When a Sin is Not a Sin

How does one confess and seek absolution for a “sin” even though the person sincerely believes he/she does nothing wrong? I’m not talking here about making excuses or superficial rationalization, but rather a deep and sincere belief in their heart that what they are doing is not sinful.

If I did something and firmly and genuinely believed that there was nothing wrong with my actions, how can I feel contrite about it?

Such a sin can not be absolved. You need to have repentance. Without that, your sin remains…

Why would you confess something you deem Holy and right anyway?

You committed at least a sin of desobedience if the Church said so

You ask how to confess and ask for absolution when you don feel you did anything wrong, which is an interesting question. I have tried to imagine something that would fit into this scenario and I keep coming back to the questions you can ask yourself to prepare for a good confession. There are several good lists that you can use as a guide. In every case it does not ask if you agree it just takes you through the cases where if you did this it would be a sin according to our doctrine. While many people have some differing opinions regarding our doctrine it still exists as it is written and will probably remain so given how it came to be. Of course you have a right to disagree but if you do I would go to confession and tell the priest just exactly how you feel and let him guide you through the process of understanding why it is wrong and why you should be contrite.

I can see how this situation could occur. There must be catholics who take some sort of birth control and do not feel it is wrong (otherwise why would they continue to do it?); also there must be catholics who take the Eucharist in grave/mortal sin and do not feel it is wrong; also there must be catholics who have friends who are homosexual and who support their relationships among their friends and family and do not feel homosexuality is wrong etc etc. There are loads of examples. I can imagine that to confess to a ‘sin’ that you don’t believe is a sin is rather contradictory, but honestly how many catholics believe everything the church teaches? Are they all to stay away from confession therefore? No.

I think in these situations, the best thing to do would be to confess that you were disobedient to the church teaching and explain you honestly don’t believe x to be a sin etc. - and ask that the priest pray for you or give you works of charity to do, or books to read etc.

IIsn’t there something like ‘imperfect contrition’ for this situation? Like, where you acknowledge that you were wrong because the church says so, but you don’t personally feel remorseful?

I could have sworn that I once read about something like that here on CAF.

I think the next step is to seek out someone who can take some time with you in the form of spiritual direction. This takes time and a consistent commitment by both parties involved, penitent and priest. It is also an opportunity for both formation and counseling in the old-fashioned “let’s have a talk with Brother form” that was common to those fortunate enough to have a Monastery in their backyard. You need some help sorting out what you need to believe and what you actually believe and all those feelings you have associated with ideas of bad religion.


Note: Contrition is not about the feelings. (Though such can help.)

It is about grace and* will.*

Repentance need not involve a particular feeling.

We need to correct the errors in our thinking and judgments etc.

Perhaps a good sit down with a Priest first will help. Then when you can goto confession - he also will have the context to understand what was what.

OK. Here is a highly-contrived and over-simplified example to make my point.

A person decides they want to end their life and they attempt to do so by overdosing on pills and alcohol. A family member finds him while he is still unconscious, he is rushed to the hospital and has his stomach pumped.

After he is stabilized, the doctor tells him "We saved your life for the moment, but enough chemicals got into your system that you’ve suffered irreversible internal organ damage and you will probably die within 24 hours.

The hospital priest happens to walk by and offers to hear the soon-to-be dead person’s last confession. The man says “But Father, I’m not sorry I did this; I really want to die.”

The not-in-their-right-frame-of-mind (which can sometimes mitigate the sin) stipulation not withstanding, how can the person make a good and valid confession?

I’m sure I was taught that too!



(setting aside the not in their right mind - we will presume they are for the argument - but really this is not the best example)

(and some persons may have via invincible ignorance - have a erroroneous conscience -which yes needs to be corrected - but which they are not able to preceive their error…but that is getting into all sorts of circumstances and cases–cases where subjectively they did not sin - but you wanted a simple case where a person case there - in any case God can work with persons in ways we do not see or know…)



One must repent (tis not about feelings but about the will!).

The Priest will have to work with him so he may get it and may repent.

Some people refuse grace and refuse to repent. One cannot force them. We propose.

We need to (with grace yes) - “repent and believe the Gospel”. To turn away from grave sin and to life in Christ.

Same now as it was in the beginning.

In Jesus of Nazareth is* true life*.

I am sorry but the question one raises in an above post about “imperfect contrition” is unfortunately incorrect. The Church uses the term “imperfect contrition” to define sorrow for sins because of the just punishments due from God for commiting them. Such contrition is enough to be able to receive absolution in confession. “Perfect contrition” is sorrow for our sins because they offend an All-Good God who is infinitely worthy of all our love. According to the Church’s teaching, such contrition (perfect contrition) would be enough to receive God’s forgiveness if one died without the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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