I am finally responding to the pressing need to go to Confession after over a year in mortal sin. It was not just one sin a year ago but soon became a state of not at all consistently trying to avoid mortal sin.
I have dreaded Confession itself for so long. Recently (perhaps in response to prayers I asked my spouse to pray about other issues I knew I needed God’s help with but felt I could not pray well for myself) my great resistance has been reversed.
I chose with full knowledge and consent to enter the state of mortal sin, but it seems clear a huge occasion of sin in the past was a tendency to scruples. It was a large part of why I gave up the effort last year. Despite how sinful I have been, when I put my mind again to avoiding mortal sin, let alone all sin, the scrupulous tendencies are still there. By using the word scrupulous I am not implying I am virtuous or holy “underneath” the mortal sins; it’s just the way my mind/emotions tend to work when I try to make decisions, to evaluate what needs to be done or not to be done. I spend so much time analyzing and doubting the rightness of things that are nowhere on a “list of sins” but that I can imagine being prohibited by application of a general principle. The problems this causes range from taking on significant burdens in important areas that may be unnecessary, to having a million little restrictions that may be unnecessary that don’t mean much individually but add up to making life outside a cloister very difficult for a person who is not cheerfully sacrificing all of these things out of love of God, but fearfully avoiding sin based on out of control doubt. Yet, it could be so easy to use a tendency to scruples to rationalize away even prudent doubt. After being quite sinful for as long as I have, it is even harder to trust my own judgment to resolve a doubt about what is permissible.
In the past I had many doubts about whether I have made a good Confession despite going on and on, sometimes going right back again. For the first one I would have to make, I have been so sinful priests would probably be less bothered by how long I took trying to make sure everything was said properly. I do not want to be inconsiderate but being “concise” often seems just about impossible for me. I do take this into account when choosing where and when I go.
I don’t want to go down the same road of paralysis affecting not only my confidence about the state of my soul even shortly after Confession, but everyday life because of depression/anxiety over decision-making and my relationship with God, and plans made around driving to a place with yet a different priest to confess to, or ASAP because of how often I fear I’ve committed a mortal sin.
I’ve also recently added heightened concern about “occasions of sin.” I think it was something I needed my eyes opened more widely to but the “what ifs” are multiplying and that feeling of paralysis and dread is back. I am horrified at the thought of trying to figure this one out alone with the way I have functioned in the past when confronted with moral uncertainties to be resolved! It is also making me question whether I can have that firm purpose of amendment when the idea of avoiding everything that could conceivably be considered a voluntary near occasion of sin feels overwhelming. I really need counsel with this. The way I am I am probably going to need to get into specifics about my personal life because I have read the general guidelines on occasions of sin enough times that if they could solve the problems they would have.
Other than a priest or other very qualified person I might find, I have no one to consult who is impartial since my spouse could be unconsciously biased toward decisions that make our life easier.
I am so daunted by the idea of finding a priest to be a regular confessor and/or spiritual director. They are legitimately busy people, and I can apparently be exasperating as well as time-consuming. I am also afraid of putting this off because I have felt briefly inspired to change before during this year away, and I really feel like I’ve been at a crossroads lately where taking a turn for the even worse seemed like the only alternative to asking God for forgiveness.
As for professional counseling to help with this, we just can’t afford it right now, and even if we could scrape up the money, even Catholic counseling has not been too helpful in the past, so I am I believe reasonably reluctant to add this to our budget and schedule for the foreseeable future. I am not dismissing out of hand that another try could be helpful but money is huge right now. I recognize the limitations a priest has to “treat” what could come from some kind of brain thing, but when I look for moral guidance from older books I wish it were easier to find that kind of relationship described wherein a confessor learns about you, and gives you direction for applying principles of Church teaching to your own situation that you can follow without worry of sinning by deceiving yourself as to what is permissible.
I don’t know where in earthly terms I can find this help. I have reason to believe a certain priest might be able to absorb a lot of the things I have to confess and ask about without it being a frustrating experience for either of us, but, and anyone with experience with people like me could probably see this coming, I’m wondering if he’s “orthodox” enough to trust. There may be some kind of pride in a sinner like me needing to hear a homily on Humanae Vitae or the like to be sure a priest acceptable to advise me how to stay out of mortal sin, but it doesn’t present itself to me that way, it’s like, “Can you afford to go to a priest for advice who hasn’t provided unassailable evidence that he’s as orthodox as others you are more afraid of?” The most I’ve heard of concern was saying he was “sure” that someone I knew nothing about who’d died was in Heaven, btw. Ugh (at myself.)