Oh, it might seem that we decide to go to confession, and I guess we do, but if we do that sincerely, with true penitence, looking to our Lord in humble thanksgiving (or at least afraid of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell), that grace, with which we cooperate, comes from our Lord.
Don’t think that it is not possible to go to confession out of pride: “I’m so upset I sinned, not because I truly dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, not because I have a thought about humble thanksgiving, but I’m so upset I sinned because I can’t be proud of myself as I would like to be, so, I know, I’ll go to confession and be in a position to be proud of myself.”
Is it possible to fool a priest who hears your confession? Yep. Really easy, that. Your recitation of an act of contrition and a firm purpose of amendment is what he hears. Unless he’s like Saint Pio of Pietralcina or Saint John Marie Vianney, he doesn’t know what’s in your heart. But Jesus knows. God will not be mocked, ever. Don’t think we can use a sacrilegious confession in favor of ourselves either at the Judgment when we die or the Last Judgment.
In saying all that, I realize that such can put scrupulous people into a bit of a tizzy, but they should know that their concern speaks to their sincerity, while the agony of scrupulosity is simply a cross that our Lord commands them to carry according to the circumstances they’ve been through in life. Scrupulosity is a mind game. The way to break through that is humble thanksgiving. A matter of love. Something we can’t bring about by ourselves (so there is nothing to be scrupulous about). Our Lord draws (drags!) us to Himself. We have no power without His grace to put ourselves before Him. He forgives us. We don’t forgive ourselves.
At any rate, some words are necessary to encourage people’s penitence and humble thanksgiving, all with the grace provided by our Lord, whether they are laymen or priests or bishops. So, here we are:
To redeem us, Jesus became sin for us – as Saint Paul, with such abbreviation — puts it (see 2 Corinthians 5,21). Just as in His baptism (see my rosary rant on the first mystery of light here), He takes our place as sinners before His Heavenly Father. It is as if He is confessing all of our sins in the first person singular before His Heavenly Father, and not just as if. Although He remains innocent, He takes on all the consequences of our sin.
“Bless me, Heavenly Father, for I have sinned. I confess constantly, at all times and in all places, from the beginning until the end of time. I accuse myself of the following sins…”
Now, in view of what Jesus does for all of us, we, as lowly penitents, want to be (1.) clear (not ambiguous), (2.) concise (not chatting, not gossiping, not accusing others, not including useless circumstances, not making confession into spiritual direction if others are waiting…), (3.) contrite (not making excuses, being truly sorry) and (4.) complete (including all mortal sins since one’s last good confession, or, if there are no mortal sins on one’s conscience, or as well as mortal sins, one might include some, not necessarily all[!] venial sins).
Fathers, bishops, when’s the last time you’ve been?
UPDATE: Oh, I forgot. Our Heavenly Father gave Jesus a “penance” to do for such an outrageous confession as that:
“Jesus, for your penance, you are to be betrayed by one of your close friends; you are to be taken and tied up; you are to be mercilessly interrogated and mocked; you are to be imprisoned overnight, during which time many despicable things will happen to you; you are to be publically condemned and then beaten with barbed scourges until you are almost dead, and your flesh in hanging from you like bleeding rags; you are to crowned with a crown of thorns and scorned by the politicians and the priests and the laity; you are to be burdened with a cross for you crucifixion, and remain crucified until you die; you are to know what it means to seem to be forsaken by me. Finally, you are to descend to hell.”
And then… then… the glory of victory began to shine. Jesus mocked the fallen spirits, reprimanded the damned, and preached the good news to the saints of old, from Adam, who repented of his sin (see Wisdom 10,1-2) to the many.
And then He rose from the dead.