General confession ~ babbled through stress. Confession invalid?

Hello everyone!

Please forgive the long post, but I was hoping someone could enlighten me, and hopefully set my mind at ease.

I recently made a general confession a week ago. Needless to say, it was pretty stressful.

Now, I DID NOT purposely conceal anything, or try to use such ambigious language that the priest wouldn’t know what I was saying~but in my rising stress levels, I ‘babbled’ a bit trying to get one pretty harrowing sin off my conscience. (I do have impulse control issues, so that might have aggravated my babbling.) :shrug:

I’m now anxious if I was trying to ‘justify’ my sin, or was I still not coherent enough for absolution?

What happened was I remember the first time I was attacked with my first serious temptation against the 6th commandment, and I mean VERY serious, but I was young and very inexperienced in this matter at the time. When I was a teenager, I’m pretty sure I only thought it was a temptation, which I didn’t give in to by action, and wasn’t knowledgeable about having to confess about ‘impure thoughts’, and when I did learn a little later, I just understood you needed to confess ‘impure thoughts’, but had no idea about having to confess the more detailed nature of those thoughts. I was a pretty innocent teenager ignorant in a lot of things! (Only later when I began to really study my faith did I understand.)

Now for my general life-time confession: when I was going over my detailed examination of conscience in this matter, I was stressed wondering how to confess this: I was ignorant at the time, so how do you go into detail about the sin you commited back THEN and when you were ignorant of the details, and confessed according to your knowldge back THEN in previous confessions, but NOW know the difference?

*) I know the gravity of a sin can be lessened by the violence of a temptation, and also through honest but not willful ignorance of the thing, but I wanted to confess at my general confession what happened and give all the circumstances that might have lessened or compounded the sin. I told the priest during my general confession it must have been an unnatural obessive temptation because since this was the first time it happened, it was not just normal thoughts of impurity with a boy, etc, it went extremely ‘heavy’, obsessive, and went into very ‘unnautral thoughts’. However, when I was finally able to get control and think about what was happening, and was able to deliberate about what was happening, I remember telling myself that this was a sin, and I didn’t want to ‘do this’, and then, the temptation and the thoughts diminished.

So, when I was a teenager, I just confessed I had ‘impure thoughts’, but now for this general confession was trying to explain how far they went, but in my stress I could only get out that it went beyound thinking about boyfriends, etc, and got hit with ‘very, very unnatural thoughts concerning impurity’. I also explained why I thought it was an obsessive intrustive temptation, to get hit with images and temptations like this for your first experince with fleshly concupiscence? It seemed beyond a normal temptation to me as I look back on it now. I asked the priest if he understood what I was trying to say, and he said he did. So, it may or not have been mortal, but I wasn’t sure, but was trying to confess it.

Of course, NOW I’m anxious I was too vague, but it wasn’t on purpose, and I might have over-confessed other sins which I DIDN’T DO under the lable ‘very very unnatural thoughts’!

However, I wasn’t intending to hide anything, (Heck, I was OVER confessing!) and the priest said he understood.

So, is this confession valid? I was trying to get this off my chest, but babbled too much? Went into too much detail without being clear? Am I being scrupulous, or over-obsessive about this? :confused:

I keep telling myself if being ambigious through stress WASN´T INTENTIONAL, I was labouring to get that sin off my chest, and I would literally say to the priest in confessing next time ‘it wasn’t intentional’, then my confession wasn’t an intentional sacrilige, but…I’m killing myself over it…

Thank you for your thoughts and advice.

