Determining Severity of Sin

I was taught growing up that one confesses the kind of sin committed and number of times committed (particularly for mortal sins). Is it necessary to assess whether the sin one is confessing is venial or mortal or is it sufficient to just confess one’s sins?

In practice grave sin is mortal sin. Notice there are two sections one mortal and the other venial in the Latin canon law. For eastern Catholics, serious sin obliges confession ASAP whereas for Latin, grave at least once a year.

Canon law Latin (CIC) and eastern (CCEO) has:

Can. 988
§1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.

§2. It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins.

Can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.

Canon 718
In the sacrament of penance, the Christian faithful who committed sins after baptism, internally led by the Holy Spirit, turn back to God, moved by the pain of sin, intent on entering a new life through the ministry of the priest, having themselves made a confession and accepted an appropriate penance, obtain forgiveness from God and at the same time are reconciled with the Church which they injured by sinning; by this sacrament they are brought to a greater fostering of the Christian life and are thus disposed for receiving the Divine Eucharist.

Canon 719
Anyone who is aware of serious sin is to receive the sacrament of penance as soon as possible; it is strongly recommended to all the Christian faithful that they receive this sacrament frequently especially during the times of fasts and penance observed in their own Church sui iuris.

I don’t believe it is necessary for you to determine if a sin is mortal or venial. When I confess, I do a simple examination of conscience and list anything grave in number and kind. I do not say, “This one was mortal… and now here’s the venial ones…”

For example, perhaps I have engaged in an action that constitutes grave matter. No question about it, the action was grave matter and I did it.

But perhaps there are some circumstances involved that may or may not decrease my culpability. How can I determine the full level of my culpability?

The answer of course is that I can’t. Only God can accurately weigh the balance of my sin and my culpability. My job is to get to confession and confess anything that constitutes grave matter.

The Catechism can help us in determining what is or is not grave. It can also clarify extenuating circumstances. We must attend mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, for example, but not when we’re sick or need to attend to infants or the infirm, or cannot physically get to a valid mass, and so on…

But of course, in the end, our job is simple and twofold:

*]Avoid sin in the first place.
*]Confess sins we have committed.

God bless you.

You don’t have to say if it’s venial or mortal. The priest can sometimes just tell anyways.

I was always taught to confess the most serious sins first, so that is a tell. I’m not sure if this practice is universal though.

If you think it would be particularly helpful to specify if something is mortal, for purposes of pastoral counseling, then do so. For example, “I was lazy to the point of mortal sin.”

Either way, if you confess, you are forgiven, no worries. :slight_smile:

  1. Only Mortal sins need to be confessed. And yes in number and kind (and if something changes the kind…like the building one burned down was a Church).
  2. Venial sins do not need to be confessed and can be forgiven in many ways (one though does need something to confess). ( frequent confession of such is good -at least some of them…be it Monthly or weekly etc - and one can focus in on particular sins to work more on–see the Catechism on the good of confessing them).
  3. Venial sins - when one confesses them - can even be rather general terms and do not need to have any numbers etc.
  4. It can be good to limit the number of Venial sins one confesses. Other venial sins too can be included in the ending of the confession as well “and all the sins…”

If say one is confessing that one lied.

Well that often is venial matter for venial sin.

But lets say one lied under oath -well that is grave.

So one would* not *just confess “I lied”. If such was grave - one would say one lied under oath.

THIS!!! :yup:

And if you aren’t certain of the number of times you may say frequently, several, a few, etc. to get the point across to Father approximately how often this has occurred.

So if I was involved in a sin of grave matter which I believe to be venial or less then I am not bound to confess it? (e.g. King Oedipus just after discovering he had sex with his mother thinking she was his legitimate wife)

I think many would consider this a “grave sin” though not a “mortal sin”.

It is interesting that these sort of Canons now speak of “grave sins” where once they spoke of “mortal sins”.

I find it interesting that in 50 years of fairly regular confessions I have never been pulled up for not numbering grave sins per kind. I just speak of “sins of…” or “a sin of…”.

Baltimore Catechism 3 always taught two things that I no longer see emphasized today:

Q. 628. That actual sins may be remitted by baptism, is it necessary to be sorry for them?

A. That actual sins may be remitted by baptism it is necessary to be sorry for them, just as we must be when they are remitted by the Sacrament of Penance.

Q. 782. What should one do who has only venial sins to confess?

A. One who has only venial sins to confess should tell also some sin already confessed in his past life for which he knows he is truly sorry; because it is not easy to be truly sorry for slight sins and imperfections, and yet we must be sorry for the sins confessed that our confession may be valid – hence we add some past sin for which we are truly sorry to those for which we may not be sufficiently sorry.

My confessors seem rather unparticular. I always tell if mortal or venial since it was taught to me by Baltimore Catechism No. 2 (“53. Q. How many kinds of actual sin are there? A. There are two kinds of actual sin-mortal and venial.”)

Once in a confession a priest referenced a previous confession of mine and I saw that his memory was incorrect. It made me wonder if he absolved me of the right sin at the time.

When the Universal Vatican Catechism of 1992 overtook the “provincial” US Baltimore Catechism of 1884? and intentionally changed the wording of key related terminology in this area the latter became an artefact. An important one, but not a living one always clearly answering today’s insights and issues.

Nor do these quotes actually address my more specific questions methinks?

I believe most confessors would not dare to decide which if any of our sins are mortal or not. Further, nor do I think they would want us to think we always ourselves know with great confidence the depth of evil or good in our own acts.

All we can do is identify the serious accusations of our own conscience and those activities we know to be of grave matter, even if we do not believe we sinned mortally, and be deeply sorry to Jesus we have caused him offence whether we are sure or not if this was actually the case.
I find the CCC very cognizant of these realities by talking of “grave sins” rather than “mortal sins” as Baltimore does.

I am sure you and I are forgiven despite the nit picking niceties so long as we see confession as an ultimately human transaction of complete trust and sorrow rather than a bank credit/debit affair where every last cent has to be accounted for.

Imho if the sin was of a grave/mortal matter whether or not you think it is venial it SHOULD be confessed.

Yes your right the Code in the west and other documents at times do use such- and they mean mortal sins.

Grave sin = mortal sin.

The Church uses both terms to refer to the same sin. As well as the term serious sin.

If there was not the needed knowledge or complete consent to commit a mortal sin - then one would not be obliged to confess it. And if they did they should note that one does not believe their was such.

Then I guess they presumed it was on only one etc.

One is yes obliged to confess all mortal sins in number and kind.

(and if that has not happened - one would get with a Priest and sort things out accordingly).

Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers:

LOL the more guilt you feel the more “serious” the sin. I am kidding of course.

Would you mind quoting where it actually says that in either Canon law or the CCC :rolleyes:.

However, as we see in the canons (CIC) the kinds of sins confessed are grave or venial.

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