Does anyone struggle with scrupulosity?


Hello everyone,

I have a HUGE problem with scrupulosity. Before I ever came to believe in God I was a very perfectionistic, borderline OCD person. Even though I’ve conquered most of that, it has now transfered to my faith! :crying:

I analyze everything I do, even my thoughts. I’m constantly afraid of sinning. Sometimes when I am in Church I am afraid to look up at the altar lest I think something bad.

This is very hard and overwhelming for me, and sometimes it seems like not sinning is an impossibility.

I’m in RCIA and can’t wait to go to confession… I think my list of sins is now numbering 20 pages. I can’t wait to unload it all on the priest :smiley: (Okay, maybe not the best attitude to have)

I’m wondering if any of you have this problem… the best illustration of it is probably this: I am very tired and have gone to bed, I will then get up multiple times to write down things that could be sins… sometimes I keep a notepad and pencil on my bedside for this purpose.

Wow, putting it in writing on this board makes it seem really insane.


Well, personally i like to make confession once a week, i can always think of something, so no need to worry yourself, and if you forget some, like me…at the end of ever confession, i say “and forgive me father for sins against you and my neighbor that I am not aware of have fogotten” …

just a suggestion.


Hermione! It is not this complicated. You don’t have to make a 20 page list of sins or wake up during the night to add possible other sins to it. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and assist you in making a good confession, and also ask the help of your guardian angel. When the time comes you will remember what you need to confess and say. I know this is going to be your first confession, but it really is not so bad. By the way, have you been baptized? Are all these sins you are writing down from since that happened?


The biggest problem I have is with things that don’t burden my conscience at all, as in my own judgement they don’t feel sinful anyhow, but may be sinful in the eyes of the Church.

This means sometimes I end up regretting that I did something and resolving not to do that again without really feeling what’s wrong about it.

Therefore, apart from the circumstances of an act, I also tell the priest the state of my mind and the exact way, shape and form of my regret.

As for something closer to classic scrupulosity, sometimes I catch myself using insane culpability extension for the effects of an act. After all, Jesus was not responsible for scandal when Jews and even some disciples were turned off by His command to eat His body and drink His blood, right? Blessed Virgin Mary isn’t responsible for any of the thoughts people might have regarding the circumstances of Jesus’s conception, right? But I always have a huge trouble drawing the line for ordinary mortals, myself included. The official construction of the sin of scandal not being obvious and clear doesn’t help, either.

On the other hand, sometimes I probably end up being lax on acts for which the actor isn’t feeling guilty. For example, I will bow to the Church’s magisterium authority, but I won’t follow the majority consensus of even major theologists even if I happen to disagree with them on important moral matters.

In practical everyday life, I have problems with stuff like:

  • making a mortal sin of French kissing (not saying it can’t make on occasion)
  • demanding spouses to follow through up to intercourse if they happen to have a sexual thought while kissing or hugging, especially under the penalty of mortal sin
  • not making a sin of non-exclusive dating if developing romantic feelings for multiple persons is involved, or if romantic kissing/hugging/flirting/sweet-talking is involved
  • making a (mortal) sin of every orgasm that happens for a spouse with relation to the other spouse but outside of full intercourse
  • suggesting not to investigate the validty of a marriage without suggesting convalidation (enter fornication)
  • trying to make a sin of strong emotional/spiritual bonds between people (of course, I have a problem with anything which is romantic and isn’t exclusive - and I have a problem with not making a sin of it)

I don’t believe there is anything infallible to back the above, therefore I don’t feel obligated to feel about those the same way as even some theologists and clergy feel about it. Of course, anyone is free and welcome to try to show me how I am wrong.

Myself having some qualifications for adjudicating secular law issues and doing that routinely in my studies according to my conscience doesn’t really help me to agree with a moral judgement I don’t feel to be reasonable.

See? Not only for you are things less than simple.


You know, I have on occasion gone to Confession and taken a little card just to remind me of the 4-5 sins I planned to confess (I usually examine my conscience etc. at home before I go). I am so humbled by the experience I have found I might esily forget my own name :o so it helps keep my mind at ease.

One time I actually went to Confession at a Church I had not been at before, I went into the confessional, using my little note card, and imagine my FEAR when I saw HOW UNBELIEVEABLY DARK it was inside! I couldn’t see my finger one inch from my eyes.

So for the three to five minutes I silently waited my turn, I prayed to the Holy Spirit to either get a light turned on or make my eyes strong so I could see the card. It worked, a little light seeped through from the Priests’ area :thumbsup:


Chevalier, I agree with you on the “relations” with a spouse. I have always wondered too if I HAVE to believe in those things to be in good Catholic standing. I don’t know. Like you, I don’t know that they are not infallibly taught therefore we are free to make our own opinion?

Jesus knows your heart. He does not expect us to remember or write down EVERY single sinful deed we commit. Relax in his love and forgiveness.


[quote=chevalier]The biggest problem I have is with things that don’t burden my conscience at all, as in my own judgement they don’t feel sinful anyhow, but may be sinful in the eyes of the Church.

