Confession Q&A, is it helpful?

What I have noticed is that there are hundreds of questions about confession on this board, and many of them are from posters who are asking very specific, seemingly technical questions about the sacrament.

Many people provide thoughtful, sensitive and rational answers to the questions. What I can’t help but notice, is that on occasion, some people provide some rigid, strongly worded ’ this is the absolute and only way it is…’ answers.

I’ve seen examples where the person offers no foundation to back up their rigid response and in some cases, the person is just plain wrong, if even a basic search is conducted on the Internet…the answer is found.

The biggest problem that I see, is that these people asking the question may very well be suffering from OCD or from being scrupulous. Having the poster see 15 or more answers, where there are several responses that are contradictory…I fail to see how that can be helpful. All I see happening is the original poster will be filled with more anxiety, more fear and more stress…over a very technical question regarding the salvation of his / her soul!

I think that confession is being overcomplicated and I myself have trouble believing that concentrating on the technical side and the rules is what people should be doing.

It is supposed to be about being sorry and approaching God for forgiveness, confessing your sins, making a real effort to change your life, receiving absolution, doing penance and then moving on.

It seems easy to get caught up in the details, technicalities, nuances of language, words chosen in articulation of ones confession, ones mindset, what the priest said or did, or didn’t do etc…

Did God our Father intend for our salvation to be lost over a technical error we made, or what a mortal priest said or did incorrectly while we were asking for God to forgive us?

I personally cannot see how these questions and answers offer insight, rather they seem more likely to add anxiety, fear and stress.

I cannot be the only one who does not find the questions or answers helpful to people who may be scrupulous or OCD.

I absoultely agree with your post. I suffer from scrupulocity at times, and my best source of information and comfort regarding my confession questions is in the book Understanding Scrupulocity. Also, the website Scrupulous Anonymous has a tremendous archive of well written articles dealing with scrupulocity, confession, and receiving the eucharist worthily. I would highly encourage anyone, scrupulous or not, to read this book or go to the website and read through the articles. They are very helpful and comforting.

A very good example of advice that I believe isn’t helpful.

I came across a reply among the hundreds of questions where the person replying, clearly believes they are being helpful and they certainly are not being malicious…but I don’t feel that they understand the real problem…if they were to read between the lines of the highly technical question of the OP.

The answer was something along the lines of ’ if you don’t feel relief after a confession, you have to go back.’

What the person replying does not understand…is that the OP probably never feels relief or feels relief for an incredibly short period of time…before the inevitable flood of uncertainty, doubt, anxiety and fear return.

You are right again. We scrupulous persons love to rehash every aspect of our confession, always wondering “did I get it right this time?”

Setitstraigt, I think we should start a thread for the scrupulous. Maybe have a thread on “what NOT to say to a scrupulous person” or some such thing.

Scrupulosity is such a painful disorder, and I really don’t think a lot of people are aware of how painful of a disorder it really is.

I’m not sure that a lot of scrupulous people know that there are others out there who suffer like they do, and know that there IS help and support for them.

For those who do not know, scrupulosity (having a case of “scruples”) means obsessing on the possibility that one has sinned when one clearly has not. I take the last sale item from a store shelf and the person behind me wanted the same thing. Was it a sin not to give it to her because I am a robust young man and she is a little old lady? Of course not. I have a nocturnal emission accompanied by erotic feelings (a wet dream). Human males cannot control this and it is in no way sin.

This is a very rare condition and usually treatable under an experienced spiritual director. Simply being told that something that seems doubtful because of a strict upbrining is not sin usually cures it instantly (sometimes, unfortunately, it over-cures it, so to speak). In others, it might be a sign of a more profound condition such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Without wishing to seem insensitive to those who have a true problem with scrupulosity, the real problem in the greater scheme of things for people who know about this lies with individuals who cut corners, so to speak, and rationalize that what they have done is not sin, but just a case of scruples.

