ASK FATHER: I forgot to confess a detail about a mortal sin. Do I have to re-confess everything?

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.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Save The Liturgy - Save The World and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    What a lovely reply to this poor dear (slightly scrupulous) soul – for whom I shall now offer Compline.

    You are a wonderfully pastoral priest, even in such a difficult post-reply, not in any way the monstrous, rigid, backward-looking ritualist certain elements of the media paint you as!

    Thank God for the graces which have allowed you this internet apostolate – as real as any parish, as it touches many souls.

    Blessings upon your wonderful work, dear Father. You keep us all going!

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  3. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thanks for posting this one Padre.

    It reminds us that God is also a loving Father.

  4. Emphasis on “loving”.

  5. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Thanks. this is also pertinent to me today, and perhaps to many others.

  6. Padre Pio Devotee says:

    Thank you for this! I needed to hear this too! What a wonderful answer to the question. It is great to remind oneself of this from time to time.

    “Oh Love, oh great Love, oh infinite Love of God.”-Paul of Moll, OSB

  7. thomas tucker says:

    I recommend reading the Ten Commandments for the Scrupulous, on the website of

  8. G1j says:

    I always add…”Forgive me these and all my sins.” Not a perfect scenario, but I’ve never had a confessor object. My last confessor was a newly ordained priest and said that my sins were forgiven as soon as I felt remorse for having committed them. Unsure if this is new teaching within the Seminary, but it struck me as odd.

  9. Mel says:

    Wish l had near the scruples.

  10. Just Some Guy says:

    Thank you and God bless you, Fr. Z. I have been agonizing over the same thing over the past week or so. Some years ago I had been struggling with my return to faith. Confessing was a nerve-racking challenge. I did it and some time later felt I needed to add more detail at a later confession, which I did. It was again very difficult. Recently, more detail has occurred to me. Is this a spiritual attack, I wondered. I very much needed to hear your advice. Coming from you, it makes me more confident that the Lord received my previous efforts as sincere. How I long to be past all of this. With all the turmoil and uncertainty the Church is going through, I tend toward the time-tested traditional teachings. Thinking I had fallen short in my effort to stick to the tried-and-true path of faith was very discouraging. Your message here is a relief to this soul. When so much else seems like it is being pulled out from under us, it has been very hard to consider the possibility that my own forgetfulness, nervousness and foolishness has locked me out of what is the most important thing for me and my family. Of course, I have new things to confess. I will confess them with confidence in God. But I don’t want to be dragged down by concern that my previous sincere efforts to be faithful were insufficient. Thank you. Pray for me and I will pray for you. Your work is real and it radiates with good results. Please know this and do not be discouraged. The other side seems to have the upper hand now. But we need you to fight on.

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