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Dear Father Angelo,
My name is Martina, I am 15 years old, and would like to ask you a question about the sacrament of confession: is it valid if you do not confess all your sins?
If for example I forget one, am I still absolved by the priest from the other sins that I confessed? What if I don’t confess something because I do not know that it’s a mortal sin, is my confession still valid in regard to the other sins?
I thank you very much for always being available to respond to questions, and congratulate you on the usefulness of your website.

Priest’s answer

Dear Martina,
Thank-you first of all for acknowledging the usefulness of our website.
Many young people like yourself can find here an answer to questions that they seldom have an opportunity to ask.
Regarding your questions.

1. You ask if a confession is still valid if you do not confess all your sins.
In order to give you an adequate answer we need to make a few distinctions.
If we are talking about venial sins, it is not necessary to confess them all, because they do not deprive us of the state of grace and do not separate us from God.

2. If on the other hand we are talking about mortal sins, it is necessary to confess them all.
In fact, if we willingly fail to confess even one of them, our confession will not reconcile us with God, because that sin continues to keep us separated from the Lord.  Grace is not compatible with even a single mortal sin.

3. If you forget to confess a grave sin the confession is valid because there is no intention on your part to continue to live separated from God.
However, if this sin subsequently comes back to  your mind, you will confess it in your next confession, because the full confession of all grave sins is of divine institution.

4. If you acted in a way that you didn’t know was a grave sin, you have not sinned. This is because in order for a sin to be considered grave three elements must be simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge of the mind and deliberate consent of the will.
Not knowing that an action is a mortal sin excludes the full knowledge of the mind element.

5. Ignorance of how serious a sin is, and the consequent failure to confess it, does not prevent from having all the other sins forgiven.
Clearly the penitent is not willing to stay separated from the Lord.

I hope I helped clear up your doubts.
I exhort you to go to confession often, even if it’s just to confess venial sins, because confession always provides an increase of grace and helps us always do our best.

I remind you to the Lord and I bless you,
Father Angelo

25 February 2016|A priest answers – Dogmatic Theology – Sacraments