Confession Validity

Lets say you go to confession, but you genuinely forget a sin or you simply have troubles communicating and didn’t quite phrase something as it should have been said.

Do you HAVE to confess your forgotten sin or rephrase this at your next confession?

I understand that it is good to confess it at your next confession, so I beg you do not re-iterate this. Technically speaking though, do you have to?

If it is a mortal sin, it must be confessed properly at the next confession (or the next confession when you actually remember it) so it can be submitted to the power of the keys.


Just a note: Between the time of confession and the next confession one may receive the Eucharist even if the forgotten or improperly stated sin was mortal. This is true only if in confession it was truly forgotten or misstated… teachccd

YES one is obliged to confess forgotten mortal sins in the next confession.

(we have to submit to the keys all our mortal sins in number and kind…and sometimes some of the circumstances that really change things…like the man you murdered was your Father)

so yes one will need to confess it in the next confession…if it was forgotten or needs to be said fully or corrected in some necessary way (when one was not intentionally concealing or trying make it not understood or something like that…such just needs to be mentioned in the next confession one remembers…)

As to rephrasing things…be careful not to scruple about this…you can ask the priest to help you.

Absolution is not conditional. And forgotten sins are forgiven.

The question then must arise: if a forgotten sin is forgiven, it was forgiven by the absolution given in the prior confession (when it was forgotten.)

It cannot, I think, suddenly re-emerge from forgiven status to once again plunge the soul into a state of mortal sin, simply by the fact of being remembered.

That’s why I have some doubts as to the obligatory nature of the need to continuously try to confess previously forgotten sins. I think it would tend to promote a state of continuous scrupulosity.

There is no need for doubt. The Church states this in Canon Law. This is the requirement of the Church (though there can be some exceptions…) There is an obligation to submit all mortal sins to the keys in number and kind that have not been absolved Directly by confession of them and absolution.

It is NOT a matter of that sin “re-amerging” but of a NEW obligation that arises to confess it the next confession…upon remembering the past mortal sin that was not confessed and absolved…

A person with scrupulosity or scruples should ask their confessor in their case…for they can see scruple in this area and be in a different boat.

OK, so the forgotten sin is forgiven. And the forgiveness is not retracted by remembrance.
But the remembering of it imposes a new obligation?

I think of people–baptized Catholics–who have strayed in their youth–maybe a lot, and go back to confession after a span of ten or twenty or thirty years. They make the best examination of conscience possible and then make a general confession of all the sins of their past life.

But confessing “all” is not really possible, is it?. Let’s see, did I fornicate 3 times a week, or 4, or only 2? And how about those times I was just too drunk to recall? How to pinpoint the number and times of distinct instances of mortal sin which had long since become habitual? How many times, exactly, did I fail to make Sunday Mass? The list could go on and on. And so could the remembrances and flashbacks: “Oh, I just remembered another one; now I need to confess that one. When does it ever end?”

I think it would make someone in such a situation wish to have never been baptized, so that the whole slate could be wiped clean with the pouring of water–once only, with no confession necessary.

If I were a priest, which I am not, I would advise someone in such a situation to make the best confession they could, and then to put the past behind them for good, never bringing it up again, now matter what memories came to mind.

Nope…no problem (except for those with scruples…and their confessor will guide them and may need to tell them to leave the past…due to their scruples)…

one does what one can and sometimes this means one has to approximate…this is fine when one does not know exact things. (I think it was around 5 times…or I think it was at around 3 or 4 times a month for the last 12 years some more some less…one does what one can…)

This is not what the Church is talking about (for not knowing is an excusing reason…or not remembering exactly)…one does what one can. BUT if one remembers…hey I remember that I killed that guy over in Texas…I forgot to confess it…yes then that person has an obligation to confess this. Period.

The point is if one does then later remember…well then one would mention it.

And usually this is the case of opps I forgot to say I got drunk and lost my reason last week on tuesday…and while they were sorry and it was indirectly absolved…it would need to be mentioned in the next confession then.

“Ought to be” or “should be” I have no problem with. But “need to be” implies that the sin was not forgiven, and it was, unless deliberately hidden.

I return to my point comparing baptism and confession. Two sinners who have precisely the same sins, one never baptized, one baptized early in life: The unbaptized one simply repents and is baptized. No confession of old sins is needed. The baptized one makes a general confession, but then must cope with continuing memories and reconfessings for the rest of his life.

