I’m over at scborromeo.org/confess.htm completing a formal examination of conscience for the Advent penance service which my parish is having tomorrow night, and during the process of the examination, my suspicions are confirmed: the examination of conscience leads to scrupulosity. One moment, good, pious Catholics talk about the cross of Christ, how we’ve been washed in his blood, and how we should rely upon his mercy – and then the next moment we’re being asked, “Did I give time to God each day in prayer?” “Did I fail to contribute to the support of the Church?” etc.
For example, one question which this site asks is:
"Did I disobey or disrespect my parents or legitimate superiors? " – And I’m thinking, “Well, the other day my mother, who is encouraging me to eat more healthy, told me not to eat too fatteningly, and here lately I’ve been eating chips, sweets, and drinking Cokes. Yes, I’ve sinned against this commandment.”
“Did I neglect to give good religious example to my family?” – And I’m thinking, "I’m sure I have. I guess I’ll just confess, “Forgive me, I’ve neglected to always give a good religious example to my family.”
“Did I give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay?” – And I’ve confessed this before because the examination of conscience recommends it if you haven’t, but my case comes with the strict caveat from my manager, “I don’t care what you do so long as the work gets done.” I confessed it. My priest asked me, “Is the work getting done?” I said, “Yes.” He looked at me confused and said, “Then what’s the problem?” The examination of conscience is making me scrupulous, that’s what.
The other day, listening to a priest on Ave Maria Radio, he was discussing how some people come to confession only twice a year and have nothing to say – so he asks, “Have you loved God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength?” But if I were to confess that, I don’t know a single priest who wouldn’t immediately think that I was not only being outrageously scrupulous but a bit too hard on myself.
I know there’s a balance, and thank God I’m beginning to see it for myself, but this exists – and it exists not only because the examination of conscience can make a person extremely paranoid, but because we’re told by our priests during homilies that we’re not confessing enough. Something’s gotta give.