The Accusation of Sins to the Confessor
71 Q. Having prepared properly for confession by an examination of conscience, by exciting sorrow, and by forming a good resolution, what do you do next?
A. Having prepared properly for confession by an examination of conscience, by sorrow, and by a purpose of amendment, I will go to make an accusation of my sins to the confessor in order to get absolution.
72 Q. What sins are we bound to confess?
A. We are bound to confess all our mortal sins; it is well, however, to confess our venial sins also.
73 Q. Which are the qualities the accusation of sins, or confession, ought to have?
A. The principal qualities which the accusation of our sins ought to have are five: It ought to be humble, entire, sincere, prudent and brief.
74 Q. What is meant by saying that the accusation ought to be humble?
A. That the accusation ought to be humble, means that the penitent should accuse himself to his confessor without pride or boasting; but with the feelings of one who is guilty, who confesses his guilt, and who appears before his judge.
75 Q. What is meant by saying that the accusation ought to be entire?
A. That the accusation ought to be entire means that all mortal sins we are conscious of having committed since our last good confession must be made known, together with the circumstances and number.
76 Q. What circumstances must be made known for the accusation to be entire?
A. For the accusation to be entire, the circumstances which change the species of the sin must be made known.
77 Q. Which are the circumstances which change the species of a sin?
A. The circumstances which change the species of a sin are: (1) Those by which a sinful action from being venial becomes mortal; (2) Those by means of which a sinful action contains the malice of two or more mortal sins.
78 Q. Give an example of a circumstance making a venial sin mortal.
A. If, to excuse himself, a man were to tell a lie and by doing so occasion serious harm to another, he would be bound to make known this circumstance, which changes the lie from an officious lie to a seriously harmful lie.
79 Q. Give an example of a circumstance on account of which a single sinful action contains contains the malice of two or more sins.
A. If a man were to steal a sacred object he would be bound to accuse himself of this circumstance which adds to the theft the malice of sacrilege.
80 Q. If a penitent is not certain of having committed a sin must he confess it?
A. If a penitent is not certain of having committed a sin he is not bound to confess it; and if he does confess it, he should add that he is not certain of having committed it.
81 Q. What should he do who does not remember the exact number of his sins?
A. He who does not distinctly remember the number of his sins must mention the number as nearly as he can.
82 Q. Does he who through remembered, are we bound to confess it in another confession?
A. If a mortal sin forgotten in confession is afterwards remembered we are certainly bound to confess it the next time we go to confession.
84 Q. What does he commit who, through shame or some other motive, wilfully conceals a mortal sin in confession?
A. He who, through shame or some other motive, wilfully conceals a mortal sin in confession, profanes the sacrament and is consequently guilty of a very great sacrilege.
85 Q. In what way must he relieve his conscience who has wilfully concealed a mortal sin in confession?
A. He who has wilfully concealed a mortal sin in confession, must reveal to his confessor the sin concealed, say in how many confessions he has concealed it, and make all these confessions over again, from the last good confession.
86 Q. What reflection should a penitent make who is tempted to conceal a sin in confession?
A. He who is tempted to conceal a mortal sin in confession should reflect: (1) That he was not ashamed to sin, in the presence of God who sees all; (2) That it is better to manifest his sin secretly to the confessor than to live tormented by sin, die an unhappy death, and be covered with shame before the whole world on the day of general judgment; (3) That the confessor is bound by the seal of confession under the gravest sin and under threat of the severest punishments both temporal and eternal.
87 Q. What is meant by saying that the accusation ought to be sincere?
A. By saying that the accusation ought to be sincere, is meant that we must unfold our sins as they are, without excusing them, lessening them, or increasing them.
88 Q. What is meant by saying that the confession ought to be prudent?
A. That the confession ought to be prudent, means that in confessing our sins we should use the most careful words possible and be on our guard against revealing the sins of others.
89 Q. What is meant by saying the confession ought to be short?
A. That the confession ought to be short, means that we should say nothing that is useless for the purpose of confession.
90 Q. Is it not a heavy burden to be obliged to confess one's sins to another, especially when these are shameful sins?
A. Although it may be a heavy burden to confess one's sins to another, still it must be done, because it is of divine precept, and because pardon can be obtained in no other way; and, moreover, because the difficulty is compensated by many advantages and great consolations.
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Pius X, Pope St.. Catholic Catechism of Saint Pius X (1908) (pp. 82-85). Kindle Edition.