ASK FATHER: Forgetting sins during confession

From a reader…


Dear Father, is it okay if I didn’t said the sin I was about to confess because my mind blocked? I didn’t finished it with the lines “for these and all my sins…” because I got a little tense and because I think it is already forgiven since I was just confessing sins I forgot last confession… Though I’m trying to remember it until now so I could bring it to the confessional next time. Thank you!

While we are obliged to confess all mortal sins in both kind (the sort of sin) and number (how many times or frequency), we are not obliged to do what is impossible.

If we can’t remember something, we can’t confess it.

People have memory lapses, especially when they are a little nervous, as people often are when they make their confession.   It is a common occurrence.

The important thing to know – and to do – is that we must do our very best when making our confession.

If you sincerely and truthfully confessed what you could remember, then all your sins were forgiven.   If you subsequently remember something that you didn’t confession before, then confess it the next time you go.

By remembering it, you do not fall back into the state of sin.  However, you still should confess what you remembered when you next go.

I hope this helps.

And for everyone else reading this…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I forget things all the time, and not from nerves. I just forget, even if I just prepared myself right before going in. The only solution I’ve found is to write everything down on paper before I go into the confessional, and then after confession, I rip up the paper and throw it away.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    “While we are obliged to confess all mortal sins in both kind (the sort of sin) and number (how many times or frequency)…”

    I have always wondered about this in those amazing cases of people going to Confession after 20 or 30 years. Certainly they cannot remember frequency, etc.

  3. I was taught very early to end my confession thus: “For these and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry.” I say this every single time.

    [past life… including those which I do not now remember…. I am truly sorry.]

  4. Fr_Andrew says:

    The terminology used by moral theologians, I think helps.

    When we confess a sin and receive absolution for it then this sin is directly remitted. When we make our best effort to confess all that we know we have done, but forget some things or are imprecise (but not because we are trying to hide a sin), then anything we do not mention is indirectly forgiven. This is because absolution infuses Charity, and Charity and sin cannot cohabit. Remitted sins are remitted, no matter the manner.

    The Church wants all mortal sins, as much as possible, be brought under the power of the keys and directly remitted, not just indirectly. Thus she asks that in a future confession we make mention of any mortal sin that was forgotten, but this is so it comes under the power of the keys in directly being remitted, not because it was not forgiven before.

    That future confession does not have to be immediately after we recall a grave sin, or even soon after. I can just as well be the next time we would normally confess. If we confess every 3 months (we probably should be more frequent), but we can mention it then.

    I’ve found many people with a more nervous disposition misunderstand this, and have had dozens of folks come back within minutes to confess again that they just remembered another sin. Sometimes it is just a deliberate venial sin they remembered! That is unfortunate because it damages their consciences just as scruples do.

    So if you forget, don’t worry, it was forgiven, and don’t let Old Nick disturb your peace of soul, but next time you confess try to mention it in passing (and that it was forgotten, so the priest does not think you are accusing yourself of a grave sin since the last confession).

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