Confession: Do I need to be more specific?

I’m a recent convert, so I haven’t been to confession that many times and several times have left feeling like my sins were rationalized away rather than acknowledged and forgiven (I know God forgives me no matter how I’m feeling, so that’s not the problem). So I’m wondering if this is the way the sacrament goes or if it’s because I’m not being specific enough.

For example, before I converted, I was a Protestant missionary and taught some things that are incorrect theology (the rapture, OSAS, etc.). I’d always felt a bit uneasy about a lot of the things I taught that were strictly Protestant, but didn’t understand why until I started looking into Catholic theology. So I was recently reminded of several points of bad theology I’d taught when I witnessed an example of how following them can ruin the Christian witness and unity, so I wanted to confess teaching that theology. But I started my confession with a fairly general statement that I’m sorry for some of the things I taught as a Protestant and wasn’t asked for specifics. Rather, I was told that nothing I’d taught was wrong, just not complete. Do I need to be more specific to begin with? Should I jump in and say “actually, this, this and this are heresy and I taught them to x number of people as the truth?”

I feel like I’m not understanding how to participate in this Sacrament. Anyone have any suggestions? In my mind I’d like the priest to be very straight forward and say something like “Yes, what you did was wrong. Here’s what you can do. God forgives you.” That would make me feel like the sin was dealt with and I can move on with life. Instead I tend to get stuff like “You didn’t know any better. Don’t be hard on yourself. God forgives you.” This actually makes it harder for me to put the sin behind me. Am I getting this response because I’m not being very specific? Is it possible that I’m getting this sort of response because I’m female? Or is this the standard way Confession goes?

Thanks for any comments/suggestions!

I recommend you get the book by Scott Hahn called “Lord, Have Mercy - The Healing Power of Confession”. The next time you go to confession, ask the priest to help you to make a good confession with something as simple as “Father, I need your help in making a good confession”. Hope that helps.:slight_smile:

Rule number one for confession is to say which commandments you broke and how many times. That is the minimum necessary and I would start from there, then if the priest asks questions you must answer in all honesty. If you do not remember the exact number of times you guess an approximate number or just a “several times”. The confessor is there to help you with a good confessions and he will work with you if he thinks that you need help.
You cannot put a sin behind you, only God can. Even when the sin is forgiven the consequences are still there (e.g. feeling guilty). Confession is not there to make you “feel” less guilty, however you can achieve that by pursuing a life of holiness. You also have to understand that if you did not know better your culpability toward God is reduced and that is the reason for the priest comment.

GingerSam, if the priest told you that you didn’t know what you were doing when you taught the heresies, he was helping you to form your conscience.

In order to commit a mortal sin, you must do something seriously wrong, know it is seriously wrong at the time you do it, and do it freely.

When you taught the heresies, you were not aware that what you were doing was wrong, so one of the elements for sin was missing.

Yes, this is pretty much how Confession goes, unless you steer the conversation otherwise. Priests are very aware that many penitents are hesitant to come to Confession at all, so they don’t want to say anything that would be anything but gentle and forgiving. It’s not good for everyone, as you have found.

I recommend that you find one priest to be your regular confessor, so he can come to know you and how to deal with you in order to be helpful. Try out a few priests, and when you have found the one you think is best for you, perhaps you could make an appointment to discuss things as you set out on this relationship.

God bless your efforts to come close to Him. Happy Easter.


GingerSam what you are forgetting is what is needed for an action to be a mortal sin.

*  Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter
* Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner
* Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

If at the time you were teaching incorrectly you did not know you were committing a sin, then it **was not a **sin. You admit that you felt a bit odd. That is not the same as having full knowledge.

If you were baptized when you entered into full communion with the church, that baptism washed away all previous sins. The only things you need to confess are mortal sins committed from the moment of baptism/communion/confirmation to the present.

Even if you were not baptized at you entered into full communion, things you did without knowledge of them being sins were not sins because they did not meet the requirements to be a sin.

So, try to stop feeling guilty and not absolved. If you want to do something “to make up” for your previous teachings, look into helping with CCD or starting a class for adults.

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