Answer: Apart from the legitimate excuse of a person honestly forgetting some of his sins, excuses when confessing one’s sins will never be lawful or permitted, and all those who tries to excuse themselves from providing the necessary details, will be damned. Here are some condemnations that shows that details in confession must be given.
Pope Alexander VII, Various Errors on Moral Matters (# 24), Sept. 24, 1665: “Voluptuousness, sodomy, and bestiality are sins of the same ultimate species, and so it is enough to say in confession that one has procured a pollution.” – Condemned statement by Pope Alexander VII. (Denz. 1124)
Pope Alexander VII, Various Errors on Moral Matters (# 25), Sept. 24, 1665: “He who has had intercourse with an unmarried woman satisfies the precept of confession by saying: “I committed a grievous sin against chastity with an unmarried woman,” without mentioning the intercourse.” – Condemned statement by Pope Alexander VII. (Denz. 1125)
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters (# 50), Mar. 4, 1679: “Intercourse with a married woman, with the consent of her husband, is not adultery, and so it is enough to say in confession that one had committed fornication.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI. (Denz. 1200)
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters (# 58), Mar. 4, 1679: “We are not bound to confess to a confessor who asks us about the habit of some sin.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI. (Denz. 1208)
And the Council of Trent teaches the following concerning confession and the details which must be given in confession:
The Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter V, On Confession: “But, whereas all mortal sins, even those of thought, render men children of wrath, and enemies of God, it is necessary to seek also for the pardon of them all from God, with an open and modest confession. Wherefore, while the faithful of Christ are careful to confess all the sins which occur to their memory, they without doubt lay them all bare before the mercy of God to be pardoned: whereas they who act otherwise, and knowingly keep back certain sins, such set nothing before the divine bounty to be forgiven through the priest: for if the sick be ashamed to show his wound to the physician, his medical art cures not that which it knows not of. We gather furthermore, that those circumstances which change the species of the sin are also to be explained in confession, because that, without them, the sins themselves are neither entirely set forth by the penitents, nor are they known clearly to the judges; and it cannot be that they can estimate rightly the grievousness of the crimes, and impose on the penitents, the punishment which ought to be inflicted, on account of them.”
Concerning the confession, one must confess every single sin one remembers as well as in what way they were done, and one should have thought on the shame of confessing it when one committed the act. The church teaches that all must be confessed, and thus, no detail can be left out. It is the priest’s job to hear it, so it is mortally sinful to leave it out or minimize the severity of the sin. The Church has taught that all sins must be confessed, and in the priest’s job, he must hear in what sinful and shameful way the sin has been performed in order to judge the severity of the crime. The priest is a judge according to the Church’s teaching, and hiding a mortal sin will always end in damnation and eternal fire.
The Catholic Church teaches that Our Lord Jesus Christ through the apostles established a human priesthood with divine authority to forgive sins and to absolve men from guilt and bring them into a state of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The Catholic Church teaches that this is no mere formality, but that the priest stands in the place of God as judge and performs a judicial act.
The Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter V, On Confession: “From the institution of the sacrament of Penance as already explained, the universal Church has always understood, that the entire confession of sins was also instituted by the Lord, and is of divine right necessary for all who have fallen after baptism; because that our Lord Jesus Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, left priests His own vicars, as presidents and judges, unto whom all the mortal crimes, into which the faithful of Christ may have fallen, should be carried, in order that, in accordance with the power of the keys, they may pronounce the sentence of forgiveness or retention of sins. For it is manifest, that priests could not have exercised this judgment without knowledge of the cause; neither indeed could they have observed equity in enjoining punishments, if the said faithful should have declared their sins in general only, and not rather specifically, and one by one.”
The Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter VI, On the ministry of this Sacrament, and on Absolution: “But although the absolution of the priest is the dispensation of another’s bounty, yet is it not a bare ministry only, whether of announcing the Gospel, or of declaring that sins are forgiven, but is after the manner of a judicial act, whereby sentence is pronounced by the priest as by a judge: and therefore the penitent ought not so to confide in his own personal faith, as to think that,--even though there be no contrition on his part, or no intention on the part of the priest of acting seriously and absolving truly,--he is nevertheless truly and in God’s sight absolved, on account of his faith alone. For neither would faith without penance bestow any remission of sins; nor would he be otherwise than most careless of his own salvation, who, knowing that a priest but absolved him in jest, should not carefully seek for another who would act in earnest.”
