Is My Priest Exceeding his Authority in Confession?


Hi everyone. One of the priests who regularly visits our parish to hear confessions and hold Mass has a unique way of hearing confession. After hearing confession, he says that I am not only forgiven of the sins I’ve confessed but those I may have forgotten, those I may be too ashamed to confess, and those I may have confessed badly in the past. I like this priest. He is full of the Holy Spirit, and his homilies are heartfelt and erudite. Neverthe less, I’ve never run into this method of hearing confession, and worry that in trying to be merciful, he may be exceeding what is allowed. Does anyone have an opinion about this?


I think he can do that,** with the exception of those you are too ashamed to confess**.
I don’t think he’s to forgive what you’re too ashamed to admit to in confession.

However, if you were to later remember a sin, you’d need to return to confession and mention it next time you’re there. In the meantime, providing you’re repentent, you’re forgiven.


CCC 1456 - we must confess all things, even the most shameful. Speaking from experience, reconciliation heals all! Simply forgetting is different though, as your priest correctly stated.


I’ll add this: to deliberately conceal a mortal sin out of shame or embarrassment or whatever is to nullify the Sacrament and add the sin of sacrilege to your list of sins. He cannot absolve a hidden mortal sin. That isn’t a matter of authority.



What did he mean? Even if you forgot a sin it is still forgiven.


We make what is called an integral confession. It means that you are sorry for all and forgiven for all your sins, and that if you later remember a sin you did not confess, you are *obligated *to confess it. It would be a sin if you intend not to confess it. “…the faithful must orally confess their sins (auricular confession) , except in cases of true physical or moral impossibility.”

So you can see that if you remembered a serious sin and decided that your were not sorry for it after all and would not confess it, then you are no longer in the state of grace.


I’m scrupulous and I have OCD, what am I suppose to think now? The forgiveness of my sins are just"undone" if I remember them and don’t know if I am sorry? If choose not to examine my conscience after I have already made two general confessions are my sins not forgiven? I know I can try to remember a bunch of sins I forgot, but what if I choose not to? what now? I have been told that God forgives all sins even if they are forgotten, and that is the reason why I don’t worry about the ones that I forgot, because I have told the whole time Ive been coming back to the church that my sins are forgiven even if i forgot them, so what now? do i have to worry about it? or just relax because God has forgiven me?


Your questions are about what kind of effort is needed to examine your conscience. I don’t know what is needed for you. I recommend talking to a priest about it.

You said “…if I remember them and don’t know if I am sorry?”

Logically you cannot confess a sin if you are not sorry, but you must have the intention to confess it if it is not physically or morally impossible. Therefore, if it is not physically or morally impossible, your next confession would not be worthy if you are not sorry for it, because you are certifying that you are sorry for all the serious sins of your life that you remember.


This does seem to be the only issue of concern here (with regard to what your priest adds in the confessional).

As others have mentioned, the confession is invalid if you deliberately omit a **mortal **sin.

Are you sure that this is exactly what the priest said?

As for the rest of it, he is within his rights to say that, and may have good reason to. Many Catholics are not aware that sins they have forgotten, or confessed badly, are forgiven. I was reasonably well catechised and didn’t learn this until I’d been in the Church for 15 years. In this forum we often hear from people who are concerned about forgotten and badly confessed sins from past confessions, and priests must hear such concerns and questions all the time.


If you remember a mortal sin later, you will need to confess. But it is not required to confess venial sins at all, though it is highly encouraged. In fact, assuming you are in a state of grace (no mortal sins on your soul) so you can receive Eucharist, receiving Eucharist itself absolves venial sins.

“As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins” (CCC 1394).


I think the ** too ashamed to confess** refers to some cases that are morally impossible.


I think the question was about what kind of effort is needed to recall sins which might have been forgotten in previous confessions, or may have been confessed with insufficient repentance. From my reading the answer is “No effort at all”. In general, we only are obliged to confess forgotten sins if they come to mind. Perhaps if one had serious reason to think that they had many forgotten sins then they could go examining their past, but this is not normally required. Having made two general confessions should be more than enough to clean the slate.

