Going to Confession

I have some questions regarding confession:

What type of sorrow does someone need to have sins be forgiven? I had always thought that through the sacrament of Penance, attrition was acceptable, but I hear some people saying you need true contrition. Unfortunately for me, I find it very hard to feel sorrow for my sins. I want to, but I just don’t feel it.

Are the following descriptions for sins detailed enough (discluding times committed):
Have had blasphemous thoughts
Have wished revenge to the point of wishing death to people
Have committed small homosexual acts
Have had lustful thoughts and desires
Have been lazy spiritually
Have voluntarily doubted teachings of the Church and truths of the faith
Have been lukewarm in my faith
Have thought of myself as better than others

Do I need to confess this sin:
I was at a camp and people were constantly taking the name of God and Mary in vain. I didn’t say anything to stop them.

Can I mix sins together such as “I have thought of my self as better than others spiritually and more talented X times”?

I think I may have had an invalid Confession because I withheld a sin and I am remembering a lot of sins I don’t think I ever said in Confession. Basically, I’m just going to do a Confession for my whole life. Any thoughts or suggestions?

If I really don’t have a clue as to the exact number of times the sin was committed, what should I say? I mean, I can’t really remember whether I committed a sin 400 or 700 or 142 times.

Answers are greatly appreciated!

Without true contrition, you won’t be receptive to the graces which are given in reconciliation that are necessary to overcome complusive behaviors.

Please remember, in reconciliation you are in effect reconciling your fallen nature back with our friend the Lord Jesus. Your contrition for your sins, allows Jesus to give you the graces of the Holy Spirit.

Three persons in one Trinity. You’re receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and you’re receiving the Holy Spirit in reconciliation.

You’ve been very honest with us about your known negative behaviors toward God and other people.

Perhaps, a problem might be your level of forgiveness toward other people, which affects how you feel about contrition.

“Forgive us our sins, AS we forgive those who tresspass against us.”

First this, then that.

Will my sins still be forgiven with attrition?

Did I have enough detail in my sins?

Please help! Confession starts in 15 minutes!


Yes, the fear of Hell alone is enough to remit your sins. Confess what you remember, what you don’t will be forgiven anyway as long as you tried to make a good confession. If you remember other sins later, just confess those at the next confession.

Let your confessor know that you are having problems feeling sorrow for your sins. Tell him about your attrition vs contrition debate.

Yes, but again, how much detail should be put into saying my sins and how do I put a number to each of them?

The nature of the sin is enough. “I sinned against purity x times” The priest will ask for more detail if he thinks it is necessary. The approximate number of times is enough, or just say “often” or “a lot” if you really can’t remember. Try to make your best confession. Intent is the key.


The purpose of reconciliation is developing the sorrowful heart (not a fearful heart).

Sorrow for sin enables you to make a conscience daily effort at improving your thoughts and actions.

Contrition is the term. Remember the Priest’s words from mass, “humble and contrite hearts”? If we are not sorry for our sins from our heart, then they are not forgiven. Sorrow over our sins is a requirement for absolution. Contrition means that you fear eternal punishment for your sin. Perfect contrition means that you fear and are sorry for having offended God - forgetting about yourself. Perhaps you should examine your conscience before confession. Maybe question if you agree with the Church’ teaching on faith and morals. It is often, when we question or willingly disobey Church teaching, that we feel no contrition. Please discuss this with your Priest. Christ placed him before you to lead you to heaven. Satan waits for hearts that lack contrition.

But why contrition in the first place? Because our sins have directly caused pain to God, who loves us unconditionally. When we sin, God becomes our abused spouse! Worse than that, He becomes our abused judge! Do we want to continue being the abuser, or do we repent and feel sorrow in our hearts for the pain and suffering we have caused? Even sins “in secret” still hurt our relationship with the Body of Christ (the Church), as well as damage or destroy our relationship with God - a God Who is infinitely merciful, but Whose justice is eternal! We cannot forget this just because we cannot yet see the next life. Again, please discuss this with your Priest.

Christ’s peace be with you.

contrition is necessary for a valid sacrament, but it is not a feeling, it is an intentional act of the will, to acknowledge my sins were wrong, offended God, that I acknowledge this and ask his forgiveness precisely because I have offended him, disobeyed him, failed in the duty I owe him in justice. That is why we have formula prayers called “Act of Contrition” because it is an act, not an emotion. It is not necessary to recite one of those formal prayers but it is necessary to acknowledge and express sorrow for our sins before God.

use nouns and verbs, and numbers as modifiers. Just say the name of the sin and how often or how frequently, or how persistent this problem has been for you. save the backstory, if the priest needs details he will ask.

the very fact that you are going to the priest asking for the sacrament of penance shows you have in fact acknowledged your sin and your need to be forgiven and absolved, so is in itself an act of contrition, as long as you do not withhold a sin of course. also save it for the confessional not for public internet forums.

Sounds like a good approach to me.

  • be simple
  • be brutally honest
  • be complete without whining on.
  • “worst first”
  • be brief in details
  • if you don’t “feel” contrition, say so, but say that you “will” to feel contrition
  • ask God to deepen your contrition.

-Sometimes we’re granted “feelings” other times not…no worries. The will wins.

Go back the next week for any left overs.

for “repeat offenses”, start examining near occasions for that sin…what precedes, what builds up to it. Form a purpose of amendment around that key fault…and work on it for a while. Examining yourself perhaps briefly each evening…2 minutes…connect one confession to another via this purpose of amendment / daily exam cycle. If that makes sense.

soap, rinse, repeat, often.

Be as simple as a child. Sincerity, Simplicity.

What if you don’t believe something to be a sin? Can you still be forgiven if you confess it? What I mean is, the CC teaches that masturbation is a mortal sin. If I have done this, but do not believe the CC’s position that it is a mortal sin or even a sin at all, but desire to stop doing it in obedience to the CC, then am I forgiven? Am I even culpable of mortal sin to begin with? How does that work?

Whether or not you believe something to be a sin is not the issue here. Sin is objective. It has been prohibited by God, both through His commandments, through Mosaic law, and by the teaching of Christ. Sexual sin perverts or denies God’s will for procreation within the Sacrament of matrimony. Here is what the catechism teaches:

CCC2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."139

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

138 CDF, Persona humana 9.
139 CDF, Persona humana 9.

Here is a link to the Vatican document used as a reference: vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html

Being Christian is not just membership in a group that we belong to, or that we identify with. It is a way of life, and to claim membership, one must obey what not only Christ, but His teachers declare about faith and morals. Particularly as Catholics, we are obedient. We submit to the authority and teaching of the Church even though we may not understand the teaching. We are to pray for the grace of understanding that comes from our faith. Please trust the Church in things which you do not yet understand. That is what we all must do.

Question: If you do not think that this is a sin, who taught you that? Answer: The world did. And the world does not love you. It cares not one bit about you, whether you live or die, or whether you spend eternity in heaven or the eternal torment of hell. By contrast, Who teaches us that it is a sin? God, who loves you infinitely more than all of the human love that ever will be added together.

This sin is unfortunately very common, and reflects the low state of the society that we live in. Even if you never commit this sin, I strongly advise you to ask your Priest about it. He can explain the nature and concept of sin, and help you through any disagreements you have with Church teaching.

Christ’s peace be with you.

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