Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-01-a-anno >> Abhidhamma to Acanthocephala >> Absolution

Absolution

Loading


ABSOLUTION (religious) denotes the setting of the peni tent sinner free from the guilt of his sin, or from the ecclesiasti cal penalty (excommunication), or from both. The authority of the church or its minister to pronounce or refuse forgiveness is implied in II. Cor. ii. 5–ii, and Acts v. 1-9 (cf. James v. 15, 16), and was derived from the tradition of our Lord's teaching ; see John xx. 23 (in Matt. xviii. 18, binding and loosing probably mean forbidding and allowing). In primitive times, when confession of sins was made before the congregation, the absolution was de ferred till the penance was completed; and there is no record of the use of any special formula. The penitent was reconciled by imposition of hands by the bishop, with or without the clergy. Later the office was usually discharged by priests, and the out ward action more and more disused. It became the custom to give the absolution to penitents immediately after their confession and before the penance was performed. Until the middle ages the form of absolution after private confession was of the nature of a prayer, such as "May the Lord absolve thee"; and this is still the practice of the Greek church. But about the 13th century the Roman formula was altered, and the Council of Trent (1551) declared that the "form" and power of the absolution lay in the words Ego to absolvo, etc., and that the accompanying prayers are not essential to it. Of the three forms of absolution in the Anglican Prayer Book, that in the Visitation of the Sick (disused in the church of Ireland and in the United States) runs "I absolve thee," tracing the authority so to act through the church up to Christ : the form in the Communion Service is precative, while that in Morning and Evening Prayer is indicative indeed, but so general as not to imply a decree of absolution. (W. 0. B.) In civil law absolution signifies the acquittal of an accused person on the ground that the evidence has either disproved or failed to prove the charge against him. The term is now little used, except in Scottish law in the forms assoilzie and absolvitor.

church, prayer and confession