The Church further teaches that, apart from confessing sins to an authorized Catholic priest (when one is available) and doing the penance required, there can be no forgiveness of sins. When a Catholic priest is not available, however, a person can be restored to grace by an act of perfect contrition according to the Council of Trent, but this person must also desire to go to Confession when the opportunity arrives. Confession and penance are therefore seen as necessary for salvation. The Catholic Church further teaches that by good works, prayers, fastings, participation in the sacraments, indulgences, the enduring of suffering and by acts of charity, an individual can atone for his guilt, merit God’s grace, and remove the temporal punishment his sin deserves. In other words, an individual can make satisfaction for his own sins through his own works.
Excuses can be thought on in hell for all eternity when one wakes up and starts to realize that one must have humility in order to be saved. The people who sinned should have thought about the shame of confessing before they sinned in a shameful way before God and all the Angels and Saints in Heaven. All the excuses mentioned above can never be used except for one, but the other excuses will never be allowed. The excuse of forgetfulness is valid, but one must confess it in the next confession when one remembers it. One cannot have perfect contrition when one deliberately hides the truth and its severity, for this is a sin of omission and disobedience. There’s nothing that can be cited in the Church’s teaching that justifies a person hiding the severity and details of his sins. One must realize that hiding or minimizing one’s sin is a sin first and foremost of disobedience, but secondly, a sin of pride, since one cares more about what a puny and insignificant human creature will think about you and your sins, rather than what God will think of you. Thus, such a person who hides or minimizes his sins is sinning because of vanity and vainglory, and by wanting others to have a better opinion of himself than what he knows he deserves because of his sins. A person who hides the details of his sins is thus sinning by wanting others to think better of him than he deserves, and this, of course, is not just or right.
In truth, if a person easily want to find God in confession, he must first and foremost consider in his mind how it is true justice that all men on earth should despise him for his sins, and that all should condemn him and reject him; and then confessing to a single priest will be much easier. Either one confesses one’s sins now, or the Justice of God requires that all one’s unconfessed sins will be displayed before every single person that has ever lived as well as the gaze of God, Our Lady and all the Angels, Saints and devils in the Day of Judgment; so one can either choose to confess one’s sins in this life to a single priest, or choose to have the whole world see one’s sins for all eternity, enduring a greater shame for one’s sins forever in the torment of the sulfurous fire of Hell than what a human can ever experience in this life however long he or she lives.
Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven, On the Last Judgment: “On that day all His enemies will be beneath His feet; on that day all His foes will be forced to confess their offences against Him, the Divine Arbiter. They will then and there be compelled to own His divinity, His infinite charity, the countless benefits He has bestowed on them, in return for which they persecuted Him, blasphemed Him, put Him to a cruel death. … on that day the reprobate will be put to the greatest ignominy and anguish. For the Judge will reveal all the shameful, the abominable character of their misdeeds: He will reveal in the sight of Angels and Saints, of the devils and the damned, the infamous deeds they performed under cover of darkness. Yes, He will pour out the full chalice of His indignation upon those wretched beings, who under the mask of their hypocrisy dared to desecrate His very sanctuary. He will cause those who have been corrupters of innocence to be seized and placed among the evil spirits, whose diabolical, thrice accursed work they carried on earth.
“On that day the Divine Judge will give all the impenitent sinners to drink deeply of the cup of shame and ignominy, as St. Basil tells us, when he says: "The confusion that will overtake the godless sinner in the Day of Judgment will be more cruel torture to him than if he were cast into a flaming fire." This is in fact the reason why God has appointed the final judgment, that sinners may not only be punished by the pain which will be their portion, but that they may also be put to public shame. St. Thomas Aquinas says: "The sinner does not only deserve pain, he deserves disgrace and ignominy, for this is a punishment to which human beings only can be subjected. The lower animals can be chastised and put to death, but they cannot know what it is to suffer shame and contempt." This accounts for the fact that any one who has a single spark of self-respect would rather suffer the heaviest punishment in secret, than be exposed to public disgrace.
“On all these grounds it will be surmised that the final judgment will stretch over a considerable period of time, and hence we have all the more reason to tremble at the prospect of it, and earnestly pray God that on that great day He will not overwhelm us with shame and confusion, but will grant us a share in His joy and glory.” (The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven, Part II, The Last Judgment, Chapter X, On the Length of Time that the Final Judgment will Last)
As long as one meditates on how it is justice that others despise us because of our sins—since a single mortal sin deserves an infinite punishment in hell—confessing to a priest or even to more people, will go as a dance!
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 8, Art. 5: “If, however, he were bound to confess again, his first confession would not be useless, because the more priests one confesses to, the more is the punishment remitted, both by reason of the shame in confessing, which is reckoned as a satisfactory punishment, and by reason of the power of the keys: so that one might confess so often as to be delivered from all punishment.”
Indeed, so beneficial is speaking about one’s sins to a person that is not a priest that St. Thomas says that confessing one’s sins even to a layman will benefit one’s soul and gain God’s friendship; but that one must also confess it to a Catholic priest when one is able to do so.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 8, Art. 6, Reply to Objection 3: “… the sacramental power of Penance consists in a sanctification pronounced by the minister, so that if a man confess to a layman, although he fulfills his own part of the sacramental confession, he does not receive sacramental absolution. Wherefore his confession avails him somewhat, as to the lessening of his punishment, owing to the merit derived from his confession and to his repentance, but he does not receive that diminution of his punishment which results from the power of the keys; and consequently he must confess again to a priest [whenever he can do so].”
Confessing one’s sins to anyone will always be a good act of humility, and those who do this, whether much or little, will always gain some amount of grace. In addition, confessing one’s sins and humiliating oneself will also give the humble penitent “so many and so great advantages and consolations, which are most assuredly bestowed by absolution upon all who worthily approach to this sacrament.”
The Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter V, On Confession: “Now, the very difficulty of a confession like this, and the shame of making known one’s sins, might indeed seem a grievous thing, were it not alleviated by the so many and so great advantages and consolations, which are most assuredly bestowed by absolution upon all who worthily approach to this sacrament.”
A great example which shows us that unconfessed sins will be punished eternally in hell is found in The Revelations of St. Bridget, which speaks about a certain woman who performed unlawful and impure sexual acts but abhorred to confess her sins. The Revelation confirms the truth about that a person who do not confess their sins in this life (to a valid Catholic priest if one is available) will have their sins displayed before the whole world. The foreword for this Chapter explains its contents, saying that: “A saint tells the bride that even if a person were to die once each day for God’s sake, it would not be enough to give thanks to God for his eternal glory. He also describes the terrible punishments endured by a deceased woman in her every limb because of the carnal pleasure in which she spent her life.”
The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 6, Chapter 16: “One of the saints spoke to the bride [St. Bridget], saying: “If, for God’s sake, I endured death for every hour I spent in the world and were to keep coming back to life, still with all that I would never be able to thank God fully for his love. Indeed, his praise is ever on my lips and joy is ever in my soul, glory and honor are never withheld from my sight nor the sounds of exultation taken from my hearing.”
“Then the Lord said to the same saint: “Tell my bride here what those persons deserve who care more about the world than about God, who love the creature more than the Creator. Tell her what kind of punishment that woman is now undergoing who spent her entire lifetime in the world in sinful pleasure.” The saint replied: “Her punishment is most severe. For the pride she had in her every limb, [through vanity] her head and hands, arms and legs burn horribly in a blazing fire. Her bosom is being pricked as though by the hide of a hedgehog whose quills fasten to her flesh and mercilessly press into her. The arms and other limbs with which she used to lasciviously embrace the loved one so tenderly are now stretched out like two snakes that coil themselves around her, mercilessly devouring and tearing her to pieces without rest. Her belly is terribly twisted, as though a sharp pole were being driven into her private parts and thrust violently inward so as to penetrate ever more deeply. Her thighs and knees are like ice, hard and stiff, with no warmth nor rest. The feet that used to carry her to her pleasures and lead others along with her now stand atop sharp razors slicing them incessantly.”
The Explanation in St. Bridget’s Revelations of this hair raising example of the miserable end of all who perform unlawful, non-procreative and lascivious sexual acts and touches, like this woman did, tells us that “This woman pursued her selfish will and completely abhorred going to confession. A tumor developed in her throat, and she died unconfessed. She was shown standing before God’s judgment with the devils accusing her and shouting: “Here is the woman who tried to hide herself from you, Lord! But we know her well enough!” The judge answered: “Confession is like an excellent washing-woman. Therefore, because she did not want to wash when she had the opportunity, she is now soiled with your impurities. Because she was unwilling to expose her shame to the few, it is only right that she should be shamed by everyone before the many.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 6, Chapter 16) Thus, it is clear that if a person refuses to confess his sins in this life, “it is only right that she should be shamed by everyone before the many.”
Question: How great must one’s purpose of amendment in confession be in order for a person to be forgiven his sins? Many times, I confess thinking that it is certain that I will fall again.
Answer:St. Alphonsus, answers this question in a section “On the Purpose of Sinning no More” in great detail: “Sorrow and a purpose of amendment necessarily go together. "A sorrow of the soul and a detestation of sin," says the Council of Trent, "along with the purpose of sinning no more." The soul cannot have a true sorrow for sin without a sincere purpose never more to offend God. Now, in order to be a true purpose, it must have three conditions: it must be firm, universal, and efficacious.
“I. It must be firm, so that the penitent resolutely purposes to suffer every evil rather than offend God.
