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Katie Fitzgerald reflects on how to remain calm in the face of our children’s sinfulness. 

Months ago, there was a flurry of discussion on several Facebook groups I follow about kids and sin. There was a lot of concern about tweens and teens deciding not to receive the Eucharist until they had been able to make it to Confession. Parents were worried that their kids had either committed horrific acts or had misunderstood what kind of sins should keep someone from receiving Communion. There seemed to be an especially strong fear that the only sins that would keep a child from the Eucharist were those against chastity.  There was a lot of panic and multiple suggestions to grill children heavily until they admitted to their parents what they had done.  

Naturally, no parent wants to think about a child’s soul being stained by mortal sin. Of course we panic at the thought that our child has done something sinful without our knowledge. But there is a better way to react than to simply imagine worst-case scenarios. I want to propose a way of thinking about our children’s sins that can eliminate some of our worries and refocus our efforts on helping our children.  

First, if you have a child who recognizes that he or she should not receive Communion when he or she is not in a state of grace, you are doing something right. Many adult Catholics don’t even realize that we should not present ourselves to receive the Eucharist with a mortal sin on our conscience. Kids who have enough reverence for the Eucharist to avoid receiving unworthily are kids who take their faith seriously.  




It’s also important to know that there are plenty of ways for young people to sin outside of the things most parents would probably consider to be the worst. There has been a lot of poor catechesis over the years about mortal sin. (I remember learning that a sin was only mortal if someone died, which is obviously not the correct definition.) For a sin to be mortal, it must involve grave matter (typically understood to be the offenses mentioned in the Ten Commandments), and the individual must know that it is a sin, and freely and intentionally choose to do it anyway. As much as we don’t like to think about it, kids above the age of reason are capable of committing mortal sins. Things like lying, stealing, disobeying, and cheating can be mortal sins depending on the circumstances. There is no reason to assume that a child who is asking to go to Confession has committed a sin against chastity, when there are so many other possibilities that are probably more likely.  

The other important thing to remember is that the Church has a remedy for all sins, no matter how big or small. In Confession, our sins are forgiven. There is no sin so great that Our Lord cannot forgive it. Rather than worry about the sin itself, we can help our children restore their relationship with Jesus by bringing them to confession as soon as possible. If your child has somehow gotten mixed up about what constitutes a mortal sin, a good priest will set him straight. If there is something the priest thinks your child should tell you, he will advise the child to do so. Speculating and worrying and formulating prying questions to get the truth out of your child are the enemy’s distractions from what will actually help, which is absolution.  


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Kids who have enough reverence for the Eucharist to avoid receiving unworthily are kids who take their faith seriously. #CatholicMom


Sin is a fact of life in our fallen world, and sadly, young people are not immune just because they are young. While we can’t expect sin-free children, however, we can ensure that they continue to turn to the sacrament of Reconciliation by taking them seriously when they say they have sinned, bringing them to a priest for Confession in a timely manner, and respecting the privacy of their confession. Confession is a key part of Catholic life, and kids who recognize when they need it and treat it seriously are the ones who are going to handle the inevitable fact of their sins in a way that brings them back to Jesus time and again.  


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Copyright 2024 Katie Fitzgerald
Images: Holy Cross Family Ministries