Confession, Forgotten Sins, and Trent

I have made more general confessions than I can remember (I came into the Church a few years ago, so have a lifetime to confess). More than one priest has told me I do not have to confess a sin if I, without intent to so, forgot the sin during a previous confession. I do not know of any priest who has said otherwise.

I am not sure what to make of this seeing as the Roman/Trent Catechism says you should confess a forgotten sin, but the current Catechism remains rather silent on the issue and **almost **suggests you do not have to. Can these past practices be overruled (certainly confession has changed over the history of the Church)? Are they overruled?

Should one differ to the priests here?

Here is a link to the Roman Catechism too. It is much more stringent than teachings I have heard, but if it is required then it is certainly possible to do and good: LINK

To the best of my knowledge, if you forget to confess a sin that’s:
-mortal, you’re still absolved but you should confess next time you go to confession.
-venial-- No big deal because you don’t HAVE to confess venial sins anyway.

If you purposely don’t confess a sin, you should say it next time.

And by the way, you commented on having a whole life of sins to confess since you only just converted, BUT: Baptism washes away all mortal sin (and I’d assume venial?), and receiving the Eucharist takes care of the venial ones, so you don’t need to worry about EVERYTHING you’ve ever done.

This should make it easy. If a moral sin is forgotten, but one receives absolution from a priest, one is still absolved of all sins one remembers or not up till then. If it is then remembered, it is still absolved, however, it would be a new mortal sin to intentionally not to confess it to a priest, excepting of the cases given in the canon law (which applies to all sins).

You should follow the direction given to you by your priest in confession or spiritual direction. It is best to try and confess to the same priest each time so that you can benefit from consistent counsel. In particular, be wary of “confessor shopping”. That can lead to confusion, unease, and scruples.

Since you are a new convert, I recommend that you learn from the CCC first before browsing among older documents.

This may not be relevant if the OP is already a baptized Christian.

Agree here.

Disagree respectfully here. Any mortal sins truly forgotten during confession are absolved and do not have to be confessed again. It is a recommended practice, however, to confess them (“Father, in a previous confession I forgot to mention I …”) but no where have I seen or heard from a Priest that it is required to confess them under pain of mortal sin.

I can give you this reference from Baltimore Catechism No. 3:

Q. 793. Is our Confession worthy if, without our fault, we forget to confess a mortal sin?
A. If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, our Confession is worthy, and the sin is forgiven; but it must be told in Confession if it again comes to our mind.

ourladyswarriors.org/faith/bc3-19.htm

That’s a local catechism. Can you direct me to where this is in the CCC.

We know that the Baltimore Catechism was approved by the Church, as well as others.

Fidei Depositum, Blessed Pope John Paul II, 1992:The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the result of very extensive collaboration: it was prepared over six years of intense work done in a spirit of complete openness and fervent zeal. …
This catechism is not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences, especially if they have been approved by the Apostolic See. It is meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms, which must take into account various situations and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith and fidelity to Catholic doctrine.
vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_19921011_fidei-depositum_en.html

You are absolved if you meant to confess all your mortal sins, even if there exist forgotten mortal sins. It is a new sin if you refuse to adopt the intention of confessing a remembered but unconfessed sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.” 54 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."55
CIC Canon 988 - 1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and in number all serious sins committed after baptism and not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church now acknowledged in individual confession, of which one is conscious after diligent examination of conscience.
Catechism of the Council of Trent (Pius V) from Turin edition of 1914.* Sins Forgotten*
But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion.
fordham.edu/halsall/mod/romancat.html

Don’t get me wrong. I am not asking because I disagree with you. Its been my understanding that we must confess forgotten sins once remembered even though they have already been forgiven. I really want to see this in the CCC and I can’t find it. People have asked me about forgotten sins before and I could not point them to anything in the CCC.
CCC 1456 does not cover this. As the CCC is the universal catechism of the Church, local catechisms cannot contradict the CCC. I also can’t find anything in canon law either. If there is nothing in the CCC or Canon Law about it being obligatory to confess forgotten sins once remembered how can I tell someone they must do that rather than should do that?
Actually none of what you quoted states it is obligatory. Bear in mind its only the US that uses the Baltimore Catechism. We use the CCC.