But, by all means, ask a priest.


No. If you honestly forget it, and your sins are absolved, then your sins are absolved. Period. The link that you provided says nothing about any obligation to revisit past absolutions. Unless you have a citation that says what you’re claiming, of course… :wink:


Baltimore Catechism No. 3:

Q. 793. Is our Confession worthy if, without our fault, we forget to confess a mortal sin?
A. If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, our Confession is worthy, and the sin is forgiven; but it must be told in Confession if it again comes to our mind.

Latin Canon Law

Can. 988 §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.


If the examination of conscience for the prior confessions was diligent, then it is sufficient.


Hmm… if you forget a grave sin, and it is forgiven – explicitly – by the confessor, isn’t it a sin “acknowledged in individual confession”, and therefore, not subject to the need to later confess? :wink:


Nope, the priest isn’t exceeding. As for people’s concern regarding “too shamed to confess,” a person who is ashamed obviously has some anxiety attached that may well result in forgetfulness of sin, not a conscious decision to not mention a certain embarrassing sin.


When you forget to tell a sin in individual confession, you still receive absolution for it, but that particular sin has not been acknowledged. Note that the Baltimore Catechism was published in 1881, so it has been a long-time practice. For example this is one of the remarks in that catechism:“If you should forget a mortal sin in confession and remember it the same day or evening, or while you are still in the church, it will not be necessary to wait and go to confession again. It is forgiven already, because it was included in your forgotten sins; but you must tell it the next time you go to confession, saying before your regular confession: In my last confession I forgot this sin. Of course if you tried to forget your sins your confession would be invalid. It is only when you examine your conscience with all reasonable care, and then after all forget some sins, that such forgotten sins are forgiven.”
The 1983 canon law reworded the canons on penance. Consistent with individual confession is general confession which can be seen in New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, on Canon 988:Finally, the phrase “nor acknowledged in individual confession” has been added to the original language to emphasize in accord with canons 962.1 and 963, that, despite the generic confession of sins before general sacramental absolution, the obligation of individually confessing grave sins remains – although they have already been remitted in the sacrament of penance in the rite of general absolution.
Catechism of the Council of Trent (Pius V) from Turin edition of 1914.[INDENT]* Sins Forgotten*
But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion.


A person with scrupulosity ought to have a “regular confessor” who knows them and their scruples (and if they have OCD they should know that too). Such is the age old practice in the Church.

Your regular confessor can guide you. A person with such struggles may be in a “different boat” than others due to their particular difficulties. The confessor can guide them.

Often one who was scrupulous about their past sins could be directed by their confessor not to confess such if they remember it unless both the following is true: 1. They are certain it was mortal and 2. They were certain it was not confessed as it ought to be.

And it may be the case that a particular person with scrupulosity might be directed by their confessor not to go back and look …for such in their case open big doors for scruples…but rather if something is remembered to say apply the above.

Ones confessor can know and assist the particular person.

Now a person who does not have scruples about past sins - and say remembers - hey there was that act of adultery 2x back before I entered the Church that I forgot to confess – then well they certainly should confess such. And that which is doubtfully mortal for them they are recommended to confess - noting there is doubt.

Whereas those with scrupulosity are often directed to not confess “doubtful sins”.


No it is not yet acknowledged in an individual confession. Such means it is not yet “confessed in number and kind”. It was forgotten. All mortal sins must be confessed in number and kind.

Such forgotten mortal sins (where one was contrite etc and meant to confess all ones mortal sins) are absolved “indirectly” but still need to be submitted directly to the keys in confession.

Jimmy Akin senior Apologist at Catholic Answers:

“You are forgiven if you meant to confess all your mortal sins and just forgot one. Having been forgiven of the one you forgot, you are still *obligated *to confess it the next time you go to confession. It’s not that your forgiveness of it is conditional on you adopting the intention to confess it next time. That sin has already been forgiven. It’s that you incur a new sin if you refuse to adopt the intention of confessing it.”

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