops use the power of interdict any more?

  4. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    So… If a person commits a sin that results in an automatic excommunication and goes to confession… and the priest absolves them according to the form of absolution in common use today… that does not say anything about excommunication… is he/she still released from that excommunication???

  5. Thomas S says:

    Funny that there should be a post like this, as I went to confession yesterday and heard this formula for the first time, as well.

    It was at the OF/EF combined parish in Newton, MA (Archdiocese of Boston).

    There was another experience in the confessional I had not had before. When I entered, the priest said, “Praised be Jesus Christ.” I was taken off guard and just went right into making the sign of the Cross.

    Should I have responded “Now and forever”?

  6. Wow, there sure are a lot of versicles and responses that we never learned in school or CCD. Those of us born in the catechesis gap need flashcards or something.

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