How bad is withholding a sin in confession?


I am a 20YO college man, practicing Catholic at a Catholic college and I say a rosary every day and the divine mercy chaplet and attend daily mass as well as adoration. I also have read books, watch, and listen to speakers such as Matt Fradd and Jason Evert. Yet I still struggle with pornography and masturbation. Never once pornography as in an actual video of sex, I struggle with nude images. Despite this I’m very much committed to chastity and such, so I feel like a hypocrite.

I went to confession today (at the time of posting this about 20 minutes ago). It was at a penance service and the priest I went to knows me somewhat from seeing me at daily mass and such and I wear a Cruxifix and miraculous medal around my neck 24/7 and I also run a rosary group on campus and the pro life club so I feel so embarrassed to mention these sins, but I know that’s pride getting in the way.

So I said to the priest in confession, I have been prideful (knowing pride was keeping me from saying these sins), lying, envious of others, jealous… then I paused (I planned on saying masturbation and pornographic images but I just couldn’t get it out) and after 10 second pause I said “I guess that’s it.” As soon as I said that I went terrible because I know “that’s not it” and now I just lied after already confessing lying. Then he talked about the sins and then asked if there was anything else … a second chance … and I still said “that’s it” while looking down the whole time.

I have been to confession probably 6 times in the past two years and twice I have mustered up the courage to say masturbation and pornographic images but the other four I didn’t. The two I told the priest I withheld this sin before also. So am I lying to a priest and how bad is that? The priest said all my sins were forgiven so does he have the power to forgive even the sins I don’t name? I think he could tell I was holding back and that’s why he asked a second time.

The two times I confessed these I wanted to make sure I never did them again so I wouldn’t have to confess them and I’ve gotten to 30 straight days before but I just can’t make it past that and like I said I do all these prayers and I listen to only holy music. I even speak about how porn is terrible and dehumanizing to my friends, trying to build up courage to fight it myself but I feel like a hypocrite. Advice please on the confession and everything else

  • Your brother in Christ


I believe withholding a mortal sin in confession is another mortal sin itself. As much as I hate to tell you that because I know it’s hard, especially so when you’ve already initiated the sacrament and then it’s not going well. You can feel kind of stuck.

But yes, I’ve been under the impression you have to name all mortal sins within a confession or else you’ve made a bad confession.

You should go back again and try to talk to the priest. I know this is easier said than done.


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

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

Your confession was not valid. You will have to go again and confess everything.


Your confession would be invalid and all Mortal sins would have to be confessed again. Remember that you also need to tell the priest the kind of mortal sin and the number of times you committed it.


I’m going to simply repeat something I posted on a similar thread.

As you should know, to commit a mortal sin you need full assent of your will. Clearly–to me at least–that’s lacking here. No full assent of the will, no mortal sin. Certainly it’s not an admirable thing, it’s a sin, but there’s no way it can be a mortal sin in my opinion. But only God knows. What constrains your will? I don’t know–genetics? the people around you? How you grew up? Psychological issues? It could be anything. But clearly you do not have completely free will in this matter.

There is one school of theological thought that says none of us is really completely free. Therefore, at the last judgment, God will present us with our sins and then we will have–for the first time–a truly free ability to either reject our sins or embrace them. Sounds reasonable to me. The black-and-whiters here won’t like that, but you can’t please everyone.

It is impossible for any human to judge another, and we shouldn’t try. To give an example, yes, I drink a bit–but two beers are pretty much my limit, and if I go 3-4 months without drinking alcohol, I don’t even notice. Contrast that with an alcoholic whose thoughts are consumed daily with drinking. Now ask yourself, if both the alcoholic and I get totally drunk out of our minds and do some bad things, who commits a mortal sin? Me. Because I can take it or leave it. At least in this matter, my will is able to say yes or no with equal ease. The alcoholic? There is almost no way he can control himself. If he gets drunk, is that a good thing? Certainly not. But does it rise to the level of a mortal sin? No. His will is weakened. You are in the same situation. Ease up on yourself. That doesn’t mean don’t address the problem, but it does mean to stop making it an all-consuming central concern of your life. It seems to me that therein lies the real sin. There are a lot of other things in the world–sickness, death, disasters, old age…-- to be more concerned about. Get more concerned about them. Shift your concern to some of these issues and stop making this issue the center of your life.


Did you not confess those two sins because it is difficult to say them? If so, next time try saying you were impure x times, and you viewed inappropriate images x times, if you think that would be easier. Jesus knows what you mean and the priest has an idea of what you mean.


