Suppose you’re baptized Catholic as an infant, then lapse for fifty years and return to Catholicism as a fifty year-old adult. My understanding is that to be absolved of all your intervening mortal sins, you have to collect and confess every one of them. If you forgot one along the way, you’re just plain out of luck? Straight to hell, no matter how observant and committed you are throughout the remainder of your life? I would imagine that this would be a matter of some concern to those joining (or re-joining) the Catholic Church after a long period following baptism. It seems that the problem would be aggravated still further by the vagueness of what constitutes a mortal sin in the first place. I understand that there are certain knowledge and intent requirements for a sin to be mortal, but am I right that there is no surefire way for a Catholic to tell whether a sin is serious enough to qualify as mortal if it meets those conditions?
This would seem even to be an urgent issue even for a regular Catholic who goes to confession regularly. It seems like it would be a matter of enormous concern to make sure that one confesses every even arguably mortal sin given the enormous consequences of failing to do so. Is, for example, a passing lustful thought entertained knowingly in violation of doctrinal requirements a mortal sin? If I were a Catholic, it seems that I would be very concerned about accidentally forgetting about a sin that could potentially be mortal.
What’s the answer to this? If, hypothetically, I were to become Catholic several years after my baptism, I’m far from sure I could recall and confess every last mortal sin.
Any answers would be appreciated.