July 31, 2009

All Your Sins?

Here's one that's been on my conscience. I'm curious to see what readers think.

Everyone knows the standard English formula of absolution:

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.*

Over the years I've noticed that many confessors add an 'all' to this formula so that it becomes, ...I absolve you from all your sins... To be honest, I've always found this comforting and encouraging. Therein lies my problem. Should I add the 'all' to the formula myself, or not? If I appreciate it myself, is it not an easy matter of caring for a brother or sister as I would like to be cared for? Or is it better to be strict in praying according to the exact lex orandi of the Church?

Does the 'all' set up a penitent for temptations to despair if he then does not hear it from some confessor?

So what do you think? All or no all?

*Deus, Pater misericordiarum, qui per mortem et resurrectionem Filii Sui mundum Sibi reconciliavit et Spiritum Sanctum effudit in remissionem peccatorum, per ministerium Ecclesiae indulgentiam tibi tribuat et pacem. Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

Sorry about this, I couldn't resist:


ben in denver said...

I hesitate to advise a priest, but you asked, so I will answer.

As Fr. Z. says: "Say the black. Do the red."

Priests who are models of prefect obedience in all things teach us better than those who bend discipline to make us feel better. This is the meanng of that third knot hanging from your cincture isn't it?

If you are truly concerned that there are some in your parish who worry about the efficacy of confession, then resolve to preach on the dangers scrupulosity a few times a year. Or if you are concerned about a particular penitent, ask him to meditate on the Mercy of God and how He forgives all sins in the sacrament as a part of his pennance. But please do not change the prayers.

Brother Charles said...

Excellent! Truth be told, I often write these posts while drinking from my Fr. Z "Say the Black Do the Red" mug. I also have the T-shirt, but I'm saving it for the just the right occasion.

It's too bad that the Rite of Penance is out of print in English, as far as I know, for the sake of priests who need to practice Fr. Z's advice literally.

carl said...

Father, I agree with Ben. You can't go wrong with "Say the black, do the red".

Oddly enough, Ben and I are from the same diocese. There's something about Denver ;)

LM said...

Of course, I am with Ben and Carl. However, All is good sometimes. I am not a very good Catholic. I grew up with the banners in the Classroom that said Jesus loves you. And no teaching on our Faith. So after I decided I needed to learn what I believe, I realized that I am really suppose to go to confession. So when I first stepped into the confessional after 8 or even more years. There was no way I could remember all of my sins. Especially the number. SO it was great to hear "all" Now I go more regularly, I feel pretty confident I confess all of my sins. I get nervous still. Sometimes i get out and i am worried if I get them all out. So I am in favor of the "all" but maybe that is because i need to be better. Once again Brother Charles, thanks for making want to grow and get better.

ben in denver said...

An aside.

Your video reminded me of this new website:


I wonder what you think about it?

Anonymous said...


I say that you stick to text. If a confessee (sic) becomes obsessive about it, that demonstrates an entirely new spiritual problem that needs be rooted out, namely scrupulosity. I figure you're always best by being faithful to the liturgical prayers as written.

Anonymous said...

And to all you Chaputians flexing your Denver muscle, we Philadelphia Rigallians will take you on any day! BRING IT!


Anonymous said...


I know what you're getting at, but of course, Jesus does love you. It's not that sentiment per se that is problematic, but rather the terribly poor understanding of love that many who employ such sayings frequently espouse.

Paul A. Zalonski said...

Stay with the lex orandi, lex credendi, lex agendi. Doing the red, saying the black is the thing to do.

In ordinary circumstances the priest can't absolve sins not mentioned in the confession. On occasions I've had the priest insert into my confession " for all sins forgotten." A comforting statement, indeed, but that's getting to the level sentimentality and not sacramentality. The sentimental always tugs at the heart for good reasons but they're not helpful in confessional.

In the case of a person who is in danger of death (or just those who are dying) you could impart the Apostolic Pardon following the prayer of absolution:

Through the holy mysteries of your redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy. Amen.

The pastoral care of sinners (all of us) is of high importance for the priest. A catechesis with a fitting gospel is helpful; a parish night where a priest fields liturgical/sacramental questions is excellent, something put in the bulletin, back-of-the-church rack and/or website could assist.

BTW, there are a number of priests in NYC who will not do what the Church expects in the confessional. Why is this? NOT you Friar Charles--others.

