Details in confession

I have heard a good confession you must say what it is and how often. For example, I cannot just say I watched pornography. I have to say how often and what type. Random question - is foreplay considered fornication? I have confessed sensual sins before I HATE getting in the nitty-gritty details - I feel ashamed. Once I took up the priest’s time because I could not just spit it out. I eventually did - that was wasted time.

I have heard a good confession you must say what it is and how often. For example, I cannot just say I watched pornography. I have to say how often and what type. Random question - is foreplay considered fornication? I have confessed sensual sins before I HATE getting in the nitty-gritty details - I feel ashamed. Once I took up the priest’s time because I could not just spit it out. I eventually did - that was wasted time.

Mortal sins should be confessed in number and kind so your priest knows how attached you are to that sin and it helps you avoid the sin in the future by bringing the frequency with which you commit the sin into your consciousness. We may not realize how much we sin until we actually keep track. If you do not know the exact number of times, it is OK to approximate with words like, “often”, “frequently” or “a few times”.

As for you questions about foreplay and the details, just ask your priest. He will be able to give you better advice than random people.

The CCC defines fornication as follows:

2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.

I believe this is specifically includes penetration. If you engaged in only foreplay, then, you should confess “mutual masturbation with another person (specify if man or woman) to whom I am not married”

Keep in mind that the more detail you give in confession, the more grace you receive. It is REALLY, REALLY hard sometimes to talk about the details of a sin which is excruciatingly humiliating, but remember: if you make yourself do it, you will obtain far more grace & you’ll have a very strong reason not to want to commit that sin again (you don’t want to have to speak the details of that sin again).

Also remember that the priest is confessing you in persona Christi; it is Christ to whom you are confessing, and He knows already what your sins are. There is no embarrassment when you consider who it is you are confessing to.

Even so, if you think it necessary for your own ability to confess details, you can seek out confession at another parish where your voice will not be recognized by the priest. There is nothing lost by this except for a lost opportunity to practice the virtue of humility. :wink:

I hope this helps.

I think that the “number and kind” idea can be overdone and sometimes be impossible. Someone who has not been to confession in awhile and has a number of sins to confess might confess in a manner such as this: “…committed fornication about twice a week for five years…” Mathematical accuracy is not the object.

Where does oral sex fall under? I think I’d rather say fornication.

I suppose so. That’s not exactly a question I’ve had to ask myself before, so I would be specific and include “oral stimulation” among the details to confess, just to make sure the priest knows what the sin was.

The important thing to remember regarding how much detail in Confession is necessary is: you must give all details necessary for the priest to understand the gravity of the sin. If any detail makes clear an increase in the sin’s gravity, than the detail should be included.

I’ve read good advice on this. You should just say, “Father, I’ve committed sins against the sixth commandment, would you kindly question me?” Then he can ask you for relevant info

I am not so sure about that.

Father Larry Richards on one of his programs about confession stated that with regards to masturbation the penitent should say “I was impure with myself” and the confessor “would know what he means”. Fr. Larry is a regular on EWTN so I think that would qualify him as a pretty reliable source.

Honestly you would be much better getting advice from a priest directly than a free intern site.

I agree with this. During most of my confessions, if the priest is having trouble understanding the circumstance, he will usually ask. Also, what are some ways to keep track of how many times you sin? I have never been instructed to do this, and I feel like it would be a little difficult to have an exact number, even if you go to confession once a month

The idea is “number and kind”. Though, the number doesn’t necessarily need to be an exact number - in general, “about once a week” or “several times a week” or “several times per day” is sufficient (this is especially true for sins that we have more attachment to, and can’t really figure out how many times we’ve done them). That’s usually sufficient for a priest to see how attached you are to a sin. And there are many sins that are notoriously difficult to break (notably, sexual sins), but if you are honestly trying to break yourself from them, yet keep falling, it’s important to keep going.

I have heard that too much detail of sexual sins is very much unwelcomed by some priests. It could possibly lead to a near occasion of sin for priests who face temptations of lust. I think confessing sins of impurity whether with yourself or with another is a good distinction and the priest can ask for more details if necessary. If it is fornication, you can simply say that of course. Same with adultery. CRATUS keep striving for freedom and the recognition of the authentic beauty of sex.

express your sins in a general, honest way

no need to shock the priest hearing your confession

trust me, the priest gets the “picture” he’s heard it all before

I agree with “JD1789” who phrased it so eloquently!
There is not only the embarrassment factor of the penitent, but we also need to remember that our confessors are celibate men. Also, there is some times the issue of a woman having to confess sexual sins to a man! :blush: Call me a glutton for punishment but, I confess face to face, whenever possible. There is something downright humiliating about having to look them in the eye and to confess something of this nature! :shrug: I want to walk a righteous path with God as much as a sinner like me is able. This helps me!
As others have posted, if the priest needs details they will ask. :confused:
Peace and God bless you!

This is an interesting approach to the question, but I’m afraid this is not how the Church intends for us to confess. We need not concern ourselves with being an occasion of sin for the priest; in fact, that’s somewhat ludicrous, since if that were the case, one would have to be concerned about confessing any serious sin, because there’s no knowing “what the priest might be tempted by”.

In the sacrament of confession you should include all the details necessary to convey to the priest the gravity of the sin. No less. No more than that is needed, but more detail brings more humility and grace to the penitent.

As a confessor, I have been debating what to contribute to this thread since there are several points.

