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'Quick Help' Page: How To Be Sure All Sins Have Been Confessed?

 

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How to be Sure You've Confessed All Sins in Your Life

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"How can one be sure he has confessed all the sins he's committed for the last 10 (or 20, 30, ... 80+) years?"

 

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Given humans' fallible memories, most probably can't ever be 100% certain they've confessed all sins committed over the decade(s). However, please note the following...

* It is very good to confess venial sins, but it is only strictly required that we confess mortal sins...

"All mortal sins must be revealed to the priest. Venial sins, which do not separate us from the grace of God, and into which we frequently fall, although they may be usefully confessed, as the experience of the pious proves, may be omitted without sin, and expiated by a variety of other means. Mortal sins, as we have already said, are all to be confessed, even though they be most secret, or be opposed only to the last two Commandments of the Decalogue. Such secret sins often inflict deeper wounds on the soul than those which are committed openly and publicly." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* It is grievously sinful to willfully conceal a mortal sin in Confession and if someone does so, he or she has made a sinful, worthless confession...

"It is a grievous offence willfully to conceal a mortal sin in Confession, because we thereby tell a lie to the Holy Ghost and make our Confession worthless." (Baltimore Catechism)

"He who, through shame or some other motive, willfully conceals a mortal sin in confession, profanes the sacrament and is consequently guilty of a very great sacrilege." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* If one has unintentionally forgotten to confess a mortal sin even though he or she prepared properly, the Confession is still valid and the sins are forgiven...

"If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, our Confession is worthy, and the sin is forgiven; but it must be told in Confession if it again comes to mind." (Baltimore Catechism)

"He who through pure forgetfulness does not confess a mortal sin, or a necessary circumstance, makes a good confession, provided he has been duly diligent in trying to remember it." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"A person who has forgotten to tell a mortal sin in confession may go to Communion before again going to confession, because the forgotten sin was forgiven with those confessed, and the confession was good and worthy." (Baltimore Catechism)

* At the end of confessing sins, adding "and all sins I have forgotten" is a good practice (but it is not strictly required)

* If we later remember a mortal sin that we had forgotten to confess, we are to confess it at our next Confession...

"If a mortal sin forgotten in confession is afterwards remembered we are certainly bound to confess it the next time we go to confession." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* In certain cases (e.g. willfully concealing a mortal sin or examining our consciences with "careless indifference"), Confession should be made over again...

"He who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in Confession must not only confess it, but must also repeat [that is, confess again] all the sins he has committed since his last worthy Confession." (Baltimore Catechism)

"One who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in confession must, besides repeating [that is, confessing again] all the sins he has committed since his last worthy confession, tell also how often he has unworthy received absolution and Holy Communion during the same time." (Baltimore Catechism)

"He who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in confession, must reveal to his confessor the sin concealed, say in how many confessions he has concealed it, and make all these confessions over again, from the last good confession." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion. It should be noted, however, that we are not to examine our consciences with careless indifference, or to be so negligent in recalling our sins as to seem as if unwilling to remember them. Should this have been the case, the confession must by all means be made over again." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* It is good to regularly (at least once per day) examine one's conscience and make frequent acts of contrition...

"It is well and most useful to make an act of contrition often, especially before going to sleep or when we know we have or fear we have fallen into mortal sin, in order to recover God's grace as soon as possible; and this practice will make it easier for us to obtain from God the grace of making a like act at [the] time of our greatest need, that is, when in danger of death." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"They should all be admonished frequently to examine their consciences, in order to ascertain if they have been faithful in the observance of those things which God and His Church require. Should anyone be conscious of sin, he should immediately accuse himself, humbly solicit pardon from God, and implore time to confess and satisfy for his sins. Above all, let him supplicate the aid of divine grace, in order that he may not relapse into those sins which he now penitently deplores." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Sins forgotten and not directly confessed are still forgiven with a good sacramental Confession, but it is required that we prepare properly for Confession and not be negligent. We should perform a diligent examination of conscience before Confession...

"The examination of conscience is a diligent search for the sins committed since the last good confession." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"Having prepared properly for confession by an examination of conscience, by sorrow, and by a purpose of amendment, I will go to make an accusation of my sins to the confessor in order to get absolution." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"Can. 988 §1 A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience. §2 It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

* In some cases, a 'general confession' may be necessary...

"A general confession is the telling of the sins of our whole life or a great part of it. It is made in the same manner as an ordinary confession, except that it requires more time and longer preparation." (Baltimore Catechism)

"A general confession (1) is necessary when we are certain that our past confessions were bad; (2) it is useful on special occasions in our lives when some change in our way of living is about to take place; (3) it is hurtful and must not be made when persons are scrupulous." (Baltimore Catechism)

Note: Contact a good priest for information about and assistance with a general confession.

For more on the Sacrament of Penance, try here.


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