Church teaching on confessing past mortal sins?


I was told not to confess past possible mortal sin that I had forgotten.


Well, if you went to confession and you’ve forgotten a sin, it will still be forgiven, which is why this person might have said this, but I think a majority opinion is that it is still good practice to confess the sin if it is remembered later.


Ordinarily–yes if one remembers a mortal sin that was not confessed --yes it is to be confessed in the next confession.

Some may need particular guidance from a Priest in their case.


If you are aware of any past mortal sin which you have not confessed in the confessional, it is required that it be confessed in a confession. Although it is true that a sincere confession of all ones remembered serious sins in a confession also will forgive even those not remembered when the absolution is given, still it is required that the sin(s) forgotten must be confessed.

Sometimes the scrupulous are told by their confessor not to do this, and then they shouldn’t.


This is what I was thinking, especially if it concerned a possible mortal sin. Some of us would probably end up taking an hour in the confessional each time if we tried to confess everything that might have been a mortal sin that we forgot last time!


This is one of the many reasons why it is a good idea to have a practice of frequent confession. If you are going to confession once a month, you aren't as likely to forget a sin. You can also get enough advice to help you distinguish between actual sins and possible sins.

If you are scrupulous or have a tendency that way, it is also best to go tothe same confessor every time. He will give you advice about how often to confess, what type of examines to use, and whether any pastsins should be brought up. Follow that advice and don't come on forums or go to other priests looking for different advice.


I always end my confession with “and any other sins which I may have committed.” This is how I was taught. Any sin that was forgotten has been forgiven.
Satan would like to attack us, reminding us of the wrongs we’ve done in past. It is his effort to get us to deny the forgiveness we have already received from God.
There is a story about a man asking God what the worst sin he committed was. God replies, “I forgot.” This idea is further exemplified in the song where God answers a similar question with "What sin? It was forgotten as soon as you confessed…It is not that I don’t remember, but that I choose to forget."
At what point would I confess a previous sin that has already been forgiven? There are some actions (sins) we take that have long term consequences. One sin leads to another greater sin. Is this past sin influencing current actions, or sins? Has it become part of the background that leads to current sin?

During a fairly recent series of talks, the main presenter talked about having left the Church and returning. Her confession began, “Forgive me Father…I have rejected your truth and strayed from your teachings.” And then focused on major issues.

As far as the east is from the west has God cast our sins.


Jimmy Akin:


Jimmy Akin:

(now in cases of scrupulosity – persons can start to want to confess all sorts of un-needful things etc…their regular confessor can guide them)


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Its not just good practice to confess forgotten sins that are remembered, you must confess them, even though they have already been forgiven.


This can lead to scrupulosity and a denial of God’s mercy. Do you continue to wash your clothes after they have already been cleaned, and the stain removed? Why bring up the past unless it is effecting current behavior in a negative way?
It is possible that a sin committed in the past provided a learning opportunity. The sin was confessed. The sin was forgiven. The circumstances continue to be avoided precisely because the sin is remembered and the temptation recognized. How many times have we taught our children to learn from our mistakes? Obviously, there is no need to reconfess these sins of the past.
When we go to confession, our focus should be on our spiritual development at the present time. What sins have been committed since my last confession?


Actually what she says is the case. One who forgets a mortal sin --is obliged to confess it in the next confession --if and when it is remembered.

Why? --it has not yet been confessed. Other sins were confessed --that one was not.

The other aspects mentioned there are often more secondary in confession.

A bit more from:

Theologian Fr. John Hardon:

Jimmy Akin senior Apologist at Catholic Answers:


(scruples are another story)

(and well if one never remembers that creates an impossibility…so no worries)

(As to those who are scrupulous or struggle to one degree or another with with scruples – a “regular confessor” can guide them – they can be even “in a different boat” than others. They can start to want to confess all sorts of unneeded things and unneeded details and need a regular confessor to direct them–often they are they have been told to not confess any “past sin” that is remembered unless both of the following is true 1. One is certain it was mortal and 2. Certain it was not confessed rightly. And their confessor might for example tell them not to look for past sins (being it stirs up their scruples) etc etc .Their regular confessor can guide them specifically. And for anyone --one is not obliged to confess “doubtful sins” (like doubtful it was mortal)–(though for those who are not scrupulous can be recommended to confess such --noting of course that they are doubtful)


Great ideas. In any case, you can’t go wrong by listening to, being obedient to, your priest.
Be at peace.


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