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Withholding Sins in Confession

downloadQuestion 263

I have been going to confession more frequently lately to help with three big sins and two smaller ones that have been stumbling blocks for me. The last two times in confession (with a different priest each time), the same thing has happened. So much time was spent talking about sin number one that I did not get to confess my other sins. Also, I had to be mindful that there were other people waiting for confession. Because my confessions focused only on one big sin, I feel that I am finally making progress on sin number one. This has actually given me hope that I might overcome them! Each time I received really good advice and encouragement. Both priests were generous in their time and help; however, as I said, the focus was only on one sin, which actually seems good to me. Maybe trying to talk about all my sins at once was overwhelming me?  I had not felt that I had made any improvement until now.  When someone has multiple big sins to tackle, might it be better to focus on one at a time instead of all of them at once?

Does it make my confession invalid if I go into confession with the intention of only confessing sin number one and putting sin numbers two and three on the “back burner”?  My intention is to make better spiritual progress with one sin. I would ask God for absolution for all my sins and later move on to make progress with other sins, not denying sins number two and three.  What I want to know is if this would be okay for me to do?


The lines once common for confession are less so today. Traditionally, because of the need to hear as many penitents as possible, priests would urge those who needed or wanted counseling to make an appointment. Anonymity might be lost but a more thorough deliberation might then be offered without frustrating the needs of others to have their sins absolved. Even if there should be some short counsel, it is probably best form to quickly list your sins from the start (with limited details). Then the priest and or the penitent can return to the most refractory ones. You are obliged to confess all mortal sins. They cannot be “deliberately” withheld. Otherwise, one makes a bad confession. That is why priests often say, “Is there anything else?” REMEMBER, the primary purpose of confession is not counseling or therapy… it is absolution or the forgiveness of sins.

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