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Is there such a thing as going too much to confession?

Godong/Photononstop via AFP

“Waiting” until one has fallen deep into mortal before seeking out the sacrament is not really a prudent thing to do, to say the least.

Q.- How often should someone go to confession? Is there such a thing as going too much? Can someone go for the little venial sins or should they wait until they have big mortal sins to confess? What about just confessing temptations and not necessarily sins, especially if they are temptations that you struggle with? I am a new Catholic and just trying to understand this. Thanks!

A.- The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.”

Essentially, regular confession of the small stuff can help prevent us from falling into even bigger, more spiritually detrimental sin.  So yes, confessing venial sins is not only OK but encouraged. “Waiting” until one has fallen deep into mortal before seeking out the sacrament is not really a prudent thing to do, to say the least.

Regular confession also helps fight the temptations we struggle with. Although temptations themselves are not sins, when left unchecked they tend transform into eventual sinful acts. Confessing temptations can make you more aware of their presence, and help ease their hold over you in time.

Now, how regular is “regular confession?” The recommended norm for many religious congregations is once a week, which isn’t to say that a lay person couldn’t or shouldn’t go to confession once a week, especially if you’re in a state of mortal sin. But not abusing the sacrament is also important.  Some ways in which we can abuse confession are:

  1. Scrupulosity
  2. Presumption of grace, or Presumption of God’s forgiveness
  3. Withholding sins from the priest during reconciliation

Scrupulosity is something that St. Ignatius of Loyola struggled with. The most basic way I can explain it is struggling with thoughts that will not go away, in particular thoughts of unworthy sinfulness or an unhealthy preoccupation with being perfect and sinless to the point that every little sin throws you into despair and self-loathing. Scrupulosity causes anxiety and frustration to those who suffer from it as they obsessively worry about what is sinful and what is not. This crippling spiritual state interferes with our intimacy with Christ.

Presumption of God’s forgiveness is when you have no real contrition in your heart, no intention of avoiding near occasions of sin and just confessing to ease your conscience so you can go out and commit the same sin over and over again, assuming God will forgive you every time regardless of your true intentions for confessing.    

Lastly, one who willfully withholds a mortal sin cannot be validly absolved of his sins, because he has not manifested true contrition for his grave wrongdoing. “For if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.

Barring any abuses to the sacrament, you should listen to your conscience and go as often as you feel you need to go. If you struggle with the same repetitive sins and find yourself wanting to go weekly then you might want to schedule regular spiritual direction from the same priest who is familiar with your struggles and can advise you accordingly.  

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