Question About confession

I have a question about confession. Are you supposed to go to confession if you commit a sin by mistake? Let me give you an example. During Lent, if you forget and eat meat on Friday, is it considered a sin? I don’t mean intentional. I mean if you honestly forget. An honest mistake. Stupid question.

You cannot sin by mistake.

The three requirements for mortal sin are grave matter, full knowledge, and consent of the will. Lacking one or more of these elements may constitute venial sin. But lacking any intention to do wrong then you did not sin. Now you know better.

And no, it is not a stupid question. May God bless you for being concerned about your state of grace. He will lead you to full understanding if you seek him with a sincere heart, form your conscience well, and then follow it.

If we honestly forget something, that is generally not a sin because it lacks consent. However, consider this: If we have a small child who we are supposed to pick up after school, and we forget; is that a sin? Yes, it is. We had a serious responsibility and we failed.

True, you cannot sin by omission or commission without intent.

I have a really serious (to me) question regarding Confession & Absolution. I’m in my 70’s, so closer to Eternity than some of you out there (maybe). I have tried to always confess both venial & mortal sins. Now that I’m getting old, I sometimes can’t sleep at night (especially since I was widowed - it’s toooo quiet here!) and I start to remember some of the bad things I did when I was in my late teens and early 20’s & in college. I honestly think I have confessed all of them long ago. The Priest I had here for the past 2 years recently left, and we have a new African priest, who is wonderful. However, in one of my Confessions with our former Priest, I asked how to make a “general confession” and he said “that isn’t possible, you must be specific about what sin it was”. So I tried to remember some of those sins of 50 years ago, and told him I thought I had tried to confess all of them many years ago. He did give me Absolution for the ones I could remember on the spur of the moment during Confession, but said I must go back and try to remember each one & go to Confession again for each one, even if I believe I had already gone to Confession years ago for them. Is this true? How can I remember each thing I did wrong 50+ years ago??? He said otherwise, if they were mortal sins, I could not even get to Purgatory, much less heaven! This was his first Parish after Seminary, and he has now been transferred. What is correct to do?

A general confession is not “speaking in general terms about sins” but rather what you were talking about, a confession covering the time from when you were baptized until the present day. It is not necessary to make a general confession, and it is not done very often in one’s life. You may be asked to do this while on retreat, or before profession of religious vows, or at some other turning point in your life. You may personally feel that it will benefit you if you do it once. Whatever the case, you will not ordinarily be required to search your memory for all your past mortal sins. IF in the course of daily life, you remember some mortal sins which you committed a while ago, but you do not recall confessing them, then as long as they remain on your conscience, you are obligated to confess them at the next opportunity. But this does not affect your state of grace.

The bottom line is that God and His Church do not expect the impossible from us. Humans make mistakes and we don’t intend to make the mistakes, or they would not be called “mistakes”. Humans forget or block out memories for all kinds of reasons.

“Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger, abounding in mercy.” - Psalms 103:8 (NABRE)

Judynurse, I don’t think that is right what the priest told you. I had left the Catholic Church for 13 years. I just came back now. I had a serious sin. I got a woman pregnant and talked her into having an abortion and paid for it. I felt horrible after that and went back to the Catholic Church. I made an appointment with the local parish priest. I confessed the abortion, the premarital sex, the not going to Mass for 13 years. I also told him I couldn’t remember everything I did wrong over the last 13 years. The priest said, “Let me absolve you of all your sins so you can start over with a clean slate with God.” I don’t think you have to name everything you did wrong.

Correct, sins you legitimately don’t remember are also absolved in confession.

If you recall a mortal sin later, that you never confessed, you are required to mention it in a future confession. But the sin is still absolved. You’d be creating a new sin by deliberately not mentioning it.

God Bless

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