Friend is showing symptoms of scrupulosity - Am I enabling?

One of my friends frequently commits a certain mortal sin which consequently often keeps him from receiving Communion. Recently he has begun insisting that he must get to Confession the same day he commits this sin, in order that he may receive Communion the next time he goes to daily Mass, which we frequently go to. I view this behavior as a sign of scrupolosity setting in. Gently, I have reminded him that he doesn’t need to go to Confession immediately, as long as he has a plan to go to Confession regularly. Moreover, I have mentioned that, if we happen to go to a daily Mass before he has gone to Confession, he can just abstain from Communion until the next time he has confessed.

Today, in response to my telling him this, he told me that it “bothers” him that he belongs to a faith where, if he “falls once,” he is “excluded from” the very heart of our faith, which he identifies as receiving Communion. I was unable to take him to Confession immediately today, so he insisted on paying over $30 for a round trip journey with Lyft so that he can make it to Confession before All Souls Mass later today.

But there’s an additional problem with this behavior: his income cannot afford a regular expense of this kind, and moreover he does not have a Lyft-compatible cellphone. I let him use mine, but now I’m wondering if I should have done so. I see this new development as a sharp turn towards serious scrupulosity, and, in the future, assuming he does this again, I am not sure I should let him use my phone to order Lyfts. I wonder if I am just enabling this new, seriously scrupulous and financially irresponsible behavior. I have asked him to talk to a priest about it, but if he keeps it up, should I continue letting him use my phone to spend inordinate amounts of money on Lyft trips for unnecessary quests for immediate absolution? And how should I deal with his new sense of being “bothered” and feeling “excluded” and blaming it on the faith? Any thoughts?

IMO he should be more worried about dying before he makes it to confession than not being able to receive Holy Communion. Dying could exclude you from heaven. I think getting to confession ASAP after committing a mortal sin is a good thing.

If it is an addiction chances are that the sin is not mortal however. He should take that up with a regular confessor who knows him.

You need to have him speak to a priest.

I do think that enabling him to spend lots of money because of his mental illness–and lets be clear this falls into mental illness territory–is wrong.

If I’m reading the Council of Trent correctly, desire for the Sacrament suffices for salvation if you have a plan to get to Confession on a regular basis:

“Whence it is to be taught, that the penitence of a Christian, after his fall, is very different from that at (his) baptism; and that therein are included not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation thereof, or, a contrite and humble heart, but also the sacramental confession of the said sins, at least in desire, and to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution.” (Council of Trent Session 6 Chapter 14, emphasis added)

This is because “the eternal punishment [of hell]…is, together with the guilt, remitted, either by the sacrament, or by the desire of the sacrament.” (ibid.)

This teaching is what prevents me from falling into the same behavior as my friend, and I think it ought to be a subject of frequent reminder for the scrupulous. The practice of regular Confession is sufficient to prevent you from going to hell if you die suddenly before you get to Confession, because the practice of regular Confession manifests the proper disposition of desire for the Sacrament when you are in a state of mortal sin, and this desire is sufficient for salvation. (That said, if you have no plan at all to go to Confession, then you obviously don’t really desire it, so claiming to desire it won’t save you in that case, if you have no plan to actually get to it.)

You need to get your friend to a priest who can talk with him 1 on 1 and determine if this is scruples. Once they talk, then 3 of you can converse on the healthiest response to his behavior.

What really struck me is the way your friend feels so excluded and alone. This is not “of God”. Mortal sin isn’t just something done by accident, and one with mental illness may or may not be able to fully commit a mortal sin.

In the moment, you did the right thing. But I do think you need to work on a more loving response to his scruples going forward…again with teh help of a priest.

  1. I agree that an appointment with a priest may be necessary, and I have advised him accordingly. He assures me that he does not have scrupulosity but he will watch out for some of the symptoms I pointed out to him, such as thinking things are sins if they aren’t, worrying that he is in sin when he isn’t, or feeling the need to confess more and more outside a regular schedule.

  2. I am starting to wonder if perhaps I was given a false impression and he actually was acting quite reasonably; perhaps there was something else going on that I was not aware of, and therefore this was a one-time thing. He assures me it won’t happen regularly.

  3. We are working toward overcoming his vice through several means. His access to the computer is restricted to public locations like the library; he has long since replaced his former smartphone with a “dumb phone;” he has a regular prayer life; he is getting a job this coming week; he has new friends and new social circles in a new city; and we are accountability partners together. He has made notable progress toward overcoming this vice, and I was just worried that the effort might have produced a tendency toward scrupulosity. But I talked with him about it and he’ll be watching out for any more symptoms, and he assures me this won’t happen often. Thank you all for your help.

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