From a reader…
I know we must confess mortal sins in kind and number and the details which change the nature of the sin. I confessed a set of past sins and mentioned an important detail which changed the species/nature of the sin (let’s call it Detail X).
However, I recently remembered another detail (Detail Y) that I don’t recall mentioning. The forgotten Detail Y changed the nature of the sin in the *same way* as Detail X, even though they were distinct details. So even though I forgot Detail Y, the priest still understood how the nature of the mortal sin was changed. Both Detail X and Detail Y belong in the same “category,” so either of them would have changed the nature of my sins in the same way.
Am I in the clear, or do I have to re-confess everything yet again but this time including Detail Y? This has caused me *great* mental agony as I have re-confessed the same set of past sins again and again over the years in greater and greater detail. I just want to be free once and for all, but I keep remembering things I fear change the nature/gravity.
I can tell that you take going to confession seriously and that you want to do the right thing.
Doing the right thing includes doing your best. It sounds to me as if, when you make your confessions you, at the moment, did your best. You tried to make a good confession and did not intentionally exclude any important point.
When you do your best and, through no fault of your own, you nevertheless forget some detail or even a sin, all your sins are still forgiven. Don’t fret about that. You don’t become “unforgiven” if you remember something.
The next time you go to confession, if there is some sin you forgot before, simply include it in your confession and mention that you had sincerely forgotten it before. As far as some detail is concerned, if you feel like it, to get it off your chest, you can mention that also, but I don’t think that you should feel compelled to.
This experience will help you to remember to make your good examination of conscience before your confession. I am sure you do already. However, you will probably now be more aware of “game changing” details than before.
I’d like to counsel you not to torment yourself, in such a way that you become afraid to go to confession for fear of not doing well enough. Just go and do your best. Making your examination of conscience each night will help you to relax and make a good confession without all sorts of doubts and scruples creeping in.
When strong doubts creep in, resist your anxiety. Don’t worry. You are not being “lax”.
If you are having a really hard time feeling the comfort of having made your good confession, tell your confessor, tell the priest. It could be that he will have some advice for you.
The most important thing is to BELIEVE in Christ’s promises and His love for all of us in instituting the Sacrament of Penance. He gave His own power to His priests to absolve our sins. He knew that we would need this sacrament. He knew that we would sometimes struggle with it. Be confident and believe in His care for you. He does not desire that you feel as if you are on the rack. Making a confession can be hard sometimes, but HE is not your prosecutor. He is the dispenser of divine mercy. He knows you better than you know yourself.
Do your best and all your sins are forgiven. They don’t snap back into unforgiveness if you remember one that you had forgotten. Remember that.
GO TO CONFESSION!