Confused at Confession


A little background: I have just recently returned to the Church from a atheistic and later kind-of-protestant past and today I had my third honest confession (I say honest, because I don’t count the confessions I made, because I was expected to make them - I always lied at them and those that expected me to confess even knew that and were fine with that) and It was weird.

The problem itself: it was an old priest to whom I confessed today, apparently one of those who puts a little heart into his work and doesn’t confess people like he was working on a mass production line in a factory. That was fine, of course. The thing is: he didn;t let me finish my confession. In the middle he gave me a teaching about prayer (a good teaching now that I think about it) - concerning one of the sins I confessed, that I skipped some of my morning and evening prayers. And when he finished and I was about to list the rest of my sins he said “Alright.”, made a sign of a cross, said “God bless you” and knocked on the confessional signalising that I am free to go. The mass was already at the eucharist stage (the confession of mine and others before me with this priest took a while), there were still people in line waiting to confess and I honestly didn’t know how to behave so I just walked away.

Now two things concern me:
a) He didn’t say anything about my sins being forgiven, he just said “God bless you”, made a signe of a cross and knocked on a confessional. Does that mean i didn’t recieve absolution? Am I still in my sins? I decided not to take the eucharist today, because I don;t know if I’m in a state of grace, or not (also: is that a sin not to participate in the eucharist?).
b) If I did recieve absolution - what with the sins I didn’t manage to confess? I really wanted to, but the priest just didn’t let me finish (I’m sure he had a good reason - there were still a few people waiting for confession and the mass was nearing the end - i don’t mean any disrespect to him), should I go and confess them? Should I go and confess all over again? What’s going on? I’m really confused. Help me.


Sounds like he tuned into your anxiety. If you were in a traditional confessional likely you didn’t hear him give absolution. Be at peace. You’re fine.
People need to understand that these priests have heard zillions of confessions, and have indeed, been to seminary. You’re absolved. No worries.


Well… I guess he could’ve whispered the formula real quick while doing the sign of the cross. Maybe I just didn’t notice. Now that I think of it… the confessional stands right under one of the loudspeakers and yes it is one of those traditional “booth” type confessionals.

What about those sins I haven’t confessed, though? Do I need to confess them? Are they forgiven even though I didn’t get to mention them at the confession?


It couldn’t hurt to mention any that may have been mortal.
You venial sins are forgiven at Mass, during the penitential rite.


Well that’s gonna be awkward. “Last time I was at confession yesterday. I commited a dozen or so times.”

By the way. Can I be that vague, if I lost count of hom many times I’ve sinned?


Hi Wilkowsky.

I would echo what others have said, based on church teaching. If one has the proper intention of confessing one’s sins, even if the priest doesn’t do things just right, you need not worry. But you can always confess whatever sins you need to at your next confession. Don’t feel awkward; it’s common to tell the priest you forgot or weren’t given the opportunity to confess the following sins, etc.

So don’t worry.

That being said, I personally don’t like how some priests either modify or shorten the prayer of absolution- arguably one of the most beautiful and important prayers in our church. In the last five or six confessions I have made, I’d say at least three times a priest did not use the exact form. From what I hear, that is one prayer a priest begins to memorize early in seminary, so that he may always be able to recall it when called upon to hear a confession. I have memorized it. So what’s the deal guys? :shrug:



if you didn’t confess a sin, it’s forgiven but confess it next time.


Hello Wilkowsky.

If you didn’t audibly hear the absolution, you weren’t. It isn’t automatic - the priest must give it. If he didn’t, you aren’t and if any of those sins you were busy with were mortal or if the mortal ones were being saved for last, then I’m stating clearly you were correct to not receive Eucharist today and must confess the mortal sins over again and actually receive absolution. It is hard to confess sometimes when we don’t experience the Sacrament the way we expect, but relax, God is in charge. I sometimes have a Byzantine Priest come to fill in where I’m at now and it is nice to have him. The first times I got him it was a little rough, but I caught on and thanked him for explaining what I wasn’t used to. I love the Sacrament myself. It is marvelous how it keeps giving long afterwards. This giving isn’t like the Eucharist, but it is God acting in me in a healing way and I’m used to this kind of Presence in my life. I’m very grateful for it. I love God and confession only makes that love stronger. Good luck and keep at it. The Confessional door is the Gate to Heaven. Open it often.



