From a reader…
Reverend Father, If a priest in the confessional says “I give you the absolution in the name of the Father and the Song and the Holy Spirit”
Is the absolution valid since he did not say “I absolve you”? This happened to me, and the priest did not seem to be a native english speaker, I did not say anything at the time but afterward thought more about it ?
People should never have to doubt that they were validly absolved, even for a moment.
WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT THIS?!?
First, you went to confession and, I assume, made a complete, sincere, confession of your mortal sins in kind and number. You, I am sure, expressed a sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment. You did your part. God surely will smile on you. That is a great deal.
Second, what that priest said was doubtfully a valid form of absolution. I don’t have a clear idea of what he, apparently not a native speaker of English, was working with, or what language he might have been working from. I think that some Eastern Catholics might have a slightly different form…. Still… as I jockey the words around, I don’t get clarity. I am left doubting and that should never happen.
If I were you, the next time you go to confession, tell the confessor what happened, mention those mortal sins again, and be absolved properly.
If this priest was a visitor, let this go. If this priest is stationed there and he regularly says this doubtful formula, it must be addressed, first with the priest himself and then, if that doesn’t register, with the pastor of the parish and then the bishop. This is serious business.
Some years ago, I used to carry a card with the proper form of absolution on it to give to confused or idiot priests and I would insist that they use the proper form. That occasionally caused a few tense moments, especially if I had to add a few other observations, but I got absolved and the priest had something to think about. But priests can do as penitents what lay people can’t. Be careful.
Fathers, if you are pastors of parishes, parish priests, and you have a missionary priest visiting, and you put him to work hearing confessions, I suggest that you mention that in your parish, all priests use exactly the form of absolution which the Church has approved. You should have a printed card in the confessional with the approved formula in Latin and in English (and perhaps in Spanish, etc.).
Perhaps diocesan bishops might think about directing that parish priests remind visiting priests from outside the diocese that, ’round these parts we say the black words and do the red stuff.
“But Father! But Father!”, you libs who haven’t darkened the door of a confessional are mewling, “This is paternalistic and insulting! Who needs these strictures of matter and form! The whole Aristotle thing is so yesterday. We’ve grown beyond that, with the help of the Spirit of Vatican II. But you are a throwback fundamentalist repressing the Spirit and she isn’t happy with you because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”
I, for one, want to be absolved validly. You… do what you want and good luck with that.
Lay people, if this happens to you, ask the priest – politely – to say the words of absolution. Keep in mind that older priests might say the form of absolution while you are reciting your Act of Contrition. In most cases, they will wait with the actual form, “I absolve you…” when you have finished. But, sometimes, they don’t. In that case, if you don’t hear the priest say “I absolve you…” you can – politely – ask if the priest gave you absolution. You might add that you didn’t hear it. If you get the sense that the priest simply did not at any time use the correct form, do not lose your cool. Sometimes a priest will send signals that he is a bit dodgy or unsure. For example, if he tells you something that is clearly a mortal sin is not a sin, or if he subtly (or not) runs you down for a reciting “laundry list”, or even if he doesn’t give a penance or the penance is something like “think nice thoughts about someone”, you may be in the presence of a guy who has either made the choice that he knows better than the Church or he has not been well-trained. Again, don’t lose your cool. Inform the pastor – politely. If the priest is the pastor, you may have to inform the diocesan bishop. Did I mention don’t lose your cool? Be polite? It is nearly unimaginable that the priest is straying from what ought to be done out of malice or ill intent.
If you are pretty sure that you were not absolved, freak not thou thyself out. If there is another priest available, tell him what happened, make your confession, get absolved, and go on your way whistling a happy tune (after leaving the church, of course). Otherwise, at your next opportunity, make your confession.
Moderation queue is ON.