We are usually taught that when we confess mortal sins in confession, we should confess them in “number and kind”, meaning that we should say what the sins are and how many times we committed them. But how much detail about the sins should we share with the priest? How specific should we be in describing our sins? We don’t want to scandalize our priest, but we also don’t want to make an incomplete confession.
A Trending with Timmerie listener named Maria recently posited this question to Timmerie after she recently went to confession and confessed the sin of partaking in impure acts. The priest responded by asking her where those acts of impurity occurred. Maria said she was taken aback by the priest’s request for further detail about her sins.
She said the question made her more ashamed of her sin in a good way, and she answered because she wanted to make sure she always told the truth, especially in the confessional. However, the incident prompted Maria to think about the balance we should have in the confessional between telling the whole truth and being too explicit, scandalizing our confessor.
“We’ve been taught when we go to confession to ‘give number and kind’. And if the priest needs more details, I think there’s a difference between context and details,” said Timmerie. If we are in confession and we are attempting to skirt around the context of our sins out of embarrassment, then it is well-advised for a priest to ask clarifying questions. It’s not for him to know but for you to realize the gravity of your sins and confess with honest, humble sincerity.
At the same time, priests are human and therefore flawed. While they are acting in persona Christi, they are still capable of inaccurately offering guidance or questions within confession. It is up to us to field these questions and prudentially answer them in completely truthful ways without providing scandalous, offensive details. It is a fine line, but we have a duty to be honest, open, and upfront while, at the same time, protecting our confessor from graphic or salacious descriptions of sin.
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