Was this absolution valid?

There are different opinions expressed on this forum regarding this question but I would like to have a priest address this question please.

This concerns confession and absolution.

I have gone twice to this priest at a different church. Both times after I confessed my sins he just said something like “God is merciful and has forgiven you. I forgive you your sins. Go in peace.” The first time I asked the priest if he could give me absolution. He said he had already given me absolution by telling me that my sins were forgiven. I asked for a penance as he didn’t give me one. The next time a few months later I happened to go again to that church and again he just said that he had forgiven me my sins. I asked him if he could do me a favor and say the absolution prayer and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about. He asked me if I meant the Act of Contrition and if I wanted to say it. He asked if it there was a copy in the confessional, which there was, but I told him I knew it so I went ahead and recited the Act of Contrition. It struck me as strange that the priest, who happened to be an elderly priest, didn’t seem to have any idea as to what the absolution prayer was. Are the sins of the penitent forgiven even if the priest does not say the Absolution Prayer?

The second time I forgot to ask him for a penance as he didn’t give me one. I have seen that from some priests that they will not give out a penance so I ask for one but this last time I guess because I was puzzled that the priest didn’t know anything about the Absolution Prayer that I didn’t ask for a penance.

So it may seem that all the people at this church that go to confession with him do not receive the absolution prayer. Is this serious or not?


First of all, what you are calling the Absolution prayer isn’t really a prayer. It is the formula for absolving people of their sins and is the very essence of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession or Reconciliation). What the priest is doing is scandalous in the he has no authority to make ANY changes in the formula. That being said, all that is required for validity is, “I absolve you of your sins.” So the absolution was valid.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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