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March 22, 2007



The homily on EWTN yesterday dealt with this but the priest(who looks a lot like Jimmy, BTW)spoke more about neglecting to confess all sins. He mentioned that a sin of a sacriligious confession might have occured if we willfully didn't confess something. I am certain that I haven't confessed the number of times for certain sins--I may have said "a lot". I may have neglected to confess some things also. I have been wanting to do a general confession. I tried to do that recently, but the priest said that I didn't need to. I am wondering if I am being scrupulous or if I need to find a priest to hear my general confession. I want to do the right thing. Here I am a cradle Catholic just now learning some basic tenets of my faith!


It would be a sacriligious confession to deliberately omit a mortal sin.



It's not necessary to confess the number of times that you committed venial sins, just mortal sins.

I asked a good priest about a few times that I had been too general when confessing mortal sins, and he told me that I didn't need the reconfess them. If the priest needed me to clarify how many times I had committed the sin, he would've asked me.


I may have neglected to confess some things also.

So long as this was unintentional.

However, if you happen to remember it later on, the next time you go to confession, you may want to go ahead and confess the sin(s) you had forgotten to mention.

Remember, this is all about the 'cleansing' of sins and the confessing of all our sins to CHRIST Himself; it's not really the priest. The priest is just serving under the function of the alter christus.

I've viewed homosexual pornography before, yet only confessed it as pornography thinking that was sufficient. During my next visit to the confessional should go over this with my confessor and ammend my previous confessions?


I once confessed masturbation,and the priest told me it is not a mortal sin,only venial,and it isnt imperative to confess in the confessional.
Pax Christi

Josh Hood

Francesco, it sounds like you need a different confessor! Though it could be said (though I get the feeling this isn't what the priest in question was saying), that a particular instance of masturbation, while objectively mortal, could be venial given some mitigating factor(s), such as the force of the acquired habit. Even then, since the sin IS objectively mortal, it should be confessed.

Anonymous: as concerns the fact that you didn't mention that the pornography was homosexual in nature, I'm not sure that that necessarily invalidates the confession. If you deliberately withheld that information, out of shame or some other motive, then you should mention that at your next confession, though I don't know that the previous confession was invalid. If your conscience is bothering you about it, then you should definitely confess it. A trusted confessor can help you determine when you are being overly-scrupulous or simply making a proper confession.

God bless.

J.R. Stoodley

If you did not deliberately leave out essential information (if you were too vague about the type of sin to the point that the priest likely thought you were talking about something else or if you did not give the number of that mortal sin even though you could have as opposed to giveing your best approxamation if you don't remember the exact number) then the absolution was valid because you did not deliberately leave out anything. However, if you now realize that you should have given more information I would think that, though you are forgiven, it would become mandatory that you reconfess this, this time with the full information, before receiving communion again. This is the rule for forgetting a mortal sin completely so I'd think the same principle would apply to leaving out an essential fact about a mortal sin. Don't worry about it for venial sins.

Anonymous: I actually disagree with Josh Hood's advise to you. It is not wrong to withhold the gritty details of sins. It would seem to me that basid species of sin here would be pornography. The details of content of the pornography, ie homosexual or heterosexual, hardcore or softcore, etc. would be details that I would not think would change the basic species of the sin. Of course there is no harm in reconfessing to a good priest if you are in doubt.

Francisco: I have had similar experiences. Does anyone have an idea of whether we should be afraid of an absolution being invalid if the priest believed what he was absolving you of was not a sin? I would think it still would be valid as long as the priest intended to do what the Church does (borrowing from principles about baptism and Eucharist, which could be dangerous) and in any case I'm confident that I have been forgiven because of my intention and previous assuming the absolution was valid. Still, if the absolution may not have been valid perhaps I should reconfess?


Francisco: I have had similar experiences.

J.R., I am shocked!
Does your girlfriend know?


