Part of a good Confession involves a good examination of conscience. We should review the things we have done and the things we have failed to do that have hurt our relationship with God and neighbor, and bring those to our Confession. But, being human, it is possible to simply forget a certain sin and not confess it. So what happens if you forgot to confess a sin? And what happens if you remember that sin later?
Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ recently addressed this topic on St. Joseph’s Workshop and offered his counsel on what to do if you find yourself in this situation. He said:
“What happens if you just genuinely forgot? Maybe you did something in your youth that was really bad, you were away from the Church for a while, and you finally had a reversion experience. You go back to Confession, made a good Confession, the best you could, but then later you start to realize you forgot these particular sins.
Or maybe it happens that just from one Confession to the next you forgot to confess something – maybe even a grave sin. I hope you don’t get to that point. I hope that your conscience is formed such that if you commit a grave sin – God forbid – then that will not be able to leave your memory until you get to Confession.
Well, here’s a really important aspect of Confession. When you go to Confession and you’re contrite, and you make an integral Confession – you mention kind and number and you make sure you have all the mortal sins you remember – all of your sins are forgiven. It’s not conditional, where if you remember it later it wasn’t forgiven. No, we really believe that all of our sins are forgiven in that moment – even if you forgot to confess it.
But then you think, ‘But my conscience still bothers me, I still feel bad about it, and I never told a priest about it.’ And what I counsel people to do in cases like that is to bring that sin to Confession, but to also acknowledge that it was forgotten, and therefore you know it’s forgiven, but you need some grace to help assuage your heart. To help calm the conscience that is bothering you and the guilt you experience as a human being.
In that act you will grow in humility, in that act God will assist in the grace of you leaving your sins behind. But also in that act you’ll continue to appreciate how merciful God is, how His mercy abounds inside of the sacrament. And He wants you to experience peace in your heart. Even when you forget things, even when we’re imperfect in how we participate in God’s grace.”
Listen to the full reflection below: