On General Confessions


I tried to do a general confession. Actually I have done it a few times. I said I used to be a bad person and I want to confess for all the times in my life I have done x sins (said specific sexual sins). I made it obvious it was from my youth/long time ago but didn’t put a number on the sins because i assumed the priest would know I was referrring to habitual sins. So I just said “for all the times I have done…x and then named specific sexual sin”

Is that valid? Or would I have to go back and state a number of times. A priest has told me not to do another general confession and frankly I am loathe to as I suspect it is due to my scrupulosity/ocd but it is robbing me of peace knowing that I haven’t put a number on it. I wouldn’t be able to get near a number if I tried so I just said in these general confessions for all the times I committed and then said x sin (lying, masturbating etc) hoping it would cover it. In my mind I felt it was clear it was a good confession and that these were habitual sins.

I should add he said for all these sins and all of the sins of your past I absolve you…

It sounds like the priest answered your question.

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This is exactly why you’ve been told not to do another general confession.

I think general confessions are fine if one is making a transition to a new state in life, i.e. taking religious vows, getting ordained, maybe even before marriage. They’re necessary if one hasn’t been to confession in a very long time. And they’re necessary if one is absolutely certain he has invalidly confessed.

In the case of the scrupulous, they should not be advised. It will only serve to feed the compulsions to keep confessing to try to get it right. Follow the counsel of your priest, and seek help for your OCD if you haven’t already.

Ultimately, general confession should be done very rarely and only with the advice of a spiritual director, especially for the scrupulous.



Father, can you please explain why general confession would be necessary or helpful before a transition in life like marriage or religious vows, assuming someone has been confessing regularly (let’s say about once a month) right along for some time before the transition?
I always thought it was for people who either hadn’t confessed in a very long time, had been confessing regularly but did a poor job or knew they had left out significant past sins, or were joining the Church as teens or adults and thus had years of stuff to confess.

I made a general confession before both diaconal and priestly ordination, with the advice of my spiritual director. I thought, and he agreed, that it was a good practice to bring everything before the Lord as a preparation for that transition, to go into it with a clean slate and a clear conscience. Obviously, one who confesses regularly objectively has a clear conscience at that point. But I felt it was a good spiritual practice to make such a confession, so that there wouldn’t be any past sin serving as a distraction or a source of anxiety going in. Your mileage may vary, of course.

The only other time I ever did a general confession was after a period of significant difficulty where I was experiencing great hardship and didn’t always respond virtuously. To confess that period of time proved to be a source of great healing for me. I did so, again, only at the advice of another priest to whom I am accountable.

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Thank you, Father.
It would be great if you or some other priest wrote a good how-to Q and A book on confession so we could all refer to it.

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