Francesco: That priest is wrong ... obviously. He needs to read his catechism. I've had a similar problem with a confessor and it's a horrible situation to put a penitent in. Here this person got up the courage to confess this sin, which takes a LOT of courage, only to be shot down??? Whoa unto him by whom the scandal comes.


Whoa unto him by whom the scandal comes.

Uhh... Pipah, I think you meant 'WOE', not 'WHOA!'


OK - maybe I should e-mail this to Jimmy, but it seems reasonably appropriate as a follow-up on this thread...I'm about to enter the Church, and have to make my first confession on the 31st. I'm working on my examination of conscience right now. How in-depth does this need to be?...I'm confessing 30 years of sin (or 23, if you count seven as the age of reason)! Anyone know?


By the way, no offense on this to Pipah, but since Esau pointed it out, I have to say...

Esau, unless of course Pipah was referring to the Bible as translated by the Blossom cast..."WHOA!" :-)

Stating the number of times you commit a specific sin is not necessary in the essential element, but it can be in the discipline. The West is more interested in this, the East could care less. Both ways have value and justifications.


Esau, unless of course Pipah was referring to the Bible as translated by the Blossom cast..."WHOA!" :-)

hehehe! ;^)

By the way, Kasia, as long as you try your very best to make a complete examination of conscience (as best you can) and confess all the sins you are able to recall, that would be fine.

If you should remember later any sins you've committed in the past but did not remember at the time you were confessing, confess them the next time you go to confession then.

J.R. Stoodley

Esau, not to imply impeccable purity on my part but I was just talking about having a priest tell me something wasn't a sin. It was actually a different sin.



Just pickin' on ya, J.R.. ;^)

J.R. Stoodley

I know.

And no, we don't confess our sins to each other, except when its is funny (i.e. getting a bit tipsy on Good Friday. Oops.)

Different Day

I will never accept Musterbaytures!


Re: in-depthness

The priest you're going to see is in persona Christi, the Good Physician of your soul.

So tell the priest your sins in the detail he needs to "diagnose" what's been going on with you. If there are any sins which particularly haunt or hurt you, you might want to go into more detail with them. If he wants to know more, he'll ask you.

The whole thing with number is part of the diagnosis thing, both for him and for you. You don't need an exact number, but you do probably want to mention whether it's something that's been going on frequently (or used to go on frequently) or whether you did something only a couple of times, or as an isolated act.


"... read things I shouldn't have."

Actually for me most of the time it is sitting around after work and reading Jimmy's blog instead of going home to help my tired wife. You know, like now.


Kasia - a suggestion that may help you as you prepare for your 1st confession - examine your conscience as best you can, and remember that God does not expect more from us than is possible. He knows that you won't be able to recall every specific sin that you've ever committed. Do the best you can, and at the end of your confession of sins, add "and I confess all the sins I cannot recall" or something to that effect. Your intent is to be absolved of all sins, and as long as you're not intentionally withholding any sin, you'll be perfectly cleansed.

And welcome home (come the 31st)!


However, if you now realize that you should have given more information I would think that, though you are forgiven, it would become mandatory that you reconfess this, this time with the full information, before receiving communion again

No -- you do not need to refrain from receiving Holy Communion because you remember unintentional omissions of sins or relevant details from Confession, nor do you need to hasten your next Confession. You need to go to Confession if you have unforgiven mortal sins on your soul, and they are not unforgiven if you have attempted to make a good Confession since they were committed, even if you did not remember the need to confess them specifically at that time.


Addendum to my last comment: however, you do need to confess the unintentionally omitted mortal sin or relevant details the next time you happen to go to Confession. I think that's been said already here but I wanted to clarify that I wasn't arguing with that part.

Some Day

In many good examination of conscience manuals, it would have a prayer that mentions to ask God for knowledge of the number and gravity of sin, which means to know the maximum extent of that sin in order to make a better confesion.

And in relation to sexual sins, it usually asks for any special circumstances...

