Thank you for taking the time to read my question, I am a fairly new convert to Catholicism and appreciate any help!

My question is in regards to confession. Because I am a recent convert, I unfortunately have years and years of sin to confess. Also because I was not brought up with religion and was raised with divorced parents who were angry with one another and showed me the exact opposite of how a person should be. I sinned without thinking twice, and now and very regretful of many things in my past.

from what I understand a Mortal sin has to have three qualities in order to be considered a Mortal sin-

The object of the sin is grave matter (it violates the 10 commandments)
The sin is committed with full knowledge (one knows the act violates God’s law)
The sin is committed with complete and deliberate consent—it is a choice.

Now I believe it is right for me to confess all of my sins regardless of whether at the time of committing them I knew I was sinning against God. I truly do fear the loss of heaven and think I should confess everything. I have a great burden of guilt and shame on my shoulders that I need to rid myself of. A friend and I who are both converts to the faith were discussing confession and how afraid I am to go and she was trying to convince me that I need not confess anything from before because I did not knowthen what I do now regarding our faith and sins. So in a general sense if someone committed a mortal sin or any sin and didn’t confess whether out of embarrassment or fear of excommunication, because they were not brought up in the church and didn’t consider it a sin at the time-what would that mean for them? Would their whole confession be invalid for deliberately leaving something out or would it not be held against them because at the time they did not know?

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer my question…

I think you have a view of confession that is ultimately legalistic and misses the larger picture, my friend. Go to confession. Confess all of your sins as best you can remember them. I promise you that the priest will not judge you and that he will reconcile you to God. That’s the purpose of confession. It will make you feel better. It can be very, very intimidating when you haven’t been in a while (or if it is your first time), but I promise you that you will come out feeling much better and any worry about any of these issues will go away. The more often you go to confession, the better you will feel about everything.

I know that’s not directly an answer to your question, but it is a promise that I will give you from my own personal experience. It is sometimes terrifying when you have waited for too long and the list seems too long. It may make you want to put it off. You may even go to church intending to go to confession and then find yourself too intimidated at the last minute. For a while I thought it might make me feel better to find a church that still used the old confessionals that kept the priest from seeing you. But the truth is that what will make you feel better is by going and being honest. If you’ve never been before, just go and walk in and say “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.” He will help you with everything else. And the feeling you will leave that church with is, well, indescribable. Tonight and into tomorrow is Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It’s the day Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the apostles, and many of the other early saints confessed their sins. Perhaps you should consider just going tomorrow? I know I am.

You say you are a new convert…were you unbaptized when you converted? If you were baptized at the Easter Vigil then ALL your sins of your past life are forgiven through baptism. If you were baptized in another faith then you didn’t know what you did before you were Catholic might have been mortally sinful.

Thank you for the replies. According to my father, he brought me to a methodist church and had me baptized because my Catholic grandmother was “nagging him to have that child baptized”. I was baptized, but I do not have the record.The priest at my parish wasn’t sure if my baptism was done in the proper form so I was baptized conditionally at the parish I attend now.

Because I was probably baptized properly as a child, I do have sins to confess.

Just buck up and go to confession. As I said, I know it’s hard to get up the nerve to do it, but it will make you feel better. And once you do it once, it will be much easier to go later on and do it again. It’s a beautiful sacrament, and one that is far too frequently neglected.

Why not go for spiritual counseling first? Talk to a priest, bring him your concerns. If the priest says you need to confess, then confess. If the priest says its okay, then if you can’t trust him I don’t know who you can.

If you didn’t know at the time that you were doing it that what you were doing was wrong, or if you were being pressured by someone to do it, then it’s not a mortal sin - for example, if as a three year old child you took a candy bar from the store without paying for it, because you didn’t properly understand about having to pay for stuff that you get from the store, this is a venial sin.

Likewise, if, as a teenager, you mistakenly attended a party where there was alcohol, and as a joke, a bunch of the kids forced beer into your mouth to make you drink it, or served you punch without letting you know that there was alcohol in it, then there is no sin, because even though you knew it was wrong, you didn’t voluntarily consent to do it - so, you wouldn’t need to confess this.

My advice would be, first, set an appointment with a priest, so that you can’t back out of going.

Second, make a good Examination of Conscience, and plan ahead of time what you are going to say. List the most serious things first, so that if you happen to get tongue-tied in the Confessional, at least the most serious sins will have been confessed.

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