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So my wife is Catholic and my daughter has been baptized in the Catholic faith and my new born son is soon to be baptized as well. I was baptized myself but I've fallen away from my Baptist roots for certain reasons and I've come to enjoy the structure of the Catholic faith.

My question is this, I spent a good amount of time in the military and overseas, I've done somethings that I don't like to talk about or want to even voice. It makes me sick just thinking about them. I really don't think I can voice these when it comes time for my first confessions and has kept me from join RCIA sooner for fear of the Priests response. Would the confession be valid if I only voiced what I'm comfortable sharing and confess the rest in my heart to God?

I'm really anxious about this, but truly desire to become closer to God once again.

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Can a Priest compel you to reveal any mortal sins to another person for any reason? You may be required to make restitution for theft, or face criminal charges by surrender for crimes against humanity such as rape or murder. – user5107 Jul 15 '13 at 22:56
Welcome tot he site! This is a pretty good question. It's useful and specific. When you get a chance, I'd recommend checking out How we are different than other sites? It covers some misconceptions that most newcomers have about this site. Your question fits well within the site guidelines, but it's recommended reading for all new visitors. – David Jul 16 '13 at 2:34
Thank you @DavidStratton I will take a look :) – defaultNINJA Jul 16 '13 at 13:37
Just as a practical point, you can certainly start going to mass if you want to join the Church but are uneasy about confession. Obviously you would not receive Communion until after your first confession and your formal reception into the Church, but regular prayer and attendance at mass in the meantime may help your desire for absolution increase and your fear of the shame diminish. By the way, I think almost every Catholic fears the shame of confessing; you're not alone. That's one reason why anonymity (i.e., a screen between you and the priest) is normally available in the confessional. – Ben Dunlap Aug 7 '13 at 16:48
@defaultNINJA One should not forget to follow the priest's counsel and advise. You can talk over such counsel and advise. Remember who is the one actually acting in the Sacrament of Penance: Jesus. While sins are between you and God, consequences of sin affect others. Suppose a disease was contracted, a child was conceived, etc. here we begin to see why such information may not be withheld from say one's spouse. What one is guaranteed is God's grace in all the sacraments if they are worthily received, and with that, anything that life throws at one can be handled. – user13992 Sep 2 '14 at 4:16
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You must confess all mortal sins that you're aware of and any venial sins you feel compelled to confess. You are not absolved of any mortal sins you withhold, and intentionally withholding mortal sins not only invalidates the whole confession, but is a mortal sin itself. ( And, if left in a state of mortal sin, you're expected not to receiving the Eucharist. The Eucharist is life-giving for those in a state of grace; it's a condemnation for those in a state of mortal sin. (See how to confess for the basic details and process.)

So, be less afraid of how your priest might react than making your reception of the Eucharist into a condemnation against yourself! And don't worry! Just about every priest I've heard speak on the matter says pretty much the same thing: You can't confess something I haven't already heard.

Furthermore, a priest may not withhold absolution on the condition that you reveal your sins to another person. The only valid reason for withholding absolution is insincerity of the penitent. ( Q&A)

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Can a Priest compel you to reveal any mortal sins to another person for any reason? – defaultNINJA Jul 15 '13 at 22:22
@defaultNINJA No. See my edit. – svidgen Jul 15 '13 at 22:39
@defaultNINJA And please don't worry about it. Just get in there! – svidgen Jul 15 '13 at 22:40
Look on the bright side. At least it's better than confessing to the world. – Double U Jul 15 '13 at 22:46
According to traditional Catholic theology, it is an understatement to say "You are not absolved of any mortal sins you withhold." If you intentionally withhold a mortal sin (not forgetting but intentionally concealing it), then the whole confession is invalid, you are not absolved of anything, and the invalid confession constitutes a new sin. So don't do that. On the other hand, svidgen is absolutely right that priests have already heard everything (as part of their seminary training if not in actual confessions). They are eager to absolve you and help you in any way they can. – Andreas Blass Jul 16 '13 at 4:33

A penitent should not go into any more details than absolutely necessary to reveal the sin. Confessors prefer that penitents get to the point and don't tell elaborate stories or be loquacious. If they need details or more context to assess the gravity of the sin, they will ask you.

For example, if you confess "I killed a man.", it would be necessary to know if this was intentional or accidental, in a war situation or not, in self-defense or premeditated, etc. If you say "I murdered a man.", the priest might ask if the murdered man was a priest or not (murdering a priest is also another sin, sacrilege, and it incurs automatic excommunication).

Check out these excellent examinations of conscience, which help prepare you for making a good confession:

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