Hello Father Angelo,
I am taking advantage of your kindness one more time to ask you a question about confession. For the sacrament to be valid, besides the disclosure of every mortal sin (the accusation of the venial ones is recommended, but not required), contrition and the resolution to refrain from sinning again are required. Does this resolution encompass also light (venial) sins or does it concern only mortal sins?
I am asking you this question because sometimes I have made a sincere confession, yet knowing in my heart that I was likely to commit some venial sin again.
Do you think that, in such cases, the confession is valid?
Thank you, Father, for proving so patient any time you reply to my questions.
I am looking forward to reading your reply.
The priest’s answer
1. Since confession is the sacramental sign of our return to God, the resolution to refrain from sinning is always required. This resolution consists of the “purpose of not sinning for the future” (Council of Trent, Session the 14th, Chapter 4) and stems from the very nature of repentance or contrition, that regards sins as an evil to eliminate or avoid.
2. The implicit resolution that is implied in repentance or contrition is sufficient. The purpose of not sinning again must include all mortal sins, because they separate us from God.
3. It is not necessary to make a resolution for every single sin. The general will to avoid them is sufficient.
4. Since an effective resolution for every single venial sin is nearly impossible, moral theologians suggest that the repentant commits to avoiding at least one of them, in order for the sacrament to be a visible sign of our return to God.
5. The resolution must be sincere; therefore, it must not be subject to any condition. Furthermore, it must be firm, namely well-rooted, despite the fear of certain evils. This does not exclude the doubt, the concern and even a degree of anticipation that in the future we might fall again because of our frailty and weakness . But this should not put into question the sincerity of our resolution, “for even as he truly ran who afterwards sits, so he truly repented who subsequently sins” (ST. THOMAS, Summa Theologiae, III, 84, 10,4). In any case, it should be backed by the confidence that, with God’s help, every hurdle can be overcome. The resolution must not be theoretical, but rather effective. This implies that the repentant must seek to avoid sin.
6. The great Dominican moral theologian of the first half of the 20th century, Dominic Prümmer, writes: “Even if the penitent confesses only venial sins or free matter for absolution, a genuine purpose of amendment is no less essential for the validity of the sacrament than sincere contrition, and it must extend either a) to the avoidance of all venial sins, or b) to the avoidance of one specific venial sin, or c) to the correction of one type of sin, such as sins of the tongue, or d) to the avoidance of all deliberate venial sins, or at least e) to the less frequent commission of venial sins”. (D. PRÜMMER, Handbook of Moral Theology, Translated from the Latin by REVEREND GERALD W. SHELTON, S.T.L., THE MERCIER PRESS, CORK 1956, §661, p. 299).
I remember you to the Lord in prayer and I bless you.
Translated by Alessandra N.