How much Detail do you go into during Confession?


Pax Christi:

I have an interesting question. How much detail do you go into during confession? I believe that for many people, the answer of ‘list the sin and the number of times you did it and only go into more detail if this changes the nature of the sin’ is accurate. However, this guideline itself is very vague.

So, out of curiosity, how much detail do you go into during confession, and what suggestions would you give? I believe that we need to make sure that people know this, as it is very important.

Yours in Christ



Enough that the priest knows what you mean.

For example, take sexual stuff, which is what people usually want to be vague about since it’s embarrassing. You couldn’t just say “I did something impure” because that could refer to like a dozen things. But you also don’t need to give the priest all the dirty details.



I’ve never mentioned the number of sins. The confessor has never asked for any number. If they want to know, they can ask.



I have heard of some priests who tell people to confess only their worst sins (even if they might have other mortal sins) and that they will be absolved. Any thoughts on this? I personally believe that this makes an invalid confession, and I would always say all my sins.



Sorry, when I say ‘number of sins’. I was referring to the number of times one commits a certain sin

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My guess is this is something priests might use to manage scrupulous types who would otherwise be in the confessional for hours.

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Yes, I certainly think that scrupulosity is an issue. I think that a good tool for the scrupulous is to do the following:

Unless they believe that they have committed a mortal sin, they should wait until before they retire to bed and then go over any sins they have committed that day. Then, simply note down any mortal sins (if any were committed) and serious venial sins to confess, before planning to go to confession.

I suppose the issue for some is that they may not be able to decipher whether they have actually committed a sin! We must pray for such people, and remember that all Christians are scrupulous to an extent, and that it is not always a bad thing, because in this sinful world a good examination of conscience is necessary.

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I don’t disagree that people don’t know what sins are. Feelings aren’t sins, bad things that happen to us aren’t sins, only deliberately chosen actions are sins.

I disagree that all Christians are scrupulous, and disagree more strongly that it’s a good thing. Scrupulosity arises from a malformed conscience that compulsively believes nearly everything to be sinful. It’s a very painful and difficult cross to bear, but it’s not a good way to look at the world or one’s conscience. It requires careful guidance, and as such should only be handled by one’s confessor.

As for details in confession, see my earlier comments on the matter:




When I had my first confession yesterday and I mentioned how angry I have been towards my mother I did not give a number but just simply said “several times”



I think we are required to state the number of times we committed a sin. If we can’t remember, use an approximate eg more than 5 times

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I remember once starting my confession by saying “I’ve messed up everything.” That’s the one time the priest said I was going to have to be a little more specific. :slight_smile:



The guide that priests will give you:

Be Brief
Be Bold
Be Gone

Tell your sins in kind and number, then, the priest will ask for any more details if he needs them.

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Terms like “frequently”, “daily for X months/weeks/years”, “occasionally” are also fine.



I’ve never told how often I committed a sin, not even a vague one. A priest has never told me this either (I’ve seen many priests).

My confession usually goes like this ‘I did x, I did y, I did z.’

Hmm. Is this normal?



That is fine! If any priest needed more details, he would have asked for them.



Mortal sins should be confessed in kind and number. Venial sins we aren’t even obliged to confess, but we don’t have to mention number if we do confess them.



Of course a precise number is difficult or impossible to remember for many people who have either been away from the confessional for a while or who struggle with a particular sin.



We didn’t even get invited to first confession when we did RCIA. I went anyway. I didn’t confess kind and number the first time as the priest stopped me part way thru. Next time I went I mentioned those other sins that I didn’t have time to get out the first time but not number and wasn’t asked to( I explained my background/new convert/what Happened at first confession) . I trust that God is ok with me taking two gos to get first confession over with and taking communion in between. Nobody walked me through first confession in detail to be honest and since then I’ve been about once a month



That’s really unfortunate. When I was received into the Church by the bishop, he heard my first confession. I remember he placed his hand on my head when I was absolved for the first time.



Of course. That’s common sense. It’s called a “general confession” because you confess things in general terms.


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