How to confess impure venial thoughts


#1

How specific do we need to be when confessing impure thoughts that we believe were either temptations, occurred from fear (I have OCD) or that we believe we probably gave parital consent to? I have all three categories this time. I don’t think that any were mortal sins, but I always leave the final judgment to Jesus in my confession. In the past my confessor has said that he thinks confessing just “impure thoughts” is enough, no matter who/what the thoughts are about. However, I have read on the internet that if the thoughts are especially terrible, that you should be more specific (for instance if the thought was about a priest or family member). My thoughts have been all over the place–some terrible–yet as I said above, some I believe were just temptations that I resisted, while others were stronger temptations and I probably gave brief or partial consent. There was one terrible thought that almost caused me not to go to communion; however, I had doubts that it was mortal sin, so I went. Should I be more specific about that one? I almost went to confession this morning, but decided to wait until I am calmer and have decided how to confess these things. Any thoughts?


#2

There is absolutely no obligation to confess venial sins. So if the thoughts were mortal (full knowledge and complete consent) there is no obligation to confess them.

If one does confess them simply say “I had some impure thoughts but I do not think they were mortal or may not have been sins at all and may even be only OCD”. And your regular confessor will know you so after saying that once -in future confession that can be more “brief” if one even confesses such.

Yes confession of venial sins is very very good -but venial sins can be forgiven in many ways and it may even be better in certain cases not to mention them -such as a person with OCD!

OCD thoughts are well OCD thoughts. And confessing them can make things worse. Talk with your confessor.

I knew a person with OCD - those with OCD do not want the thoughts etc. Do not “consent” to such but would like them to go away…

One can simply end your confession of what sins you know you did with “and all the sins of my life especially against such and such virtue”.


#3

To quote Jimmy Akin- Senior Apologist of Catholic Answers:

“Because it is so common, and because the thoughts it generates can be so troubling to people, I am often contacted by people who have this condition, and I’ve read up on it. In persons of faith, OCD tends to cause scrupulosity, being constantly afraid that one is in a state of mortal sin because of the thoughts. However, be assured that the thoughts OCD generates are not sins. We do not have much control over the thoughts that occur to us, and people who have OCD have a quirk in their brain chemistry that makes them more susceptible to such thoughts than others. As you point out, these are not things that you would actually do. They are therefore what psychologists term ego dystonic thoughts, contrary to one’s beliefs and values. As a result, there is not the kind of cooperation of the will needed to make them sinful. In fact, you should not confess these thoughts in the confessional, as focusing on them will tend to reinforce them and exacerbate the condition. You should simply do your best to ignore them. The more you can relax and ignore them, the better you will get.”


#4

More important than the specific object of the thought would be how much you consented to it.

So you don’t confess at all things which passed through your mind and you immediately dismissed them, because there’s no sin.

I would, for example, say:
“I had impure thoughts 7 times. On 3 of those times, I dwelt on the thought for several seconds. The other times, I dismissed it fairly quickly but I did consent to it for a moment.”

The only two times I can think of when it would be prudent to confess the exact nature/object of the thought would be if there were some relationship between you which would cause you a near occasion of sin, because then it might be helpful for the priest to be able to counsel you as to how best to deal with that person. Or if you consistently have fantasies about the same person, that should probably be mentioned.

How ‘terrible’ the thought is in itself is not as important as whether or not you consented to it. There would be a greater sin in lusting after one’s own spouse and really getting carried away with that than in any fleeting thought about a priest or family member which was immediately dismissed.

Just one more piece of advice: try not to dwell on the thoughts afterwards. Once you have dismissed them, they’re gone (except for the examination of conscience and confessing them); you don’t need to constantly berate yourself over what a terrible thought you had and how could you have even considered such a thing etc., that just prolongs the experience. When it’s over, leave it alone.


#5

To quote Jimmy Akin Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers:

"One of the characteristics of OCD is that it generates obsessions, which are recurrent thoughts that one cannot get rid of, that one finds painful, and that are “ego-dystonic.” That is, you feel like they just force their way into your mind unbidden, even though you don’t want them there.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder where part of your mind tries to throw painful thoughts at you in order to increase your stress level. The reason you get recurrent thoughts about sin rather than thoughts about happy things is that these thoughts pain you. That’s what the condition tries to do: Give you painful thoughts.

It is obvious from what you write that you do not want these thoughts, that you hate having them and want desperately to be rid of them.

That’s good!

It shows that these thoughts are ego-dystonic and thus (THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART) they are NOT SINFUL.

