ASK FATHER: Father said “I absolve you OF your sins” instead of “FROM your sins”.

From a reader…


I recently made a confession (of mortal sins) where the priest used the full absolution formula, EXCEPT, he said “I absolve you OF your sins” instead of “I absolve you FROM your sins.”

Do I need to redo this confession?  Last year’s story of the priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit who found out he was never validly baptized because the deacon said “WE baptize you” instead of “I baptize you” has me concerned.

Be at ease.

The official English translation of the core of the form of absolution is: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father +, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

That said, there is not a huge gap of meaning between “I absolve you of…” and “I absolve you from…”.  The difference in meaning is NOT enough to invalidate the absolution.

In short, Father is getting it wrong, but not so severely wrong that it invalidates the absolution.

You might politely ask him about it, but not in a confrontational way.  He might not even realize that he is getting is slightly wrong.  If he has the true heart of a priest, he will be glad to know what the correct wording is and will make a change.  If this is all about him, he won’t appreciate the information.

There are some jackass priests out there who really screw around with the forms of sacraments.

If you confess to a priest who regularly does something really dodgy with the form of absolution, I would politely bring it up.

People are within their rights to have the form of absolution spoken as it is in the book.  If it really bothers you, or if you ever hear something that you are pretty sure is too far off base to be admissable, ask the priest to give you absolution with the proper form. Do not be nasty or aggressive about this.

If that doesn’t help, talk to the pastor of the parish and/or the local bishop.

Remember that the priest himself cannot talk about the confession because he is bound by the Seal.  Therefore, you can politely inform the the bishop about your experience of the form of absolution.  You would have to include that you have been to this priest several times and that he has always done the same thing.  Do not run him down.  Do not add lots of observations.  Do not try to teach the bishop his job or theology.

Ideally, the bishop (or pastor) would then have a chat with the priest during which the priest would be informed that word had come that he isn’t using the proper form of absolution and, if true, that should be corrected – lest in the future he receive in spades the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing.

If that doesn’t produce results, send a copy of your correspondence to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (not Divine Worship) and seek a clarification.

Fathers!   Don’t fool around with the words of absolution or of any other sacrament  Remember what happened when men screwed around with the form of baptism!   At the minimum about are being anxiogenic!   It may be that you have slipped into some variant and, over the years, don’t even realize you are doing it.  REVIEW.   This is the nuts and bolts of our work!    And it isn’t even that hard!

As for the rest of you…



That decision of the CDF about the form of baptism is not without its critics.  However, “We” could be a substantive change to the form of the sacrament.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: ASK FATHER: Father said “I absolve you OF your sins” instead of “FROM your sins”. | Fr. Z’s Blog – The Old Roman

  2. acardnal says:

    I have been to confession with two different priests who said, “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the holy Spirit.” They both omitted the word “sins.”

    When one of the two did it again at a later date, I mentioned it politely to him in the confessional and he seemed unaware that he was doing so.

  3. Simon_GNR says:

    My regular confessor always uses the traditional Latin form of words and I wouldn’t know if he had accidentally mis-spoken or even deliberately changed a word. I just trust him to do it right – he’s a very sound priest.

  4. I brought two of my daughters to their first confession on All Souls (their First Holy Communion is on Saturday – prayers for them are welcome!). I went to confession straight afterward myself but have DG no doubts about the exact form the priest used, since I heard “deinde ego te absolvo etc”. It’s a great joy to have that certainty, and of course to have a priest who can use that formula with facility and ease.

  5. acardnal says:

    Simon_GNR: I agree. When I went to confession prior to V2 and the Novus Ordo the priest said the absolution in Latin and I had no idea if he said it correctly or not!! Just left it in God’s hands.

  6. Pingback: ASK FATHER: Father said “I absolve you OF your sins” instead of “FROM your sins”. – Via Nova Media

  7. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Although English is my mother tongue, I’ve often gone to Confession in French in this province ( I find it a little more difficult and less free-flowing than when I confess in English).

    Anyhow, the point is that in the form of absolution in French, “of” or “from” is not an issue because the priest basically says, “I forgive you all your sins” («je vous pardonne tous vos péchés»).
    This, even though the verb to absolve exists in French – absoudre. They get it though – that absolution (and absolvere) is about the original “binding and the loosing.”

    Even if the French had tried to word it identical to the English way, it is kind of doubtful that of or from would have ever been an issue – because in French, it’s usually the same word that means both of and from: “de

  8. hwriggles4 says:

    I know where I live certain parishes get longer lines for confession, and the priest(s) would like to be able to hear as many confessions as possible. One parish I regularly attend starts confessions officially at 3:30 PM on Saturdays (vigil Mass is at 5 PM) and the pastor will oftentimed start early since several people are normally there by 3:30 PM. (Full disclosure – I made the mistake one Saturday of not showing up until 4 PM and barely got my confession heard 15 minutes before the vigil Mass – after that I learned to be there earlier).

    Anyway, in the interest of time I often say my Act of Contrition afterwards outside the confessional, since the priest often forgets to mention it, and I do say “Father I will say my Act of Contrition outside ” and he normally says “okay”.

    FYI – some priests today ask the penitent to make his or her point and be brief, partially due to time and consideration for others. I have heard some priests say “this isn’t time for spiritual direction – if you want or need spiritual direction, please make an appointment. “

  9. bluejaybooks says:

    Fr. Z,

    Thank you for this post.

    Could you please explain what you mean when you say, “That decision of the CDF about the form of baptism is not without its critics. However, “We” could be a substantive change to the form of the sacrament”?

    I’m a relatively new revert to the faith, still trying to learn. Is such a statement by the CDF the official position of the Church/Magisterium? Is it an infallible statement? Does it matter if that statement has critics?

    Thank you,

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