I HATE getting in the nitty-gritty details

Please don’t go into extreme detail. It isn’t necessary and can be counter-productive. It can also border on the lurid, depending upon the subject. A confessor will instinctively hesitate to stop a penitent in mid-exposition as he is trying to piece together from the words being used what the penitent is confessing…however, there can be occasion when the priest actually would stop the penitent if the detail is gratuitous.

To name the sin, and to give a number if the sin is serious, approximating if there is doubt as to quantity, is what is needed…not detailed description. It can be daunting and even traumatic to the penitent and it’s immaterial to the confessor. It’s normative for a confessor, if he doesn’t understand, to discreetly ask for clarification.

If any detail makes clear an increase in the sin’s gravity, than the detail should be included.

The gravity of the sin is normally established relatively easily. “I had sex outside of marriage” tells me instantly the gravity…the sin is mortal in the absence of a mitigating factor which, if present, should be mentioned.

If there is something that alters the nature of the sin, that needs to be confessed. “I had sex outside of marriage” is compounded if one adds: “I had sex outside of marriage with a married person” or again “I had sex outside of marriage with a married person and it was against her will.” I am absolving different things among those three statements and the penitent is confessing different sins among those three declarations.

Otherwise, when one is dealing with an action, it is not necessary to begin dissecting the act into its individuated elements, even though the constituent acts would themselves be serious sins if they were done on their own. And so, if one commits the consummated act of adultery, it is sufficient to say: “I committed an act of adultery” without explaining the act began by the willful lusting for the person and then the seduction and then describing each ensuing act unto its final consummation. If, on the other hand, it stopped short of being consummated, then one can confess what act occurred.

Thus, for the poster who asked about the oral act, if that is what happened and it did not proceed further it would be confessed using the term you wrote; if that was one aspect of a broader act of fornication or adultery, the part is included in the whole and that need not be confessed separately but would be absolved in confessing either an act of fornication or adultery which included that.

Keep in mind that the more detail you give in confession, the more grace you receive

This is really not a maxim to apply in confession. It will turn receiving the sacrament into a session of spiritual direction, if the penitent begins a complete exposition of conscience surrounding the named sin and its various circumstances and aspects contributing to it in great detail. The sacrament absolves sin, restores sanctifying grace, and gives actual grace.

You should just say, “Father, I’ve committed sins against the sixth commandment, would you kindly question me?” Then he can ask you for relevant info

Asking the priest to assist you in confessing is a mechanism to be used when you don’t know how to examine your conscience. If you violated the sixth commandment, you know what you did that violated it and should say it. It can be said by the penitent in a matter of a few words. Why make the confessor go through every permutation that the sin can take by a series of questions, which is what you are asking the confessor to do? The logical first question is the simple one: “What did you do?”

Mortal sins should be confessed in number and kind so your priest knows how attached you are to that sin and it helps you avoid the sin in the future by bringing the frequency with which you commit the sin into your consciousness. We may not realize how much we sin until we actually keep track. If you do not know the exact number of times, it is OK to approximate with words like, “often”, “frequently” or “a few times”.

Actually, it is not in order for me as the confessor to know how attached someone is to the sin…the giving of a number for serious sins is so that each iteration of the sin is brought to the sacrament. In the case where it is not possible to know the number, then we should approximate. I actually favour adding “approximately” at the beginning of doubt; thus, if you have any doubt, you add approximately, which covers a greater number within reason. It allays doubt.

“Often” and “frequently”, however, are of the most minimal value and the last possible resort; often or frequently could be several times per week or several times per day. It’s better to use a reference such as “never more than daily” or something that allows a number, however vague, to be posited.

A penitent is bringing to the sacrament the sins he committed in order, through the power of the keys, to be absolved of them. Confession should be integral in so far as it involves serious sin.

It is one thing to say I am sorry for the lies I have told since my last confession, presuming they are venial sins. It is another matter to bring to the confession the serious sin of committing perjury in which you have sworn to God that the words you spoke as true were, in fact, a lie. To do this five times is to bring to the sacrament, for absolution, something different from lying under oath one time; the former is bringing five separate mortal sins and, of course, the sacrament of penance is the normal way for the forgiveness of each serious sin. If there are multiples of the sin, each should be covered in the articulation…but again according to what is humanly possible.

Thank you very much for your contribution. It is very helpful.

It’s the nature of the sin. One does not tend to struggle with fantasizing over telling lies, gluttony, or gossip. Jesus never said “those who look at another man’s cheeseburger has already committed gluttony in his heart”

It depends on if one examines and knows the number or not-- if say it has been years and one has to approximate -that is fine (one approximates according to what they know)

…but if one examines and knows it was 6 times - then on confesses it was “6 times” not “a few times”.

This is regarding* mortal sins* only. Venial can be confessed in many ways -even without any number.

As to kind - one gets to the species (murder, fornication, perjury etc) and what changes the species (the serious theft was the chalice from a Church…and so also sacrilege).

The Priest can assist you if you ask.

I have searched and searched the internet and I have not found anything close to an answer to my question.

I am ashamed to have commited not only the sin of fornication, but it was with a priest. While confessing, (obviously with another priest), must I mention that it was with a priest? Or can I say just fornication.

I am very, very ashamed of what I have done and I beg for God’s forgiveness.

Annie

I am very sorry to hear that this has happened.

I would advise that you do include that detail, because the fact that it was a priest with whom you committed the sin does increase the gravity of the sin.

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