A Question About Mortal Sin

I apologize if this is in the wrong forum, I just joined. :slight_smile:

Hello all! I am dealing with scrupulosity, and I was wondering if you wonderful folks here could help me out.

Today, I happened to look at someone at an inappropriate spot. However, I am pretty sure that I did not have lustful thoughts, and I am pretty sure that I was not thinking about that what I was doing might be a mortal sin. I am pretty sure that I only realized this immediately after, and then I started to panic. I do not remember what my intention was, which scares me now. I am worried that my intention was to go and look, but I honestly cannot remember now. Do you think that this was a mortal sin? I am very worried about this now. :frowning:

No, I don’t think so. What you were doing did not have the proper criteria for mortal sin - it was not grave matter (just a look - no intentions) and you did not have full knowledge or even full consent of the will.

Be at peace.

People come here and ask, “is so-and-so a mortal sin?” And the answer is always the same (no matter what so-and-so is). The answer is: maybe.

But, from what you describe, I think the likelihood of mortal sin is remote.

The exact nature of your question is not entirely clear, but let me construct a hypothetical example based on some of the things you said:

Suppose I open a door and, unknown to me, a woman is getting undressed in the room beyond, and I see her nude. Opening a door is not a sinful act. But, if it’s a bedroom or bathroom door, there’s a reasonable chance that someone might be undressed on the other side. We might not KNOW if someone is there, but if we don’t provide adequate warning then some part of us might be hoping someone is.

In this case, opening the door is certainly a sinful act. We knew it was a bedroom door, and we had some hope that someone was behind it. Is it a mortally sinful act? Maybe. It depends on how big of a part of us was hoping to find somebody there.

The door to my study is usually closed (to keep the cats out - they destroy stuff). It’s a study, so there’s no reason why someone should be undressed in there. OK, my example is getting kinda nutty, but suppose somehow I opened the door and there was a naked lady standing there. Forget about the how and why. I’m looking at a naked lady. I see that she is pretty, has a nice body, and is sexually attractive. Am I lusting? And, if I am, is it venial or mortally sinful?

I have no culpability for seeing her naked in the first place. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be culpable for any lust that results.

Noticing that someone is attractive (even sexually attractive) is NOT lust. Lust is what happens AFTER we notice. Do we fantasize? Is it a fleeting thought? That’s probably nothing more than venial sin. Is it a consuming desire? Do we act on it? Now we’re getting into territory where mortal sin is more probable.

It’s the first time I got a question about mortal sin where I felt in good conscious that that there was no way this could be a mortal sin. You were not lusting after this woman. Your first glance happened to be something you would not stare at out of respect for her person.

Thank you and thank you to everyone else who responded. I am sorry if I am annoying, but I am scrupulous. I am pretty sure that I did not have lustful thoughts, so I agree with you. But now, I am starting to doubt myself. But before I was confident that I did not have lustful thoughts, so I will try to be at peace.

Forgive me, but are you absolutely sure that you are scrupulous? That is, has a confessor told you this? If he has, then you should follow his advice. If he hasn’t, then you should find out from one whether he thinks your general psychology strikes him as being scrupulous.

For what it’s worth, the lust question doesn’t strike me as scrupulosity as such, since lust is, according to a trusted priest friend of mine, a rather massive gray area. But my understanding—again, for what it’s worth, which ain’t much—is that, so long as you are actively resisting the temptation in some way, then you have not given full consent.

In terms of worrying about intentions: if we actually **intend to commit a sin dealing with lust, it’s kind of hard to stop once we’ve made that decision. I’m pretty sure that you would know if you intended this, and I’m pretty sure you’d have to exercise an incredible amount of self-restraint to stop yourself. I don’t think you’d forget.
**
BUT
… please go to your confessor with these sorts of things, as none of us are qualified to truly answer this for you.

When you have a problem like this, I or he or she or someone else can tell you whatever it is we can think of. But we have absolutely no authority to **bind **you to our opinion. A priest does, and his word on the matter, so long as it’s not manifestly evil, will give you true peace of mind: you can have a morally sound reason to submit yourself to his judgment.

… and regular confession, and asking these sorts of questions of confessors, is precisely how a good and solid conscience can be formed.

Thank you for your kind words! I am pretty sure I am scrupulous, as I was emailing a priest once and he stated that I do sound scrupulous. I worry constantly about many things, such as going to Hell, committing/being in a state of mortal sin, and sometimes my prayers have to be perfect. So I am pretty confident that it is scrupulosity.

Then I would humbly recommend you actually go to a confessor, and confirm this suspicion. Moreover, the priest can judge and tell you how often he thinks you should go to confession, and insist you not go more frequently unless you are absolutely positive that you’ve sinned gravely.

That really should be move number one with regard to scrupulosity, IMO. If you’ve not done this, it’s essential that you do.

You ask whether others think what you did was a mortal sin but you yourself cannot recall what your intention was when you did it? If it were me and I were concerned about it, I’m pretty sure it would mean I had a guilty conscience. But in this instance there is for you the added issue of scrupulously, though this too is uncertain.

If you were to confess whatever it was that you did (and this is far from clear), what would you say? I can’t see how anyone else could answer that for you from what you have revealed.

So, given your own uncertainty here, I humbly second the opinion that you ought to discuss both the incident and the issue of scrupulously with a confessor.

Without getting here into the question

I will re-post an older post of mine.

A person struggles with scruples - what ought they do?

A person with scrupulosity --ought to have a* “regular confessor” who can direct them --and even give them some general principles* to follow -to apply (principles for them due to their particular scruples -they are usually not for those with a normal conscience).

Thus with their direction they can “dismiss scruples” (in the older language despise them) - “act against them”.

Scruples are to be dismissed ~ not argued with.

To borrow and image from a Carthusian from centuries ago: Scruples *are like a barking dog or a hissing goose -one does not stop to argue with a barking dog or a hissing goose does one? * No one keeps walking.

Such ‘obedience’ to a regular confessor who knows of ones scruples (except in what is manifest sin - such as if he told them it was ok to murder someone or something certain like that) is key. Such is the age old practice.

Also counseling -(especially if one also has OCD) could be helpful depending on the case -but one would want to look for a counselor who can assist one in following the Churches Teachings - not go contrary to them (I have heard CA staff mention catholictherapists.com/)

Here was a not too long ago post from Jimmy Akin of CA that I saw in the Register and saved for those who struggle with such.

ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/6-tools-for-the-scrupulous

I think this website would help you: mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupulosity.htm

The second bolded statement would be especially helpful. Unless you clearly consented to a grave action and you clearly knew it was grave, please do your best to be at peace. Ask Saint Alphonsus to help you; he had scruples, too.

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