ASK FATHER: The Apostolic Pardon and You

HolyDeath last rites apostolic pardonFrom a reader…


What does apostolic pardon mean?

The Apostolic Pardon, or Benediction, forgives temporal punishment due to our sins, not the sins themselves.

If anything remains from our lives, provided we die in the state of grace, for which we have not done adequate penance, the temporal punishment due to those sins, if we have not done adequate penance in life, is forgiven us through the Apostolic Pardon.  This is why the Apostolic Pardon is often given after the Last Rites of sacraments of penance, anointing, and Viaticum.

The older form of the Apostolic Blessing:

Ego facultate mihi ab Apostolica Sede tributa, indulgentiam plenariam et remissionem omnium peccatorum tibi concedo et benedico te. In nomine Patris, et Filii, + et Spirtus Sancti, Amen.

By the faculty given to me by the Apostolic See, I grant you a plenary indulgence and the remission of all your sins, and I bless you. In the Name of the Father and the Son + and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the newer form I think the words “et benedico te” were removed.

When it comes to forms of Anointing, Penance and the Apostolic Pardon, I always use Latin.  That’s my choice.  That doesn’t mean that I think that other approved languages are not effective.  Still, why translate when you don’t have to.  Besides, demons really hate Latin.

The ability to give the Apostolic Pardon, or Benediction, is a marvelous faculty, given by Holy Church to the priest so that he can grant this remission of temporal punishment and forgive sins.  Used in conjunction with the Last Rites a soul is well prepared to go on to judgment.  Well prepared.

We cannot force God or force souls, but we have confidence that God’s promises to the Church and the Church’s teaching to us are all true.

Sometimes I am asked: “Why don’t more priests use the Apostolic Pardon?”

I am not sure that they don’t.  I know that my priest friends, my circle, as it were, know what it is and would use it.

Other priests?  Not sure.

If they don’t, then I suspect that it is simply because they may not know about it.

It is possible that, given the state of seminary training over the last decades, they were never taught about the Apostolic Pardon and perhaps their liberal, discontinuity pastors in their first assignments didn’t use it.  As the old not-quite-Latin adage goes, “nemo dat quod non ‘got‘”.

Another reason they may not use it is that they don’t think the circumstances warrant using it, namely that the person isn’t very close to death after all.

But I think that priests, being generally good men and being involved in the sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening, always awe-filled moment of a person’s dying breaths and last heartbeats, would want to do everything they could to help the person to his or her judgment.  These are not moments to fool around.  I can’t imagine a priest who would not want to use the Apostolic Pardon appropriately – provided he knew it.

All you priests and seminarians out there: Dig into what the Apostolic Pardon entails.  Don’t be ignorant of this powerful aid for a person’s dying challenge.

Therefore, it is not a bad idea to have the card with the prayer on it, just in case.

Idea: Perhaps one of you could work up a printable PDF that could be cut out and even laminated.  A person could keep it in wallet or purse.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    That is so strange an idea, it borders on the bizarre, that either a priest would not be taught the words that could so impact a soul’s journey, or that a priest would know about this and decide not to provide it. Either one of those possibilities is really almost impossible to imagine for me, a layperson. If I had the words that would effect the eternal destiny of a soul, I would want to use them. What an awesome thing it is to be a priest.

  2. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    When my mother was in extremis, our Parish Pastor, who was a wonderful and holy priest who has since passed on, came to give extreme unction. We were grateful. I asked him to give his Apostolic Blessing to her after the sacrament. He was non-plussed. Bupkus. We remain grateful for his kind help (which was exceedingly compassionate and went far beyond usual expectations of priestcraft) and it’s eternal benefit. But I had the distinct impression he really didn’t know for what I was asking.

