When you confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you are required to mention all of your mortal sins in both “number and kind”. You frequently hear this expression when reading guides to confession, but rarely is it explained. Most people who write these guides are very familiar with confession, and they likely take for granted that the reader knows what “in number and kind” means.

Kinds or Types of Sins

If you are unfamiliar with the Sacrament of Penance, a question naturally arises around the “kinds” of sins. What are the kinds of sins? Should I use the 10 commandments as a guide? What about the 7 deadly sins? How specific should the “kinds” of sins be?

Take for example being disobedient to your parents. You could confess 5 transgressions against the 4th commandment. If you do this, and your priest is actively engaged in helping you, which he should be, he will probably ask you to be more specific. You may wonder why this is. After all, “Isn’t it enough to mention my sins in number and kind”?

The simple answer is, no. The reason is that in sinning, we rarely find that our sins fit nicely under predefined categories. Expanding on the sin of disobedience, the circumstances make all the difference. If for example, your parents told you not to do drugs, and you disobeyed them, then you not only broke the 4th commandment, which requires obedience to your parents, but you also harmed your body by doing drugs, which is a sin against the 5th commandment. The priest can identify patterns in your behavior which he can then use to help you avoid those sins in the future. You may view the sins as disobedience, but doing drugs could possibly indicate a self-destructive pattern in your behavior.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say that you have trouble with stealing things. Simply confessing that you stole 5 times doesn’t really help the priest understand the problem. If you stole 5 candy bars from a store, the gravity of the sin is relatively small, likely a venial sin. If you stole a car 5 times, or you took $100 from a person living paycheck-to-paycheck on 5 different occasions, then the sin is likely of grave matter, and would probably be a mortal sin in most circumstances.

People often find that they commit the same sins over and over. The situations in our lives present opportunities for us to hurt others and our relationship with God frequently. These are called “occasions of sin”. If you work in a jewelry shop, you may be tempted to sin by stealing gold rings. If you walk past an adult video store on your way to work, you may be tempted to go in and look around. If you work overnight hours, you may be tempted to sleep all day on Sunday, missing mass each week. These sins form patterns, which we may fall into repeatedly.

When confessing sins “in kind” it is best to be specific about the sins and describe any important circumstances that may affect either the severity of the sin or help the priest understand why you are committing these sins repeatedly.

Confessing Your Mortal Sins “In Number”

Once you have identified the “kinds” of sins you commit, the next step is to keep track of the times you have committed them. Why should you confess the number of times you have committed a sin? The answer has 2 parts: 1) it helps the priest understand how attached you are to the sin, and 2) it helps you avoid the sin in the future by bringing the frequency with which you commit the sin into your consciousness. We may not realize how much we sin until we actually keep track.

The next logical question is “What happens if I don’t remember how many times I sinned?” If this applies to you, do not worry too much about it. Just do your best. If you don’t have an accurate count, you can tell the priest roughly how often you commit the sin. If you missed Sunday mass, is it something that you do every week, or a couple times a month? Did you only do it once or twice? In general, just do your best in conveying to the priest how big of a problem it is in your life. When you commit sins in the future, try to keep at least a rough count of how many times you have committed the sin so you are prepared for your next confession, you can reflect on them, and the priest can help you move away from them.

Other Articles You May Like:

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience
How to Make a Good Catholic Confession
What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)
What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)
Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)