ASK FATHER: Priest Mumbles Words of Absolution. Fr. Z says: FATHERS! Stop being JACKASSES and do it right!

FATHERS!  This fellow’s note gives another example of why we priests must must must be careful and precise when giving absolution to penitents.

Use the prescribed form of absolution in Latin or appropriate vernacular language and say the essential words in the form precisely.  If you are doing something other than that…


From a reader…


I’ve been going to a local priest for confession for some time now, and I only noticed recently one time in confession that when reciting the formula for absolution, when he got to the actual words of absolution he said “‘solve you of your sins in the name, etc…”. Now, I thought he was just out of breath or something, and assumed that he at least intended the words and perhaps therefore they were valid.

I’ve gone a couple of more times, and each time he has begun with the half word “‘solve”, leaving out “I ab”. In charity, I won’t speculate as to why he is doing this.

My question is, does this render the absolution invalid? I assume that it does. If so, must I confess any mortal sins again? What if I can’t even remember them all from the several past confessions I’ve made since noticing this quirk?

I intend to confront Father charitably, either in person or in writing. Thank you in advance for any response and help you may have for me. This is now beginning to weigh heavily on my conscience.

This is troublesome.

I want to assume that the priest really is saying properly the essential words in the form, “I absolve you from your sins….”

You could be wrong about this.  Or… you could be right.

You say that you intend to “confront” the priest.  Perhaps “confront” isn’t the best way to do this.  You can, however, approach him and share your concern.  You might try telling him what your experience has been, what you have heard, rather than telling him what he is doing wrong.

If the absolutions have been of doubtful validity … no, I don’t think that you have to confess all those mortal sins again, which could be hard to recall.  You have done your best.  If it would greatly ease your conscience, you can indeed confess them and perhaps add the reason why you would like to do that, so that the confessor has the lay of the land.

If you bring this up with the priest, and if you don’t get any sort of satisfaction in either his response or in a change in how he gives you absolution, you might give it another try at another time.  If that doesn’t produce a change, then you should probably talk to the pastor of the parish or contact the local bishop.

Assume the best about the priest.  Don’t just go at him.  However, you also have the right to know that you are being absolved properly.  Be careful and kind.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. rhhenry says:

    I had an opposite experience, where the priest very slowly and clearly articulated the final prayer and the words of absolution. I thanked him for that, telling him that I appreciated him speaking so slowly and clearly, that it set my mind and conscience at ease to hear the words of absolution so clearly articulated. Reinforcing good behavior, if I may put it so crudely, may have as many benefits as asking for a correction of bad behavior.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. Julia_Augusta says:

    I have been to Confession in France, Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan. All of the priests got it right, which is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

  3. Philmont237 says:

    The local priest I go to for Confession says, “I absolve you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

    How hard is it to say it right???

  4. acardnal says:

    The penitent confessed his sins sincerely. He did his part and should be assured of absolution.

    I remember as a child – before the changes of Vatican 2 and the rites – the priest would absolve me using Latin while I said the Act of Contrition. As a 12 year old I had NO idea if he used the correct form (words) or not! But I left the confessional believing God absolved me nonetheless.

  5. Cafea Fruor says:

    I want to hear the words clearly. The words of absolution are straight up some of the most refreshing and relieving words we can hear, and I want to relish every one of them.

  6. At my “territorial parish,” which can barely manage to offer fifteen minutes before the Saturday evening Mass for confessions — the schedule says half an hour, but it’s always something — the formula is as follows:

    “May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive your sins, and bring you to everlasting life. And I absolve you of your sins in the name of …”

    Granted, the essential words are “Ego te absolvo,” but good Lord, how hard can the rest of it be?

    When I expressed concern to the pastor-confessor that a priest was late showing up whenever I came, he gave me excuses for up to two occasions, and then remarked that he had never seen me there before.

    I thought the reason was fairly obvious.

  7. Lorra says:

    I’m genuinely am sorry to say that I find this to be the case more often than not but I would never confront a priest about it. I’m just grateful he is a priest and that he is hearing my confession.

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