Seven Sacraments, among them Penance, which the Lord established when He said: "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain they are retained." The formulæ of absolution are generally deprecatory, and if now and then the indicative form appears, it may be traced to Latin sources.
(II) Russian Church. The belief of the Greek Church is naturally also that of the Russian. Russian theologians all hold that the Church possesses the power to forgive sins, where there is true repentance and sincere confession. The form in use at present is as follows: "My child, N. N., may our Lord and God Christ Jesus by the mercy of His love absolve thee from thy sins; and I, His unworthy priest, in virtue of the authority committed to me, absolve thee and declare thee absolved of thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."
(III) Armenians. Denzinger, in his "Ritus Orientalium "(1863), gives us a full translation of the penitential ritual used by the Armenians. The present version is from the ninth century. The form of absolution is declarative, though it is preceded by a prayer for mercy and for pardon. It is as follows: "May the merciful Lord have pity on thee and forgive thee thy faults; in virtue of my priestly power, by the authority and command of God expressed in these words, 'whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be hound in heaven', I absolve thee from thy sins, I absolve thee from thy thoughts, from thy words, from thy deeds, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and I restore thee to the Sacrament of the Holy Church. May all thy good works be for thee an increase of merit, may they be for the glory of life everlasting, Amen."
(IV) Copts. Dr. Hyvernat asserts that the liturgical books of the Copts have no penitential formulæ, nor is this surprising, for they inscribe in the ritual only those things not found in other rituals. Father du Bernat, writing to Père Fleurian (Lettres édifiantes), says, in reference to the Sacrament of Penance among the Copts, that the Copts believe themselves bound to a full confession of their sins. This finished, the priest recites over them the prayer said at the beginning of the Mass, the prayer asking pardon and forgiveness from God; to this is added the so-called "Benediction", which Father Bernat says is like the prayer said in the Latin Church after absolution has been imparted. Dr. Hyvernat, however, asserts that Father Bernat is mistaken when he likens the Benediction to our Passio Domini, for it is like the Latin prayer only inasmuch as it is recited after absolution.
(V) Jacobites. (For the earliest tradition in the Syrian Church see above, Absolution in Patristic age.) The Syrians who are united with the Roman See now use the declarative form in imparting absolution. This formula is, however, of recent date. The present Jacobite Church not only holds and has held the power to absolve from sin, but its ritual is expressive of this same power. Denzinger (Ritus Orientalium) has preserved for us a twelfth-century document which gives in full the order of absolution.
(VI) Nestorians. The Nestorians have at all times believed in the power to absolve in the Sacrament of Penance. Assemani, Renaudot, Badger (Nestorians and their Rituals), also Denzinger, have the fullest information on this point. It is noticeable that their formula of absolution is deprecatory, not indicative.
(VII) Protestants. The earliest Reformers attacked virulently the penitential practice of the Catholic Church, particularly the confession of sins to a priest. Their opinions expressed in their later theological works do not differ as markedly from the old position as one might suppose. The Lutheran tenet of justification by faith alone would make all absolution merely declarative, and reduce the pardon granted by the Church to the merest announcement of the Gospel, especially of remission of sins through Christ. Zwingli held that God alone pardoned sin, and he saw nothing but idolatry in the practice of hoping for pardon from a mere creature. If confession had aught of good it was merely as direction. Calvin denied all idea of sacrament when there was question of Penance; but he held that the pardon expressed by the minister of the Church gave to the penitent a greater guarantee of forgiveness. The Confession styled "Helvetian" contents itself with denying the necessity of confession to a priest, but holds that the power granted by Christ to absolve is simply the power to preach to the people the Gospel of Jesus, and as a consequence the remission of sins: "Rite itaque et efficaciter ministri absolvunt dum evangelium Christi et in hoc remissionem peccatorum prædicant."
(VIII) Anglican Church. In the "Book of Common Prayer" there is a formula of Absolution in Matins, at the communion service, and in the visitation of the sick. The first two are general, akin to the liturgical absolution in use in the Roman Church; the third is individual by the very nature of the case. Of the third absolution the rubric speaks as follows: "Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession, the priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences and by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." This is the form generally employed by the Anglican clergymen when they absolve after having heard private confessions. These formulæ, even the last, are indeed vague, and in the light of Anglican interpretation (always excepting the advanced Ritualists) mean little more than the power to declare sins forgiven. (Convocation, 1873; Lambeth Conference, 1877; Liddon's "Life of Pusey").
The Ritualists, since the Pusey sermon of 1846, have held with more or less variance that Christ has granted to His priests the power to forgive sins. They have also held that this power should be exercised after confession has been made to the minister of the Church. Among Ritualists themselves some have insisted that confession to the priest was necessary either in re or in voto, others have not gone to such lengths. On the discussion in the year 1898, Dr. Temple wrote a Pastoral. One may consult with profit Mashell's "Enquiry upon the Doctrine of the Anglican Church on Absolution"; Boyd's "Confession, Absolution and Real Presence"; Father Gallwey's "Twelve Lectures on Ritualism" (London, 1879).
Absolutism. See Predestination.
Abstemii.—An abstemius is one who cannot take wine without risk of vomiting. As, therefore, the consecration at Mass must be effected in both species, of bread and wine, an abstemius is consequently irregular. St. Alphonsus, following the opinion of Suarez, teaches that such irregularity is de jure divino; and that, therefore, the Pope cannot dispense from it. The term is also applied to one who has a strong distaste for wine, though able to take a small quantity. A distaste of this nature does not constitute irregularity, but a papal dispensation is required, in order to excuse from the use of wine at the purification of the chalice and the ablution