What you have just described is not a scrupulous conscience, but a lax conscience. These are very, very different situations.


Hermione is very scrupulous. She thinks things that aren’t or may be sins are definitely sins, and she worries that almost any sin can be a mortal sin.

As an example, she was talking to someone and told him that she’d go for a walk at a later date because it was too dark when he asked; however, she told me that that wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to go for a walk and she wound up going back to the person and correcting the statement because she doesn’t “want to go to hell” over something like that. So, as you can see, she thinks it’s better to be scrupulous because it has a greater chance of saving her from hell.

As she said, she’s also had many obsessive tendencies in her lifetime, and this, I think, is merely a manifestation of her obsessiveness. It’s very detrimental to her sometimes, because she can spend all day obsessing over and feeling bad about something that isn’t even a sin! Any advice, suggestions of things she can read, etc., would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:


[quote=Shepard]Chevalier, I agree with you on the “relations” with a spouse. I have always wondered too if I HAVE to believe in those things to be in good Catholic standing. I don’t know. Like you, I don’t know that they are not infallibly taught therefore we are free to make our own opinion?


Just so that both of you “know”, the Church’s teachings on sexual morality are infallible as taught by the ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Which means that since the Church has always universally and constantly expressed these moral principles they are thereby infallible. That is the ordinary Magisterium; the extraordinary Magisterium is when the Pope speaks ex-cathedra.


Hello Hermione,

I think that I suffer from a milder version of the scrupulosity that you describe. For me, it is hard to know sometimes the difference between mortal and venial sin. I worry that I will be offending Christ by receiving the Eucharist. What if I have a sinful thought right before receiving? I am joining the Church this Easter.

What makes it worse is that I don’t have any priests here who I can trust to go to for advice. I have heard from priests here that certain things are ok that I KNOW are mortally sinful since they have been proclaimed so by the Catholic Church (eg. it’s ok for practicing homosexuals and divorced and remarried people to receive communion while in sin. I guess they don’t think those people are in sin). So how can I trust their guidance in other things?

I too have wondered whether the Catechism is infallible, and I Asked an Apologist here but they never answered. I also have this sense that if something’s not infallible I’m not sure if I can trust it.

I have always struggled with worry about sinning. Matthew 6 talks about not worrying and in fact that is what I took my username from. Becoming Catholic has made some things easier since there are clear, infallible teachings on certain issues. But there are still many things in life that are not addressed.

God bless,


it is not supposed to be that hard

#12 John of the Cross gives a very good answer to this question in one of his letters to a nun suffering from scruples:

	  **Letter 20** 		  

	  [To a discalced Carmelite nun suffering 		  from scruples 
	  Shortly before Pentecost, 1590] 		  

[left] Jesus, Mary.
[left] In these days try to keep interiorly occupied with a desire for the coming of the Holy Spirit and on the feast and afterward with his continual presence. Let your care and esteem for this be so great that nothing else will matter to you or receive your attention, whether it may concern some affliction or some other disturbing memories. And if there be faults in the house during these days, pass over them for love of the Holy Spirit and of what you owe to the peace and quietude of the soul in which he is pleased to dwell.
[left] If you could put an end to your scruples, I think it would be better for your quietude of soul not to confess during these days. But when you do confess, you should do so in this manner:
[left] In regard to thoughts and imaginings (whether they concern judgments, or other inordinate objects or representations, or any other motions) that occur without being desired or accepted or deliberately adverted to: Do not confess them or pay attention to them or worry about them. It is better to forget them no matter how much they afflict the soul. At most you can mention in general any omission or remissness as regards the purity and perfection you ought to have in the interior faculties: memory, intellect, and will.
[left] In regard to words: Confess any want of caution in speaking with truthfulness and rectitude, out of necessity, and with purity of intention.
[left] In regard to deeds: Confess any lack of the proper and only motive—God alone without any other concern.1]
[left] By such a confession you can be content and need not tell any other particular thing, however much it may battle against you. Receive Communion on Pentecost in addition to those days on which you usually receive.
[left] When something distasteful or unpleasant comes your way, remember Christ crucified and be silent.
[left] Live in faith and hope, even though you are in darkness, because it is in these darknesses that God protects the soul.
[left] Cast your care on God, for he watches over you and will not forget you. Do not think that he leaves you alone; that would be an affront to him.
[left] Read, pray, rejoice in God, both your good and your salvation. May he grant you this good and this salvation and conserve it all until the day of eternity. Amen. Amen.
**Fray John of the Cross


I too have struggled with scrupulosity my entire adult life. For me it is not constant, only occassional. But I have a glimpse of the living hell some people go through their entire life.

Scrupulosity is very real, and it’s hard for normal folks to understand this. Fr. Santa wrote a great book called “Understanding Scrupulosity” which helped me greatly. The most consistent piece of advice is to find a regular confessor. The truly scrupulous are literally incapable of trusting their conscience, and so they need to transfer their conscience to their confessor, and then OBEY HIM. If he tells you to go to communion, you go, even if you feel unworthy. Do not trust your feelings. Trust your confessor.