  3. Jason Keener says:

    My mother passed away last summer after a battle with lung cancer. Her parish priest was very diligent in visiting her and always offered her the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion, which she received at least weekly in her final month. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure her parish priest never offered her a chance to go to Confession, and I don’t think my mom asked to receive the sacrament. Perhaps both thought that Confession was rendered unnecessary because she had received the Anointing of the Sick? This all still worries me a lot. Unfortunately, her parish priest was also out of town on the day she died when I asked him to come lead us in the prayers for the dying and to give her the Apostolic Pardon. I hope everyone is more prepared than we were. I’m very regretful I didn’t more forcefully push the idea of her making a good confession and ensuring that she received the Apostolic Pardon earlier on, even if it meant a slight ruffling of feathers with either my mother or her parish priest. Please keep my mother in your prayers.

  4. MouseTemplar says:

    Father, is what you have posted in bold the entire text of the prayer? I do indeed want to make a card, but want to make sure I don’t leave anything out.

    There should be a pamphlet for priests who might not know about this…

  5. ByzantineCatholic says:

    Father Z,

    I have always been fascinated by the Apostolic Pardon. Do ALL Catholic priests have the faculty to dispense this, including those of the Eastern Catholic Churches?

  6. Animadversor says:

    Memores estote ne animum despondeatis :

    N. 18. Pia Mater Ecclesia, si haberi nequit sacerdos qui christifideli in vitae discrimen adducto sacramenta et benedictionem apostolicam cum adiuncta indulgentia plenaria, de qua in can. 468, § 2 C.I.C., administret, benigne eidem, rite disposito, concedit indulgentiam plenariam in articulo mortis acquirendam, dummodo ipse durante vita habitualiter aliquas preces fuderit. Ad hanc indulgentiam plenariam acquirendam laudabiliter adhibetur crucifixus vel crux.

    Eandem indulgentiam plenariam in articulo mortis christifidelis consequi poterit, etiamsi eodem die aliam indulgentiam plenariam iam acquisiverit.
    Indulgentiarum Doctrina

    N. 18—To the faithful in danger of death who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the apostolic blessing with its attendant plenary indulgence (according to canon 468, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law) Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. To use a crucifix or cross in connection with the acquisition of this plenary indulgence is a laudable practice.

    This plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day.
    Indulgentiarum Doctrina [English]

    Etiam insuper Paenitentiarius Apostolicus, Villelmus Wakefield S.R.E. Card. Baum (qui a.d. x Kal. Aug. obiit—RIP), in decreto cui nomen Enchirdion Indulgentiarum, eodem vel simili saltem praescripsit tenore ut sequitur:

    § 1. Sacerdos, qui christifideli in vitae discrimen adducto sacramenta administrat, eidem benedictionem apostolicam cum adiuncta indulgentia plenaria impertire ne omittat.

    § 2. Quodsi haberi nequit sacerdos, pia Mater Ecclesia eidem christifideli rite disposito benigne indulgentiam plenariam in articulo mortis acquirendam concedit, dummodo ipse durante vita habitualiter aliquas preces fuderit; quo in casu Ecclesia supplet tres condiciones ad indulgentiam plenariam de more requisitas.

    § 3. Laudabiliter ad hanc indulgentiam plenariam acquirendam adhibetur crucifixus vel crux.

    § 4. 23 Eamdem indulgentiam plenariam in articulo mortis christifidelis consequi poterit, etiamsi eodem die aliam indulgentiam plenariam iam acquisiverit.

    § 5. De hac salutari Ecclesiae dispositione in catechesi tradenda fideles opportune et saepe certiores fiant. [Emphasis Animadversoris]
    Enchiridion Indulgentiarum

  7. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    The Apostolic Pardon is buried deep inside Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying. It’s not in the table of contents. It just pops up on a page by itself, unconnected with anything else.

    It was never mentioned when I was in the seminary.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Another reason they may not use it is that they don’t think the circumstances warrant using it, namely that the person isn’t very close to death after all.”

    Is this a plenary indulgence that can only be given in extremis? Do the usual 3 conditions attach to it?

    The reason I ask is that sometimes situations go south very rapidly and unpredictably. Then, the person might wind up in a coma and can’t meet the three conditions (okay, they could, conceivably, if they recovered consciousness, but one never knows) or die, suddenly. Since there is no way to judge this, what is a priest to do? Ideally, there would be a priest stationed at every hospital (and birds would be chirping and singing when I woke up, every morning, and there would be world peace and a bunny rabbit in every home), but short of this, because of the priest shortage, one might not be available at a moment’s notice. Can the Apostolic Pardon be given whenever the Anointing of the Sick takes place, as a precaution?

    The Chicken

  9. Dominicanes says:

    We receive the Apostolic Pardon at the end of every yearly community retreat and are blessed with a huge reliquary that contains the True Cross and relics of all the Apostles, St. Dominic, St. Thomas, etc. It always seems to me to be like a spiritual grand finale!

  10. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Priests of the Order of Preachers should know that the Apostolic Absolution at the Moment of Death according to the form found in the traditional Dominican Rite books, is now available (in Latin and English) as part of _Cura Infirmorum: Care of the Sick in the Dominican Rite_, from Dominican Liturgy Publications here:

  11. yatzer says:

    I also find it curious and somewhat astounding in a bad sort of way that priests are not informed about this because nobody told them. Personally, given my kids’ faith or lack thereof, I’d be doing good to have all but one of them even think of calling a priest in the first place.

  12. Nan says:

    My poor mother died before the priests arrival, around the time Pope Francis said “if a man says ‘Lord’ a few seconds before he dies, how do we know he isn’t reconciled?” Nevertheless, because she was amenable to his visit, had asked for Gods help and had brought up the priest by name to begin with, he considered her reconciled. Keep in mind that Eastern Catholic theories are different than Latin and she left the Church over 40 years ago so miraculous that she mentioned him.

  13. Pastor Bonus says:

    Regarding taking a copy of the Apostolic Pardon in the wallet, it is available via the iBrevisary App on the iPhone at least, although sadly not in Latin! Many other Rites are in this handy App though.

  14. For many years, the hierarchy has been full of men who do not believe in what the Church teaches. Therefore, it is not surprising that they have not considered these teachings worthy of being passed on.

  15. Lady Catcliffe says:

    We just lived the deathbed scene here at Catcliffe a scant few hours ago. Lord Catcliffe, who, alas, is in his last days on earth, received Extreme Unction, the Apostolic Pardon, and Holy Viaticum. Nota bene, the Apostolic Pardon can be received more than once; Lord Catciffe previously had received it and Extreme Unction five weeks ago when his condition deteriorated. Pray for him, for me, and for our 12-year-old son who will be growing up without a father. Pray in thanksgiving for the good and holy priest who annointed Lord Catcliffe a total of four times – twice in each form – over the past several months.

  16. jameeka says:

    Lady Catcliffe:
    I am so sorry for your loss. I will continue to pray for the soul of Lord Catcliffe, for you and young Squire Catcliffe. God bless you and God bless the holy priest who administered the last sacraments.

  17. Matt R says:

    Chicken, the church herself supplies the usual three conditions for a plenary indulgence granted to those at the hour of their deaths.

  18. stephen c says:

    Lady Catcliffe: I am sorry that you and your husband and your child did not have more healthy and happy years together on this earth than you did. I will pray to our loving God for you and your family and friends and for everyone close to your husband, including the living ones and including the ones who have left this valley of tears.

  19. Bea says:

    Thank you, Father.
    I had heard of it and if I were in the presence of certain knowledgeable priests, they would know what to do. Since we are never guaranteed such a luxury in case of necessity, I am so grateful that you have made it available to us.
    I will attempt to print-out and laminate (if possible) to carry with me in my wallet and make copies for friends.
    Thank you again, so much!

  20. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Lady Catcliffe,

    I’m so sorry for you and your son. May our heavenly Lady console you!

  21. frado says:

    My daughter and I were in a very bad auto accident a couple of months ago and our parish priest came to the hospital to administer the Apostolic Pardon to both of us. By the GRACE of our GOOD LORD we both survived!

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