Wilkowsky, I would say that you had the intention of confessing those other sins, even those which may have been mortal, and that they, therefore, are forgiven. That being said, mention them in your next confession (along with a very brief explanation of this event you recounted to us). Don’t postpone another confession soon just because you feel something may sound awkward. God already knows, and it doesn’t matter what the priest might think.

I have said a prayer for you,



Hello Boswell.

Intent cannot undo mortal sin. All mortal sins must be confessed to and if no absolution is given, they aren’t forgiven. That is the power of the Sacrament. Any Priest can withhold absolution and some do for their reasons. If the OP had confessed to or hadn’t yet mentioned his mortal sins and left the confessional without absolution, no matter what his intention was, he has NOT been absolved. Get it right - all mortal sins must be confessed to and absolution must be given them for without it, there is no forgiveness. He simply has to repeat his confession and receive absolution on another occasion. It is misleading the tell him that mortal sins can be forgiven by intent. If that were true, no one would have to receive any absolution and they could keep their mortal sins to themselves in confession. It doesn’t work that way.



Not sound harsh, but if you have honestly committed a dozen mortal sins since yesterday, swallow your pride and call the priest for a talk in his office. Face to face. this is what will help you.


I have not. That was the point of my post. You missed it.



The usual formula is a little long and hard to miss, though he could have shortened it. If you did not hear “I absolve you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” you may not have been absolved. If I were you and had confessed any mortal sins I would confess them again. If I had unconfessed mortal sins I would verbally confess those as well as intent to confess does not “count.” I would simply explain at the beginning of the next confession that your previous confessor had not used the proper formula and these are my mortal sins. List them and get out. It seems, after having read these forums for a while, that some confessors have little patience for too much detail in confessions. If a priest needs more information…he’ll ask.

We had a new priest in our parish who was not using the proper formula for absolution. The next time I went to confession it was to my pastor. I mentioned that it had been a week since my last confession and that I doubted the validity of my confession because I didn’t believe the priest had used the proper formula but that I would not re-confess those sins because they had only been venial. I notice that the new priest now uses the proper formula.


Not a long prayer really.

*God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his son, has reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. *


Interesting article.


Thank you, Glendab. I will, in the future, make every effort to “Get it right.”



The priest has to say the absolution for validity, the penitent does not have to hear it. For example, I know a number of priests who give absolution while the penitent is praying an Act of Contrition. While this doesn’t seem to have been the case here, it is one example of a time when the penitent might not hear the absolution, yet it still happened.


We don’t know that he left the confessional without absolution, we only know that he did not hear absolution and was not given an opportunity to confess all the sins on his conscience. If a priest were denying absolution for some reason, I’m thinking he would explain that to the penitent.

If a person enters confession with an intent to confess all mortal sins, but genuinely forgets some of those sins, out of anxiety or momentary lapse, his sins are still forgiven. Yes, they should still be confessed at the next opportunity, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have been absolved.

The Catechism gives another example of when the intent to confess is sufficient.

[quote=]1483 In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution. Grave necessity of this sort can arise when there is imminent danger of death without sufficient time for the priest or priests to hear each penitent’s confession. Grave necessity can also exist when, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors to hear individual confessions properly in a reasonable time, so that the penitents through no fault of their own would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a long time. In this case, for the absolution to be valid the faithful must have the intention of individually confessing their grave sins in the time required.92 The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist.93 A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity.94

I’m not saying that either of these applies in this situation, but simply pointing out that it is not accurate to make a blanket statement that intent plus absolution is never sufficient for the forgiveness of mortal sins.


*When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

Let’s not get into legalism here guys. Yes, there is a right way to conduct the sacrament. But intent does matter. God does know the heart. :blush:


There we go… that looks better. :wink:

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