I’m not the original poster here, but I guess I have two questions.

A) I’ve never outright said the word masturbation in confession, but I used the term impure acts with myself, and, when I confessed the former porn habit, just impure things on the internet. Does that suffice? Or is it lacking? I try to get it across.

B) I sometimes eat way too much. Its not as common as it used to be. Anyway, at my most recent confession, the word gluttony drifted into my mind, but at the time, I thought I had not been guilty of it in the time period since my last confession (six weeks). But a few hours later, I remembered that one Saturday I did eat quite a bit? Did I invalidate it?

And to the OP, that confession does not count.


A) “Impure Acts” is fine. If the priest wants to know what you mean by “Impure Acts” or “Impure Things”, he will ask you. I would imagine he gets the picture just fine though.

B) You don’t commit gluttony by overeating once in a while. If that were the case, we’d all have to go rushing to confession right after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, and don’t forget Halloween if we pigged out on candy. “Gluttony” occurs when your overeating, or overindulging in anything else, is a frequent occurrence and/or deprives others of having food or whatever it is you’re being a glutton about.


I’m planning on going back to Confession this Friday with a different priest and I’m thinking I’ll come with all the sins I have including masturbation and pornographic images written down so that way I can’t “draw a blank” or hesitate and withhold them. Is this a good idea or do you think I go in there and rip it off like a band-aid and just say the sins? T

he two times over the past 2 years I did say these sins I felt really happy and proud of myself for doing so afterwards. But the four times I didn’t including tonight, I feel really bad. - If this was a mortal sin am I not allowed to go to Daily Mass until my next confession? Or was it not a mortal sin the masturbation and pornographic images?


Where on earth did you get this idea???


Of course you are allowed and in fact encouraged to go to daily Mass. You cannot receive communion if you have unconfessed mortal sins as I am sure you already know.


Isn’t it bad to receive communion in this case? I can go but just not receive?


Read my earlier post. What I think doesn’t really count since it’s just my opinion. I’m sure some priests and bishops would agree with me, others would not. I hesitate to say you should “shop around” for a priest who has a more lenient view, but it might be worth while to talk to one at each extreme so you can make your own judgment. Because in the end, it will be YOUR judgment.

However, I have to say that to me your situation is a bit like being in the middle of a shark-invested ocean with a leaky life raft and worrying whether your hair is combed properly. If you do talk to a priest, I think you should bring this up–is it healthy for your spiritual life (not to mention other aspects) to focus so narrowly on this one particular failing at the expense of all else?


Well, yeah. Attending Mass is not for perfect people. If it were, there would be no congregation. We are all sinners. The point (!) of Mass is to acquire actual grace to help you lead a virtuous life and avoid sin. “…with the help of thy grace to sin no more…” right?

As for Communion, I agree with the others–if you are in doubt, don’t do it.


In the past when I have gone to mass but hadn’t confessed these two sins, by the time I walked up to communion and received the Body of Christ, I 100% forgot about my sins which are usually on my mind. So I took this as a sign that perhaps it was good I received. But I’ll go to confession this Friday and try better so this isn’t a problem anymore


I’m not sure what to make of that! Doesn’t make sense to me. So no comment. As for “signs,” unless you are in ancient Rome and examining the entrails of sacred birds, I’d leave “signs” out of this. It’s all too easy to veer off into superstition. (“If the wind comes from the North, it’s a sin; but if it comes from the South, it’s OK.” No, no, no. That’s not how it works.)


Please do not feel embarrassed to confess masturbation or other sins against purity. They are surely among the most common - and commonly confessed - of all sins.

Whatever terms you choose to use to name them, trust me, the priest will have heard them many times over from many penitents. He is most unlikely to think anything of it.


I strongly suggest you go to confession weekly to help break the porn.masturbation habit, which is far more common than you think. The priest has heard it all. Forcing ourselves to confess the worst sins, and going to confession EVERY time we commit these sins, is the best way to conquer them. You need to pray for courage to be truthful and get it out first - remember you are confessing to Christ; the priest is an instrument only, but he, a sinner like all of us, is heartened by the humility of the penitent confessing embarrassing sins. Pray the Rosary every day and beg Our Lady to obtain the grace of chastity for you. Don’t give up!


@GospelOfMatthew , I don’t know why you should be afraid to confess these sins . They are probably among the most confessed sins .

As for your question " How bad is withholding a sin in confession ? " , it’s not so bad that it can’t be forgiven in your next Confession .

May I suggest that you read this article below ? God bless you brother . I love you .


You made a “bad confession” and have to go back. Add that to the list.

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