ASK FATHER: Lying during confession

From a reader…


Is it a mortal sin if one accidentally lies in Confession about a venial sin?

You cannot “accidentally” lie.  A lie is a deliberate distortion of the truth.  It cannot be an accident.  People can makes mistakes, say things that are false “accidentally”, but people cannot lie “accidentally”.  Lying is intentional.

Lying about anything is a sin, more or less grave depending on the matter and the situation.

Lying during confession, however, is grave because of the circumstance.

Lying during confession is also a misuse of a sacred thing, a sacrament, which makes it also the sin of sacrilege.  One act, two sins.

“Bless me Father, I have sinned.  My last confession was yesterday.  During my last confession I lied about something.  In doing so, I also committed the sin of sacrilege.  I deeply regret so mistreating the Sacrament of Penance. I lied about X.  Before that my last confession was two weeks ago.  The sins I confessed yesterday were these: A two times, B once, and C three times.  For these and any sins I cannot now remember, I am sorry.  I ask a penance and your absolution.  My Jesus, mercy.”

God hates lies.  God cannot be fooled.  You cannot escape God.

Remember Proverbs 6: 16-19:

Six things there are, which the Lord hateth, and the seventh his soul detesteth: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that deviseth wicked plots, feet that are swift to run into mischief, A deceitful witness that uttereth lies, and him that soweth discord among brethren.

Of the six things that God hates, two of them concern liars.

Go to confession.

Confess all your mortal sins in both kind (what kind of sin) and number (how many times or how frequently you committed each kind of sin.  Don’t hesitate.  Just say it.  Don’t chat.  Don’t beat around the bush.  Don’t ramble.  Don’t add all sort of extraneous and pointless words or details.  Be blunt.  Omit nothing.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    Excellent advice. As a teacher, I am unpleasantly surprised at how easy-going my students are when lying comes up in Religion Class. I will keep this proverb handy.

  2. Mike says:

    Father’s questioner may have confused a careless misstatement with a lie, but Father’s points about lying are still important. Today’s meditation from the writings of St. Alphonsus at is also suitably cautionary on the deplorable consequences of lying to one’s confessor.

    The habit of truth is a habit of love. Nowhere on earth does this apply more than in the confessional, as I continually strive to learn as a penitent.

  3. Sonshine135 says:

    A good examination of conscience is necessary before setting foot in the confessional. The above is a fantastic reason why. The church demonstrates to our children how to receive communion, the church rehearses weddings and confirmations, but the church never seems to see a demonstration how to confess ones sins. At least I have never seen it demonstrated by anyone. If you are teaching sacraments to your children or others, consider walking them through a confession with Father, and let them ask questions. I bet this would change attitudes and accuracy of this much needed sacrament.

  4. Ralph says:

    Good advice Father.

    Sometimes I feel like my best confession comes when I act as a prosecutor against myself. Get everything out and on the table.

    I went to confession yesterday afternoon with heavy conscience. I went in and just let it out – even though I was embarrassed to speak out loud my mortal sin. The priest was great, his advice sound and his penance kind.

    I didn’t leave feeling better about myself (I know I am a sinner, lost but for the gift of Christ) but greatly releaved to have my communion with Christ and His Church restored.

    Thank you for your ministry. Thank you for encouraging us to the sacrament of reconciliation. For some of us, it’s that constant general reminder that keeps us on the right path.

  5. joan ellen says:

    Absolution is the greatest power on the planet because it restores sanctifying grace to my soul after I’ve confessed a mortal sin. I cannot imagine lying in confession and missing that opportunity for that very life of God in me.

  6. moon1234 says:

    It is also good to keep in mind that confession of venial sin is optional. Mortal sins are what are in dire need of confession. I only mention this as I have many times been the victim of the “over-penitent” when trying to go to confession before Mass. I am not sure why, but some of the “regulars” at confession can spend 20 minutes in the box when they see there is a line of 5-10 people who would like to go to confession before Mass.

    If there is a line, PLEASE, confess your mortal sins and possibly any venial sins you find yourself repeating frequently, but remember there are others in line who NEED to go to confession so they can go to communion. Suppress the urge to confess that you took the third cookie and felt that it might have been a form of gluttony. Save it for next confession.

    [On the other hand, if a penitent has done a good examination of conscience and thought, in advance, what she must confession, confession of venial sins should take little more than a few seconds. People: this really isn’t that hard. Identify the sin and say how many times you did it, adding only those details which might alter the gravity.]

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  8. dcs says:

    I really don’t think that the people who spend a long time in the confessional are actually confessing more sins than those who are brief (with maybe a few exceptions in the case of people who have been away from the Sacrament for a long time).

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