Are we required to confess every sin?

Have you ever gone to confession and later remembered a sin that you didn’t confess? Or perhaps out of fear, embarrassment, or any other reason, you chose to omit a sin from your confession. Is that itself a sin? Must we confess every sin we’ve committed?

Joseph from Chicago called The Patrick Madrid Show, explaining, “I went to confession—it’s been a while—but when I left I felt pretty good. But then I started thinking: What about this, what about that?” He wondered if he needed to go back to confession because he did not confess all of his sins.

woman kneels in confessionMust we confess every sin?

It depends on the type of sin and why you didn’t confess it. Patrick explains:

“In order to be valid and integral, you have to confess everything that you know of or that you can remember. God does not expect the impossible from us, Joseph, so if you honestly really didn’t remember some serious sin that you had committed and you didn’t mention it because it wasn’t even on your mind, that in itself would not be a sin. And you would have an obligation later if you remember, like ‘Oh my gosh, I did that one thing and I forgot to confess it!’ Well then the next time you go to confession, you raise it and then it’s done.”

But in the case of going to confession and intentionally concealing or omitting mortal sins, then that confession is not valid and, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the confession includes now another sin called sacrilege because it’s an abuse of the sacrament.”

What to do now

If you find yourself in this situation, fear not. You can quickly get back on track by following Patrick’s advice:

“Looking back on your life, see if you can pinpoint—roughly, if necessary—when was the last time you made a good confession in which, to the extent you had any mortal sins, you confessed everything freely and honestly, you held nothing back. And then … when you go to confession, just say to the priest, ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been fifteen years since I’ve made a good confession. I’ve been to confession many times since then but that was the last time that I made a good confession where I confessed everything.’ And he’ll understand what you’re talking about. And then you’ll say, ‘For all the times … that I’ve made a sacrilegious confession, I’m truly sorry.’”

Then, you tell the priest the sins that you are conscious of that you did not confess in previous confessions. “The priest does not need to be distracted by gory details, just give number and kind,” explains Patrick. For example, I stole three times, or, I missed Holy Mass about fifteen times.

When you make your next confession, confess all of your mortal sins and hold nothing back. Patrick says, “You’re going to feel so great, you’ll be walking on air, and you will know maybe for the first time in many years, you are absolutely right with God!”

What about venial sins?

We must confess all mortal sins, but what about venial sins?

Catechism 1458 says: Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.

Even if you haven’t committed a mortal sin, frequent confession is still a great practice! You might want to confess the venial sins with which you struggle most.


Find more about mortal and venial sins in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and listen to the full segment for more confession advice from Patrick:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays at 9am-noon ET/6-9am PT only on Relevant Radio.


Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.