Confession - # of times

I plan to make a confession appointment as soon as possible, but some things are making me procrastinate about it. One reason is listing the number of times for each sin. I read before on here that it was OK to say “many times”, “few times”, so that’s what I was doing in my previous confessions. But, then I read you have to actually say a number. I never said a number before, and I honestly cannot remember at all how many times I did the sins I want to confess. I have gotten a lot better with my scrupulosity, but honestly whenever it comes to confession it comes back a lot more and I hate that because then I will leave confession and think of something else and then I think my confession wasn’t valid. I just want to make this confession right where I won’t feel that way. So is it required to list the amount of times or can I say “many times”?

All that is required is that we do the best we can. If you know an actual number, then say that. If not, then just say “many times” or “a few times” or “approximately 20 times” or whatever. If the priest needs clarification he’ll ask.

Or a frequency e.g. “an average of twice per week for the past five years.”

But, is it still ok to say “many times”? Because, if I say something like “twice per week for the past five years” then I know my scrupulosity will come into play and I will keep thinking that it was more than that and it would bother me.

For mortal sins, you must specify a number. If it is impossible for you to remember the exact number, make an intelligent estimate, such as “I did X more than Y times” or “I did X at least Y times”.

For venial sins, the number is not, strictly speaking, required, but it makes sense to specify number if possible. You can also just approximate.

As long as you are being honest, whatever you say should be fine. If you committed a mortal sin 2 times, say “2 times.” If you say “a few times,” or “many times,” and that is an honest explanation, it is fine. The priest can always ask you for more information, and if they absolve you of your sins in the name of Jesus, then they have been satisfied with your explanation.

I haven’t read the Council of Trent decree regarding confession in a while. I believe in the decree they say that numeration is a part of confession. But it doesn’t make the sacrament invalid if excluded, the essential parts are contrition (perfect or imperfect), absolution, and satisfaction.

“Absolution proper is that act of the priest whereby, in the Sacrament of Penance, he frees man from sin. It presupposes on the part of the penitent, contrition, confession, and promise at least of satisfaction; on the part of the minister, valid reception of the Order of Priesthood and jurisdiction, granted by competent authority, over the person receiving the sacrament.” (Catholic Encyclopedia,

Read the Catechism to clear your dark areas of your intellect. They give a lot of teaching on the matter of penance which is linked to the sacrament. But it takes a radical break from Church practice to make the Sacrament invalid. Trust your pastors.

Ask your confessor about it. He’ll guide you on the matter. Remember he has authority in the sacrament.

But my concern also is I wouldn’t know for how many years either. For me, I still worry about which is venial or mortal. So, that’s why I want to confess each sin that I really feel bad about as if it was a mortal sin.

I think I will do that! Thank you!

If you have been saying “many times” and your priest has not asked you to specify an actual number, then don’t worry what you read. If he wanted to know more details, he will ask. Do not second guess your confessor because of what you read.

I was actually just thinking that… I need to trust the priest more when I confess. Thank you so much!

cupcake: Be not afraid. I’ve read several times on this site that god is not waiting to say “gotcha”.

Just do your best, then.

If you are acting in good conscience, there is nothing to fear. God won’t decide not to forgive you because of a technicality issue that you honestly weren’t able to avoid.

You should say it this way:

“Father, I’m scrupulous and I have this sin weighing on my conscience and I do not know how many times I may have committed this sin. Please help me.”

That’s it. You then take it from there. There is no other way.

If you’re scrupulous, nothing else we say can help you. You will find a way to trouble yourself, so we have to resort to the “obey your priest” advice and stop there.


One time I went to Confession and it was a number of months, so I said I did X and picked a very high number (in the hundreds). Don’t know if the number was accurate, but I would rather overstate than understate.


It is a lie to confess sins that you did not commit. If you were so unsure about the number, you should have phrased it as an estimate, not as a definite number.

I feel I would do that also. problem is, I want to confess some things that were done a long time ago so it’s so hard for me to even take a guess (especially for how many weeks, months, or years it was). I can try and take a guess at how many times I did it per day or week (at the time) but for how long is the problem, because I have 0 clue. For instance, one thing I want to confess is more like an on and off thing.

Another question - last time I went to confession, it was a face-to-face confession and the priest talked to me afterwards bc I was concerned about the bad thoughts I had. He thought that I didn’t want them (and I don’t) but at the time I had the thought idk I might really had wanted it to happen. So, my question is: if the priest thought my intentions were more innocent than it really was, was my confession still valid? Bc I was planning to re-confess everything again.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit