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Anonymous Asker wrote:

Hi, guys —

Just a question about Confession and how specific one must be when confessing to a priest.

  • If someone in their early 20s has impure thoughts towards a 17-year-old:
    • would it be enough for this person to say they had impure/lustful thoughts in Confession, or
    • would they have to mention that these thoughts were towards someone of a younger age?


Anonymous Asker

  { When confessing to our priests, how specific one must be when mentioning our sins? }

Mike replied:

Dear Anonymous Asker,

Since we are not priests, it would be best to ask a priest this question who is known for their faithfulness to the Church. That said, this is my personal view:

First, the penitent should always pray for guidance to the Holy Spirit ahead of time as to what to say inside Confession. We must confess all known mortal sins.

  • What is a mortal sin?

Mortal sin requires:

  1. a knowledge of what you are doing
  2. a knowledge that it is grievously wrong (according to the Church), and
  3. it must be done with full consent of the will.

If one of these is missing, it is not a mortal sin.

We should also mention all known venial sins; sins on a smaller scale that weaken our spiritual life.

One doesn't have to be exact down to the graphical nature of any mortal sin but at the same time, it would be wrong to group several mortal sins under one small phrase.

Due to the fall of Adam, we all struggle with concupiscence but if we fall into actions that are an accomplice to a mortal sin, like visiting no-no websites, we should bring that up as well.

In the specific case mentioned in your e-mail, I would bring up the specifics. The priest has heard everything under the sun, so don't think it is the first time he will have heard it.

Remember, think of confessing your sins like going to a medical doctor to get better.

  • The medical doctor can't fix what afflicts you if you don't tell him where the pain or injury is.
  • The same is true with our Spiritual doctors/priests, our sins, and the effect they have on our soul. We have to tell the priest where we have been spiritually struggling to get spiritual healing in that area.

My colleagues may have a different view but that's my two cents.

Just my two cents,


Paul replied:


Mike's advice is fine to go with.

Personally, I don't think stating the exact age is necessary. Young woman or something similar seems okay to say.

Also, if this thought was not purposely entertained by an act of your free will, it may not even be a sin. Stray thoughts that come into our minds are not voluntary, and hence not sinful. Only when we intentionally derive venereal or other pleasure from them do they become sin.


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