Doubtful Consciences and the "benefit of the doubt"

I need help.

I have become acquainted in years past–in person, through priests, but also elsewhere-- with a certain concept in evaluating one’s conscience. That one “may” or “can” assume the best, if one is in doubt whether one actually gave full consent to a bad thought or inclination; one can simply give oneself the benefit of the doubt. One priest, if I remember rightly, alluded in a general way to a consensus of most theologians.

This parallels, I suppose, an element in charity towards others; that when in doubt, one ought to assume the best about another’s intentions, and not wish to believe evil of him. I know also that there was a saying attributed to St. Padre Pio, which included the remark that one’s first charity is to oneself. The above principle (I guess) might be an application of this.

I would like to ask if anyone can direct me to a) authoritative documents of the Church, or b) the writings of great theologians and spiritual writers that may expound this principle. It would be of immense help to me, I hope, in getting through what seems (and has very long seemed) an impenetrable tangle of the mind in making a right confession, in overcoming what seem to be overwhelming scruples and doubts. I especially would appreciate if there are documents with magisterial authority, so that I can hopefully be guided out of my sufferings by the mind of the Church.

Thank you and God Bless.

I take it you may be dealing with scrupulosity to one degree or another? I don’t know the formal theological principle to which you refer, but I’ve encountered the gist of it in resources I found helpful to my own healing journey from scrupulosity to something resembling a normally-functioning conscience. :wink:

There’s a huge scrupulosity support group here on CAF for starters:

forums.catholic.com/group.php?groupid=454

and then there is Scrupulous Anonymous - mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupanon.htm which has several resources. Maybe your answer is available there - they have a newsletter and a radio call-in show.

Hope this helps - Good luck and God Bless!

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