“Some say: "Father, I do not wish ever more to offend God; but the occasions of sin and my own weakness will make me relapse: I wish, but shall scarcely be able, to persevere." My son, you have not a true purpose, and therefore you say: I wish, I wish. Know that hell is full of such wishes. It is a mere empty wish, not a true resolute will or purpose; a true purpose is a firm and resolute will to suffer every evil rather than to relapse into sin. It is true that there are occasions of sin; that we are weak, particularly if we have contracted a habit of any sin; and that the devil is strong: but God is stronger than the devil, and with his aid we can conquer all the temptations of hell. I can do all things, says St. Paul, in Him who strengtheneth me. It is true that we ought to tremble at our weakness, and distrust our own strength; but we ought to have confidence in God that by his grace we shall overcome all the assaults of our tempters. Praising, I will call upon the Lord, said David, and I shall be saved from my enemies. I will invoke the Lord, and he will save me from my enemies. He who recommends himself to God in temptations shall never fall.
“"But, Father, I have recommended myself to God, and the temptation continues." Do you, then, also continue to ask help from God as long as the temptation lasts, and you will never fall. God is faithful; he will not permit us to be tempted above our strength. God, says the Apostle, is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able. He has promised to give aid to all who pray for it. For every one that asketh receiveth. And this promise is made to all to sinners, as well as to the just: "For every one that asketh receiveth." So there is no excuse for those who consent to sin; for if they recommend themselves to God, he will stretch out his hand, and support them, and they will not fall. He, then, who falls into sin falls through his own fault, either because he will not ask aid from God, or because he will not avail himself of the aid which the Lord offers to him.
“II. The purpose must be universal; that is, it must be a purpose of avoiding every mortal sin. Saul was commanded by God to put to death all the Amalecites, and all their cattle, and to burn all their goods. What did he do? He slew a great multitude of men and of cattle, and burnt a large quantity of their goods; but he saved the life of the king, and preserved what was most valuable of the property; and on account of this contempt of God’s commandment he merited his malediction. Many penitents imitate Saul; they purpose to avoid some sins, but they cannot give up some dangerous familiarity, or some goods that they have a scruple about retaining, or some cherished feelings of anger and ill-will against a neighbor, or some hankering after revenge. Such persons wish to divide their heart, giving one half to God, and the other to the devil. The devil is content with his portion, but God is not satisfied with a part of their heart. Every one knows the history of Solomon how two women came to him, each claiming to be the mother of the child who was still left alive. He ordered the infant to be divided, and one half to be given to each of them. Divide the living child in two. The woman who was not the mother of the child remained silent and was satisfied with the order of the king; but the true mother said: I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. "No, my lord, if my child must die, I prefer that she should have it entire." Solomon concluded that she was the true mother of the child, and gave it to her. Thus, the devil because he is our enemy, and not our father, is content to have a part of our heart; but God, who is our true Father, is not satisfied unless he has the whole of it. No man, says Jesus Christ, can serve two masters. God does not accept for his servants those who wish to serve two masters; he wishes to be our only Lord, and he justly refuses to be the companion of the devil in the possession of our hearts. Our purpose, then, must be universal: it must be a purpose of avoiding all mortal sins. …
“III. The purpose must be efficacious that is, it must make us practise all the means necessary to avoid sin; and one of the most necessary of these means, is to avoid the occasions of relapsing into sin. This is a most important point; for were men careful to fly from evil occasions, from how many sins would they abstain, and thus how many souls would escape damnation! The devil does not gain much without an occasion. But when a person voluntarily exposes himself to the occasion of sin, particularly of sins against chastity, it is morally impossible for him not to fall.
“It is necessary to distinguish proximate from remote occasions. The remote occasion is that to which all are exposed, or in which men seldom fall into sin. The proximate occasion is that which by itself ordinarily induces to sin, such as unnecessary familiarity of young men with women of bad reputation. An occasion in which a person has frequently fallen is also called a proximate occasion. But occasions which are not proximate for others may be proximate for a particular person, who on account of his bad disposition or on account of a bad habit has frequently fallen into sin. They are in the proximate occasion of sin: 1. Who keep in their house a woman with whom they have committed sin. 2. They who go to taverns, or to any particular house in which they have frequently fallen into sin by quarrelling, or drunkenness, or immodest words or actions. 3. They who in gaming have been frequently guilty of fraud, or quarrels, or of blasphemies. Now, no one can receive absolution unless he purpose firmly to avoid the occasion of sin; because to expose himself to such occasions, though sometimes he should not fall into sin, is for him a grievous sin. And when the occasion is voluntary and is actually existing at the present time, the penitent cannot be absolved until he has actually removed the occasion of sin. For penitents find it very difficult to remove the occasion; and if they do not take it away before they receive absolution they will scarcely remove it after they have been absolved.
