From a reader:
I know you have a lot on confession here, but I can’t find an answer for my question. Several months ago I went back to the Church after 30 some years, and gave what I thought a good and thorough confession. Later I thought of sins that I wasn’t sure I confessed, and confessed them at my next confession. Since then, I keep thinking of sins, committed over decades, that I’m honestly not sure if I confessed or not. I think I did, but not 100% sure. This is really starting to get to me. Is there a place I can just start fresh, with a clean slate, without the constant worrying about whether it was confessed or not. This isn’t about remembering unconfessed sin, but about thinking I confessed, but not 100% sure, and this happening over and over again with each confession.
First, laudetur Iesus Christus! Second, good for you! 30 years. I really admire people who come back to confession after a long time. It takes some guts and trust.
If you make a sincere confession, as complete as you can at the moment – even though you suspect you have forgotten things – with true sorrow for sins and a desire to amend your life, then when you receive absolution all your sins are forgiven. It isn’t that the ones you confessed at forgiven and the ones you forgot are not. ALL of them are forgiven.
If you remember things along the way, by all means confess them the next time you go to confession.
The confessional may a tribunal in which you are both the prosecuting attorney and simultaneously the accused, but it is not a torture chamber. I am not saying that you should be easy on yourself. Examine your conscience and be tough and exacting. When making your confession, do your best, be clear, precise and hide nothing. But don’t torment yourself in doubts about vague memories. If you are not sure about whether you have confessed something in the past or not, something that comes to your memory and you are just not sure about, then tell the priest exactly that: you remembered something and you aren’t sure that you confessed it and then just say what it is. You don’t have to go into long detailed explanations. Just say it and move on.
And everyone out there reading this…
GO TO CONFESSION!