Some Day

I still haven't found out an answer if
"I forgive from your sins in the..."is valid,

because the correct formula is "I absolve you from sins.."

Any thoughts? Mr. Jimmy?

Mr. Flapatap

So, every single time I have confessed to "reading something I shouldn't have" because I had been reading this blog during work the priest thought it was something else?????!!!!!! GASP!!!


Some Day : "I forgive you from your sins in the Name..." I believe would be valid since the French translation from the Latin says exactly that : "And I, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I forgive you all your sins." What would not be a valid absolution was if the priest didn't say "in the Name of the Father...". I once confessed to a priest who said "I forgive you all your sins; go in Peace" with a simple sign of the cross. No good. He might be acting "in Persona Christi", but he still has to forgive "in the name" of the Blessed Trinity.


"The priest you're going to see is in persona Christi, the Good Physician of your soul".

That's a good thing to remember. The sacrament of reconciliation is not only the confession of your sins but it's also the confession of God's love and infinite mercy! Giving some details about particular sins certainly helps the priest to give a good diagnosis, but this humbling experience is also part I think of the healing process. People give specific details to doctors, psychologists/ psychoanalysts and- gasp- radio-hosts- all the time!

The sacrament of confession is-- with the sacrament of the anointing of the sick- a sacrament of healing as well as forgiveness. If we want to "tap" into the healing power of the sacrament, if we want to expose our souls to the abundance of God's grace, our confessions need to be a bit specific. It's true, we don't always need to give every "gritty details" (as Jimmy said, "the important thing is not the words that are used but that the priest understands the species of the sin that is being confessed") but some basic details are sometimes called for- especially if those details can change the gravity of the sin. Remember that God wants us offer ourselves as we are, because it is the truth that sets us free : "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." (Psalm 51:8).

Josh Hood, you said: masturbation is objectively mortal. Actually, masturbation is objectively a grave matter (Catechism #2352) and thus-- like all sins of grave matter-- it CAN be a mortal sin if the three conditions required for a mortal sin are "met" (grave matter, full knowledge and full consent). Whenever we speak of a sin as being a "mortal sin" ("masturbation is a mortal sin"), we have to remember that these 3 conditions are always required for a factual sin to be mortal. Of course, it's not always easy to judge the "mortality" of a given sin, but it's important to always confess sins that have a grave matter.

(I hope this comment does not go against the 20 rule. I agree with everything that Jimmy said in his post. I simple wanted to add these few thoughts).


Father Benoit,
Maybe you can help me with a quandry I have.
There is a mortal sin I committed about seven years ago while I was outside of the Church,meaning I was not going to mass regularly,and very rarely going to confession,anyhow,I think I might have confessed this sin to a priest,years ago,but am not sure of this.
What should I do?Confess it again,if I confessed it in the first place or what?
Thank you for your help and may God bless you.

J.R. Stoodley

Fr. Benoit, thank you for that clarification. I strongly suspect it was not a violation of Jimmy's rule 20 especially assuming you are a priest (sorry for the tiny bit of doubt but you can never be certain on the internet) though naturally I can't speak for him. In case you come back, to clarify would you say it is possible to invalidate a confession by leaving out any details that do not change the fundamental type of sin it is and the number? I wouldn't think so. If I'm right on that would you agree that your recomendation to give more detail is describing what is optimal as opposed to the minimal amount of detail required for a valid confession? It is probably good for people to know both the optimal method of confession (if they want to gain the most from the experience) and the minimal requirements (if otherwise they might be too embarassed to go at all).

David, in case Fr. Benoit doesn't get back to us my personal advice just as one guy to another would be to go ahead and confess it [again?]. It can't hurt, and it could free you from doubt concerning the matter. Go to a priest you don't know if that makes you more comfortible, unless you think you could benefit from sharing this with a priest you know.


