From my understanding of Catholic Teaching on sin, a person commits sin when they choose deliberately - that is, both knowing it and willing it - something [gravely] contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man.

In light of this, what then is the Catholic explanation of Ps 19:12 (RSVCE)

But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults.

where the Psalmist seems to imply that one can sin without knowing it?

Note: This is from the Responsorial Psalm, Sunday, September 27, 2015, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults!

1 Answer 1


While mortal sins require knowledge venial sins do not.

One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

CCC #1862

Also, as Christians we should desire to do the right thing and to know what it is. While the act may not have been a sin - or a venial sin in our love for God we should desire to do his will. Jesus calls us to be perfect. Attaining perfection requires knowing what faults we have so that we can work on them.

A forgotten sin is forgiven during confession. Remembering them is not required for forgiveness. However, it is good to remember all your sins while in confession for the same reason that a sin should not be deliberately withheld (See quote). However I am not sure that it is independant of attaining perfection.

Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."

CCC #1456

  • Thank you! I have upvoted but not selected the answer because it is somewhat unsatisfactory. This is my thinking [not necessarily an answer because I do not have the support for it] that perhaps the psalmist is talking about culpable ignorance or sins one may have committed and not confessed them, and with passage of time had forgotten about them ...
    – user13992
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 1:03

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