Answers to Your Confession FAQs

It’s a New Year, and what better way to start out the 2020s than by entering or maintaining a state of grace? You may have set some goals for the year ahead, but here’s one that would be great at the top of your list: frequent Confession!

Saying your sins and failings out loud to a priest is a humbling experience, and can be quite difficult. If we don’t go frequently, we might be even more nervous about not knowing what to do. Our show hosts are often asked questions about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and here are the answers to a few of the most common ones:

Why do we need Confession?

The Bible says so! Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM explains, “The Bible says in the Letter of James, ‘Confess your sins to one another that you might be healed.’ And it talks then of the elders of the Church, the presbyters of the Church.”

The Sacrament brings us healing. “There’s salvation, which Christ accomplished on the cross, and redemption in which we all participate … and the Church is instrumental in redemption. That’s why we confess our sins to one another that we might be healed. And if you have a disease and don’t get it healed it’s going to get worse and kill you; so Confession is necessary for the healing of the soul and the redeeming of the person,” says Fr. Simon.

How detailed do we have to be?

When we go into Confession, people often wonder how much we should tell the priest. Does he need to know exactly what we did and why we did it? Maybe we should explain the situation leading up to such a sin? Msgr. Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM, explains what is required of us.

“Number and kind. The kind of sin and the number of times we committed it, of our serious sin. … Venial sins we are encouraged to make reference to them as well, but it is required for the validity of the sacrament that all mortal sins that we are conscious of that we confess them in number and kind. You don’t have to go in great detail,” explains Msgr. Swetland.

In order to give proper advice the priest may ask you some follow up questions about what you confessed, but if not, you don’t need to tell him the whole story.

What if I forget to confess something?

That depends on the type of sin and the reason you didn’t confess it. We are required to confess every mortal sin for a valid sacrament. If you intentionally omitted a mortal sin, your Confession was invalid and you must return to Confession (and also confess that you abused the sacrament by concealing certain sins). If you truly forgot, that’s a different story.

“If your intention was to confess all of your sins, all of your mortal sins, and you forgot one—it is absolved. But the next time you go to Confession, you should mention it. But it is absolved because your intention was to confess all your sins—so you may take Holy Communion even if you remember back in 1928 you robbed a bank and totally forgot about it,” explained Fr. Simon.

Have a Confession question you haven’t heard the answer to yet on Relevant Radio? Don’t let that deter you from visiting the sacrament! Go to Confession and simply explain to the priest that you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do and he will be happy to guide you.

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.