It is actually there. Even though grave sins forgotten and thus omitted at the time of
confession are* indirectly* remitted, the canon indicates that these too must be
confessed directly. CIC Canon 988 - 1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and in number all serious sins committed after baptism and not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church now acknowledged in individual confession, of which one is conscious after diligent examination of conscience.

Also CCC give these sources for footnote 54: Council of Trent (1551):
Denzinger-Schonmetzer 1680 (ND 1626);
cf. Ex 20:17;
Mt 5:28.
We see from the Council of Trent Session XIV, Nov. 25, 1551 A.D.:
CANON VII. – If any one saith, that, in the sacrament of Penance, it is not necessary, of divine right, for the remission of sins, to confess all and singular the mortal sins which after due and diligent previous meditation are remembered, even those (mortal sins) which are secret, and those which are opposed to the two last commandments of the Decalogue, as also the circumstances which change the species of a sin; but (saith) that such confession is only useful to instruct and console the penitent, and that it was of old only observed in order to impose a canonical satisfaction; or saith that they, who strive to confess all their sins, wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins; let him be anathema.
history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct14.html

When the faithful do not come forth with the remembered mortal sin, already resolved, they do not receive a penance for it. Another canon states that we are to receive a penence:

CIC Canon 981The confessor is to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent is bound personally to fulfill these penances.
Also even when there is general absolution given, with approval of the bishop (which means generally in wartime or a period of one month without opportunity to confess personally), we still must have the intention to confess personally. In that way we receive our penance. See CCC 1483, CIC 961.2.

Can. 960 Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility excuses from confession of this type; in such a case reconciliation can be obtained by other means.

Can. 961 §1. Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to many penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

1/ danger of death is imminent and there is insufficient time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2/ there is grave necessity, that is, when in view of the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available to hear the confessions of individuals properly within a suitable period of time in such a way that the penitents are forced to be deprived for a long while of sacramental grace or holy communion through no fault of their own. Sufficient necessity is not considered to exist when confessors cannot be present due only to the large number of penitents such as can occur on some great feast or pilgrimage.

§2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop to judge whether the conditions required according to the norm of §1, n. 2 are present. He can determine the cases of such necessity, attentive to the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the conference of bishops.

Can. 962 §1. For a member of the Christian faithful validly to receive sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required not only that the person is properly disposed but also at the same time intends to confess within a suitable period of time each grave sin which at the present time cannot be so confessed.

§2. Insofar as it can be done even on the occasion of the reception of general absolution, the Christian faithful are to be instructed about the requirements of the norm of §1. An exhortation that each person take care to make an act of contrition is to precede general absolution even in the case of danger of death, if there is time.

Can. 963 Without prejudice to the obligation mentioned in ⇒ can. 989, a person whose grave sins are remitted by general absolution is to approach individual confession as soon as possible, given the opportunity, before receiving another general absolution, unless a just cause intervenes.
There is a slight difference in the eastern canon law (CCEO).

General Absolution I understand because I lived and worked in Hong Kong during the SARS crisis and Masses and Confessions were suspended during the crisis. We were given general absolution and had to confess individually once the crisis was over. However, I see that quite different from a normal situation where someone has not confessed a sin they forgot.
I can see where you you are coming from with all the references but honestly I don’t think its clear that confessing forgotten sins once remembered is a must rather than a should.
I guess this is something about the Church I find a bit frustrating. Why can’t they simply state clearly in the CCC that sins not confessed because they were forgotten MUST be confessed once remembered even though they have already been forgiven. How hard is it to do that?

I would say that it does in this section.

