When going to confession, having committed a mortal sin, do you have to confess the mortal sin, or can you confess something else, like a venial sin, and when that sin is absolved, will all sins be forgiven? Or do you specifically have to confess the mortal sin? Thanks.
Yes, you must specificaly confess all mortal sins sacramentally, in number and kind.
You may confess venial sins, too, in the sacrament of confession.
When you go to confession, you MUST confess ALL mortal sins (that you can remember) for your absolution to be valid. Deliberately concealing a mortal sin is itself a mortal sin, and it makes your entire confession invalid (so if you hide a mortal sin, you will not receive absolution for any other sins confessed at that time). If you go into confession and genuinely try your best to remember all your sins, but after you leave, you realize you’ve left something out, don’t worry–that sin has been forgiven. Next time you’re in the confessional, it’s good practice to mention it to the priest (so that he can help you avoid sin in the future), but it has already been forgiven.
Confessing venial sins is actually not strictly necessary, but it’s recommended (it encourages humility and can also help the priest help you avoid those sins in the future). Also, because it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a venial and a mortal sin, it’s a good habit to confess venial sins just in case.
Mortal sins must be confessed in kind and number. That means: WHAT you did and HOW OFTEN you did it (it’s okay to round numbers if you’re not totally sure, e.g., “I lied to my boss about ten times.”).
If you’re afraid to confess a mortal sin, please don’t be! I personally was away from the church for many years and was so terrified to make my a good confession when I finally came back. But it’s true: the priest has heard it all, he’s not going to judge you. What helps me is going to confession with a screen (rather than face-to-face). When I’m in there, I close my eyes and it helps me remember that I’m really talking to God through the priest. The weight that is lifted off your shoulders when you leave the confessional is indescribable. And of course, then you can receive Jesus in the Eucharist again, which is the sweetest gift.
Hope this helps!
What if I don’t confess my mortal sins in number? I confessed on Saturday, but I didn’t realize that confessing the number of times you committed a mortal sin (or sins) is required.