Confessing Sins I Didn't Know Were Sins When I Sinned the Sin


#1

Hello,

This is my first post on Catholic Answers Forum. I just learned that this place existed a couple weeks ago; boy how I wish I had found this place when I was still in RCIA! I converted to Catholicism this past Easter (Easter 2012). I learned a lot in RCIA, but I’ve come to see that my parish is a bit on the liberal side, and it dawned on me that very little was spoken about concerning morality in RCIA. The RCIA program was my only source of catechesis, but for the past month or two I’ve been reading online sources from more orthodox Catholics. Now it’s becoming quite clear to me that there’s a LOT I was never taught in RCIA…

… like how it’s a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist while in the state of mortal sin (and sacrilege to boot!). I remember having two lessons on the Eucharist. We were told that to receive it you have to go to confession once a year on Easter and actually believe it is the Body and Blood of Christ. I even remember a woman raising her hand and asking about communing while in a state of sin. The director said that receiving the Eucharist is in of itself healing and grants forgiveness.

I went on believing this since, and have now unworthily received the Eucharist three times. The moment I learned that this was a sin I stopped presenting myself, and will go to Confession on Saturday.

My question: When I do confess the sins which originally made me unworthy to receive, do I also confess receiving unworthily? I mentioned this to my sponsor and she said that I shouldn’t do it because I didn’t know it was sinful when I did it, and for it to actually be a sin you have to know the Church’s teaching concerning the matter.

Thanks everyone.


#2

I would go to confession to be sure…

Your sponsor is only half right…since you did not have FULL knowledge-its not a mortal sin but it is still a sin.

Example for you: As a protestant before I came back…my husband and I used birth control…then in coming back to the church I found out it was wrong and grave matter. Not a mortal sin as I had no idea it was even a sin. But I confessed it anyway and felt much better after absolution.

Look up mortal and venial sins. A sin is a sin - regardless. It’s just whether it was mortal or venial.

I myself prefer to go to confession once a month…gets rid of all the gunk that builds up on the inside of your soul…and gives me strength to avoid the mortal sins.


#3

The previous poster is right. These matters should be discussed in the confessional priest. If possible it may help to find a priest who has a good handle on moral theology and can advise appropriately.

It helps to properly understand what a sin is and why something is sinfull.
It helps to understand the difference between:
Mortal sin Vs Grave Matter Vs Venial Sin.

This is my understanding:

A sin is something which will damage your relationship or ability to have a good relationship with God. it harms or is likely to harm the gifts God has given to you and those around you.
1) It directly harms or is likely to harm the people around you. (murder, drunk driving, gambling with the families grocery money)
2) It harms or is likely to harm the gift of your own person (body mind or soul) (self harm, actions likely to cause addiction, very risky actions),
3) it prevents you from serving god and your fellow man: (actions which lead you into some form of slavery: entering into large debts, letting yourself become addicted...)
4) It directly offends God and your ability to love Him and accept his Love (blasphemy).

Very few sins other than blasphemy and sacrilege fall into category 4.
Almost all sins are things which harm the sinner, people around them or the society in which they live (thereby harming many people)

When you receive the Eucharist, you receive the Body and Blood of the Crucified Christ. This is the flash and blood of God's own Paschal Lamb, sacrificed to pay the ransom for our sins. We MUST eat of His Flesh and Drink his Blood to be Redeemed. This is part of the necessary mechanism God has given us for our Salvation.
The Eucharist therefore is a mechanism for the Forgiveness of Sins:- but not Unrepented Sins -
To receive the Eucharist, knowing that you have committed acts that massive harm your ability to Love God is a bit a man punching his wife in the face and then still expecting her to fulfil her "marital obligations" without first repairing the relationship. - The second act - instead of fulfilling its unintuitive function is a further sin - it may very well be rape.

