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Anonymous Anna wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am an 18-year-old Catholic woman who is single and currently living in California. In my last Confession, I confessed my mortal sins but I didn't say the number of times I committed those sins.

  • Am I forgiven because I knew we should say the number but I didn't know we had to mention this? I didn't say them in a manner that sounded like I only committed them once.
  • I am worried, and I will mention this to the priest in my next Confession, but do I have to repeat my sins with their number at my next Confession?
  • Was my previous Confession valid?
  • Also, with things like hatred or resentment, do you have to count those sort of things like feelings?
  • Finally, is it enough just saying:
    • sometimes
    • often or
    • a few times
    instead of saying the exact number of times we committed a mortal sin?
    At times I may not be able to remember how many times.

I am so worried so please help.

Anonymous Anna

  { If you confess mortals sins in Confession but didn't state the number of times, are you forgiven? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Anna —

Your sins were forgiven and you are correct, we do have to mention the number of times
(or approximate number of times) but only for mortal sins. If by mistake you forget, as you said, just bring this up in your next Confession. If you forget the number of times you committed any mortal sin from your last Confession, just approximate the number.

Like my colleague Eric said in another posting:

Remember that the Confessional is a tribunal of mercy and healing, not of judgment. The point is not to accuse you or impose guilt; the point is to relieve guilt and apply the balm of mercy to sins so that they might be healed.

It will:

  • resolve any unaddressed issue on your mind, and
  • put your mind at peace, which is what Confession is all about.

You said:
Also, with things like hatred or resentment, do you have to count those sort of things like feelings?

I wouldn't say they are feelings, but vices, the opposite of virtues. As I said, mortal sins are the only sin where we have to mention the number of times we committed them.

For a sin to be a mortal sin, it has to be:

  • a serious matter
  • done with full consent of the will and
  • done with serious reflection.

If any one of these criteria is missing, it's a venial sin and you can just mention it once in the Confessional. Some could ask:

  • Why is the Church being such a pain in asking for the number of times we commit a mortal sin?

Let me answer a question, with a question.

  • If an American soldier is brought down by a terrorist in Pakistan resulting in 5 deadly pieces of shrapnel in the soldier, if the doctor removes one piece, will he live?

If you believe you are a scrupulous type of person, I would recommend looking for a spiritual director who is faithful to the teachings of the Church. He would be able to guide you appropriately.

Hope this helps,


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