Merely having a thought occur to you is not a sin, no matter how bad the thought it. At most, having the thought occur to you is just temptation. It only becomes sin if you endorse it with your will. But the fact that you clearly do not want these thoughts and that you oppose them means that you are not consenting with your will (CERTAINLY not in the fully human way needed to commit a mortal sin)."

And he said:

“When you are in confession, DO NOT attempt to laboriously explain all of the thoughts that you are having. Attempting to do this will reinforce and re-awaken the thoughts. This gives you an excusing cause from making a materially integral confession in regard to the thoughts–which you really don’t need to do anyway since they aren’t sinful since you don’t approve of them, but I know you’ll feel the need to confess them (if you’re Catholic). Here’s how to do that. Say this: “I have obsessive compulsive disorder, which causes me to have thoughts of a sinful nature that I do not want and do not approve of. I wish to confess any slight degree of cooperation of the will I may have given to these thoughts.” And LEAVE IT AT THAT.”

He has also not recommended confessing them as well:

“However, be assured that the thoughts OCD generates are not sins. We do not have much control over the thoughts that occur to us, and people who have OCD have a quirk in their brain chemistry that makes them more susceptible to such thoughts than others. As you point out, these are not things that you would actually do. They are therefore what psychologists term ego dystonic thoughts, contrary to one’s beliefs and values. As a result, there is not the kind of cooperation of the will needed to make them sinful. In fact, you should not confess these thoughts in the confessional, as focusing on them will tend to reinforce them and exacerbate the condition. You should simply do your best to ignore them. The more you can relax and ignore them, the better you will get.”

(We here are not permitted to give advice about medical conditions - and such should come from a medical doctor etc - but what is offered above is from Catholic Answers Senior Apologist and is for the theological- spiritual purpose of the question asked).


#6

Typo!


#7

Thank you, both. Some of the thoughts were indeed unwanted, intrusive thoughts, while others were more tempting and though I WANTED to think about them, I did not want to sin and so prayed and/or tried to think about something else. I feel that partial consent was likely given during some of those struggles. So that’s why I am not totally innocent and want to confess these things. I just didn’t know how specific I should be.


#8

So long as you have no questions that you’ve merely committed a venial sin at worst, I think it would be sufficient to confess dwelling on temptation to lust or impurity x number of times.

We should run from such temptation, not play with it or try to wrestle with it. But if we find ourselves doing so, it is a wonderful thing to confess, but it need not trouble us. Becoming obsessed with wondering about whether or not what you’ve done was a mortal sin – especially in these scenarios – can often lead to playing back the tape, which can lead to more temptation, which can lead to an actual mortal sin.

But yes dwelling on a certain temptation, I would think, is sufficiently detailed language.


#9

Yes, if I had such thoughts, I would be specific about them, and list them separately:

I dwelled on lustful fantasies on several occasions; I dwelled on lustful fantasies about my cousin a further two times.

The reason is that, whilst the above sins all have lust in common, they are in fact two separate types of sin: lust for fornication and lust for incest. We must always confess by type of sin.

However, I must point out that I would only do this if I knew for sure my thoughts were purposely conjured for the sake of pleasure, knowing but not caring that I was indulging in grave sin. If I knew they were venial, I would simply confess dwelling on temptation to lust.


#10

I don’t know for certain that they are venial, but I think they are. I have doubts that they are mortal. Since I am scrupulous, if I have doubts that something is mortal, I usually decide they are probably venial. However, I usually say in my confession, “But I leave the final judgment to God.”


#11

Scrupulous people, I understand, should go to confession *only when they are sure *they’ve committed a mortal sin.

Here is a wonderful article that may help you: mission.liguori.org/newsletters/pdf_archive/november2005sa_web.pdf

One of the things the article will mention is that a person who consents to mortal sin is never unsure of the consent.


#12

Well know you know how :slight_smile:


#13

What your thinking of is that those with scruples are often directed by their confessor not to confess “doubtful sins”.

Confession is a great good (even for venial sins of those with scrupulosity). One ought though to avoid scruples.

(and also for readers - that which might be advised say by a confessor etc for those with scruples - does not necessarily apply to those without. The rule of thumb for those without scrupulosity- can be said to be “confess and note there is doubt” in terms of questions of mortal sin -where there is doubt).


#14

I simply say that I have lusted after someone. If it is really bad, I tell him it is horrible lust. They don’t want to hear the dirty details. They know, and through them Christ knows, and, after all, that is what it is really about, right?


#15

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