From a reader…
According to canon law, we are obliged to confess our mortal sins in “both kind and number.” Would my sins be absolved if I failed to mention the venial sins in number?
YES! Number, too… for serious sins.
You are not obliged to confess venial sins, though doing so is good and helpful, especially as one proceeds in the spiritual life and overcomes major faults.
If you choose to confess venial sins, sure, go ahead and confess them in kind and number if you wish, although you are not obliged to.
In regard to serious, mortal sins, you are obliged. Why?
If you confess that you “lied”, that might mean that you lied once or that you lied 50 times. The former could be a one-off. The latter means that you have a serious problem as an inveterate liar. There’s a difference.
So, it is smart to confess sins in number, because we learn who we are for the sake of our journey towards our heavenly fatherland.
It is smart, but it is also the law. It is the law, precisely because it is smart and good for us.
In the 1983 Code of Canon Law we read:
Canon 988 – §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all serious sins committed after baptism and not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, for which one is conscious after diligent examination of conscience.
§2. It is to be recommended to the Christian faithful that venial sins also be confessed.
Remember that each sacrament has both matter and form. The matter of the sacrament of penance is the telling of sins.
While we are not obliged to include all sorts of circumstantial information surrounding the sins, we do need to indicate number and/or frequency, by number can change the severity of the sin and indicate to the confessor (and to yourself) where your principle problems are.
Sometimes it will happen that your memory is not clear about the number of times you committed a sin. In that case, just do your best. If you truly cannot recall clearly, that’s okay. Ultra posse nemo tenetur.
Even when your memory is faulty, if you do your best the sins you don’t remember or confess (through no fault of your own) are also indirectly remitted.
However, if you are aware that you should confess sins in both kind and number (or at least give an idea of frequency) and you deliberately avoid indicating number… that’s not good.
A regular, daily examination of conscience will help you in developing the good habits involved in making a good confession.
So, everything, really pry into yourself and then…
GO TO CONFESSION!
And, Fathers! TEACH people about how to make a good confession. And go to confession yourselves! Souls, in including your own, depend on it.