The confession was assuredly valid. Be at peace

If the priest said he understood, you can take him at his word

Based on what you have written, I agree with your assessment that you probably over-confessed

I rather regularly encounter here on this forum an attitude that implies that all the effort rests uniquely with the penitent and that we who are hearing confessions either do not know what we are doing or are passive in the whole matter or that it has to be explained to us as if we are empty-headed – which is quite contrary to the reality

After all the years I have been a confessor, I am more than able to meet the penitent beyond the half-way mark. They do not have to draw graphic pictures for me or proceed through extreme detail. There are circumlocutions that I instantly recognise and I don’t need to probe…I have understood what is being confessed

It may be your first general confession…I have heard thousands of them. I am always ready to help a penitent who is struggling or stressed or in panic. There are certain things people find especially difficult to discuss and we only have to go into those areas to the extent that it is absolutely necessary or else to the level that is useful to the penitent. Once I know what I absolutely need in order to absolve, we don’t have to linger there

Please do not torture yourself over this. The requirement is that the person confess to the best of their ability. This has to be understood at several levels and in several regards. You have done that. The sacrament is there to receive God’s mercy…it is not there to be a torture chamber, an expression Pope Francis has used many times, always evoking from me a smile as this is an evocation I use very often now

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I agree with Father. Sounds like you did well.

As for being vague, there are times I have been vague, but it is because I don’t want to be graphic. I figure if the confessor wants to know more details, he will ask.

Try to relax. Yes I think you might have a bit of scruples. I recognize myself in what you wrote. I know you will not rest until you feel sure it was a valid confession so I suggest you just ask your confessor (in confession) if he remembers your general confession and if he thought it was OK. Tell him your worries and obey what he says

Be at peace

You might have babbled, but God understood what you were confessing, and, as Don Ruggero says, the priest is quite capable of understanding your confession and your anxiety and your sins, as he has heard it all before. I don’t think I would ask the priest about it again, that can only play into any scruples you may have, and the priest may not even remember it.
Trust in God’s forgiveness.

Learn to trust your priests and what they do, and to trust yourself. Unless you deliberately withheld serious sins, or lied, or were not repentant, God has forgiven you.

You’re totally ok. I think its happened to us all at some point! What matters most is the transforming of our hearts to God… and to do better and strive to do better for love of God.

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Thank you everyone for coming speedily to help a soul in distress! :slight_smile:

Thank you Father! :smiley: The thing is, English wasn’t his first language, so I had a double-stress wondering if he truly ‘caught my drift’, so to speak!. However, if he said he understood, then I shall leave it at that.

After reading over my ‘babbling post’ again, I think what I was trying to find out that if it was a question of accidentally being unclear but semi-understood, would it be necessary to confess again like I would for an honestly forgotten sin? Since my ‘babbling’ wasn’t intentional, similar to unintentionally forgetting a sin, I was wondering if the same rule of ‘confessing it next time’ applies, especially as I ‘overconfessed’.

If the priest said he understood me, I’m assuming it’s forgiven and doesn’t need to be confessed again like a forgotten sin that wasn’t voiced aloud?

The odd thing is, this isn’t my first general confession, it’s my third, about 17 or 18 years after my last general confession. However, this is the first time I’ve really struggled with anixiety with thoughts over having confessed incorrectly or done something wrong during a confession, I hope it’s not the onset of OCD! :rolleyes:

I usually have no trouble lisiting everything clearly and concisely, but I guess another general confession just tipped me over the stress cliff this time. Especially as someone checked at the confessional door (glass pane) to see why I was taking so long, it kinda added to the stress as I didn’t want to keep people waiting. :eek:

When it comes to things like this you need to remember two things: Intent and Formula.

Intent: were you intentionally confessing your sins with the intention of being forgiven? were you NOT intentionally holding any sins back (which it sounds like you weren’t).

Formula:** did the priest say “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (for you Trads: Absolvo peccatorum tua in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritu Sancti).**

If all the above. It’s valid and forgiven.

Go in Peace.

Don’t worry you can’t just develop OCD, you are born with OCD. I know because I have a severe form of the illness. Now it may manifest itself more strongly at times, and if you have a more mild case it may not show much “at rest,” but if you have OCD then you always had obsessive compulsive tendencies. You can look back through your life and you will clearly see manifestations of the illness throughout. So I doubt it’s OCD if you haven’t had previous anxiety troubles and don’t see a definitive pattern of it throughout your life.

