Words of Absolution

Does a slight change in the words make a confession invalid?
Such as, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit” instead of “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

I would think not in this case, since the Trinity is not being referred to incorrectly.

But other invocations, such as to “the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier” might invalidate absolution. It would certainly invalidate a Baptism

Hi Wilhelm,

It is never right to change the words. But in this case, I would say, it was valid. The absolute rock-bottom words are “I absolve you.” The Council of Trent said this, in the 14th session: “The holy council teaches furthermore, that the form of the sacrament of penance, in which its efficacy chiefly consists, are those words of the minister: I absolve thee, etc.”

I’m not sure what “etc.” means in this instance. But, since they didn’t actually say it, I guess it doesn’t impact validity.

For St. Thomas Aquinas’s explanation of the changing of words, check this link, paying special attention to the “I answer that…” part. It’s quite interesting.



This is still valid. Each Person of the Trinity is just being specifically referred to as God, which is most definitely true.

So, if it is changed to" I Absolve you ,in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit," or even just " I absolve you" it would still be valid?

This is from the Rite of Penance #21
In imminent danger of death, it is sufficient for the priest to say the essential words of the form of absolution, namely, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

That’s pretty clear. The “essential words” would be another way of saying “the words required for validity.” Now, common sense would have to apply as well. Many priests say “absolve you of your sins” (rather than “from”) simply because it sounds odd in English and it becomes a habit (not an intentional one, but an accidental slip). Also, I do believe that to say “…name of the Father, and the Son…” (omitting “of”) would likewise be valid for the same reason. I’ve never thought about adding the word “God” three times. It sounds akward, but I do not believe that it would affect validity.

I do think that omitting the mention of the Trinity, on the other hand, would affect validity, because that is essential from a theological perspective. It’s not the person of the priest who is absolving, but the priest acting in the name of the Trinity (and of course, in persona Christi, but that’s a different thread). Therefore those words must be spoken.

Hmm… interesting.
What about if the priest ommited “Name” , intentionally or not,and simply said “I absolve you of your sins, in God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit”, while making the Sign of the Cross.?

Hello again,

Considering what Fr. David said (thanks to him for getting that reference, which I couldn’t find yesterday), the priest has to at least get those words right, essentially (I absolve you from your sins in the name of the … Spirit). It doesn’t really matter anymore what Trent meant by “etc.” The supreme authority in the Church can change the matter and form of sacraments, if it isn’t a matter of Divine Law. So, the words of this sacrament which are required for validity are as Fr. David noted.

As for changes in those words, I would only be able to echo what St. Thomas said in the link I gave earlier. If the change in words alters the meaning, then it is invalid. If not, then it is valid, as he said: “Now it is clear, if any substantial part of the sacramental form be suppressed, that the essential sense of the words is destroyed; and consequently the sacrament is invalid.” It seems like “I absolve you” are words that can’t be altered at all, without changing the substance. Leaving out “name”? Hmm. Good question. Maybe a theologian is in the house and can give a good answer.


I maybe wrong, but my guess is that as long as he says “I absolve you in the name of…” the father, the son, and the holy spirit," then I believe that you’re forgiven because he states through the power of all three persons in the trinity, God has clensed you from your sin.

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