ASK FATHER: “I absolve you from THESE sins…”. Valid?

From a reader…


I went to confession and the words said by the priest for absolution were “I absolve you from these sins” etc. Would this absolution be valid?

Thank you for going to confession.  KEEP GOING.

This is disturbing.  The reason is that, in the Sacrament of  Penance, if you have genuinely forgotten some sins, and therefore didn’t confess them, the forgotten sins are absolved along with the confessed sins.

“I absolve you from these sins” applies only to those sins that you confessed and not to any that you failed to confess because you sincerely forgot them.

I strongly suspect that that was an INVALID absolution.

If you have regular contact with that priest, bring to his attention: he is using a doubtfully valid form of absolution.  If he reacts badly or brushes you off, then inform the local bishop and/or the priest’s superior if he is a religious.

It is appalling that a priest would screw around with the forms of sacraments, alter them in any way according to some puffed up notion that he knows better or that he has to tweak something to make it more meaningful or that he has to put his own touch on it.  Change words and you change meanings.   The result is confusion in the minds of penitents.

It’s an absolutely horrid thing to do to penitents, leave them in doubt about being forgiven.   That’s a stupid and wicked thing for a priest to do and it is so easily avoided.


Mind you, in 2023 the English FORM used in these USA will change slightly.  I wrote about that HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. UnwaffledAnglican says:

    Just wondering … aren’t priests and the faithful covered under some kind of principle regarding inadvertent errors – analogous to the principle of bad clergy and good sacraments? It seems that this would not be an unusual occurrence, usually unnoticed, since humans are involved. I lectured biochemistry for many years, and The Lord only knows what idiotic nonsense may have come out of my mouth at one time or another – .thinking I said one thing and actually saying the opposite.

  2. Unwaffled: some kind of principle regarding inadvertent errors

    Yes and no. God can forgive whom it pleaseth Him to forgive. However, He gave us the Sacrament of Penance precisely because it is means by which He wants us to come to Him to obtain forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Church. The Church administers this sacrament with Christ’s own authority to bind and loose sins. She determines the matter and form of sacraments which are guarantees that the sacrament is valid, provided the recipient can receive it.

    So, screw around with sacramental forms and you short-circuit, as it were, the very means God privileged.

  3. Bthompson says:

    I’d also hazard to add to priests who recieve a penitent worried about a prior absolution, or if a penitent raises a concern about the absolution you just gave: take their concerns seriously!

    I have so often felt patronized or like Father is humoring me but suspects scrupulously when I’ve (hopefully) charitably requested the prescribed form said clearly, or when I have gone elsewhere after a dubious absolution, even when I’ve been rather specific about what the defect was.

  4. Bosco says:

    When I was a child in the mid-1950s we were taught by the nuns preparing us for our First Confession to say when concluding our confession of sins to the priest “I am sorry for these sins ‘and all the sins of my past life’ especially for…(i.e. sins against the fifth commandment, etc.).
    When imparting absolution I have had priests say to me “I absolve you from these sins and all the sins of your past life.”
    I do though occasionally make a point of confessing that their may have been sins of my past life which may have been forgotten in previous confessions due to my failure to make a rigorous examination of conscience beforehand.

  5. One particular reason this verbiage is to be avoided is that it reinforces a pernicious error many well meaning faithful make regarding absolution: namely, that when they come to confession, they are only forgiven *some* of their sins.

    It is admirable that people try to recall their sins and include them; and it is true, we are obliged to mention all mortal sins. Nevertheless, it remains true that God will forgive all our sins…repeat, ALL, repeat, A-L-L…provided we are acting in good faith…

    Meaning, we are not deliberately concealing a mortal sin. Deliberately, knowingly, consciously…meaning this is NOT the same as forgetting, or getting nervous and bollixing up our confession of the same.

    It is an amazing bit of inversion when — either because of our own pelagianism or because of Jansenistic influence, or other malign forces — we take the most gracious and complete font of mercy, and turn it into something doubtful and grudging.

    God forgives sins; not this or that, not now and then, not a bit at a time; he forgives sins. When the prayer of absolution says God grant(s) us “pardon and peace,” what a mockery those words would be if the pardon was partial; what sort of peace is that?

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