Priests saying STUPID THINGS in the confessional… again

I had an exchange this morning via texting with a friend who was wondering about the validity of an absolution.

I suspect that priests who screw around with the words of absolution aren’t purposely trying to be cruel… but that’s the result. It is cruel to fool around with the form of sacraments because you cause real doubt in the minds of the people who want to receive them.

There are those priests who are either a) lazy and they’ve simply drifted away from the proper form or b) they are stupid and they never truly committed it to memory and don’t have a card as a reminder, or c) they think penitents are stupid so they tweak the form with their own touches to make it more meaningful (sometimes making it quite UNmeaningful) or d) a combination of all of the above.

Fathers! Don’t be lazy, stupid or condescending! USE THE PROPER FORM! It is nothing short of CRUEL to ad lib.

Lay People! Don’t let priests get away with this. Ask them to use the proper form. If they don’t or won’t report them to the pastor or the bishop. Keep in mind that priests of other Catholic Churches may have variants. Also, make sure you know what the form is.

Recently, the translation of the form of absolution in these USA was slightly altered to be more in keeping with the Latin (post-Conciliar) form. More about that HERE



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Simon_GNR says:

    For a couple of years my then regular confessor always used the Latin words for the Absolution. He’s a really sound man and I’ve no doubt that he was using the correct words: it would be difficult to ad lib or extemporise in Latin anyway. I always used to listen out for the words “ego te absolvo”, and then I knew he’d validly absolved me. It seems that these three words are all that are essential for validity. Probably.

  2. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    I would argue that if one thinks that lay people are too stupid for Latin, then it naturally follows that we ought to be treated condescendingly.

    That is, the vernacular revolution results in snobbery.

  3. Ariseyedead says:

    What if the priest doesn’t fully believe that sin exists and offers confession more as a cultural thing that he knows some of his people want instead of as the ordinary means by which the baptized are cleansed of sin as the Church intends? Does that fall under any of the categories you mentioned above? Option b) is for the priest being stupid for having a bad memory and not realizing it, instead of being stupid for having a deficient faith and not realizing it, so I’m not sure it applies.

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    It is often the case that my brain will consider that I have said something even when I haven’t actually said it, especially when it is something said by memory and often.

    We can also assume validity in the above because the penitent asks specifically for absolution of his sins confessed and unremembered which is followed by the priest saying “I absolve you…”. Unless there is something else screwy with what the priest is saying, dropping the “from your sins” doesn’t change the meaning as the “from your sins” is implied from the petition for absolution that proceeds and the affirmative answer of absolution to the petition.

    That said, Fathers, please just post what the penitent is supposed to say on their side of the confessional and what you are supposed to say on your side. And then everyone please just get over your vanity and read the thing without trying to add anything as the anything, more often than not, just is a vehicle for your own narcissism.

  5. RichR says:

    Our priest started using the Latin form.

  6. Philmont237 says:

    I had a priest say to me in Confession, “I forgive you..” instead of “I absolve you…” When I asked him to do it the right way, he obliged but said that, “The Council of Trent said that ‘I forgive you’ is a proper translation.”

    I was so stunned by that argument that I was speechless. I 100% doubt that Trent had ANYTHING to say about the English translations of proper sacramental form.

    I went to that parish (Air Force chapel, actually) for Confession many times after that, but never saw that priest again.

  7. JGavin says:

    Simon_GNR, your point re difficult to extemporize or ad lib is an argument for returning to the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo as well as returning to the Vetus Ordo. I have grown weary of priests eliminating or substituting words. Granted the earlier translation would often , I think, lend itself to that. I thought that translation was cringeworthy when I was 11. The ad-libbing , substituting words worked out real well for that diocese where a whole slew of baptisms were called into to question when the amadan priest got it into his head to change the formula.

  8. At my territorial parish, this won’t be a problem. They always say: “May almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father …”

    Yes, they use the essential part “Ego te absolvo,” but it’s still pretty lazy of them. And their celebration of the Mass is even worse. It’s an historically African-American parish, but actually dominated by a bunch of aging white liberal adolescents who took over after being alienated elsewhere.

    So I go elsewhere as well.

  9. JustaSinner says:

    Is it acceptable for Priests to have a printed form, ie cheat sheet, with them in Confessional?

  10. Animadversor says:

    Well, someone should be reciting the Athanasian Creed on the regular!

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