16. Banish from your mind the dread of having omitted any sins in either your general or ordinary confessions, or of not having explained their circumstances clearly enough. The learned theologian Janin sets forth the following rules on the subject:
The Church, the interpreter of the will of Jesus Christ, requires sacramental integrity in confession, and not material integrity.
The former consists in the confession of all the sins we can remember after a sufficient examination, the duration of which should be regulated by the actual state of the conscience.
Material integrity would require a rigorously complete accusation of all the sins we have committed with their number and circumstances, without the slightest omission.
Now sacramental integrity may be reasonably exacted since it exceeds no one’s ability; whilst material integrity, on the contrary, could not be exacted without the sacrament becoming an impossibility; for, no matter how carefully we make our examination of conscience, some sin, or some detail in regard to number or circumstance, will always escape us.
In a word, all that the Church demands of the faithful is a sincere and humble avowal of every sin that can be brought to mind after a suitable examen: for the rest, she intends good will to supply for any defect of memory.
*Do not be uneasy because you fail to remember all your failings in order to tell them in confession.
This is unnecessary, because as you often fall almost without being aware of it, so you often get up again without perceiving it; just as in the passage you quote it is not said that the just man sees or feels himself fall seven times a day, but simply that he falls seven times a day: in like manner he gets up again without noticing particularly that he has done so.
Hence have no anxiety about this, but frankly and humbly confess whatever you remember, and commit the rest to the tender mercies of him who puts his hand under those who fall without malice that they may not be bruised, and raises them up again so gently and swiftly that they scarcely realize they had fallen.—St. Francis de Sales.*
17. By a diligent examination of conscience you have thoroughly satisfied all the requirements for sacramental integrity; therefore banish whatever doubts and fears may come to beset you, for they are nothing but temptations.
18. Should you suspect that you failed to fulfill these requirements owing to not having been particular enough about your examination of conscience, you may feel sure that your confessor has by prudent interrogations supplied for whatever may have been wanting on your part.
And if he did not question you further it was due to the fact that he understood clearly enough the nature of your sins and the state of your soul, and this is the object of sacramental accusation.
19. How great then is the error of those poor souls who wish continually to make their general confessions over again, either through fear of incomplete examination or of insufficient sorrow; and how blameworthy the weak complaisance of those confessors who offer no opposition to their doing so!
If such fears were to be listened to, every one would be obliged to pass his entire life in making and repeating general confessions, for they would incessantly spring up afresh and even the greatest saints would not be exempt from them.
A sacrament of consolation and love would thus be transformed into a perfect torture for the soul—an heretical perversion anathematized by the Council of Trent.
*“I have found in your general confession all the marks of a sincere, good and earnest confession.
Never have I heard one that more thoroughly satisfied me.
You may rely on this, for in these matters I speak very plainly.
However, if you really omitted something that ought to have been told, consider if you did so consciously and voluntarily, in which case, if it was a mortal sin or you thought it one at the time, you would undoubtedly have to make the confession over again.
But if it were only a venial sin, or though mortal you omitted it out of forgetfulness or some defect of memory, have no scruples; for at my soul’s peril, I assure you there is no obligation to repeat your confession.
It will be quite sufficient to mention the matter to your ordinary confessor. I will answer for this.”—St. Francis de Sales.*
20. It is the teaching of the saints and doctors of the Church that when a general confession has been made with a sincere and upright intention and with a desire to change one’s life, the penitent should remain in peace in regard to it, and not make it over again under any pretext whatsoever.
Those who do otherwise recall to their memory things that should be banished from it, and increase the trouble of their soul by a too eager desire to purify it.
For, as Saint Philip de Neri so well expresses it: the harder we sweep, the more dust we raise.
21. Remember, in conclusion, that according to the common opinion of the saints, the fear of sin is no longer salutary when it becomes excessive.