“Much less is he fit for absolution who refuses to remove the occasions, and only promises that in them he will not commit sin for the future. Tell me, my brother, do you expect that tow thrown into the fire will not burn? And how ran you expecting that if you expose yourself to the occasion of sin you will not fall? And your strength, says the prophet, shall be as the ashes of tow, . . . and both shall burn together, and there shall be none to quench it. Our strength is like the strength of tow to resist fire. A devil was once compelled to tell what sermon was most annoying to him. He answered: "The sermon on the occasions of sin." As long as we do not remove the occasions of sin, the devil is satisfied: he cares not about our purposes, promises, or oaths; for as long as the occasion is not removed the sin will not cease. The occasion (particularly of sins against chastity) is like a veil placed before the eyes, and does not allow us to see God, or hell, or heaven. In a word, the occasion blinds the sinner; and how can the blind keep himself in the straight way to heaven? He will wander into the road to hell without knowing where he is going; and why? Because he does not see. For all, then, who are in the occasion of sin, it is necessary to do violence to themselves in order to remove the occasion; otherwise they will remain always in sin.
“Here it is necessary to remark that for some who are more strongly inclined to evil, and who have contracted a habit of any vice, particularly the vice of impurity, certain occasions are proximate or nearly proximate which for others would be remote. Hence, if they do not avoid them they will be always relapsing into the same crimes like a dog returning to his vomit. …
“What are these means [of making the occasions of sin remote]? There are three means: the frequentation of the sacraments, prayer, and avoiding familiarity with the person with whom you have sinned.
“The frequentation of the sacraments of penance and Eucharist would be in one respect the best means; but it ought to be known that in necessary proximate occasions of incontinence it is a great remedy to withhold absolution in order to make the penitent more diligent in adopting the other two means, namely, to recommend himself frequently to God, and to avoid familiarity. When you rise in the morning, you must renew the resolution of not yielding to sin all that day; and you must pray for help, not only in the morning, but also several times during the day before the Most Holy Sacrament, or before the Crucifix; and must beg of the Most Holy Mary to obtain for you grace not to relapse. The other means to which it is absolutely necessary to attend is to avoid all familiarity with the accomplice by not remaining with her alone, by not looking at her face, not conversing with her, and by speaking to her (when strictly necessary) in such a manner as to show a dislike for her society. This is the most important means of making proximate occasions become remote, but he who has already received absolution will scarcely practise this means; and, therefore, in such cases, it is expedient to defer absolution until the proximate occasion becomes remote. But to render such occasions remote, eight or ten days are not sufficient; a long time is necessary.
“But should the penitent after adopting all these means always relapse, what is the last remedy? It is that which the Gospel recommends: If thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. Although it were your right eye, you must pull it out, and cast it to a distance from you. "It is better," says our Lord, "to lose thy eye than having it to be cast into hell." In such a case, then, you must remove the occasion, or you must certainly go to hell.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, pp. 539-546)
St. Alphonsus, On Confession: “Confession, in order to be good, must be entire, humble, and sincere.
“I. THE CONFESSION MUST BE ENTIRE.
“He who has offended God by mortal sin has no other remedy to prevent his damnation but the confession of his sin. …
“Have you committed sin? If you do not confess it you shall be damned. Therefore, if you wish to be saved, you must confess it some time or other. And if at some time or other, why not now? as St. Augustine says. What do you wait for? Is it for death, after which you will not be able to make a confession? And know that the longer you conceal your sin and multiply sacrileges, the greater your shame and obstinacy in concealing it will become. "Obstinacy proceeds from the keeping back of sin," says St. Peter de Blois. How many miserable souls, who have formed a habit of concealing their sins, saying, "When death is near, then I will confess it," have not confessed it even at the hour of death! ...
“II. THE CONFESSION MUST BE HUMBLE.
“A penitent at confession should imagine himself to be a criminal condemned to death, bound by as many chains as he has sins to confess; he presents himself before the confessor, who holds the place of God and who alone can loose his bonds and deliver him from hell. Therefore he must speak to the confessor with great humility. The Emperor Ferdinand, wishing to go to confession in his chamber, handed a chair to the confessor. When those who were in the room appeared surprised at so great an act of humility, the emperor said: "Father, I am now a subject, and you are my Superior."
“Some argue with the confessor, and speak to him with as much haughtiness as if they were his Superiors; what fruit can they derive from such confessions? It is necessary then, to treat your confessor with respect. Speak to him always with humility, and with humility obey all his commands. When he reproves you, be silent, and receive his admonitions with humility; accept with humility the remedy that he prescribes for your amendment.