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."54

The CCC is not meant to be an exhaustive source but it does note that all must be confessed. It is not going to get into the various details that is treated in moral and sacramental theology – many things are not treated in the Catechism. Though as noted some references have foot noted there.

All your mortal sins need to be confessed. If one forgets one…it still needs to be confessed…for such is included in “all”.

The CCC is extremely wonderful but it is not going to get into various avenues that are to be treated in sources concentrated on that area…be it sacramental theology or bioethics.

They moved away form the Q and A format of Baltimore, but still have that in the compendium. But the compendium seem to have less answers to questions that the Baltimore. This may be understandable because the Catechism of the Catholic Church is directed to bishops, that of Trent (Pius V) to priests, and Pius X to laymen, also Baltimore Catechism to laymen for is it directly used in Catechesis in a graded fashion. It is the one series I used and has several books:

No. 00 for Prayer classes.
No. 0 for Confession classes and certain adults.
No. 1 for First Communion classes.
No. 2 for Confirmation classes.
No. 3 for two years’ course for Post-Confirmation classes.
No. 4 for Teachers and Teachers’ Training classes. (covers No. 1 and No. 2)

A Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote in Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 10:Article 5. Whether a general confession suffices to blot out forgotten mortal sins?

I answer that, Confession produces its effect, on the presupposition that there is contrition which blots out guilt: so that confession is directly ordained to the remission of punishment, which it causes in virtue of the shame which it includes, and by the power of the keys to which a man submits by confessing. Now it happens sometimes that by previous contrition a sin has been blotted out as to the guilt, either in a general way (if it was not remembered at the time) or in particular (and yet is forgotten before confession): and then general sacramental confession works for the remission of the punishment in virtue of the keys, to which man submits by confessing, provided he offers no obstacle so far as he is concerned: but so far as the shame of confessing a sin diminishes its punishment, the punishment for the sin for which a man does not express his shame, through failing to confess it to the priest, is not diminished.

Dranu, I think Mrs Sally has given excellent advice here. Her warning against “confessor shopping” does not mean you may not go and confess to a different priest when you are in the process of searching for a spiritual director; but once you have found someone in connection with whom you feel inspired by the Lord, it is best to stick with him and thus benefit from continuous spiritual direction. It is enormous help if you can allow a priest to get to know you well and see you in the process of growing in your faith; then you will be able to accept his judgement instead of searching in documents. Christ will speak through your confessor - please trust the Lord.

God bless.

Still not clear. This relates to a general Confession.

I really want something in black and white about a normal Confession and a penitent simply forgetting to confess a mortal sin and then later on remembering it.

Note that one that has no recollection can only make a general confession for that sin, by which one is absolved. (Re: Summa Theologica.)

The New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law also states that it must be directly not indirectly confessed, p. 1170:"Moreover, although grave sins forgotten and thus omitted at the time of
confession are indirectly remitted, the canon indicates that these too must be confessed…"
So you are looking for something other than these authoritative statements?

Catechism of Council of Trent (Pius V):

Sins Forgotten But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion.

eclipseofthechurch.com/Library/catechism_of_trent.pdf

Catechism of St. Piux X:

**83 Q: If a mortal sin, forgotten in confession, is afterwards remembered, are we bound to confess it in another confession? **
A: If a mortal sin forgotten in confession is afterwards remembered we are certainly bound to confess it the next time we go to confession.

eclipseofthechurch.com/Library/ST_PIUS_X_CATECHISM.pdf

Baltimore Catechism No. 3:

Q. 793. Is our Confession worthy if, without our fault, we forget to confess a mortal sin?
A. If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, our Confession is worthy, and the sin is forgiven; but it must be told in Confession if it again comes to our mind.

baltimore-catechism.com/

**Catechism of the Catholic Church **(Bookcat quoted this before)

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.” 54 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.” 55 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl. 10, 11: PL 23:1096

Although I have always understood ( I assume somebody told me that) its a must and not a should that forgotten sins once remembered are confessed I have to say that none of these quotes make it clear.

