Confessing sins from many years ago

I have been worrying about some possible old sins that I committed as a young teenager. This is difficult to explain, so I hope that it makes sense.

Without going into too many details, they concern acts that were probably objectively morally neutral (such as hugging), but I’m concerned that I actually may have hugged the person more closely, or for a longer time, than really necessary/appropriate.

In addition, I’m worried that that I may have had impure thoughts at the time, or may have gotten some impure pleasure out of the act, or that I may have “decided” to hug them with impure intentions, despite the fact that I didn’t go beyond hugging, and did not even have the intention or desire to do so. I just remember that, in general, as a teenager, I was often physically more “sensitive” to being touched than I am now, even in innocent ways…maybe it had to do with changing hormones.

However, as this was a couple of decades ago, I can generally remember what happened - I hugged so-and-so - but I can’t remember if I had feelings of affection or something impure when I hugged these people. I’ve been trying to go over it in my mind, but I don’t think that I am realistically going to be able to remember my thoughts, feelings and sentiments at those points in time. Too much time has passed.

In addition, I’m now starting to re-think all sorts of other times in my life when I hugged someone, and I’m worrying that I had some kind of impure feelings at various points, but of course I can’t remember conclusively either way. (In other words, I don’t think that I did, but since I can’t remember things with 100% accuracy, I’m worried that I did indeed have some impure feelings that I don’t remember. And now I’m worried that I need to confess everything, since I can’t say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did not have any impure feelings at those moments. You can probably see where this is going…I started worrying about two or three cases, and now my worrying is getting out of control.)

I have a tendency to obsess over old sins even to the point of neglecting prayer and other activities because I’m so worried and stressed that I cannot focus.

I decided that I would confess this the next time that I go to Confession, explaining the general details of what happened those two or three times as a teenager, and mentioning that while they seem like morally neutral acts, I’m worried that they were sins, and to just leave it at that.

Does that sound like an acceptable way to confess them? I don’t want to get in to saying, “Well, I’m afraid that I had some impure thoughts at the time, but I can’t really remember, maybe I felt something involuntarily but maybe not, maybe I enjoyed it but maybe not, etc…” I don’t want to minimise the possible sin, but at the same time I don’t want to turn it into something worse than it was. However, I’m afraid that confessing the sin in this way will automatically cause the priest to believe that I did not sin, when, perhaps I did. I don’t want to commit an additional sin by hiding the gravity of my sin at Confession.

Has anyone ever found themselves in a similar situation?

If it bothers you go ahead and mention them in confession. the priest is likely to say that you should not keep dredging things up from the distant past. Remember, after you have recieved absolution all your sins are forgiven so try to let it go. We have to trust in the Mercy of Jesus.

I agree with what poche said above. Just a few weeks ago, I had a memory of something from my young teens that worried me so I brought it up in the confessional. Father was very generous and sweet, but he essentially said “Let it all go. You’ve already been forgiven. Let it go.”

If we legitimately and genuinely forget of a wrong we have committed, but we obtain absolution for other sins with a truly sincere and contrite heart, those sins we have forgotten are also absolved. It’s an entirely different story if you intentionally withhold a sin. But that doesn’t appear to be your case. :slight_smile:

But if you remember an unconfessed mortal sin, you’re still required to confess it in your next confession.


I will repost a general post on the subject of forgotten mortal sins – remember such is referring to mortal sins.

Honestly forgetting to confess mortal sins

-is well --forgetting to do so. Hiding such is a different story. Assuming one was contrite and amended and intending to confess all mortal sins --and just forgot to say some —

they are absolved indirectly.

One is to confess then in the next confession. Of course ones memory could honestly slip again despite ones intent etc to remember.

Yes one is to confess all forgotten post -baptismal mortal sins (well that is those one remembers!..sometimes we may forget something forever…). So if one remembers say that one murdered ones 5th grade teacher…and that it was mortal (not only grave matter but full knowledge and deliberate consent) and not confessed --one is to confess it.

(Now I will note for some out there – who struggle with scruples – they may be in a different boat in some cases. For some seek to confess all sorts of un-needful things --they need a regular confessor who can guide them)

One does not have to identify the commandment --but rather for mortal sins one needs to confess the species (even if one does not use the technical name) (Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers).

As to forgotten mortal sins:

As to “doubtful mortal sins” (like I am doubtful if I gave complete consent to it) the general recommendation is that those of an ordinary conscience should confess them (noting they are doubtful) and especially those of a lax conscience (again noting the doubt). Though there is not a strict obligation to confess them.

Those who struggle with scruples are often rather recommended to not confess them directly (if they do they too would not it is doubtful).

Thank you to everyone who responded. I will indeed bring this up at my next Confession.

However, is it sufficient to explain the general details of what happened those two or three times as a teenager, and to mention that while they seem like morally neutral acts, I’m worried that they were sins?

Or do I need to go into my concerns that I may have had some impure feelings, etc…but that I cannot remember? I think that what I felt was probably affection, but I can’t remember clearly and I’m not going to be able to at this point. I don’t want to have to drag out the explanation if I don’t have to…

I will pm.

I don’t think it is necessary to determine the morality subjective, or objective of one’s actions in a fully 100% accurate way to be able to confess them.

It seems sufficient to ensure that one’s conscience is informed about the morality of actions; and to examine one’s conscience. Then one can confess whatever is troubling one’s conscience.

Who can remember if a past action was fully deliberate, or what the exact intention was? I just confess it and move on.

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