I am certain I wasn't being scrupulous, but I went to confession and confessed sins that I had withheld and number of times (which I didn't know about, but thanks to Jimmy, I do now). I confessed the fact that I may have been making sacriligious confessions and was possibly receiving communion unworthily and that I am completely responsible for all of it and all I want is to come clean and that I am very, very sorry. It was pretty much a general confession.

I did this TODAY. Supposedly you don't feel any different after confessing mortal sins--you get the grace but it doesn't really matter how you feel. But I feel light as a feather anyway! Thanks be to God!



Glad to hear it!

That reminds me, I should be getting to confession.

Eileen R

Yes, it's a very good idea, if you have doubts about something, confess it anyway. Obviously if one is constantly racked with doubts, one may have a scrupulosity problem, and Jimmy has good resources on that. But if horrible doubts about whether something's been properly confessed aren't a constant occurence in itself, it's best just to put doubts to rest by mentioning it in confession.


J.R, [Jimmy can correct me if I'm wrong - I'm a young parish priest, not a canonist!], but I believe the "minimal requirements" for a valid confession are 1) contrition for sins committed ("perfect" or "imperfect" contrition) ; 2)confession of all mortal sins since last confession (without willfully withholding any) - My advice is to confess all sins that have a grave matter, whether you personally think they were (objectively) mortal or not. God will be the judge of that! Again, regarding details, "as long as [the priest] understands the species of the sin[s] that [are] being confessed" and that you're not withholding details that can change the nature or the gravity of the sin[s], you're OK 3) doing "penance" for your sins (the one given by the priest) as an act of reparation; 4) the sincere desire to repent and to try your best not to sin again.

These would be 'minimum requirements'. For a "optimal confession", make sure your confession is done first of all in a prayerful recollection (with a good examen of conscience prior to the confession itself). Ask the Lord for a good contrition! Confess not only your grave sins but any venial sins you've been struggling with since your last confession. Ask for God's grace in overcoming these sins. Don't be afraid to name some specific areas of your life which are in need of strength and/or healing. Perhaps you're overly shy or easily stressed out (not necessarily sins per se, but sometimes some unconscious wounds are at the base of these personality quirks-- for example, excessive pride in the case of shyness--- "what will people think of me???")--- ask the Lord to help you through the grace of his sacrament. Ask the priest for advice regarding certain situations. For your penance, be zealous : don't simply do the priest's penance, add some of your own! Read some Bible passages which pertain to the sins with which you've been having the hardest time. Pray Psalm 51(50), the Miserere (which should be the minimal required penance for every mortal sin!--- it's not though and I don't personally give it as a penance because not enough Catholics know how to flip through a Bible... that is, when they have one!)

I already took too much of Jimmy's "comments" space. But I love this sacrament so much (as a confessor and as a penitent), I couldn't help myself... We priests love it when we hear a confession that is both prayerful and thorough!


Oh--- and David, as J.R. and Eileen said : it never hurts to confess a sin twice, when in doubt. ("Father, I think I already confessed this before, but I'm not sure; so I would like to ask God's forgiveness for...") GB!


Fr. Benoit, I read somewhere instructions for steeping tea "steep for the length of the miserere psalm..." which I thought was a lovely way to pause and collect oneself before relaxing with a cup of tea. (so I memorized it.)


Good advice.

St Paul writes (Romans 8:35-39 (NAB)
"What will separate us from the love of Christ?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

To this list I would add: "over-scrupulous and anxious interpretations of the letter (rather than the spirit) of the Church's Law."

Focus on, and respond to, the love of God in Christ and most things will start to fall into their proper place.


Actually, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is NOT necessary for confession. Only "I absolve thee". Catholic encyclopedia says: "It is the teaching of the Council of Trent that the form of the Sacrament of Penance, wherein its force principally consists, is placed in these words of the minister, "I absolve thee"; to which words certain prayers are, according to the custom of Holy Church, laudably added etc."

The invocation of the Trinity is laudably added, but it is only for licitity, not validity. It is not baptism into trinitarian life, only a judicial pronouncement of forgiveness. So the invocation of the Trinity is not needed.


Here's one for you all...

I went to confession last month with a list, and next to each item on my list I wrote some examples on why I was confessing it, where I felt I was vague. One of the reasons I did this in case the priest needed some clarifications.

Anyways, one of the items I wanted to confess was "failure to treat others with respect" and some of my reasoning was that I got angry, jealous, wanted revenge, had lustful thoughts/conversations with others.

Now I confessed "failure to treat others with respect" and I only read some of the items. I didn't feel a need to read lust in my examples section.

Did I screw up?


I just went to confession today and during the confession I confessed all my sins that I had intended to, except when I came to this one I half confessed it. Meaning, I told the priest I entertained the thought but did not carry it out. I did carry it out, kinda. I think I have committed a sacriligious confession, and now I cannot participate in Divine Mercy Sunday tommorrow. I made the nine day novena and
said my chaplet as fervent as I could each day. I have
totally messed up. Is there anything I can do now ?

I am sick about this.

Tim J.

Pam -

Call your priest and see if he will make a few minutes to hear your confession before Mass. It never hurts to ask.

If you explain your situation, he may be willing to help.



Thank you for encouraging me to talk to a priest. I went to mass this morning and we had a substitute priest. I was so relieved, I would not have been able to ask my regular priest. There was no time to ask him before mass. So after mass,(I did not take Holy Communion) I took a chance and told him I had
made a sacraligious confession the day before and would
he be willing to hear my confession again. He said Yes!
I was so relieved ! After he heard my confession, I asked if he could still give me Holy Communion, and Yes
again!. Now I really know what mercy is. I feel like
I understand it in a new way!. What a great Divine Mercy Sunday this is!
Thanks for your reply,
I needed some kind of support. I would have been to
chicken to do that on my own. Thanks !!!!!!!!!

Tim J.

Pam -

I am so happy for you! God bless you for your faithfulness.

Hilaire Ming

Interesting discussion on the validity of SSPX confession. Boy! This stuff is complicated!!!


I went to confession two days ago, but now I'm so worried that I may have made a sacrilegeous confession.

I spent about 20 minutes in the church preparing for confession (examination of conscience, repentance, purpose of amendment). Then I went to the chapel where the confessional is located, and I waited in line.

But then I started feeling that I felt no remorse for my sins. I decided to go into the confessional and tell the priest how I was feeling and that I would come back some other time. So I did. The priest was very kind and he said that the only thing I needed to have was a sorrow that was an act of the will and purpose of amendment. He spoke to me for several minutes and then I thought I was able to feel those two requirements and go ahead with the confession.

I started the confession, and at some point (I don't remember the context of this sentence) I said "Yes, I have purpose of amendment..." (I don't remember what else I said), but, as I was pronouncing those words, I felt that I didn't have 100% purpose of amendment for one of my sins, yet I did not correct myself.

When I confessed this particular sin, I told the priest that for that particular sin I didn't feel much purpose of amendment. He then gave me advice on that specific sin and he understood why I didn't feel firm purpose of amendment.

Did I lie to the priest by saying that sentence? Was it an invalid confession?
Should I go back to confession? To the same priest or to a different one? This seems so difficult to explain in confession!

I would appreciate your help. Happy Easter!

Matheus F. Ticiani

Dear Belinda

I don't have the expertise you need to have an answer, but I think the confession was valid because you mentioned you had other sins for which you said you were regretful, and as far as I know, on a confession either all your sins are forgiven, or no one is, and I think those were. And you can always go back to confession, if you are regretful about that sin now, with the same priest or other, at your discretion. I also suggest you to send the question directly to Jimmy, through the e-mail address at the upper left corner of this page.

Does any other reader have better advice for Belinda?


Thank you, Matheus, I will do so.


I went back to confession yesterday and the priest said I was fine and I should not worry! Whew!


Is there a chance that you might suffer from scrupulosity? The following website may be of some help:


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