Confession & assessing gravity of past sins

God Bless. I am grateful for input received in previous questions, whether privately or on threads.

My question now concerns reflection on past sin and the obligation to confess in the present.

I am familiar with the basic principle, that if one forgets a mortal sin in a confession but remembers it later, one need only mention it next time while the prior confession remains valid. I do not ask about that but of something rather different.

How should one act when, in reflecting on a past act, one concludes that there were aggravating factors to a sin that did not occur to one at the time, either in committing or confessing it? Or even that a certain act was objectively sinful (even highly so), while at the time one’s mentality did not clearly register it as a sin at all, and one’s conscience did not sound off with guilt at its omission from a confession? Can one logically and licitly conclude that “you should have known” or “you had the resources to know” something was sinful, or of a greater gravity than was felt at the time, and thereby be bound to revisit the matter in a next confession?

I hope that this is clear and can be addressed by corresponding clear principles of moral theology. I can try to rephrase this if it is unclear.

I suspect that what I am describing, while it has reference to things highly personal to me, is not an uncommon conundrum, particularly as we grow older; perhaps (among other times) in the growth from adolescence and early adulthood into later adulthood. Or just throughout life, really. One’s subjective mindset really can alter and shift in such a way that one can have engaged in behavior that, at the time, could go unregistered (in any vivid way) by the conscience and unmentioned in confession; one can have gone on for years to further confession and communion, with every subjective feeling of having mentioned all mortal sins and received consolation and forgiveness–and yet, years later, finally look back at the behavior, or acts, and say “but how could this not be culpable? how can I not accuse myself of this?”

In the Peace of Christ.

There is an obligation to confess personal mortal sins, which you know. There is no obligation to confess objective mortal sins that we are not fully culpible of. These are either venial (if reduced culpability) or no sin at all (if no culpability) and do not need to be mentioned in confession.

Now, it is always good to say sorry for things we know to be objectively sinful, even if we did not knowingly sin (or sinned only venially). But that is different from having an obligation to confess. If at the time you did not know that you were committing grave sin, then you were not committing a personal grave/mortal sin that needs to be confessed.

Whether you “should have known better” is a complicated issue, but the reality is that you didn’t know better at the time. Part of confession is the ability to accept Christ’s abundant mercy. You should not focus on the past and continually second guess yourself.

Of course, the best answer to this question can be offered by your confessor, in your next confession. Ask father these questions, and if he says that all your past sins are forgiven and to not keep thinking about them, then hopefully you will feel assured.

God bless.

This is an unhealthy road that I have been down before. If you need to get details off your chest then do so, but prayer, fasting, almsgiving, doing good works, etc. might also help as well. Take communion :slight_smile:

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