Specificity in Confession

I was just listening to Take Two on EWTN and the presenting priest said something that I found a little confusing. He said that during confession you have to specify both number and kind, but that you couldn’t be generic when it comes to “kind.” For instance, you can’t simply say “I committed three acts against chastity,” but rather you would have to specify what those acts were.

The reason i am confused by this is that one of the priests I see regularly insists that we simply say “x acts against chastity” rather than giving any kind of detail. If I do chose to be more specific, he reiterates that I should just say “against chastity.”

So… should I always be more specific, or, when confessing to this priest, is “x acts against chastity,” acceptable?

I’d follow the guidance of the priest you’re confessing to. If he doesn’t feel he needs more detail, then let him make that determination.

He could have even found that it is a near occasion for him. For example, maybe at one point he had someone confessing sexual sins in lurid detail and it led to him struggling with impure thoughts. Just speculating, obviously.

Listen to your own priest.

That’s sort of what I figured. Thanks!

No that would not be correct.

It needs to be the actual species of the mortal sin (in some way…).

One cannot say “I committed 3 sins against chastity” - that is not getting to the species.

I committed adultery 3 times - that is getting to the species.

If one just said “3 sins against chastity” - that does not say what the sins were - were they lustful thoughts? where they adultery?.

(now some cases of scrupulosity can put a particular person in a unique boat as to who they in particular are to confess-but I set that aside here).

Jimmy Akin - Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers:

(Regarding mortal sins only)

"We are expected–to the best of our reasonable ability–to confess our mortal sins in number (how many times you did it) and kind. Kind is where the question of specificity comes in, and the rule is that we are to confess specifically enough that anything that affects the species of the sin is mentioned.

To understand that, one needs to have a grasp of the difference between genus and species. Genus is the general category to which a sin belongs. Species is the variation that distinguishes one sin from others in the same general category.

For example, saying “I committed a sexual sin” would cover only the genus of the act but does not address the species of sexual sin that has been committed. One would thus need to say “I committed adultery” or “I committed fornication” …"


Msgr Pope



The Priest on EWTN was correct.

One is to confess mortal sins in number and in kind.

“Chastity” does not get to the kind. Does not get to the species.

Fornication, adultery, etc are examples of kind.

See Jimmy Akins quote above.

…and various works of Catholic Theology etc…

(One of course is not getting into any unneeded details…but one does need to confess what the mortal sin was - what the kind was and the number)

You should be following what your priest-confessor is saying to you in Confession.

What is being posted here is absolutely wrong and not helpful—indeed the exact opposite of helpful.

There is a lot about this question which, as a priest, I fully understand, and which any other experienced priest fully understands. That includes the priest hearing your confessions, and (yes, I assure you) the priest on EWTN. I am not going to articulate that information here. Although there seems to be a contradiction, there is none—it only appears that way. I’m not going to explain that, but instead suggest you talk to your own priest-confessor for an explanation.

No one on an internet forum, especially one who is not a priest, should be telling you that he knows the situation better than your own priest-confessor. The posts here are part of a larger pattern, one that is problematic–which is the only reason why I’m posting.

Listen to what your priest is telling you in confession and ignore the cut-and-paste comments posted here which are doing nothing but harm.

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The OP should bring the matter to his* regular confessor* who knows him and can direct him in his particulars.

What the EWTN Priest was quite correct but yes it can be important for a person with particular questions to bring their questions to their regular confessor who knows them.

PS: Jimmy Akins Senior Apologist of Catholic Answers article Specific Confessions goes into more length: jimmyakin.com/2007/03/specific_confes.html

Yeah, this is where “trust your priest” doesn’t really work. This advice is becoming less and less reliable, especially with confession. Sadly.

No, you must identify the species of the sin. Masturbation, pornography, adultery, fornication, etc. “Sins against chastity” is too vague and does not tell the whole story.

You don’t need to get into morbid details; only the species of the sin.

The advice received from the priest who said “sins against chastity is sufficient” and the posters here to say “trust your priest” are unfortunately incorrect in this case.

Listen to your Priest.

You can only be concerned about what he says to you, about you. Confession is an individual activity. The other Parishoners, ‘the we’ really doesnt count in a confesdional, even if they were partners in your sin.

And remember, just as in Christ is in the Eucharistic Liturgy, with the Priest, He is also in the Confessional with the Priest. The Tribunal of Mercy.


So, Ignore our priests, who actually know us, and believe you.
Maybe you should re-read post #8 or is FrDavid wrong too?
I’m so fed up with this forum, I think this is the last straw.

Ours is not a religion of legalisms or written law. There are laws for guidance, but the priest is it’s interpreter. Do as he tells you and do not worry.

No, don’t ignore your priests. However, now is also the time for laymen to be vigilant and study up on the faith, because—and I know this will upset lots of CAF types—a lot of nonsense these days comes from priests. Priests who don’t use proper words of absolution, priests who don’t teach what the Church requires them to teach. Laymen need to know when a priest is not doing the right thing.

I have personally been on the receiving end of such nonsense from various priests, more than once in Confession. I knew enough that my confession was dubious at best, invalid at worst, and after re-confessing to priests I did know and trust, it was confirmed that my course of action was correct. And that’s because I took the time and effort to be educated in the faith, to sniff out nonsense when I see it, even if it comes from a cleric.

So yeah. Holy Orders does not make a man automatically trustworthy any more. It does not make them immune from error or even misbehaviour. Or put another way, I will not trust a man merely because he is a priest. Big deal. I will trust a priest on his own merits, as I would anyone else.

It’s easy to see in this thread that the priest who favoured the vague confession was not in the right, and I will not go with the “trust your priest” camp here, even if it comes from Father David or Father Ruggero or whoever.

When it comes to trusting priests, there is merit to trusting them by virute of their being a priest considering the long process and education needed to become a priest in addition to being vetted by priests. My guess if you don’t have a masters in theology nor years of priestly experience. In essence you’re saying to people, “Don’t trust the people with the education and experience, but me, a stranger on the internet.” That idea overall in itself is a dangerous one.

Saying no such thing. Only relating from my own experience. Your mileage may vary.

nuff said here.

Father David is exactly correct.

And I can understand why you feel that way. The actions of some are truly contemptible.

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