From a reader…
Is my confession valid if the Priest says, “I forgive you” instead of “I absolve you”? Everything else sounded normal. Thank-you
Once again we have an example of some jackass priest who thinks he is being more meaningful, or who condescendingly thinks that people don’t understand a hard word like “absolve”. He could catechize and explain what “absolve” means in, you know, preaching and bulletin articles and classes.
So, another good person is left confused, wondering about the validity of the absolution.
Remember: You had your part to play in the Sacrament of Penance. If you did your best and confessed your mortal sins in kind and number with a firm person of amendment you can be pretty confident in our forgiving God’s mercy. However, you wanted sacramental absolution.
The Church teaches that if the key words of sacramental forms are changed, the validity of the sacrament is in question. The gap of meaning that opens between the words can aggravate the problem.
“Forgive” and “absolve” do not mean the same thing. Just as all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, so too all absolutions are acts of forgiveness but not all acts of forgiveness are absolutions. “Absolve” is a technical term. I wrote about it in the context of the absolution given at Mass and also in the traditional form of absolution in the confessional. If you want to get into the weeds, HERE. Suffice to say that “forgive” is used to translate various technical terms.
Is “forgive” close enough to “absolve” as to mean enough of the same thing so that the absolution (not forgiveness) is valid?
I don’t think so. I think that using “forgive” instead of “absolve” is probably invalid.
To absolve – absolution – has to do with releasing one from something that binds. It will include the imparting of God’s forgiveness. The priest confessor acts in persona Christi and the priest says “I absolve…” not “God absolves…”. Forgive doesn’t necessarily mean the unbinding and removal of sin.
If this priest constantly says “I forgive” and will not use the proper form with “I absolve”, you should inform either the pastor of that parish, or the priest’s bishop or religious superior. Priests should use the proper form.
BTW… priests of non-Latin Church, when serving at a Latin Church ought to use the Latin Church’s proper form of absolution lest they cause confusion and anxiety.
Fathers… use the proper form.
And all of you… all of us…
GO TO CONFESSION!