“Do not get into a passion with him nor think him unjust and uncharitable. What would you say if you saw a sick man, who, while the surgeon opens the imposthume, treats him as a cruel and uncharitable man? Would you not say that he was mad? "But he tortures me." Yes; but it is by this torture that you are cured: without it you would die.
“If the confessor tells you that he cannot absolve you until you have restored certain goods belonging to an other, obey him, and do not be importunate for absolution: do you not know that he who has received absolution does not afterwards make restitution?
“Does the confessor order you to return for absolution in a week or a fortnight, and in the mean time to remove the occasion of sin, to pray to God, to be firm in resisting all temptations to relapse into sin, and to practise all the other means that he recommends to you? Obey, and you shall thus free yourself from sin; do you not see that hitherto, when you were absolved immediately, you have, after the lapse of a few days, fallen again into the same crimes? "But if in the mean time death comes upon me?" But God has not hitherto taken away your life, when you continued so long a time in sin, and never thought of returning to him; will he, now that you desire to amend your life, send you a sudden death? "But it may be that death will come upon me during the time for which absolution is deferred." And if this may happen during that time, make acts of contrition continually. I have already said that he who has the intention of going to confession and makes an act of contrition instantly receives pardon from God.
“Of what use is it to receive absolution as often as you go to confession when you do not renounce sin? All these absolutions shall add to the fire that will torment you in hell. Listen to this fact. A gentleman contracted a habit of sin; he found a confessor who always absolved him, though he always relapsed. He died, and was seen in hell carried on the shoulders of an other person who was also damned. Being asked who it was that carried him, he answered: "He is my confessor, who, by absolving me as often as I went to confession, has brought me to hell. I am damned, and he who brought me to hell is also damned."
“Do not then, O my brother, be angry when the confessor defers absolution, and wishes to see how you conduct yourself in the mean time. If you always relapse into the same sin, although you have confessed it, the confessor cannot absolve you unless you give some extraordinary and manifest sign that you have the necessary dispositions. And, if he gives you absolution, you and he are condemned to hell. Be obedient, then; do what he bids you; for, when you return, after having done what he prescribed, he will certainly absolve you, and thus you shall be delivered from the sin that you have been in the habit of committing.
“III. THE CONFESSION MUST BE SINCERE.
“The confession must be sincere, that is, without lies or excuses.
“1. Without lies… For example, it would be a mortal sin for a penitent to accuse himself of a mortal sin that he has not committed or to deny a mortal sin that he has committed and has never confessed, or to deny that he had a habit of a certain sin; for in all these he would be guilty of grievously deceiving the minister of God.
“2. Without lies, and without excuses. In the tribunal of penance the criminal must be his own accuser; he must be an accuser, not an advocate to excuse his guilt. The more sincerely a man accuses himself, without extenuating his fault, the more readily shall he obtain absolution and mercy from God. It is related that the Duke of Ossuna, being one day in a galley, went about among the slaves, asking for what crime they had been condemned. All answered that they were innocent; only one acknowledged that he deserved severer punishment. The viceroy said: "Then it is not right to have you here among so many innocents;" and therefore ordered him to he released. Now, how much more will God pardon him who confesses his sins, without excuses, in the tribunal of penance.
“How many are there who make their confession badly! Some tell their confessor the few good actions that they perform, but do not speak of their sins. "Father," they say, "I hear Mass every day; I say the beads; I do not blaspheme; I do not swear; I do not take my neighbor’s property." Well, what then? Do you want to be praised by the confessor? Confess your sins; examine your conscience, and you will find a thousand things to be corrected: detractions, unclean expressions, lies, imprecations, unclean thoughts, hatred.
“Others, instead of accusing themselves, begin to defend their sins, and to dispute with the confessor. "Father," they say, "I blaspheme because I have a master that cannot be borne; I have indulged myself in hatred to a neighbor, because she has spoken ill of me; I have committed sin with men, because I had nothing to eat." What benefit do you expect from such confessions? What is your object? Is it that the confessor may approve of your sins? Listen to what St. Gregory says: "If you excuse yourself, God will accuse you; if you accuse yourself, God will excuse you." Our Lord complained bitterly to St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi of those who excuse their sins in confession, and throw the blame of their own faults upon others, saying: "Such a person has been the occasion of my sin: such another has tempted me." Thus they come to confession to commit new sins; for, in order to excuse their own sins, they injure a neighbor’s reputation without necessity. Such persons should be treated as a confessor treated a woman who, in order to excuse her own sins, told all the bad actions of her husband. "For your own sins," said the confessor, "you will say the ‘Hail Holy Queen!’ once; and for the sins of your husband, you will fast every day for an entire month." But must I do penance for the sins of my husband? Yes, if you confess all the sins of your husband in order to excuse your own sins. Thus, my sisters, confess henceforth your own sins, and not the sins of others, and say: "Father, it was not my companion, nor the occasion of sin, nor the devil, but my own malice, that made me voluntarily offend God."