In General:
Thank you all for the responses. I was baptised in a Protestant church as a baby so I do have to confess.

As for priest shopping, I have to move around since I am moving around lately. More than one priest has told me you do not have to confess forgotten sins as long as they were forgotten by the time you make a valid confession. I also am trying to move around there since I think the priests may be wrong on this most important of matters.

To Vico
Vico, thank you in particular for your responses that have many sources. I would note, however, that for most of them I do acknowledge in the past this practice was more or less required (claiming it is a mortal sin, however, I am not sure was ever well acknowledged, but certainly a venial sin, though perhaps mortal by deliberate disobedience to Church orders). There seemed to be an idea that one needed to present it so that a penance could be administered and we could face down the sin (but that seemed to be the primary purpose since it was already forgiven).

My question was if the Church still requires this practice.

As to current Canon Law, you, Vico, do give a very good citation that indicates this but you do mis-quote a word:

Now you go on to mention a commentary on these cannons.

“Moreover, although grave sins forgotten and thus omitted at the time of
confession are indirectly remitted, the canon indicates that these too must be confessed…”

Two things with this: 1.) How authoritative is it? ** 2.) **It seems to render part of the text of cannon 988 redundant, and so seems a peculiar interpretation. This is because the cannon says “not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession”. If ‘directly remitted’ means the same thing as ‘acknowledged in individual confession’, then why does cannon 988 put a disjunction between the two as if they are two different things? The commentary seems to render the plain text of 988 redundant, and so seems to be a strange interpretation (unless it is authoritative). When writing laws, one tends to leave out unescessary language.

However, to this second point, I have heard it said, in my few years as a Catholic, that sins are not directly remitted when not mentioned in confession through innocent forgetfulness, but I have heard many a thing stated as teaching…

As for the current Catechism, it does not seem to be of much help:

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”

This could easily just mean that when we go to a particular confession, all sins that we remember, are not forgiven yet, and are mortal must never be witheld (everyone knows that is true). It does not say anything about sins forgotten after confession.

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember,** they undoubtedly place all of them **before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”

These seems to suggest that if one makes a diligent examination of conscience, confesses all they remember, and forget some, then those sins have been ‘placed before the divine mercy for pardon’. Indeed, this text, by itself, almost seems to suggest that those sins are done and forgiven. Only with more would we say ‘they are forgiven, but we must still confess them again anyhow’. Here, the Catechism does not seem to help much with that question, and I find it odd (and supportive to these priests’ position) that this is absent from the text. Such an important matter, if required, would seem to be something that would have been put in.

My priests may be wrong, but its hard to tell for sure. I slightly tend to agree with Vico, but, unless I see more, I think I should give my priests the benefit of the doubt (for it is perhaps a slight sin to do otherwise in my shoes). If I am wrong not to confess, I am sure God will understand or provide me with more reasons to think they are wrong. Certainly if I need to I shall confess them (God willing). I am kind of going crazy with general confessions at the moment anyhow.

Yes all motral sins need to be confessed – if one forgets one – it still must be confessed in the next confession. There is no question regarding this.

Forgotten mortal sins (assuming contrition etc) --that are say never remembered – that is what is meant by the CCC in the above quote.

If I committed 3 murders and I confessed 2 of them – thinking there where only two but intending to confess all mortal sins and being contrite and amended…the other one is “indirectly” absolved with the others. If it remains perpetually forgotten --then it is simply that forgotten…I am not trying to hide it or something. But if I remember it was 3 murders --well then in the next confession I need to submit that to the keys “directly”.

Now some readers struggle with “scrupulosity” and can have lots of difficulties here…they need to have a “regular confessor”…and may be in a different boat due to their scrupulosity. (Often they will be told by their regular confessor-- to only confess an old remembered sin if-- 1. they are certain it was mortal and 2.certain it was not confessed as it ought to be … their confessor can advise them in their particular case…)

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