Many non-medical health professionals or (lay-persons) will throw the term OCD around lightly. If you are a very neat and tidy person, have a little quirky ritual or you like your office a certain way people might mistakingly diagnose you with “OCD.” I can’t wait until the “fad” is over as it is really a stab to the heart of those of us who truly suffer from the day in, day out 24/7/365 struggle with this very difficult illness, especially those of us with more sever cases.

You may very well have scruples, and a good, steady confessor can help you through these.

God bless your efforts and be at peace! :slight_smile:


My dear child; let us clear up several points in your post that ask to be addressed:

  1. The stress is not on you as the penitent…it is on the confessor. I have worked in situations where I go from one language to another as I move from one penitent to the next. It’s not the penitent’s responsibility to make sure that I, the confessor, have heard and understood each thing necessary for an integral confession. That’s my job. And I take it seriously enough for both of us. If I don’t understand, then I will say: “I don’t understand” or “Please speak louder (or slower)” or “Could you speak more clearly?” or “What do you mean by ____?”

  2. “Accidentally unclear but semi-understood.” This will take you down a path that will ill serve you and annoy your confessor…second-guessing what he may or may not have understood and then trying to adjust your behaviour or re-visiting matters and issues in subsequent confessions in light of your perception…or the continual revisiting of the words you chose

Accept that the confessor understood and absolved you of what you confessed. If someone confesses to me but, for example, uses an expression of a generation several removed from my own or some colloquialism of the moment, that does not mean that either I haven’t understood or at least deduced from context what is being confessed. It’s not necessary to clinically dissect the sin for me as though I am clueless…I taught moral theology, after all

Yes, a penitent should not set out to deliberately confuse or confound a confessor on the one hand. On the other, if you’ve been hearing confessions for decades, our experience helps us to piece together and supply for what we are being told by penitents who are nervous or emotional – we have seen it and experienced it before

There is a broad range between brutal frankness and extreme circumlocution. Personally, I appreciate that band of the spectrum that is not so blunt that it is crude on the one hand or so imprecise that I have to ask what the penitent is trying to confess on the other. That leaves a rather broad swath

You have expressed the sin, which is what is required. It does not have to be a perfect articulation; it needs, in some fashion to communicate in words the action or omission that you’re confessing

  1. The answer is an unqualified YES. If the priest said he understood you, humbly accept that he did and consign the sin to the past and to the mercy of God. There is no need to keep expressing it; it is absolved. There is no need to wonder and seek assurance that the priest really and truly understood, in all its nuance, the phrases you use in confession. Accept that communication occurred and that what you articulated was understood by the one listening to you

  2. General confessions, when it is a review of your whole life, are really something to undertake prudently and even with the advice of a spiritual director. Since this is your third, I would consult with a priest before making another…that said, you say it has been 17 or 18 years since your last one. I would suggest that, if you make one again at such an interval, you make the retrospective back to this one or to some major event in your adult life but not revisit yet again the whole of your life

  3. It’s always a good idea, if one anticipates needing significant time, to make an appointment with the priest. It can happen that someone who has been away from the Church and the sacraments for decades will arrive and confess at the regularly scheduled time for confession. The Lord be thanked and praised that they have returned! Of course, it can mean, especially if there is no other confessor, that the other penitents will wait the whole of the time and no one else that Saturday has their confession heard because one is untangling 30 or more years of life. Had the person asked for and received an hour appointment, it could have made things easier all the way around…but sometimes life doesn’t work that way, as I suspect every confessor can attest, and we try to make the best of what we can

Unfortunately, it seems, the person peering through the glass may have been less understanding. On the other hand, s/he may have become genuinely concerned that something was actually wrong – either that the confessor was in there alone and the light had malfunctioned or that he had suffered a health crisis or that something was amiss somehow

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