The new English formula for absolution used in penance is to go into effect sometime during 2023. Last year, the U.S. Bishops voted on two slight changes in translation from the current formula. This year, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments approved this latest translation of the Latin original.
Here is what we will hear when we go to confession probably after 2023 begins:
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his son has reconciled the world to himself and poured out (currently, sent) the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the church may God grant (currently, 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.”
“Poured out” will replace “sent,” while “grant” will be said rather than “give.”
To be sure, this latest formula of absolution is not a new prayer. Rather, the translation will be different in just two places. And the essential words of sacramental absolution, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, (+) and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” will remain unchanged.
If, once the new translation goes into effect, a priest would revert back to “sent” and “give” instead of “poured out” and “grant,” then the absolution will still be valid. In this case, the penitent may rest assured.
As someone who regularly hears confessions and goes to confession as a sinner, I think that the advent of this new translation will be valuable to both confessors and penitents.
Penance is generally the only sacrament in which a priest often doesn’t use the Ritual (the book with the various formulae and prayers for each sacrament) because he has memorized the formula of absolution and many of the other prayers used in this sacrament — and he uses them repeatedly.
Over the years as a penitent, I have listened to various renditions of the Prayer of Absolution, including the essential words mentioned above. I have heard: “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; “I absolve you from your sins Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”; “I absolve you from your sin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”; “God absolves you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; “God bless you.” In each case, the correct form of the essential words was not used.
We priests will need to look again at the Prayer of Absolution, shoring up our understanding of what it really means and committing ourselves to its faithful recitation.
And we penitents will need to savor anew this pledge of Christ’s merciful forgiveness offered to us, no matter the kinds of our sins and how many times we committed them.
How grateful we are to go to confession and to have priests to absolve us from our sins. Jesus Christ, the son of God and son of Mary, has provided for us this way to salvation.
Msgr. Mangan is on the faculty of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.
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