Striking the balance in Confession

How is one to strike the balance when confessing between what the priest needs to know and what might cause him unnecessary temptation?

Following this thought, if you confess a sin, but think the priest might suspect you of a sin matching that description, what should you do?

(Fairly poor) Example:
Penitent: I really wanted to inflict severe bodily harm on someone.
Priest: (thinking) Did Penitent want to murder/rape someone?

In cases like this, if the penitent realizes that the priest might think that, should he attempt to be more specific?

Would this be good enough in that case?
Penitent: I really wanted to inflict severe bodily harm on someone, but not murder or rape.

You should not be so vague in your confession, but sometimes we all are. If the priest needs clarification on something, he will ask.

Sorry, but is that in response to the first scenario or the second scenario?

You need not give the gory details. Simply state the sin and number of times committed. Example: “I lied three times, had impure thoughts twice, got angry and said uncharitable things three times, committed the sin of detraction four times, and missed Sunday Mass once. That’s all, Father.”

Specificity and clarity along with brevity are all hallmarks of a good confession.
In the example given, stating, "I wanted to Kill…, or “I wanted to rape…” are both more specific AND brief than “I wanted to inflict bodily harm”…
I think that you will find this to be true in most cases. The direct, unvarnished, unexcused truth is nearly always more brief and clear than anything else could be.


It’s not a requirement that one’s sins be stated in as few words as possible. If you need to explain in more detail in order to identify the precise sin, then do so.

Maybe the sin could be re-stated this way: “I wanted to beat the guy to a pulp.”

With this I do agree! If I spend too much time being vague or anything else other than DIRECT and to the point, I find my confession gets confusing and I am not sure whether I have confessed all I needed to. I’d much rather take it head on, say what I need to say, melt into the absolution, the go on to do my act of contrition and penance than worry more.

See, in confession, I try not to be like I am here. Babbly :rolleyes:

However, in the example above, the penitent wanted to do neither, he just wanted to inflict severe harm.

OK - Well then the penitent expressed it properly and as someone else already said, if the priest feels he needs more information then he will ask…
In any fevent my basic point stands. A direct statement of the sin with no embelishments is the best way and the most beneficial to the penitant.


Why say “I wanted to inflict bodily harm” if what you really meant was “slap”? Just say “I wanted to slap someone”.

The OP wonders about, I suspect, sexual sins. It is perfectly acceptable to say “I fornicated/masturbated/contracepted/viewed pornography/looked upon another with lust/ harbored sexual fantasies/ had an abortion/ comitted adultery/ etc X number of times.” There is no need to go into deep, graphic details, but simply naming the actions as I did ought not drive a Priest to temptation.

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