If it makes you feel any better LOTS of Saints suffered from the scruples. Padre Pio really had some problems with it. :o

I don’t often respond to such threads, and when I do it is usually to repeat the classic spiritual counsel that persons who suffer from scrupulostiy–and it really is a suffereing–should find one priest as a confessor, go only to him, and only as often as he recommends, and rely on his advice and spiritual counsel. They should avoid asking questions, especially specific questions about the nature of specific sins, of multiple other priests or persons, however competent and well intentioned. This is a very dangerous practice for such dear souls.

Those who have responded thus far - bravo, you all truly understand the problems associated with this issue. I think that OCD and suffering from being scrupulous may be two different, yet related problems.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas !!! :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Reading this post is quite a relief- glad to know it’s not just me. I have had severe OCD all my life, which has recently taken the form of religious scrupulosity symptoms. Some of the really hard-line stuff that gets said on this board (along with the totally insensitive, uncharitable tones in which it gets said) actually triggers my illness. This isn’t directed at any one person in particular, but: I wish people could be a little more pastoral about the way they choose to dole out spiritual advice. Sometimes, the amount of self-righteous zeal that gets flung around this board can be sufficient to do real, lasting hurt to other members (and, maybe lurkers, too!) A little more comforting and encouragement, and a little less of the endlessly repetitious posting about invalid confessions and the mortal sin status of the slightest little things, could do those of us suffering with these disorders a lot more good.

Surely, it must be one of the acts of mercy to encourage and comfort people like us, rather than actively chance making us worse, just to ensure perfect correctness all the time…

Giovanna, I do understand.

Just a word of advice to the scrupulous people on this board: stay away from thread that discuss hell, and threads like “do you go to hell for having an unconfessed mortal sin on your soul,” and whatnot. I have discovered that all threads are not for me. Some of them can set off an absoulute panic attact that takes days to calm down from. I’m better off on the threads having to do with spirituality, devotions, prayers, and sometimes, politics. I’m learning what I can handle and what I can’t.

Did he? We can know nothing of what passed between him and his confessor, and that is as it should be. There is a difference between scrupulosity on the one hand and sublimation and transference on the other. The last two are, of course, concepts from secular psychology, but empirically they do exist and strike me as characteristics of many who have led truly saintly lives.

I do have a (probably unconscionably voyeuristic) curiosity about what someone like, oh, say, Sister Wendy Beckett has to say in confession, which I assume she practices on a weekly basis. A luminous person who probably committed her last sin when she stole a cookie from the jar at the age of six, she will probably never be a candidate for canonization because she’s not in the mold, so to speak, but if she does not get into heaven I don’t want to be there either. :slight_smile:

What an insightful post…There are triggers all over this forum…I personally have to be careful what I look at and even though I’m new around here and enjoy the forum…I have been impacted by one post in particular that was not only wrong, but was vicious in it’s condemnation.

endlessly repetitious posting about invalid confessions and the mortal sin status of the slightest little things

This forum provides for a nice community, however I agree, these questions and contradictory answers are not healthy.

We should be sorry, confess, receive absolution, do penance and make efforts to change our lives…and not look back over every single word that was exchanged in the confessional.

If a person analyzes the entire confession, they run the risk of allowing doubt to take over and the mind will start playing tricks.

I’m actually a bit worried about hanging around here…right now I feel very good, and I know that inevitably I will be tempted to click on a confession post, read through it and look for any reason to doubt myself and the forgiveness I have already received. Even reading the wrong thing in a post can cause some concern and anxiety.

It comes down to understanding and allot of people do not understand what the OP is going through. When someone uses a 1000 words to ask a technical question about their last confession…there is very little you can write so as to satisfy them…I do not believe that in most cases any technical assistance that someone gives will or can help them.

Giovanna, you said it best, these people need words that:

encourage and comfort people like us

I hear you loud and clear…I hope that if anyone reads this thread, they will abstain from mentioning any details or specific examples of sins or types of worries…you never know what may trigger someone.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit