Being specific in confession...?


Hi all, this is my first post on here so I hope I am posting in the right place. I have a couple of questions regarding how specific you should be in confession.

Firstly, I did not know until the other day that you should state the number of times you committed a sin. If you are unsure of, or don’t remember the number of times is it ok to use descriptors (often, constantly, on several occasions etc.)? And if you unsure of the number of times, should you indicate this to the priest?

Another thing I am unsure of is if you are confessing to impure thoughts, whether or not you should give details if these thoughts are about someone that it would be particularly wrong to think of like that - a priest, for example. Is it enough to say that you had impure thoughts, or that you had impure thoughts about someone who it is especially wrong to think of like that? Or must you explain who the person/people were? I imagine it could be uncomfortable for the priest if someone confesses to thinking of them like that. Also (last question I promise) if these thoughts are unintentional or you did not indulge in them, should you indicate this as well?

Thank you!


(I will repost a post)

One is obliged to confess all mortal sins in number and kind (and circumstance that changes the kind – like it was your brother you murdered! or the gold cup you stole was from the Church (hence sacrilege))

Venial sins are recommended to be confessed. They can also be forgiven in many other ways.

(Now I will note that those out there who are scrupulous …they need to a regular confessor and not scruple about confession…)

Of course after a good examination we may not …remember everything…that is ok…we do what we can…God forgives the forgotten ones too (we need of course to be sorry for all our mortal sins…and amended)…then if we later remember one we forgot…we are to confess it in the next confession after we remember it. (this is different from if we intentionally hide a mortal sin…)

If something is doubtful one notes it is doubtful in some way. While one is not strictly obliged to confess doubtful mortal sins – it is normally recommended to (though those with scruples may be recommended not to).

Also we may not know the numbers …so if we do not know…we make an “approximation according to our knowledge” from our examinination …3-5x, 5-10 a month for the last 20 years, somewhere around 50 times, around 10x, or it was several times definately more than 10 …it may be that one has to say: “a few times”, “several times” “many times” “many many times” etc

Of course one needs contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.

Here from the Catechism:

Here is a guide sold by Catholic Answers:

From Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers:

Jesus is the Good Shepherd …he loves you --in him is u* true life*


Not sure on the Priest question – it seems to me one may need to note that aspect --IF it was indeed a mortal sin.

As to any “thoughts” that are of the “unwanted” or of the “not-consented to completely” --remember one only needs to confess “mortal sin”.


Compendium from Pope Benedict XVI summarizes:

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?


One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?


One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

as to past confessions – one can discuss such with a Priest.


I see, so it would be better to try and remember the approximate number of times?

Thanks for the links, they are very helpful. I was pretty sure that impure thoughts were not a sin if the thought was not consented to but I still thought I should check.

Thanks for your help!


Yes one is to give the number of times for mortal sins. I accuse myself of murder 3x.

— but if one examines and does not know such -well one can “approximate” as per what one does know.

For some things it may be “round 5x” others may be around 2-3x a year for the last 10 years …or may be only “many x” etc

We to confess mortal sins in number --we make a diligent examination but we proceed in a human way (humano modo) (we may not know the exact number) — not a vulcan way (vulcano modo) :slight_smile: ala Mr. Spock (it was 45.23254 times)

Your welcome


The confession is not for the mere existence of impure thoughts passing through the mind momentarily, but to not banishing them, if you like them, of to not avoiding situations that one has control over, that would very likely lead to serious sin. Dwelling on and enjoying those thoughts is what is sinful. The dwelling could, naturally, lead to sinful acts. You confess that you did not banish lustful thoughts and their kind.


I see, that makes sense.

Thank you both for your answers!


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