However coming back to the definitions of Grave Matter, Mortal Sins, and Venial Sins:
Many things are Grave Matter. (serious sins which have the potential, as a single act, to shatter your ability to accept the love of God, and therefore condemn you to Hell).
A Mortal Sin, is when you commit a sin which is Grave Matter, knowing it is a serious sin, Doing it with full freedom of the will. When this happens you have deliberately and voluntarily committed a sin which you cant say "Sorry I didn't mean it". you did. you did it on purpose, knowing what it would do to your relationship with the Lord. (and the person or people you probably hurt by the act).
This therefore requires a full and proper act of contrition. you must genuinely be sorry. you must say sorry. To God, and to the people affected. You must make amends where that is possible.

Lets say you broke into someone house and stole their brand new 50" TV that they had just bought for the family for Christmas. You have hung it on your own wall. Can you go to Holy Communion and expect that by taking the Eucharist you are being forgiven for the Theft and intrusion into the other persons home, while the spoils of that theft are hanging on your own wall? - that is madness. you are not sorry - you cannot accept Gods forgiveness - you would be lying. receiving the Eucharist in that situation is the spiritual equivalent of Rape as described above. (not exactly but that's the limit of analogies and metaphors).
To be forgiven for the theft by God, the thief must 1st give back the stolen property. 2nd repair the damage to the house they broke into. 3rd apologise to the victims, and attempt to make restitution for the emotional harm caused. this may include facing the legal consequences of the theft (prosecution, conviction, civil punishment, possibly jail) 4th apologise to God, in confession and receive absolution.
5th and last, return to the Altar and receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
you cannot short circuit this and jump to stage 5.

On the other hand: If we look at the Anabelles's example: using Artificial Birth Control. and through no fault of your own, not knowing that is is wrong or why it is wrong:
in this situation engaging in the marital act while taking the pill for birth control reasons is sinful. but not knowing this if the person were to come face to face with God and asked to account for their sins they would probably be shocked at the harm that sin had caused, and be truly repentant and contrite. It would almost certainly not make it impossible to accept Gods love and forgiveness it would not send them to hell - (but would probably be a painful realisation and need to be purged (in purgatory).

For Anabelle to receive the Eucharist in this situation would probably sadden The Lord, as she is unaware of the need for repentance, but is not in itself a deliberate, sinful action. in this situation the Lords forgiveness does flow through the Cross. Through the body and blood of Christ. and will wash her clean.


My advice:
Read the information in the catechism. there's an on-line version on the USCCB website which is searchable. there's also another on-line version on the Vatican website.

Make an act of contrition, and resolve to go to confession as soon as possible. Think like this: if you got up from your computer, and were in an accident on the way to work or the shops do you think you would be able to accept Gods forgiveness and go to Heaven? If not then you should be on the phone finding a priest who will see you ASAP. Otherwise you should try to get to the next available confession at a scheduled time.

Most priests will hear confession after the Daily Mass.


#4

[quote="AMagnus, post:1, topic:307280"]
Hello,

This is my first post on Catholic Answers Forum. I just learned that this place existed a couple weeks ago; boy how I wish I had found this place when I was still in RCIA! I converted to Catholicism this past Easter (Easter 2012). I learned a lot in RCIA, but I've come to see that my parish is a bit on the liberal side, and it dawned on me that very little was spoken about concerning morality in RCIA. The RCIA program was my only source of catechesis, but for the past month or two I've been reading online sources from more orthodox Catholics. Now it's becoming quite clear to me that there's a LOT I was never taught in RCIA...

[/quote]

Welcome Home - and Welcome to the Forums. Hope to see many posts from you. Converts are such a great blessing.
I'm sorry to hear that your RCIA experience was not as good as it should be...But God bless you for pursuing truth to it's fullest.

... like how it's a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist while in the state of mortal sin (and sacrilege to boot!). I remember having two lessons on the Eucharist. We were told that to receive it you have to go to confession once a year on Easter and actually believe it is the Body and Blood of Christ. I even remember a woman raising her hand and asking about communing while in a state of sin. The director said that receiving the Eucharist is in of itself healing and grants forgiveness.

Well in truth the director was not entirely wrong, though certainly it was not explained well.. The penitential rite at the beginning of mass absolves us of all venial sin and thus one can receive worthily so long as they are not in a state of mortal sin.

Likewise, one cannot deny that the Eucharist heals....but I have never heard or read that it "grants forgiveness" for mortal sin...

