Does "you may not act with doubtful conscience" apply to scrupulous people?


I know that the general rule is that someone should not act when in doubtful conscience.
But, does it apply to the scrupulous?

and does it apply just to actions or thoughts too?

No absolutely not. In fact to get better you will often need to act against the doubt.

You are to consider something a sin only if you are as certain of it as you are the 2+2=4.

And even for people for normal conscience I don’t even buy that principle completely. Very often situations are nuanced that not everything can be totally resolved. And so sometimes someone will have to act against a doubtful conscience and just do it with prayer and good faith. Otherwise when taken too far this can paralyze people.


Please take that to the priest who helps you with your scruples. Strangers on the internet can’t help you.


I absolutely agree. Scrupulous people have constant and irrational doubts and these must be pushed aside. Even the old moral manuals have a different standard on “acting with a doubtful conscience” for people prone to scrupulosity – and that is that they should act against scruples.

Even a person with a “well formed conscience” has to face “gray areas” where right and wrong are not black and white and will face doubts which is the better course of action. Many times people do not have the luxury of checking an early 20th century moral theology manual or asking their pastor (and asking 2 different Priests might get 2 different answers anyway!) or even doing an internet search every time a moral doubt comes up either, so they just have to go with their best judgment.


Thanks for your answers…
And I would like to know… whether this quote apply to scrupulous people or not:
"If, after an action, a person doubts about whether the matter was grievous, or about whether he had any realization of its being grave when he
performed the action, then he is not obliged to confess it. However, if the
doubt is about the gravity of the matter, he should find out before he does
the action again. One way would be to ask his confessor, but he is not
obliged to solve the doubt in that precise way, if he can do it legitimately
in some other way. "

A scrupulous person is best following the moral guidance of a regular confessor. That is the classic pastoral approach to scrupulosity. Using other sources, such as this website, is not so healthy. A scrupulant needs an experienced and patient confessor and it is best if they find one Priest to make their confessions to and make these kinds of inquiries of.

Scrupulous people should also probably avoid too much of the pre-Vatican II Moral Theology handbooks (and that—those were mainly meant for Priests and Confessors and those who were theologically trained anyway (most were not meant for lay readers), and the scrupulous can easily get “in a state” and get all kinds of confused. “Did I gravely sin materially but not formally by putting myself in a possible (?) proximate occasion of sin without full knowledge that was grave matter even though I did not actually commit sin X while in that state…does that mean it is formally a venial sin even though it involves the grave matterof putting myself in a voluntary superfluous proximate occasion of sin …and I went against my conscience, so wouldn’t it be formally mortal, but my conscience is scrupulous, thus defective and aren’t I supposed to not trust the judgment of a scrupulous conscience in doubtful matters?.. and was the situation really a proximate occasion of sin in the first place? It might have been more remote. How am I going to explain this in confession? Wait, did I give scandal by being there?..and on and on”

^ A scrupulous person could be up all night trying to wrap their head around that.

It is like a hypochondriac looking at a medical textbook—they would be better off seeing a doctor in person.

The quote you have there seems to be from an article written By Fr. Farraher S.J. in 1956 and is probably meant for Priests and theologians, not lay people in the first place. It is technical and can be confusing, describing differences between the opinions of various moral theologians. Those kind of things are best avoided by the scrupulous. The scrupulous should rely on the advice of their chosen Confessor or spiritual advisor or Pastor and the moral theology articles are best left to them to interpret and apply to your questions.

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