Brother Charles said...

Yes, Paul, I know what you mean. Either they omit the first part of the formula or substitute their own version, just picking up on the end which is required for validity, or they use an English version of the old formula.

Brother Charles said...

Ben: interesting site. I do have my suspicions about fears for so-called overpopulation. I suspect that if so many people didn't have to live near the water, and if certain populations could wean themselves off oil and animal meat somewhat, it wouldn't be an issue.

pennyante said...

My first thought would be, is the entire formula(?) of absolution that you gave needed for the absolution to be valid? If so, you should not add anything to it.

In my own experience, I don't necessarily concentrate on every single word the priest is saying as he absolves me, but I DO listen for these words:

"...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."

Thankfulness, gratefulness and a sense of peace are probably what I am concentrating on during the absolution.

Anonymous said...

- this is a trick question?

NC Sue said...

I'll accede to the majority here on the question of "say the black, do the red", but let me add some "two cents" of my own.

The formula as it stands - affirming that SINS are forgiven - is no less comforting to me than saying ALL SINS. I think it's a stretch to say that just because the word "all" isn't explicitly stated, we are to assume that only "a few" or "some" sins are forgiven.

Julia said...

Absolution is Absolution.

The addition of one word is not a big deal. Say whichever you want. The majority of people probably won't even notice.

Personally, though, I've never found the addition of "all" more comforting. As I said, absolution is absolution. It's pretty comforting either way.

precious cup said...

I would not add a word., or more precicely the word, all. I can't help but think that a small varience can grow to something very large. If every priest changed one word from the mass, the gospel, etc. etc. what would we end up with. People need to understand the importance of a good confession. I feel if then,we somehow forget a sin do to neurves, or a bad memory, after opening our hearts to God sincerely, He can forgive something we may have somehow left out. I really hope you don't help someone fall deeper into sin by allowing them to think all that matters is the visit to the confessional.

DN said...

Paul: forgotten sins, so long as you intended to confess them, *are* forgiven. There is an obligation to go back, if you remember them later, but the effects of absolution are granted: you have a clean soul. That's as I recall, citation-less, from canon law and the Catechism, so on. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Father: There are a few priests I've gone to since I've moved to this area that do not say 'all' but get the point across to me by a simple accentuation of the words 'I absolve you of your sins'. Nothing heavy-handed, just a slowing down or a break in their normal cadence. It lends a gentle and lovely weight to the declaration, kind of like I've heard other priests accentuate 'this is my Body'.

Julia said...

"There is an obligation to go back, if you remember them later"

Only with mortal sins, of course. (I'm sure you know this. I'm just making the distinction for any lurkers.)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we ought to invoke the Tridentine formula for comparison:

Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis (suspensionis) et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mali sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae. Amen

As you can see, there is reference to lifting all excommunications and interdicts, but just a plain old "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the..." for the absolution itself.

It would seem to me that "all" has no precedence in the Latin Church.

Brother Charles said...

Excellent addition to the discussion! Thanks anonymous.

In the current Rite of Penance, the part after the absolution is still one of the options to replace the concluding, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good/ R. His mercy endures forever." How many have heard that from their confessor? But that's what the Rite says.

There is still an optional formula for the remission of censures and canonical penalties (for which the confessor has faculties) but my understanding is that this can be done by intention with the ordinary formula as well.

Adoro said...

Interesting question. I remember a few years ago when I wasn't noticing the words of absolution, beyond the general of what they were supposed to be. One day, really distraut over a long sinful history, constantly remembering sins I hadn't confessed (or didn't think I had sufficiently) I went to Confession and asked when enough was enough? Was I forgiven? How long did I have to come in and be thinking of the years and years of...ugh.

He said that the words of absolution cover ALL my sins, so as long as I wasn't deliberately hiding anything, all were forgiven. He really emphasized the "all" and I noticed he did that in subsequent confessions, too. (Note that I always went behind the screen.)

It did give me some comfort, and of course I knew that mortal sins have to be confessed if remembered.

But it helped a great deal, and I have to say, he probably kept me both going to Confession and away from going down the road of scrupulosity.

Rachel Gray said...

Nice comment, Adoro. :)

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Rite of Confession is printed on page 336 of The Handbook of Prayers, published by Scepter Publishing.