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Question: Is it necessary for valid confession to be sorry for every sin of which one is aware of?

It seems to me that it is necessary to be sorry for every mortal sin of which one is aware, but that it is not necessary to be sorry for every venial sin of which one is aware and that in that case only sins for which one is sorry will be forgiven.

However, from the text of Act of Contrition which we say in the confession it seems that we need to be sorry for every sin:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

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Mortal sin(s) must be confessed.

For a valid confession, one must confess all his mortal sins (if he has any). One is not required to confess venial sins; they can be remitted other ways, such as by devoutly receiving the Eucharist.* However, attachment to venial sins predisposes oneself to commit mortal sin.

*cf. the § "The Eucharist Remits Venial Sins" of the Catechism of the Council of Trent on the Eucharist

Sorrow for sins necessary

At least imperfect contrition (attrition) for one's sins is required for a valid confession. Fr. Hardon, S.J., defines imperfect contrition as

Sorrow for sin animated by a supernatural motive that is less than a perfect love of God.

Concealing sins profanes the sacrament.

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent, chapter on penance, concealing sins in confession is a serious matter:

SINS CONCEALED

So important is it that Confession be entire that if the penitent confesses only some of his sins and willfully neglects to accuse himself of others which should be confessed, he not only does not profit by his Confession, but involves himself in new guilt. Such an enumeration of sins cannot be called sacramental Confession; on the contrary, the penitent must repeat his Confession, not omitting to accuse himself of having, under the semblance of Confession, profaned the sanctity of the Sacrament.

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  • "At least imperfect contrition (attrition) for one's sins is required for a valid confession." Do you mean all sins that one has committed of which one is aware, or just mortal sins of which one is aware? Or to put it in another way, imagine someone has committed $n$ mortal sins and $m$ venial sins of which one is aware and he goes to the confession to confess his sins. If one is sorry (with at least imperfect contrition) for $n$ mortal sins and $m-k$ venial sins (where $0<k<m$), is his confession valid (having in mind that he is aware of all $n$ mortal sins and of all $m$ venial sins)? – Thom Jun 3 '19 at 13:46
  • @Thom That's a dangerous line of reasoning because, as I wrote, "attachment to venial sins predisposes oneself to commit mortal sin". – Geremia Jun 3 '19 at 16:11
  • @Thom Also, you'd like St. Thomas's mathematical analogy (PDF pp. 108-10 of this partial translation of his commentary on Lombard's Sentences) that charity does not admit of decrease (even by venial sins, which he compares to taking points away from a "line" of charity), but that it can only be completely taken away (by mortal sin). – Geremia Jun 3 '19 at 16:22
  • I agree wholeheartedly that is dangerous to treat venial sin as something unimportant. Did God not punish two kids who mocked Elisha? Did God not punish Oza for touching the Ark of the Covenant? Did God not punish Lot's wife just because of curiosity? These events testify to the catastrophe of venial sin and I did not even mention suffering which the soul will suffer because of venial sins in purgatory. However, I am not asking to seek an excuse for venial sins but to clearly understand what happens in the sacrament of confession. So, I still don't understand the answer to my question – Thom Jun 3 '19 at 17:39
  • There might be also a practical need for the answer to my question. If you consider someone who has many mortal sins for which one is sorry (with at least imperfect contrition) and who has some minor venial sin that he just is unable to give up (something like smoking). And he might be thinking: "I repent for my mortal sins which I committed, but I just can not give up smoking. Will I sin if I relive my soul of mortal sins and do not be contrite for such a minor sin in the confession?" – Thom Jun 3 '19 at 17:42

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