Invalid Confession? Kind and Number?



About a month ago, I went to confession for the first time in about 8 years (I was away from the faith). I obviously had a lot of sins to confess (I’m 18 and you know the teenage years—rip), in fact I’d say I’m probably one of the worst people to ever actually come to repentance, and I’m not quite sure how that should make me feel. Anyway, I prepared for hours writing a long list of sins (about three pages), and I went to confession.

It ended up taking only about 10 minutes, and I’m not sure if I was absolved because I don’t think I confessed all my mortal sins that I had on my paper; the priest wasn’t really interested in hearing them. He was trying to get the thing done with, so he told me to say the worst ones or the ones I felt worst about, so I skimmed the sheets of paper looking for really bad sins and just confessed those. I asked him if I needed to confess all mortal sins in kind and number, and he dismissed it, and said that Jesus knows what’s in my heart and that it’s clear I want to change, etc. He then absolved me.

To conclude, sins were withheld, but not out of shame for confessing them, but because the priest told me not to confess everything on the list. I actually confessed the most shameful ones, withholding the least, so am I good? Thanks.


If he absolved you, you are absolved. However, if you had mortal sins that you were not able to confess, simply state them at your next confession (that you did not intentionally withhold them, but you did not get to confess them either).


If you did not intentionally exclude any mortal sins and received absolution then you are done. It is not necessary to specify the number when it cannot be remembered, but an approximation may be helpful. Of course if any mortal sins come to remembrance later that were not told, then, although you are absolved, you should mention them.

Why is this? Confession of sins is to be universal yet may not all be remembered, still we should be sorry for all our mortal sins since baptism, without exception.


That’s very unlikely, really.


Don’t see it as the priest being uninterested, but see it as him knowing that you don’t need to present God with a laundry list. You made the list, so you’re well aware of your sins. God already knows them. Your presence in the confessional after 8 years attests to your contrition. The priest is simply trying to guide you to the most important part of the sacrament, which is mending your relationship with God. The priest doesn’t have to know the details. He’s there to guide you forward, not dwell on the past.


FYI, I’m a priest. I frequently tell penitents in your situation that one thing that Satan likes to do to us when we are returning to an active practice of our faith is stick little thoughts in our heads, “Oh, remember that one time you did x? You didn’t confess that. The whole thing was invalid,” or “You know, you said you used cocaine, but you didn’t tell him how many times, or what kind it was, or how you used it, or the time you used pot. You weren’t really absolved,” or my personal favorite, “That priest…he didn’t know what he was doing. You should go to another priest who will understand you better. One who is more orthodox. One who will really listen.”

Rest assured, each of these are lies straight from the Father of Lies. And they are lies designed to get us off track. God’s voice is always gentle and guiding. The voice of the Accuser is just that…accusatory. If you are experiencing this, be quite certain that these thoughts do not come from the Lord. And thus, they should be dismissed. If you remember a serious sin that you didn’t confess, fine, mention it next time. But beyond that, don’t worry about it. And if you get in the habit of doing that, as in every single time you go to confession, you’re remembering past serious sins that were forgotten, seek the counsel of a wise priest.


This is the best post I’ve ever seen on this subject. A million thanks! I’m saving this advice.


God bless you Father for not only helping this poster but many others with this wise and well worded advice.


My first confession was done when I was 43 yrs old. I thought I would be in there for hours. I told all that I remembered and then told the priest that I know there is more, but I cannot remember, though I am sorry for all of them. He told me not to worry, God knows and absolved me. If you purposefully do not confess, that is a sin, but remembering everything for 8 yrs? Cannot be done. God loves us and wants to forgive us. I Know that my sins are absolved and know that Satan uses the past to get us away from our faith.


The main thing is that you confess your sins. The number of times you committed the sin is not as important as confessing, showing remorse and vowing to amend your life.
Once the priest absolved you, you are absolved!
Hallelujah. Amen.


THANK YOU SO MUCH! That was so helpful! That is basically how I feel most times after going to Confession & sometimes before recieving the Eucharist. I keep blaming and shaming myself in my mind so much & being so afraid that I didn´t confess it validly or in the right way. Last time I went to Confession, I remembered something even before I got on the bus on my way home - and I just thought; well I tried to confess it through the way I did - and God knows my heart and my intentions. So I guess it was okay.

Once again, THANK YOU! God bless you!


Thank you for this post, Father.

As someone who was away from the Church for 18 years, didn’t make very good confessions for a number of years before that, but has been going to confession 1-2 times a month now for 3 years, I can say that even though I have never been scrupulous, I have had a number of those thoughts you mention. Like, “I can’t remember if I ever confessed this thing I just remembered I did, 30 years ago” or “I remember I had a fight with my husband around 1992 and I was wrong and I apologized to him later but I wasn’t going to confession then and I bet I never specifically confessed that”.

When I started going back to confession I mentioned most of the “big stuff” in the first confession I did, and then there were 2 or 3 more confessions where I recalled some other big thing I’d forgotten and confessed it, or in one case wondered if something I’d done that I didn’t know was a sin when I did it but learned later was, needed to be confessed. But I don’t want to spend every confession dredging up 30-year-old sins. At some point I need to feel confident God has absolved me from the past decades so I can just go forward.


Thank you so much, Father!


All these replies are super awesome guys. Tysm and God bless!


It is possible to invalidate the absolution.


How so?

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Yes, this is most certainly not from the Lord. Just remember, if the voice inside your head sounds accusatory, it’s most likely the voice of the Accuser.


By concealing a mortal sin, not being contrite, or not intending to avoid mortal sins in the future.


Well, true, but what in the OP’s question led you to believe that he/she was guilty of any of this? While your statement is objectively true, to throw that out there carte blanche, especially in response to someone who is coming back to a practice of the faith after many years away, can be very destructive spiritually.


I was responding to the OP, who specifically stated that he intended a good confession.

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