I went on believing this since, and have now unworthily received the Eucharist three times. The moment I learned that this was a sin I stopped presenting myself, and will go to Confession on Saturday.

What you say here is not correct...You DID receive worthily
The most important thing to remember in your case is that you committed no sin by receiving given the information you had. You were acting correctly and piously in accordance with the teachings you received. IF there was sin involved it would be on the head of the director (or whoever taught him/her) incorrectly.

My question: When I do confess the sins which originally made me unworthy to receive, do I also confess receiving unworthily?

I believe I would...Even though you are not culpable for it, you feel sorrow over the matter. It has wounded you...So why not seek the healing you need. Sure - go ahead and mention it in confession.

I mentioned this to my sponsor and she said that I shouldn't do it because I didn't know it was sinful when I did it, and for it to actually be a sin you have to know the Church's teaching concerning the matter.

There is a couple of problems with this...again - a matter of poor catechesis I'm afraid.

1) Something need not be a "mortal sin" in order to be confessed. Such a view limits confession to a vary narrow scope. Confession has the potential to be so much more. Not just healing from Mortal sin, but a positive growth opportunity, quick counseling on troubling matters, many graces to aid in spiritual growth and other things...Regular confession is extremely useful, even necessary, on the Spiritual journey.
2) Just because a person does not know something is a sin, does not mean it isn't. It will depend a bit on what the particular thing is...but there are a number of things that we "just know" are wrong - in our hearts - because they violate the law of Love. I will agree that in the case of receiving unworthily...one really needs to understand what constitutes worthiness and that involves good teaching.

Here is a LINK to the section in the Catechism on sin. It's not long and should help you understand better.

Thanks everyone.

You are welcome....

Peace
James


#5

Welcome home. We came into full Communion with the church at the same time, so I am new too.

And do relax.
In the confession, just talk to the priest…be brief, but do tell him. He will direct you. RCIA is not Graduation. It is only Confirmation of your faith in alignment with the Church. The learning process is life long.


#6

(without reading all the post)

There are some things we know more readily via natural moral law are serious --like murder and adultery or serious theft...other things one may be "invincibly ignorant of" at the time.

In the case where one doubts that one committed a mortal sin or a venial sin --one may confess it -- but note it is doubtful in some way.


#7

[quote="AMagnus, post:1, topic:307280"]
My question: When I do confess the sins which originally made me unworthy to receive, do I also confess receiving unworthily?

[/quote]

Hi Magnus. I go by a simple rule: when in doubt, confess it out!

Your sponsor was right, though, in that the conditions for something to be a MORTAL sin are threefold:
1) It must be grave matter
2) You must reasonably know it is grave matter
3) You must freely decide with your will to do it anyway

So first, it must be grave matter. Receiving the Eucharist in a state of sin IS grave matter.

Second, you must know it is grave matter. You didn't know. You also had what you thought was a reasonable answer given in your RCIA program. You have done additonal research and learned more about your Catholic faith and you honestly didn't know before. Therefore, this is not a mortal sin. Had someone told you and you had said "I'm not sure I believe you, but I'm intentionally not going to look it up to see if it's a rule", then your ignorance in the matter would have been unreasonable, and it would probably be a mortal sin.

3) because you didn't have the knowledge to determine that this was grave matter, you did not have an informed will. Even if you freely decided to do the action, without knowing it was grave your will was not free to make the moral decision.

HOWEVER, that should not mean that you don't talk to your confessor about it! For one thing, it's okay to confess venial sins as well (especially if they surround times when you shouldn't have been taking the Eucharist but were). It's also feedback to your confessor, who might need to know that Catechumens aren't getting catechized about needing to be in a state of grace (rest assured, he can't take action in a way that would betray the secrecy of the confessional, but it's helpful knowledge for him to have). Finally, it will probably help to settle your mind.

And, I'm sure you're already aware of this but want to be sure, your RCIA director was not wrong in stating that the Eucharist is regenerative with regard to sin... but only insofar as VENIAL sin goes. We don't need to go to confession before receiving every time we commit a venial sin.


#8

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.