How should I handle this next time?

Last weekend I went to confession and the priest was new to our parish. After I said the Act of Contrition the priest began the words of absolution and unfortunately I wasn’t paying critical attention to him until I heard “… I forgive you…” I was startled and asked him, when he finished, “Excuse me, Father, but did you absolve me?” He said he did but I can’t imagine him using the words “absolve” and “forgive” in the same formula.

I had no mortal sins to confess so I’m not worried at this point about the validity of the Sacrament, which is in doubt. The next time I meet this priest in the confessional I will be listening very carefully not only to his advice but also to his formula for absolution. If he does not use the words “I absolve you,” how would you advise I handle it?

By remembering that it’s the power of the Lord at work, not a magic spell that requires precise wording.
Christ told his apostles, and in turn priests: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”.

“I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”
“If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

  • St Pope John Paul II

Incorrect. The Church does indeed require certain words to be uttered to be a valid absolution. It’s not magic, but it is certainly sacramental, which means that you must have a real priest who gives a real absolution. The key words are Te absolvo, “I absolve you,” and it must be in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is the same way in baptism, where one must be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and not just the Son, for example.

As to the original poster, I’m not sure what you are concerned about. You had no mortal sins to confess, so I don’t know why this should still concern you. If this priest fails to absolve you next time, gently ask him to use the proper formula and if he refuses then find another priest.

When we go to confession, the priest sets in the place of Jesus. This is why if you went to confession or Mass and for instance the celebrant was guilty of an unconfessed mortal sin, you are still covered and,the Mass or confession is valid—though, of course the priest has issues to take up with God. Even people whose confessions were heard or who attended Mas said by an active pedophile priests validly received the sacraments. I use the pedophile priest analogy only as an example…

Colorad007, thank you for your informed reply. I am not at all concerned about the past incident, only that it not occur again.

Adamgu Dalibi, thank you for trying to help. I go to confession weekly and certainly know the difference between a valid and invalid sacrament. Just as the priest must use the proper words during the Consecration at mass in order to confect the Sacrament and not make up their own formula, he must use the proper words during Absolution to absolve the penitent. It was my fault in not listening carefully to the words of a new priest. I am simply used to very orthodox priests who do not deviate from the Church’s prescribed formula.

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