“It is, indeed true, that you must sometimes make known to the confessor the sin of another, either in order to explain the species of some sin, or to make the confessor understand the danger to which you were exposed, that he may be able to give you useful advice for the regulation of your conduct. But when you can go to another confessor, to whom the person is unknown, go to him. If, in changing your confessor, you should suffer a notable inconvenience; or if you think that your ordinary confessor, because he is better acquainted with the state of your conscience, can give you more useful counsel, you are not obliged to go to another confessor. However, you should endeavor to conceal the accomplice as well as you can; for example, it is sufficient to tell the state of the person, if she is a young girl, if she is married, or if she has made a vow of chastity, without mentioning her name.
“St. Francis de Sales warns penitents not to make useless accusations in confession, nor to mention circumstances through habit. "I have not loved God with all my strength; I have not received the sacraments as I ought; I have had but little sorrow for my sins." All these are useless words; they are a loss of time. "I accuse myself of the seven deadly sins, of the five senses of the body, and of the ten commandments of God." Give up these useless accusations; it is better to tell the confessor some defect into which you are for a long time accustomed to fall, without any amendment. Confess, then, the faults that you wish to correct. Of what use is it to say: "I accuse myself of all the lies I have told, of all my detractions, of all the imprecations I have uttered? When you do not give up these vices, and when you say that you cannot avoid them, of what use is it to confess them? It is only a mockery of Jesus Christ, and of the confessor. When, then, my children, you accuse yourselves of such faults, even though they should be only venial sins, confess them with a purpose of not relapsing into them.
“V. The Penance Imposed by the Confessor.
“Satisfaction, which we call the penance, is a necessary part of the sacrament of penance. It is not precisely essential, because without it the confession may be valid, as would be the case if a penitent were dying and unable to perform suitable penance. But it is an integral part; so that, should a person at confession not have the intention of performing the penance enjoined the confession is null; for the penitent is obliged, in confessing his sins, to have the intention of complying with the penance imposed by the confessor. But if he has the intention of performing the penance, and afterwards neglects to fulfil it, the confession is valid; but he is guilty of a mortal sin…
“It is necessary to know that, when a person commits a sin, he contracts the guilt, and renders himself liable to the punishment due to the guilt of sin. By the absolution of the confessor the guilt and the eternal punishment are remitted, and when the penitent has intense contrition, all the temporal punishment is also remitted. But when the contrition is not so great the temporal penalties remain to be suffered either in this life or in purgatory, as the Council of Trent teaches where it says, that the sacramental penance is not only a payment of the penalty that we have deserved, but also a means of cure for the base affections left in us by sin, our passions, bad habits, and hardness of heart; and that, moreover, it strengthens us against a relapse into the same sin. Therefore, my children, go to confession every week, or at least every fortnight, but never allow a month to pass without approaching the tribunal of penance. …
“How soon after confession must the penance be performed? It must be performed within the time fixed by the confessor; and should he not fix a time, it ought to be performed within a short time; for when the penance is great, and particularly when it is medicinal, to defer the performance of it for a long time would be a mortal sin.
“Should a penitent have the misfortune of falling into mortal sin after confession, is he still bound to fulfill the penance? Yes; he is obliged to fulfill it. And does he satisfy his obligation by performing the penance in the state of sin? Yes: he also complies with his obligation.
“But, alas! many go to confession, accept the penance enjoined, but afterwards do not comply with it. "But, Father, I am not able to do all that my confessor has imposed upon me." And why did you accept a penance that you knew you could not perform? I recommend you to speak plainly, and to say to the confessor: "Father, I am afraid that I shall not do all that you have imposed on me; give me a lighter penance." Of what use is it to say: Father, I will do it; Father, I will do it; and afterwards to do nothing?
“But know that, if you omit your penance in this life, you will have to perform far greater penance in purgatory. Turlot relates that a sick man, who was confined to bed, and afflicted with many pains for a year, prayed to God to release him from life. God sent an angel to tell him to choose either to go to purgatory for three days, or to submit to his pains for another year. The sick man chose the three days in purgatory, where after his death, he was visited by the angel. He complained that the angel had deceived him, and that he was suffering there, not for three days, but for several years. The angel said to him, "What! a day has scarcely passed; your body is not yet buried; and you say that you are suffering here for several years!" The deceased then besought the angel to bring him back again to life, that he might suffer his former infirmities for another year. His prayer was heard; and after having returned to life, he encouraged all that came to visit him, to suffer with cheerfulness all the pains of the present rather than wait for the pains of the next life.
