Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italian English


Dear Father Angelo,

Not finding similar questions in the site, I write you humbly, for your opinion:

I wonder if I can prepare a sheet of “notes” that I’ll study by heart to tell the Confessor and if it can be done without committing and extra sin or it is better to tell directly all “by belly”


Priest’s Answer


  1. In order to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession or Penitence it is necessary the accusation of mortal sins.

To facilitate it, it is appropriate to do the so-called examination of conscience.

  • Someone for fear of forgetting sins thinks it is right to write them down.

Now, on this point the Church was very clear in past: 

Writing sins was considered an extraordinary means.

The Church never imposed it and never favored it.

In fact, it has always deterred this kind of diligence, which is considered to be extraordinary.

For the scrupulous , pastoral practice even says that they are exempt from carrying out the examination of conscience.

3. Some object that in the past writing down the sins was considered an extraordinary diligence because paper wasn’t very easy to obtain.

Furthermore the vast majority of people weren’t able to write their sins.

And at the end there would have been danger of losing the paper sheets with the resulting defamation of the penitent himself.

4. However even if writing down the sins, today, would not be any kind of extraordinary diligence, we must avoid writing them down.

In fact, if after the examination of conscience, you forgot to accuse a mortal sin, the absolution remains valid because of the willingness not to hide anything.

5. Moreover we must remember what the Roman Catechism in the Council of Trent says: the integral accusation of mortal sins is necessary because they deprive the grace of God.

“Venial sins, which do not separate us from the grace of God, and into which we frequently fall, although as the experience of the pious proves, proper and profitable to be confessed, may be omitted without sin, and expiated by a variety of other means” ( Roman Catechism, 255.)

6. The same Roman Catechism says that : “But should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy, he is not bound to repeat his confession. It will be sufficient, when he recollects the sins which he had forgotten, to confess them to a priest on a future occasion.” (lb).

7. Notice what the Council says: “should the confession seem defective, either because the penitent forgot some grievous sins, or because, although intent on confessing all his sins, he did not examine the recesses of his conscience with sufficient accuracy”

That’s why the faithful  are dissuaded from writing sins for fear of forgetting them.

Although the accusation of sins is of divine right for which those who involuntarily forget , is required to accuse him in the following confession, however it should be remembered that the main act of the penitent in the Sacrament of confession is not the accusation of sins, but repentance.

Without repentance there is never a remission of sins.

With the involuntary forgetfulness of the accusation of some grave sin there is instead the remission of sins.

8. Although it is not part of our visitor’s question, I like to recall how the parish priests also had to teach the faithful the posture of the penitent in the celebration of this sacrament: “but they are also to be reminded that, by confession Authority of the Church, have been added certain rites and solemn ceremonies, which, although not essential to the Sacrament, serve to place its dignity more fully before the eyes of the penitent, and to prepare his soul, now kindled into devotion, the more easily to receive the grace of the Sacrament. When, with uncovered head, and bended knees, with eyes fixed on the earth, and hands raised in supplication to heaven, and with other indications of Christian humility not essential to the Sacrament, we confess our sins, our minds are thus deeply impressed with a clear conviction of the heavenly virtue of the Sacraments, and also of the necessity of humbly imploring and of earnestly im- portuning the mercy of God.”( Roman Catechism 253 ).

Perhaps no priest today makes these recommendations. Nor are they imposed.

But there are some faithful that , without having been instructed in perfection, feel inside themselves that the real attitude is to kneel before the priest, keep the hands together and lay the eyes down.

They are aware that a heavenly force is contained in the sacrament and even with outward behavior they seek and implore divine mercy.

I bless you, I wish you well and I remind you to the Lord.

Father Angelo