Numbering sins in Confession

I read on a website that one must always give an exact or approximate number regarding the amount of times one has committed a mortal sin, but that general statements (without a number) regarding how often one has committed that mortal
sin are not sufficient.

Thus (according to this website, from what I understand):

1)“I commited X three times” is acceptable,

  1. “I committed Y about twice a month” is also acceptable,

3) “I committed Z many times/a number of times/rarely/on occasion” is not appropriate.

Is this information correct, or are we allowed to make general statements like in 3) above, if we are having difficulty in coming up with numbers?

By the way, I know this only applies to mortal sins.

I’m probably not much help because I’m one who generalizes sins. The priest has no problem with it.

Let’s say I have a problem with sins of thoughts against certain people, I know that I’ve had disparaging or negative unloving thoughts about these people. Let’s say I work with this person and once again I get a rotten unloving thought about that person several times a day. Now add those nasty thoughts to several times a day, give or take 5 days a week (some days are nicer than others). Add to that the thoughts after work on a bad day, there’s no way to know how often I’ve committed the sin of not loving my neighbour.

If I have a problem similar to this type, I will tell the priest outright that this is a recurring theme in my life against certain people, and if I’ve been working on it, but still fail, I’ll tell him next time that it’s getting better because I’m trying harder but it’s still a problem that I carry with me.

Often as well, I have a bad memory, there’s no way I can count the number of times I’ve done certain things unless they really stick out. The priest hasn’t had a problem with it.

Personally, although it says in number, I think they want that because then the priest can figure out which of your sins are a big problem for you. They can then figure out the best penance for you and if time allows, advise you on your worst sins.

Number also keeps a penitent more honest with himself and the priest, but if someone is going in with an open and honest heart I don’t really think numbers are as important.

This is probably of no help to anyone, but here goes.

As I get older, my “senior memory” fails me quite a bit with this kind of thing. Long ago, I somehow managed to keep what I at least thought was total track of sins and could recite them with mathematical precision. I really just can’t anymore.

At the same time, let’s admit it, older peoples’ sins are generally not as memorable, either. Certainly not as dramatic, for the most part.

my understanding is the same as yours. A mortal sin should be confessed by kind and number. So “committed adultery 2x a month”. Saying “I slept around a lot” doesn’t really do it. Of course, adultery even once is a mortal sin. But the priest can give you better guidance if he knows it was 2x a year and not 2x a week!

This is another reason why frequent confession is good. First of all, if you are going to confession every month (or even every quarter) you are much less likely to be sleeping around, robbing banks, etc in the meantime. But on a very practical level, it’s a lot easier to remember what you’ve been up to during the past month then over an entire year (or more).

You should try for the accurate number and kind of sins- your number one. Then if you can’t really recall you may generalize- your number two. Your number three is not really the way to go with mortal sins and should be your very last option. The priest may then ask you for a number or more information.
This is why we should go to the Sacraments frequently. You soul will be in a state where you will “know” and be affected by your sins so remembering won’t be a problem. You will also be so sensitive to the mortal sins you will not let a lot of time pass before you seek absolution. It’s spiritual growth we are working to attain.

I was told by my priest that it is no longer required to give the number at all, even for mortal sin. :confused:

With regard to many things I have done, I don’t know whether or not they were sins. They could have been mortal sins, venial sins or not sins at all. I think I have a good idea of the moral precepts, but I am often uncertain whether a particular act violates them. For instance, it can be hard to tell whether or not you are being gluttonous if you have a high metabolism and little to worry about regarding weight.

If it’s our desire to be forgiven of our sins, don’t you think though that we pretty much know our mortal sins (even if we don’t have a list of what is or is not a mortal sin); in fact almost as soon as we commit them? Don’t we feel this nagging and tugging from the Holy Spirit, and our own conscience, (at least at some point or another relatively soon) that keeps letting us know we did something pretty wrong and had better get right with God about it?

As others have suggested, numbering sins (whether exactly or approximately) is really for the benefit if the penitent rather than an absolute necessity for absolution. (Otherwise a general confession would not suffice in a case of emergency, like a war.)

Someone who says, I slept with someone who I am not married to a few times last year is likely avoiding a personal sense of responsibility for the sin. Even if the person does not remember how often the sin was committed, he can probably remember the context of the sin. For example, he went to several parties, got drunk/took drugs, and then propositioned several women (or men?) In fact, the sexual sin is actually a side effect of a bigger issue.

Thanks for all your responses thus far. :slight_smile:

One thing I’m unsure of is whether or not I have received the Eucharist unworthily since my last confession. How should I deal with this in my next Confession (bearing in mind I get very nervous in Confession and would likely find it very difficult to say much more than what’s written down on my pre-prepared list of sins to confess)?

Also, someone on these formus has said that it can be a mortal sin to act on a doubtful conscience (even if what you are doing does not constitute grave matter). Is this true?

My best advice is if you think you are receiving the Eucharist unworthily add it to you list and ask the Priest next time you go to confession or just call them if you don’t want to wait until your next confession for an answer. They can provide the correct answer and eliminate any worrying until your next confession.

Gluttony doesn’t just have to do with overeating. Being overly picky about your food, always wanting the nicest foods, only organic, or only certain brands, etc. Those things are also gluttonous.

So if you are just hungry often–you are a still growing or get a lot of exercise, eating more than another person is not a sin.

Fussing about your food, noticing what others eat, comparing and commenting, may indeed by sinful, but not mortally.

I think we should all obsess during our examination of conscience about the exact number of times we committed some minor sin, that way, we can successfully avoid remembering our real sins or allowing some real guilt or contrition to creep in

is there some generic reason people won’t ask their priest a question regarding their own confession, but have no problem asking total strangers?


I think I’m going to write a sentence or two about speaking directly to your own priest in your own parish that we can then all paste into the appropriate threads.

The question is a serious one and I don’t think that’s very fair.

is there some generic reason people won’t ask their priest a question regarding their own confession, but have no problem asking total strangers?

In my case, one of the primary reasons is that on CAF I can put everything in writing, which makes it a lot easier to say things I would have trouble getting out in a conversation.

and I gave a serious answer, why would that be a matter of “fairness?”
you must understand that what is said here can only be a general answer and you will not get an answer that fully meets your individual needs except from your priest in confession. Confess as you have been doing and if he needs more information, on number of sins or anything else, he will ask. CAF can never be a substitute for confession or for seeking spiritual direction from your own priest.

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