Confession detail

How detailed do confessions have to be?

I assume they don’t have to be super detailed and you can give as much or as little detail as you want, as long as you state the sin you committed. This would still be valid?

For instance, you can say you were extremely rude to a family member multiple times, without saying what you said to them, or in what way exactly you were rude to them. Or you could say that you stole from somebody but would not have to say what you stole. Stealing is stealing right?

Also, do you think it makes a difference if you don’t want to go into details because it embarrases you? Would that be considered not to a good enough reason to not go into detail? To be honest, I assume this is probably the main reason people do not want to go into detail about sins. For instance you can say you had impure thoughts, without having to actually say what exactly you were thinking of or imagining.

Begin with the very basics:

Rude to family? That can be a sin against charity and/or a sin against the commandment to honor your mother and father. “I was rude to my family many times over the past X weeks”

Stealing? Brief “I stole a video game from my brother” or “I stole a beer from the store”.

No need for a big story, the priest will ask you if he wants more details


You state the Kind of Sin, the number of times, and any circumstances that make it a mortal sin.

You were rude to family: “I called my cousin stupid once” vs. “I called my mom some very bad words every day for five years”

You stole something “I stole a soda from the gas station once” vs. “I stole $100 from this old lady’s purse” are very different sins.

I think the important thing is that YOU understand what the sin is, and then you will know how to use the right words in Confession.


So the priest will ask if he wants more detail. I wonder, if a priest asked and the confessor did not want to go into more detail, for whatever reason, if that meant the priest would most likely not give absolution, or if he would be able not to give it on the grounds of the confessor not being detailed enough about a sin?

This isn’t anything I am planning by the way, nor are the sins I mentioned related to me. I am just curious as to how it would work.

In my 20 years of Catholicism, a priest has never asked me for more details.

The priest is filled with joy when someone comes to confession. Don’t get “in your own head” and overthink it. Go to Confession, trust that your confessor will guide you.


I have never been asked for more detail either. I was just thinking what the possibilities might be if such a scenario occurred. Indeed I wonder if such a scenario has ever occurred.

I’m very curious me.

It seems like I’m the only one here who has been asked for more details. Even if I was uncomfortable giving more details, I figured it wasn’t up to me. When the priest asked I gave more details.

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Interesting. I would probably do so too if asked.

I do wonder though. Say the confessor preferred not to give more detail? Would the priest have a right to refuse absolution, even if the confessor regrets what they did deeply and was there for the right reason.

That’s a good question for @edward_george1.


I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I have never heard of a priest denying someone absolution because he pressed them for details that the person was unwilling to give. It’s not something I would worry about.

We do not want to purposefully hide sins, but Confession is not spiritual direction. The priest does not need every minute detail of every sin. “Being rude to a family member” is most likely sufficient, but it would not be sufficient if it were a euphemism for, say, “I pushed my elderly grandmother to the ground on purpose.”

I would imagine that if the penitent stated they preferred not to give more details, the priest would probably reframe the question to get further details in a way that makes the person less uncomfortable.

For embarrassing sins I tend to go into scientific/theologic language that avoids physical description, for my own comfort level.
And anyway, the priest has heard it all so many times from so many people. It just doesn’t matter that you are embarrassed. It’s a blessing to be able to lay your failings out there in the presence of the Lord, through the ministry of the priest.

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On a humorous note, I go to a shrine occasionally that offers confession daily. If the main confessional is full, there is another that has a cloth drapery covering the door. And one elderly priest is hard of hearing, and likes to ask questions about your confession. You might as well stand at the front of Church with a microphone.

This causes me to pull my hoodie way up over my face, and sweat just a little more when I walk in there. It’s actually another motivation to avoid sin.


It also helps to realize how boring and common our sins are.

There is a sort of pride that Satan likes to trot out in front of us “oh, your sins are so bad, they are so unimaginable, they are unique, the priest has never heard such things and he is going to be shocked I tell you, shocked. He might even kick you out of the confessional they are so heinous!”

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As a general rule when it comes to detail in confession - don’t. As has been stated here many times, be bold, be brief, be gone. State your sins. Do not narrate or describe or detail them; the priest can ask as needed. Do not give the circumstances or history unless asked.

I say all of the do nots for two reasons - it’s often an unnecessary thing (wasting time), and it leads to us potentially trying to justify ourselves. That’s human nature; we don’t want to own our sin, so we try to explain it away. Better if we just tell the Lord what we did and let Him deal with it, though.

By the way, confessor = priest. Penitent is the word for the person making the confession.


I was once asked detail as well. Mainly, I think, for the priest to understand if it was a venial or mortal sin.

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In the Byzantine Eastern Catholic Churches, traditionally one goes to confession before the icon of Christ on the iconostas (where everyone can see you, which petrifies me). The priest puts his epitrakhilion on top of your head and you make your confession.

Do an examination of conscience first. This will ensure the majority of what you take into the confessional will be Mortal Sin…if you are unsure whether mortal or venial, and it is bothering your conscience, take it to confession.

If the sins are not mortal, you can forego the number of times the sin was committed…mortal sins are easy enough to track, but venial sins? Can any of use put a number on our Venial sins.

There is a great first reading for today’s Mass, that I think kinda fits…1 John 5:16-21.


I think it depends on the “type” of confession you wish to make. Do you wish to lay it bare and have all forgiven to make amends or to confess generally and clean only the surface? Either way, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit has been wounded by that sin and know it completely.

This is the main reason I don’t go into detail in Confession. Whenever I am tempted to elaborate, it almost always would involve some degree of explaining why the sin wasn’t so bad because I had a good reason. It is much better for me to just state it and move on to the next without trying to make myself look better.

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