Baptism removes all sins…and these are NOT confessed (they are not valid matter for confession)

If a person forgets a mortal sin…and then remember it…or remembers he killed 3 persons not just 1 then he NEEDS. Is Obligated by the Catholic Church to “submit those forgotten mortal sins to the keys in confession directly in number and kind”

Such is a required.

Canon Law (Roman Catholic Church)

Can. 988 §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.

Every word here is important.

  1. We are talking about mortal sins committed after baptism
  2. One is obliged to confess all of these in number and kind.
  3. One is obliged to confess all of these that have not been directly remitted through the keys…this means those which have not been directly submitted to the keys and absolved…
  4. (Mortal sins that were forgotten and still absolved in confession…are absolved “indirectly”…this is why it says those that have not been “directly” remitted.
  5. Also note that it is said again by saying “nor acknowledge in individual confession”…this double statement of this principle certainly makes it very clear…(.and it also covers other things as well)

When a henry confesses that he murdered 1 person and forgets that he also committed adultery one time…(prob cause of nerviousness about the murder) but was sorry etc for everything…the first one is absolved directly and never needs be confessed again…(though one can mention it) the second is absolved “indirectly” even though it was not acknowledged directly in confession…later if henry remembers it …he is then obliged to acknowledge it in individual confession …

Catechism of Pope Pius X (St)

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.

Canon Lawyer answering on EWTN:

Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers (Chief Apologist)

“You are forgiven if you *meant *to confess all your mortal sins and just forgot one. Having been forgiven of the one you forgot, you are still *obligated *to confess it the next time you go to confession. It’s not that your forgiveness of it is conditional on you adopting the intention to confess it next time. That sin has already been forgiven. It’s that you incur a new sin if you refuse to adopt the intention of confessing it.” (Jimmy Akin)

(again those who are scrupulous or who have scruples…maybe in a particular boat and should discuss things with their confessor…for they can often scruple and seek to keep confessing in a way that is not intended here…but again their confessor can direct them…for they can be in a different boat historically…but this is for the confessor to judge largely)

I believe you. But it does seem to me that the requirement is very nearly a recipe for the development of scrupulosity. The sin is forgiven. But recalling it imposes a new obligation–a new and different obligation which I presume also binds under pain of mortal sin-- an obligation which will not exist for the forgetful.

And of course, with advancing years, one might well begin to wonder, “well, did I actually confess that, after all? Better confess it again, just in case.”

It seems to turn what ought to be an one-time unburdening, into a potential minefield of continuing self-doubt.

Those who forget and never remember are “in good faith”…same is true for someone who is on a plane getting ready to crash who receives absolution from a Priest aboard…but has not time to confess …and does not live to tell about it…he will not need to confess either (physical impossibility is one of exceptions) …of course if he survives…he will need to confess any mortal sin that was absolved (and in the his case he must do so as soon as possible, given the opportunity…where as the person who simply forgets can do so in the next confession and need not seek such out any sooner …unless it will go beyond the “year since his last confession”…for one must confess ones mortal sins at least once a year…of course it is best to confess unabsolved mortal sins as soon as possible anyhow…)

Again those with scruples…need to talk with their confessor…they *may *be in a different boat (for such can be a burden to them…and a great problem…)

Normally such should not be a problem.

Henry remembers…and mentions in the next confession.

I agree. Persons with ordinary cases of scrupulosity tend to confess way too often in any case. What I am thinking of is the case of a person who confesses after a lapse of many years or even decades. Such cases are not uncommon. Recalling every past sin in such cases may be an impossible burden. If he needs to keep revisiting the past, a non-scrupulous person may be turned into a scrupulous and obsessive person.

I did not say he “need to* keep* revisiting the past” over and over…examining to no end…

Usually this is the case that a person will be going along in life and remember…wow I forgot to confess that murder of that cowboy in Texas in 1938…and will mention it in the next confession.

One makes a diligent examination of conscience…and confesses his mortal sins as he can…sometimes one simply can not remember and must make an approximation…this is understandable …and they church is very clear that she does not expect the “impossible” …

It may be as some Church Fathers called it “laborious” at times…and can be full of penance and tears…but it is not to be the impossible burden…it is a Sacrament of forgiveness…and release…

Of course it can happen too that a person converts and returns to confession after years…and then later simply realizes (not scruples) that he due to his not being experienced…did not examine as he should have…and then does so and makes a general confession or at least confesses the mortal sins he forgot…


But yes…one should avoid “scrupling” in this area…as some who are up there in years as you note may also develop…

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