Form of Confession


#1

Today, I went to confession. The priest was foreign and forgot to say the “you” during absolution. So he said this: “I absolve from your sins in the name…” St. Thomas Aquinas, along with many theologians, have said that the essential words are “I absolve thee.” Should I go to confession again and re-confess my sins, or did the “your” suffice for the missing “you.” Thank you and have a blessed Christmas!


#2

Fr. Z's blog:

The formula of absolution is, in its short form, “Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis, in nomine Patris +, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti… I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father +, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

ETWN:

A slight lapse or omission in reciting the formula of absolution would not affect its validity, provided that the words "I absolve you from your sins" are said. (T)he above essential words would be sufficient for validity.

Eastern Catholic Churches have other valid formulas....]

As the formula of absolution is the form of the sacrament of reconciliation, the recitation of its essential part is required for validity and its complete omission would void the sacrament.

In this case God would certainly restore a sincere penitent to the state of grace in spite of the priest's omission. But this would not remove the obligation of confessing a mortal sin again and receiving absolution.

If a penitent realizes that a priest has not granted absolution or has omitted the essential words, then the proper thing to do is to tell the priest immediately and request absolution before leaving the confessional.

In short: do confess again.

It is very praiseworthy that you are very careful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that you pay close attention. This must certainly be very pleasing to the Lord.


#3

I am sorry but I totally disagree. The priest intended to absolve the OP. the OP said the priest was foreign. He probably does not have good command of the English language. Relax. There is no reason to go to confession again.


#4

Great response from R_C
BUT...
Grammatically speaking, "you" is the indirect object in the sentence.
For example, "I gave Tim his shirt."
You didn't give Tim, you gave a shirt TO Tim.
In the same way, "I absolve you from your sins..." COULD be interpreted as the sins being the direct object (which is necessary in a sentence), and "you" as being the indirect object. Foreign people may learn English in this way and unconsciously omit "you" because it is not necessary.
HOWEVER...
The contrary COULD be said to be true - that "you" is direct, and "sins" is indirect.
BUT LOGICALLY SPEAKING...
Sins are the things being absolved, but people are always related to sins. That is why "sins" must be the direct object, and "you" must be indirectly related to "sins", making it the indirect object.
IN CONCLUSION...
Grammatically speaking, a priest could omit "you" and the sentence would still be valid. Therefore, he is still absolving sins through the power of the Holy Spirit, and you should have nothing to worry about.

But, if you still want to go to confession again, by no means should this stop you. I am almost certain the priest will just praise you for being so observant.


#5

I did not say that the priest did not intend to absolve, or that he willfully omitted the words, or anything of the sort. However, if the form means anything at all, that is, if the words carry any significance whatsoever, then omitting the you makes it invalid.

Which is why they are called essential words.

Sure, the intention was there, the grammar was sound, etc. But the Ordo Penitentiae specifies very clearly:

Following the penitent’s prayer, the priest extends his hands, or at least his right hand, over the head of the penitent and pronounces the formulary of absolution, in which the essential words are: I ABSOLVE YOU FROM YOUR SINS IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. As he says the final phrase the priest makes the sign of the cross over the penitent.

I don’t see the big deal with him confessing again.


#6

[quote="R_C, post:5, topic:309638"]
I did not say that the priest did not intend to absolve, or that he willfully omitted the words, or anything of the sort. However, if the form means anything at all, that is, if the words carry any significance whatsoever, then omitting the you makes it invalid.

Which is why they are called essential words.

Sure, the intention was there, the grammar was sound, etc. But the Ordo Penitentiae specifies very clearly:

I don't see the big deal with him confessing again.

[/quote]

I don't either, but I find it slightly ridiculous that the wording has to be exactly the same. I thought that it was really about intent, and only if the priest intended to leave out the words should you need to go back.


#7

The sentence in Latin “Ego (I) te (you) absolvo (absolve) a (from) peccatis (sins) tuis (your)”, translates exactly as “I absolve you from your sins”.

“From your sins” is a prepositional phrase, used in lieu of an indirect object. It perfectly reflects the underlying Latin. “You” is grammatically necessary as a direct object, though perhaps located in a different spot than the priest’s original language. In Latin, the direct object pronoun appears before the verb, where as in English it ordinarily appears afterwards.

This being said, their is not enough information to say that the words recited are invalid in any way. The priest could have said “you” very quickly or quietly. For instance “I absolve y’ from your sins” perhaps" would be valid and acceptable.

It is best not to worry about it; at most gently correct him next time if it is obvious you didn’t mishear him the second time.


