How's a priest know how many prayers it takes for God to forgive you?

In Catholicism there's this ritual where you confess all your sins to a priest and then he figures out how many prayers you need to bang out for God to forgive you. For example he might tell you something like, "Okay, do 6 Hail Mary's, 11 Our Father's and for God's sake stop masturbating so much. Off you go." Are they going by a system or do priests just assign these prayers arbitrarily? I really think it's the latter but if there is a system do you suppose it's like the conversion chart in the back of composition books? How many farthings in one Hail Mary?

And why is prayer being used as a punishment assignment? Doesn't this send out a mixed message? Isn't prayer supposed good or fun or something? If I ever step foot inside a Church again I'm asking these questions. Or not, religion is replete with contradictions. What's one more?

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