Numbering mortal sins

Hey all,

I went to confession at a large cathedral in a major metropolitan US city and had to wait in line for quite some time before getting to the confessional. I specifically went to the cathedral confess mortal sins (one of which I was sure of and two of which I wasn’t quite sure were mortal but I wanted to confess anyways). To make a long story short, I confessed that I did the mortal sin, but did not indicate the number. I said, a couple of days ago I did xyz. I had only done that sin once and thought by putting it that way it would be clear. I did not number the other sins either but confessed in the same way. Now I know that one must number the mortal sins that have been committed so this is not a case of , “I never knew that.” But I certainly was not trying to hide anything from God…I had gone there specifically to confess my sins. As I was leaving the confessional, I did fear that because I did not specifically say the number I did not make a valid confession and would have liked to turn back and get that off my chest but the confession line was so long there was little hope that I could get back to the confessional and ask the priest before confession closed for the day. I went to mass immediately after confession and received the Eucharist.

Am I still in mortal sin (compounded now because I took the sacrament)?

No. At least not as far as I am aware.

Numbering your mortal sins, along with telling the priest how long it’s been since your last confession and even making an Act of Contrition in the confessional, are desirable but omission of any of them doesn’t invalidate the sacrament.

Numbering your sins is a way of giving the priest an idea of whether your sin was a rare occurrence or perhaps something habitual that you do many times. And he can tailor his advice accordingly. But it doesn’t affect the validity or liceity of the sacrament.

You must confess your mortal sins by kind and number.

Did you commit any of these sins more than once? From what you wrote, I get the impression that each sin was committed one time. I’m sure the priest did also. If that is not the case, you do need to correct it. The next time you go to confession, simply say you made an error and wish to correct it. If it was one time each, you don’t need to do anything.

However, since you did not purposely conceal the number of times you committed the sins, you did not invalidate your confession or commit sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion. You do not need to confess again until you normally would.

Betsy

Interesting. Just checked Canon Law and I see that it says ‘obliged to confess in kind and number’.

However, I’m certain I’ve many times omitted (through accident and ignorance - I certainly wouldn’t knowingly invalidate a confession in this way) to number my mortal sins.

No priest has EVER pulled me up on it. Not once. I find it difficult to believe that so many priests (and I’ve confessed to numerous different confessors over the years) would leave me ignorant of this requirement! :frowning: :mad:

Sigh. That’s why it’s very good to be catechized by traditional priests, preferably F.S.S.P. Thank God for the audio sermons online.

I’ve had similar problems over the years with more than one aspect of the Faith… they keep cropping up… and they will continue to… because so much of the Faith is not taught properly today… and self education while very good, still misses things easily enough.

There’s a good book below called ‘Theory and Practice of the Confessional’ which is meant as a manual of instruction for priests, but which I have found incredibly helpful as a layman to read. I recommend it highly.

I will quote:

“For a complete confession it is necessary to state clearly and precisely not only all mortal sins, but their number and species and the circumstances which change the species. This is the doctrine of the Council of Trent when it enjoins the confession of each and every sin; to do this a man must give the number of the mortal sins committed. One who has missed Mass ten times and merely confesses, “I have missed Mass” has not confessed each and every sin, for an indeterminate number, by the very fact of being undetermined, does not necessarily mean the number ten; it may mean ten, but that possibility does not indicate the number. With regard to the confession of the species and of the circumstances changing the species, the Council teaches expressly that the circumstances which change the kind (species) of sin ought to be confessed. Since those circumstances are to be expressed which change the kind of sin, nothing can be clearer than that, in accordance with the decision of the Council, the sins are to be confessed according to their species.”

"The reasons which the Council gives for insisting on the duty of confessing the species of sin are that otherwise the sins would not be perfectly revealed by the penitent or understood by the judge, and that without a knowledge of the species of the sin the judge would be unable to pronounce on the gravity of the sin and to inflict a suitable punishment for it. "

I think the tail end of this paragraph also emphasizes another lack. . .

What I find particularly difficult is to determine when it is a grave matter. Missing Mass ,killing people and being unfaithful to one’s spouse are definitely grave matters.
Beyond that it becomes rather subjective,for what I perceive as grave matter and confess as a mortal sin may not be for someone else.The 10 commandments are helpful,but again to a point.
In other thread I said that any lie said is against a commandment and done with full knowlwledge(or it would not be a lie) so it is a mortal sin. Other posters said that depended on the gravity of the lie in question.
So everything seems somewhat relative when establishing when it is or it is not a mortal sin.
That comes way before we count on how many instances we committed such fault.
So I determined that perhaps it is based on the individual’s consciense if it is felt as grave or not.Otherwise who determines that? There is no list that I know of.The practical way to solve my problem is to confess everything regardless of venial or mortal and say about how many times.
But,unless one keeps a diary of sins how is anybody to be accurate in the numbers, say if you go to confession every six months or so? Do any of you keep a written count?Do you?
Are we taking this too far?Wouldn’t Jesus mainly want from us to have a loving, sincere and contrite attitude ?On the other hand maybe we must assume responsibility and account for every single sin so that we are more aware of any action when we take it.
I find it is hard to be human and Catholic.

I found this in the catechism:

“When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.””