#8

My understanding is that, if the absolution is used in a language other than Latin, it must be a faithful translation to that language. Thus, it must be a good English translation of “Ego te absolvo,” which literally means “I absolve you.”

Skipping “you” seems to me like a pretty big deal, since it is the priest’s declaration of his intention – not just the intention – that enables the absolution to occur. Thus the declaration must include subject, object, and action.

Now I’m no sacramentologist so don’t take my word for it. If you’re in doubt, confess again, and perhaps find a way to gently remind that priest of the proper wording, if only to avoid afflicting the overly scrupulous with gratuitous doubt.

I like the idea that the priest thought he absolved validly because of the peculiarities of his native language. This isn’t a major muck-up, it seems like the kind of thing that a person unfamiliar with English would do in good faith. So I’m sure he would be open to the reminder.


#9

[quote="sw85, post:8, topic:309638"]
Skipping "you" seems to me like a pretty big deal, since it is the priest's declaration of his intention -- not just the intention -- that enables the absolution to occur. Thus the declaration must include subject, object, and action.

[/quote]

Skipping 'you' is done in English. It's done in almost all imperative sentences where 'you' is the 'understood' subject of an imperative sentence even though it's not said.
You, go to your room!
OR: Go to your room! 'You' is understood]In the same way, it is not always expressed as objects of sentences.
Will you give it to me? Will ya? Huh? Huh? Huh?!
Yes! I'll give you it!
OR: Yes! I'll give it! [The 'you' as indirect object is understood]

Will you visit me? Please?! Please?!
Yes! I'll visit you!
OR: Yes! I'll visit! [The direct object of 'you' is understood] Thus, the 'you' is not necessary, especially when it's clearly understood to whom one is speaking, especially in a conversation between two people.

Or, the OP just didn't hear the 'you'.


#10

Thank you for all of your responses. I'll go to confession again tomorrow and ask whoever is hearing confession if I should re-confess. And I'm 99% sure he left out the "you."


#11

I see. Maybe we should notify the appropriate Dicastery of the Holy See, so that they may update the Ordo Penitentiae in its official English translation to put the “you” in parentheses. And perhaps they should also be advised to drop the “essential” and adopt a new, more clear and simple name…perhaps, “recommended words”…

Now, I don’t mean to be polemic or to sound too bitter, but I do think that we should be careful with these things. I can understand the slip-up because of the language, but not this idea that any wording goes. This has never been the case in the Church.


#12

The formula for baptism is: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Would it be a valid baptism if the words spoken were: I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit?


#13

Rituale Romanum

The form for baptism is as follows: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and it is absolutely essential. In no circumstance can it be altered, and these words must be pronounced simultaneously with the pouring of the water.

Catechism

1239 …] Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.

1240 In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the minister’s words: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

In the Eastern liturgies the catechumen turns toward the East and the priest says: “The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

This however is a question that only a priest can answer. It may be possible that a conditional baptism be needed, but I don’t honestly know…it seems like a trinitarian formula, just without the “holy”, but in this context words can make the difference between valid and invalid.


#14

Here is the Byzantine/Greek form of absolution: "God it was who forgave David through Nathan the Prophet, when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman in tears at his feet, and the Publican, and the Prodigal Son: May that same God forgive thee all things, through me a sinner, both in this present world, and in that which is to come, and set thee uncondemmed before his dread Judgement Seat. And now, having no further care for the sins which thou hast declared, depart in peace."


#15

[quote="R_C, post:13, topic:309638"]
This however is a question that only a priest can answer. It may be possible that a conditional baptism be needed, but I don't honestly know...it seems like a trinitarian formula, just without the "holy", but in this context words can make the difference between valid and invalid.

[/quote]

Well, it was a bit of trick question because the new Code of Canon Law makes reference to the 'required form of words' (#849) rather than the 1917's Code's use of 'prescribed' formula in order to specifically lessen the dependence on the exact formulation. Since then, the practice is that some form of '...baptize..Father, Son, and Spirit' (or 'Holy Ghost'!) is good enough. The Church rather intentionally has backed away from requiring a word for word specificity in the Trinitarian formula so as not to call into question the validity of a large number of baptisms.

I see the OP's dilemma in the same vein.


#16

[quote="O_Moriah, post:15, topic:309638"]
Well, it was a bit of trick question

[/quote]

Really? :D Interesting though. And I do appreciate more, so to speak, "flexibility" in order to avoid risk of invalidity in different languages...it was a different matter when everyone absolved in Latin :shrug:


#17

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