“Would to God the penitents performed all the penance due to their sins! Ordinarily speaking, almost all have to suffer some of the temporal punishment that awaits them. Of several persons who led a holy life, we read that they have been for some time in purgatory. Let us, then, endeavor, in addition to our sacramental penance, to perform other good works, alms, deeds, prayers, fasts, and mortifications. Let us also endeavor to gain as many indulgences as we can. Holy indulgences diminish the pains that we must suffer in purgatory.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, pp. 546-560)
Question: What is the best prayer to use in order to be able to conquer temptations, and especially sexual temptations?
Answer: The Holy Rosary is undoubtedly the most powerful prayer of all the prayers against the temptations of the flesh as well as any other temptation that may befall a person. The reason behind the fact that the Holy Rosary is especially powerful in conquering sexual temptations of the flesh is that Our Lord and Our Lady – the Blessed Virgin Mary – loves the virtue of chastity with such a great love that they especially honor and help all those who honestly salute Our Blessed Mother in the Angelic salutation with the intention of gaining Her help to conquer their sensual or sinful temptations.
Even though the Holy Rosary is the best weapon against temptations of the flesh, it is also necessary that it be joined with mental prayers and prayers from the heart as well as fasting and other penances with a complete avoidance of all occasions of sin in order to smother the might of the Devil and his temptations. Countless of people have reported that their fleshly temptations diminished or vanished the moment that they started to pray the Rosary. The authors of this text can also testify that this have happened for themselves and for people close to them. Simply said, there’s no prayer that is more powerful than the Rosary.
St. Louis De Montfort: “Our Lady revealed to Blessed Alan De la Roche that no sooner had St. Dominic begun preaching the Rosary than hardened sinners were touched and wept bitterly over their grievous sins… everywhere that he preached the Holy Rosary such fervor arose that sinners changed their lives and edified everyone by their penances and change of heart.” (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 66.)
And Sister Lucy of Fatima, regarding the Holy Rosary, said the following words to Fr. Augustin Fuentes on December 26, 1957:
“Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Pope Pius XI truly loved the Rosary, as did many other Popes before him, and he published an Encyclical called Ingravescentibus Malis that explained the Rosary’s special and miraculous power to help us achieve victory in our life.
Pope Pius XI, Ingravescentibus Malis (# 3), On the Rosary, 1937: “Thus the Faithful of every age, both in public misfortune and in private need, turn in supplication to Mary, the benignant, so that she may come to their aid and grant help and remedy against sorrows of body and soul. And never was her most powerful aid hoped for in vain by those who besought it with pious and trustful prayer…We beseech God through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin, so acceptable to Him, since, to use the words of St. Bernard: "Such is the will of God, who has wished that we should have all things through Mary." (Sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.)… From it, the young will draw fresh energy with which to control the rebellious tendencies to evil and to preserve intact the stainless purity of the soul; also in it, the old will again find repose, relief and peace from their anxious cares. To those who devote themselves to Catholic Action may it be a spur to impel them to a more fervent and active work of apostolate; and to all those who suffer in any way, especially the dying, may it bring comfort and increase the hope of eternal happiness. The fathers and mothers of families particularly must give an example to their children, especially when, at sunset, they gather together after the day’s work, within the domestic walls, and recite the Holy Rosary on bended knees before the image of the Virgin, together fusing voice, faith and sentiment. This is a beautiful and salutary custom, from which certainly there cannot but be derived tranquility and abundance of heavenly gifts for the household. When very frequently We receive newly married couples in audience and address paternal words to them, We give them rosaries, We recommend these to them earnestly, and We exhort them, citing Our own example, not to let even one day pass without saying the Rosary, no matter how burdened they may be with many cares and labors.”
Confession and Prayer
If no non-heretical priest is available for confession, then one must confess one’s sins directly to God. It’s also important to pray to the Holy Ghost for forgiveness, contrition and guidance in this regard. This short prayer – or a variation of it – is recommended:
“O, Holy Ghost, source of all light, come to my assistance and enable me to make a good confession. Bring to my mind the evil which I have done and the good which I have neglected. Grant me, moreover, heartfelt sorrow for my sins and the grace of a sincere confession. Mary, my Mother, help me to make a good confession.”
It is very good to pray three Our Father and three Hail Mary prayers before confession, asking the Blessed Mother specifically for the assistance to make a good confession. The Act of Contrition prayer should of course be prayed as well daily and often. This short prayer – or a variation of it – is highly recommended:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.”