It’s for our own good that we confess as much as we can remember…

Numbering your mortal sins, along with telling the priest how long it’s been since your last confession and even making an Act of Contrition in the confessional, are desirable but omission of any of them doesn’t invalidate the sacrament.

if one knowingly does not give the number…say the person murdered 3 times and just says “I murdered” and conceals the other 2–this is invalid

Numbering your sins is a way of giving the priest an idea of whether your sin was a rare occurrence or perhaps something habitual that you do many times. And he can tailor his advice accordingly. But it doesn’t affect the validity or liceity of the sacrament

we MUST confess mortal sins in number and kind…as we can of course

:thumbsup:

and I would add…I would presume that when you went to communion you judged that you had been absolved and that you could thus go…and that you later questioned it…thus not extra sin… (now those with scruples should not scruple about this or anything :)…)

Well then do what you can to remedy this…as your memory will serve you in your next confession…:slight_smile: (after you confess the sins…mention that these were omitted in the past due to your not realizing that it had to be done in number…so he does not think you just went off the deep end ;)…)

We also should confess any circumstance that changes the sin…like you killed…your mother…

(note …those with scruples…talk with your confessor…and do not scruple…I mention this cause they often want to re-confess things etc…where there is no need…or fear things are invalid when they are not etc…or want to give unnecessary details etc)

I think your first sentence is still true, and I would substitute the word “required” for “desirable”.

Let’s look at the relevant canons:

Can. 987 To receive the salvific remedy of the sacrament of penance, a member of the Christian faithful must be disposed in such a way that, rejecting sins committed and having a purpose of amendment, the person is turned back to God.

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.

Canon 987 lays out the requirements for validity. It isn’t written as the first of two or three parts, all of which are required for validity.* Voluntarily violating Canon 988 would be sinful in itself, and would also suggest the penitent is not properly disposed. But involuntarily violating the canon, whether through forgetfulness, or ignorance, or because the priest confessor prevents the full confession, does not appear to be an obstacle to the requirements of Canon 987.

*Actually it’s the third part, but the previous two chapters aren’t directly relevant to the penitent himself.

Canon law…

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.

Every bit of the this canon is important…

here are a few notes:

  1. We are Obliged to confess in number and kind all grave sins (mortal sin…same thing)
  2. It is both number and kind.
  3. That were not directly remitted…that means directly confessed and absolved…when a mortal sin is forgotten (not hidden) it is “indirectly absolved” thus it still needs to be confessed “directly” in number and kind in the next confession (even though it was indirectly absolved)
  4. and again there is further emphasis that they need to be confessed in an individual confession…not only absolved in an emergency without confession…or indirectly…

So if someone unknowingly omits a mortal sin…or the number…no problem it was indirectly absolved…but they still have the obligation (within reason…our memories can not serve us…etc) to confess them…in number and kind…(again those with scruples talk with your confessors…for this can be a source of scruples…)

Thank you all for these wonderful responses! They helped a lot!

I hope I’m not derailing the OP’s thread by asking this . . . . but how do you even begin to number mortal sins if you convert later in life and never “kept track” of your sins before? Especially if they are sins that you committed many times over the years? I haven’t made my first confession yet (RCIA doesn’t even start until fall); but I get overwhelmed just thinking of trying to remember everything I ever did for the last few decades, much less coming up with an accurate number.

I am also a convert (almost 3 years Catholic!! Yay!!) and I remember the dread I felt in trying to remember all my mortal sins before my first confession. I took some quite time and reflected for a good long while. I am a writer and I wrote down my sins as I remembered them then brought that list in with me for my first confession. Father was very patient with me (may his soul, through the mercy of God, rest in peace) and allowed me a generous amount of time to confess. I would definitely recommend writing them down and allowing yourself the time to remember as much as you do. If after your first confession you remember another one, don’t fret or worry you are absolved, just make sure to fulfill your obligation to confess it at your next confession. I saw another post that said that praying the rosary or the chaplet of divine mercy will open your soul to recollection and I wholeheartedly endorse that. Throw yourself at God’s feet and remember that the angels are rejoicing at your return!

Google: Examination of Conscious.

Better results if you Google: Examination of Conscience.

Some books on confession including examinations of conscience:

scepterpublishers.org/subcategory/?category_id=25&subcategory_id=43

Estimate! Here are some examples to get you started.

Dated unchastely, having sexual relations about twice a week for 15 years.
Stole money, about $50 a week, from my employer for two years.
Lied about my experience on my resume. The incorrect information was on it for three years, and I applied for about ten jobs in that time and got two of them by fraud.
Failed to pray or go to church from the time I was 16 until last year. I’m 40 now.

So the basic formula for estimation is what you did, how frequently you did it, times number of days, weeks, months or years. You don’t have to do the math! :slight_smile:

Of course, some sins will stand out as unforgettable - murder, bank robbery, abortion - and you should confess the exact number of these.

As long as you don’t deliberately lie about how many times, or conceal sins out of shame or whatever reason, you will be fine. God does not expect you to remember this stuff with computer-like accuracy! Just pray for help and do your best. It will be just fine.

In fact, it will be more than fine - you’ll number it among the best days of your life!

Betsy

The Church teaches if you leave something out without intending to defraud the sacrament, but go with true repentance and sorrow for sins and desire to make amends, you do not have to reconfess. The other advice on here to go do it again is incorrect. May the Lord grant you peace.

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