After confessing, a young reader asked priest to use the proper form of absolution…

From a young reader:

I’m a teen going to a Catholic highschool in ____. I’m used to relaxed priests who bend the red and change the black. I usually am charitable and celebrate the basic validity of sacraments I receive from them. But today during our penance service, I confessed my sins before one of the priests, I had a lot of heavy stuff on me, mind you, and he gave GREAT advice to help in the future. I waited for absolution but instead got a totally custom prayer ending in the sign of the cross. Terrified that I just confessed my deep sins and wasn’t going to be able to receive communion the next day at mass, I remembered your advice that the laity have a right to have the sacraments said validly and licitly and to simply ask the priest to use the form. I asked in a soft voice and a smile for him to say the normal prayer and he obliged with no malice and gave me absolution.

I prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for this priest and all the people who will not get validly absolved by him. Please pray for him to. But thanks be to God for your counsel through this blog. Keep doing it because I would have never had the guts to ask something like that before reading it here.

My work here is done.


You have the right to have the rite… the right rite, not a made up rite.  You can ask for the proper form of absolution.

Fathers, use the forms of sacraments as they are actually printed in the official books.  Reminder your brothers always to use the proper form of absolution.  Encourage them to hear confessions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges. Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

  2. Thank you for posting this, Father. And congratulations to the young reader for the courage to ask for the right form of absolution. I like to confess in an informal way and as far as I know I have never received absolution that was not in the right form – but I have only been really paying attention since reading about this on your blog.

  3. The Masked Chicken says:

    If the right rite is right, then it is right to do right, and even if it is dull, it is still a dullydoright.

    Score one for the angels!

    The Chicken

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I like to confess in an informal way and as far as I know I have never received absolution that was not in the right form – but I have only been really paying attention since reading about this on your blog.”

    That has been a sore spot for me for a while. What is you did not receive a valid absolution sometime in the past when you weren’t paying attention?

    The Chicken

  5. Mike says:

    Wonderful! Whenever I read a post such as this, I am reminded of a fellow I know who went to Confession to a priest that heard my confession once, and he didn’t use the proper words of the rite of absolution. Years ago, this fellow I know–the layman–went to confession to this priest, and died shortly thereafter. I think we can with great hope trust his soul to the mercy of Our Lord, but jeepers, why not get the rite right? Didn’t Christ give us this sacrament precisely so we could have absolute trust in His mercy?

  6. I am going to turn on moderation for this entry.

    This sort of post tends to invite questions about particular cases (“What about what happen to me the other day….?”) and then comments from the gallery which may or may not have anything to do with reality.

  7. lh says:

    God bless the young reader. I remember a confession where the priest just wanted to chat. I had to walk him through the steps, he seemed not to know he had to give penance and absolve. I said, ‘well Father aren’t you going to say…?, now you do this…then this…” He was surprised I said anything and it was intimidating saying anything. Thank you Fr. Z for your posts, we learn so much from them.

  8. smad0142 says:

    I really have to commend this young man for what he did. When I was a freshman in college I went to a parish I had never been to before because I also had some serious sins to confess and did not want to have to wait for too long. The Priest made up a completely different formula and I was simply too stunned to do anything, and quite frankly scared to confront the Priest to whom I had just beared my soul. I did however send a letter afterwards but this young man should thank God for having such fortitude.

  9. Bea says:

    The above entry is meant for Fr. Z’s response

  10. netokor says:

    I just went to Confession. Thank God for His generosity. A man like me forgiven, because of the Holy Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. How can one comprehend such absolute Love?

    Thank you Fr. Z for your holy ministry. Our Lady intercede for you at every moment.

  11. eiggam says:

    Our local priests have scheduled more times for confessions (not just for Lent) and penitents of all ages are responding.

  12. Fr Jackson says:

    Bravo, Father! This sort of mail resonates deep in a priestly heart.

    [Amen, brother!]

  13. Allan S. says:

    I think the context of the sacrament strips all assertiveness out of penitents, making it difficult to correct your confessor. I often leave after hearing “I forgive you” and just go to the end of the line at another confessional and try again. I know I am not alone.

    Perhaps confessors could be encouraged to “say the black and do the red” if not through filial devotion to their own oaths or a desire to please God, perhaps through self-interest? Following the maxim of “if you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it again” perhaps they will see a self-interest in not promoting multiple attempts in search of the true absolution?

    Just an idea.

  14. amont says:

    Experience in the area where I live is that is is increasingly difficult to find a Priest who actually asks one to recite an Act of Contrition. (Am I alone in this?) I usually suggest to the Confessor; “should I recite my Contrition now Father?” The reply is “if you wish to” I always do. But why should I have to ask?

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  16. That’s a bravo thing to do. Way to go! God bless.

  17. StellaMaris says:

    All due respect Father, but does anyone not find it extremely troubling that a person must actually ask a priest to actually absolve them? What’s the point of going to confession if there is no absolution? This letter just confirms a theory I developed about 3 years ago–in the Novus Ordo all the Sacraments are in doubt. [That’s just plain loopy.] One simply just can not know if they are receiving a valid Sacrament. And if the Sacraments are not valid, then we are all just Protestants de facto.

    [You need a serious revision of your view, friend. Do you think that there were never problems with priests and how they administered sacraments before Vatican II? Do you think that there were rubrics and admonishments to priests about adhering to them under pain of mortal sin just for the heck of it?]

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