Find the most faithful, orthodox priest you can, preferably one who can be a “strong hand”. Don’t pick a “softie” because you’ll end up doubting him too. Try to find one with some experience with scrupulous people. Avoid the temptation to go to confession every few days. Tell your confessor of your OCD and religious scrupulosity. Let him be your conscience.

I’m happy to discuss via email if you want. Just post something to that regard.

God Bless.


I also have suffered from OCD/Scrupulosity all of my adult life. It started out quite innocently, but when I was about 30, it hit me with a ton of bricks. Anxiety, panic attacks, the whole ball of wax. I will tell you this quite honestly. There are not a whole lot of priests who are able to help with this. You have to find a good Catholic therapist who uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy (I haven’t found one yet). There are people who do telephone therapy, I haven’t done that either. Right now I am going through the hell of thinking I committed blasphemy, and it is so real, it’s unbelievable. I continue to receive Holy Communion and even asked Jesus to wack me away from the Communion rail this morning, if I am in the state the Mortal Sin. He didn’t. It is complicated and people who have not had the experience have no idea what a person goes through. But, it does get better. You just have to hang in there.

God Bless.


Chevalier, I agree with you on the “relations” with a spouse. I have always wondered too if I HAVE to believe in those things to be in good Catholic standing. I don’t know. Like you, I don’t know that they are not infallibly taught therefore we are free to make our own opinion?

Things taught as the Church’s Magisterium we have to believe and obey. Obeying is obeying, but it’s hard when you are told that you have to believe something is wrong when your conscience tells you it’s right. It’s even harder to believe something is right when your conscience tells you it’s wrong.

As for sexual morality and the Church’s magisterium, I actually don’t believe that the Church’s magisterium gets around to specifics. Adultery and premarital sex is outlawed and so is treating the other person as a means of satisfying our own desires, but that’s about it when it comes to direct bans. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe there is anything infallible on masturbation being allowed for married women with a collateral relation to marital intercourse. And I don’t believe anything infallible has ever been said about any specific act, anyway, although I may be wrong. According to my knowledge, that’s what theologists infer from the magisterium. But theologists aren’t infallible. Especially lay ones.

What you have just described is not a scrupulous conscience, but a lax conscience. These are very, very different situations.

I don’t think so if we consider the whole post. Lax is when you have trouble finding guilt in yourself for things you do and scrupulous is when you are seeing guilt where there is none or less than you think. I don’t think that disagreeing with a popular opinion among theologists counts as a lax conscience. Plus, so much as I fail to see some things as inherently and inevitably sinful, I also have a big big trouble seeing some things as morally neutral - such as masturbation for women after marital intercourse when they don’t get an orgasm from it. I just happen to see wrongness and guilt in all kinds of autoerotism and I happen not to buy the argument that something is sinful because it may lead to something. Is is is and may is may, if you ask me. I don’t think it’s lax when I believe something is sinful while the popular opinion says it isn’t. To me it looks scrupulous rather than lax, at least for this part.

Well, last time I went to confession, the confessor said I was a formalist. Well, but perhaps you are right and I am sort of subconsciously using scrupulous logic to offset a lax conscience. I don’t know. I’m not an expert on this. I just want to repent of all the bad things I’ve done and stay away from sinning more as best I can.

Does anyone know of a test that could be taken online?


I am married to a person who struggles with scrupolosity and it is very difficult.



I don’t suffer from this but I hope I can still make a suggestion.I would place as much as my energy as possible on concentrating on the mercy of God. Develope a special devotion to the chaplet of divine mercy.

13. Then David said to Gad: “I am in dire straits. But I prefer to fall into the hand of the LORD, whose mercy is very great, than into the hands of men.” 1 Chron 21:13

17. They refused to obey and no longer remembered the miracles you had worked for them. They stiffened their necks and turned their heads to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of pardons, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy; you did not forsake them. Neh 9:17

    1. Go and learn the meaning of the words, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." *
      Matt 9:13

I have to go out right now but I’ll pm you later Hermione.


I too, I believe, suffer from scruples from time to time. Not to the degree that our dear sister Hermione implied…but I believe that I do.


Father Santa has something for scrupulosity. A website or online community or something. I know that he has a “rule of thumb” article for those suffering from this condition. I found it EXTREMELY helpful. I’ll try to come back with a link.


Dear Hermione,

I just purchased Father Santa’s book Understanding Scrupulosity from Catholic Answers book shop. I started reading it and was shocked at what he said. I am so very grateful to have this book for reference, especially since I don’t have access to any priests who I could seek for spiritual direction that I could trust.

I think that if the book was not endorsed by trusted sources like Catholic Answers, I too would have difficulty believing that what he said was true.

I did not realize the extent of my scrupulosity – I thought some of these things really were sins. May God deliver us from this torture of the mind! I want to work hard to overcome these struggles.

God bless,

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