Q: In a recent article in our parish bulletin, a staff member was writing on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In her article, she wrote:
“You are only forgiven if the Words of Absolution are spoken: ‘God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’”
Is this overly simplistic or legalistic? If a priest omits a word or two, does that really affect the Absolution?
A: #19 of the Rite of Penance says that “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.’”
I take from this that if a priest omits a word or two of the other parts of the absolution, your sins are forgiven. Nonetheless, I encourage my brother priests not to alter these words. They are important. Penitents need the consolation that they have prepared to receive through a careful searching and honest baring of their souls.