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Sarah Simpson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question about what is acceptable for a Confession.

  • It's my understanding that Catholics have to confess the number of sins in Confession, like we lied five times, etc., but is it OK to give an average of the number of times, if we don't remember, like we had greed, one to thirty times in a month or I got angry, one to eight times a day. Is this correct?
  • Also, is it okay if I bring a piece of paper to Confession with my sins and read them to the priest since I have a lot of sins?

Last time it took a lot of time to remember all of them! It would save a lot of time and remembering plus I noticed there were a few people in line behind me.


  { What is an acceptable Confession and do my friends have the correct disposition for Confession? }

Paul replied:

Dear Sarah,

Although it is a good practice to confess venial sins in Confession, you only need to number the serious sins you've committed, what the Church would call mortal sins. Since having greed or getting angry are not mortal sins in themselves, if you did not choose to seriously harm someone from your anger or greed, it would not be necessary to remember exact numbers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing down your sins and taking it in to Confession with you.


Sarah replied:

Thanks Paul,

I know boys that I'm friends with that have either omitted or insufficiently confessed the sins against the beautiful virtue of purity, saying, for instance, that they had committed such sins two or three times when it was four or five.

Other boys may have fallen into that sin but, because of shame, never confessed it or did so insufficiently. Others were not truly sorry or sincere in their resolve to avoid it in the future.

There were even some who, rather than examine their conscience, spent their time trying to figure out how best to deceive their confessor. Nevertheless, among them were some whose conduct seems to be good.


Mike replied:


These postings should address most of your original question and follow-up reply:

You said in your follow-up reply:
[They] spent their time trying to figure out how best to deceive their Confessor.

That is plain stupid! While not only being sacrilegious, deceiving the Confessor while in Confession invalidates the sacrament. Any confession has to be done with honesty and sincerity.
Shame is a relatively small part of the penance the penitent goes through to be healed.

1450 "Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction."

1456 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."

Let's look at it a different way. Let's say I have a sharp pain in my heart, when I go to the doctors, if I tell him I have a sharp pain in my knee, will my heart get fixed?

For each specific sin we confess, we also receive special graces not to commit that confessed sin again.

  • Why would anyone go to Confession and purposely lie or deceive the Confessor and still expect they will get spiritually healed?

Your boy friends and their parents have been poorly educated on the Sacrament of Confession.


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