Past Sins & Confession

My question is in regards to past sins (those that are forgotten due to the fact that they took place years ago, not purposely left out in confession) and confessing them. I know the criteria for mortal sin, ie. knowledge, consent, grave matter. What if you cannot recall whether or not a past act met this criteria? Do you confess it just in case? If you don’t think it met this criteria and don’t confess it, but are wrong, does that invalidate your confession/add to your sins? I personally am leaning toward just confessing them. Thoughts? Scruples play a part in this question in case you couldn’t tell.

If you have made a good confession since then, with the intent to ask forgiveness of all your sins, even those you had forgotten, you have been absolved of all past sins up to that point. Put them out of your mind.
If you tend toward scrupulosity find one good confessor who understands your situation and confess to him, only as often as he allows, and follow his advice, don’t go to third parties or priest-shop. Don’t monday-morning quarterback your confessions.

Certainly if a person is conscious for certain that they forgot some mortal sin…then yes they would confess it (are required to) in the next confession (after they remember)

…but especially since you mention scruples and you seem unsure if they were mortal…I would perhaps talk with your confessor who knows you…

This is from Jimmy Akin:

The last part about general confession would of course not need to be one could just mention the forgotten mortal sins…and I would confess them by mouth individually …murder 3 x etc…instead of writing them down…

The general rule is if you genuinely forget to confess something you are still absolved but should confess it next time you go to confession, it does not matter whether it was mortal or venial you can confess venial sins just the same and it is good to do so.

There is no penalty for confessing a sin that did not need to be confessed. So when in doubt - confess. :wink:

This is exactly what I have been doing recently. At the time of commiting the sin, I didn’t really think about it.It is only years later, I have been given the grace to see the effect of these sins. Do confess. Your culpability is lessened, but your relationship with God will improve-it can’t hurt.

I am no expert by any means yet I heard it said that your past sins, even forgotten ones are already forgiven. Just next time at confession, mention that sin if it is mortal and let the priest know you have forgotten to confess that at last confessional. I personally was researching harming oneself since my bipolar teen age daughter cuts herself at times (she’s on meds and sees a therapist) and found that that is a sin-so is other self-abuse. I didn’t know that. I used to have a mild disability as a child, maybe aspergers-it was autistic tendencies that I had to work through and used to hit myself when stressed-out-I am ashamed to say it-I went through divorce and stress from that and my dad disowning me (my son has aspergers) and for a bit in anger and grief (my mom and sister died from terminal cancer in 1990 and 1991) and hit myself. I never confessed that yet I guess this Saturday, I will go to confession like I was planning on and confessing that along with my other sins. I am still going through many storms in my life yet keeping faith in God and relying on my neighbors and friends and love of my children along with my unit (I am in the air force reserves-got in with five waivers) and try to count my blessings despite my circumstances. As to the answer to your question-remembered past sins not confessed-it would be good to bring that up at least to bring a sense of closure on this issue. :D:clapping:

Hello Paddy,

Scruples have nothing to do with it. You should make the best confession you possibly can, to the best of your honest recollection and with a contrite heart and purpose of amendment.

After that you tell the priest, " father, for these and other sins that I just cannot recall, I ask forgiveness".

Carry out the penance given by the priest and trust in the Lord’s mercy that you are forgiven. You’re right on track paddy.

God Bless you

I had a situation pop up like that a few years back. They were sins that I had never left out on purpose, so I wasn’t worried that they weren’t forgiven or that I had invalidated other confessions. But once I remembered them, I felt like I owed it to God to let Him know via confession that I was sorry for them. I figured that I had remembered them for a reason, and the reason was probably so that I could be reconciled. I didn’t worry about if they were mortal or venial.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit