ASK FATHER: Priest says “I absolve you from ALL your sins”. Invalid?

From a reader…


Frequently, well-meaning priests are inserting “all” into the words of absolution, as in “I absolve you from ALL your sins.” Is this enough to invalidate the absolution? I have experienced this many times over the years with different priests.

No, the introduction of “all” as in “all your sins” does NOT invalidate the absolution.

However, the very fact that you ask this question raises the deeper problem.

When priests (yes yes… and deacons) screw around with the texts of sacred rites, they run the risk of

a) doing something invalid,
b) doing something illicit and/or
c) confusing or even scaring the people they are ordained to serve.

We have seen recently the drastic consequences down the line, even years later, when some jackass screws around with the form of the sacrament of Baptism.  Consider those priests who had to be baptized, confirmed, ordained years after the fact of their invalid baptism.

When people hear from priests or deacons some strange or cobbled up prayer or form for a sacrament, quite often alarm bells ring for them.

This happens in confessionals.

Priests, thinking they are being “meaningful” or “deep” goof around with the words of absolution and, thereby, create confusion in the minds of those lay people who know what the form of absolution is and how important it is to get it right.

Moreover, in that moment of sacramental confession, people are at their most vulnerable and their souls are acutely tuned to the significance of the action.

Fathers… don’t be jackasses.   Don’t make things up.   Don’t hurt people.

Stick to the texts!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Didn’t Archbishop Lefebvre found the SSPX precisely because he feared the bad fruits of departing from tradition in the formation of priests? Isn’t one of these bad fruits the attitude that the form of the Sacraments can be molded and shaped according to tastes — even, as it turns out, to the point of rendering them invalid? Is the Archbishop being vindicated yet again?

  2. Gabriel Syme says:

    A great article Fr Z, with an important message.

    Although I attend the traditional mass nowadays, I sometimes visit ‘modern’ parishes for confession (at least before the current social situation disrupted their operation). This is for a variety of reasons – opportunity, convenience, attachment to certain parishes etc.

    I find this “all your sins” style is now almost universal in my area, to the extent one might suspect it was an unofficial policy of the Bishops.

    Since I discovered tradition, some 8 years ago, I have had my eyes opened to how widespread the abuse of texts and rubrics is. Priests ad-libbing the modern mass is also common, especially things like changing “brothers and sisters” to “sisters and brothers”, as well as the constant”for all / for many” battleground.

    Nowadays I always recoil from such things, but then feel guilty as if I am behaving “holier than thou” – but this article is a good reminder that accuracy *is* important.

    That’s one reason why the TLM stands head and shoulders above the novus ordo. Its always the same, regardless of location. I have been to masses abroad where not one vernacular word could pass between the others in the congregation and I, yet we can all worship together happily. This, while the novus ordo varies wildly even from parish to parish, let alone different countries.

  3. Gabriel Syme says:

    @ Anita Moore O.P.

    Is the Archbishop being vindicated yet again?

    Yes indeed he is!

  4. I think part of the problem was the prevalent influence of Karl Rahner’s dreadful notion about sacraments celebrating already existing realities. If that’s the case, then what difference does it make what you say? What matter you use?

  5. Philmont237 says:

    I’ve been to priests many times who say “I forgive you..” instead of “I absolve you….”

    Is this invalid? I actually asked a priest to do it the correct way recently, and he gave some messed up excuse and even said something about Trent. He did it, but he wasn’t happy about it.

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