I'm Starting to Panic

Hello anyone who reads this, my first post on these forums. I’ve been lurking for a long time, and mostly looking at the succession of ‘is this a mortal sin’ discussions. You may be sorry to hear that this is one of those, after a fashion.

I have managed to become very scrupulous over the last year or so, and have recently reached such a crisis point that I am doing something about it. In many ways, this crisis has been provoked by learning the distinction between mortal and venial sin; I understand that this can often help with scrupulosity, but in my case it has made my pre-occupation with my own sins more urgent.

I have two problems troubling me at the moment, and I would love to hear your opinions, just to set things in perspective - mostly as to the gravity of these matters.

Firstly, I was in the car with my mum this evening, and spoke of my sorrow at hearing that a homeless man I know was back on the streets. I provided quite thorough details and, whilst in two minds about it, I admitted that he had a certain destructive habit. Could this be a mortal sin, spreading fairly defamatory information? She doesn’t know him and is unlikely to meet him.

Secondly, and more acutely, I ate quite little today, mostly in penance, but had resolved to do so until supper. I had a normal supper, and followed it with a few squares of chocolate and a jelly baby. I didn’t hold this to constitute gluttony, but then went for a second sweet even though I did not feel hungry. At the last minute, I thought it would be less gluttonous to eat something wholesome, so I went from some pesto bread my sister had made. I then thought I would remind myself of what really constituted gluttony, and when it became sinful. Whilst doing this, I happily and freely ate the pesto bread, just as I tried to find out if eating for pleasure could be sinful.

The general consensus seems to be that eating in this circumstance is probably not sinful - correct me if I err here. What I worry about is my apparent lack of conviction in forming my conscience, and lack of concern about sin in this action. I should have sorted out my thoughts about gluttony and mortal sin before eating the extra bread, and even thought this as I did it. I knew that this was sinful, and I consented to eating; is failure to inform one’s conscience always a grave matter?

Thank you for your attention.

Scruples should be discussed with your priest, not with random strangers on the internet. You could receive conflicting opinions, which will only make things worse.

The best thing anyone here can do for you, is to pray for you.

I struggle somewhat with this as you do. Scrupulosity is self-feeding. Every time you feel you do something wrong it adds to your lack of faith in your ability to judge your own actions. Pray and ask that the Holy Spirit will give you the ability to discern your actions properly. Also, read the Catechism on grave matters. They are usually pretty darn serious and malicious.

A priest once told me that if you had to ask if you’ve committed a mortal sin, you probably haven’t.

It is my understanding that there are three requirements for a mortal sin. It must be a grave matter, you must give full consent and have knowledge that it is a grave matter.

Maybe you could ask yourself that if someone came to you and confessed this to you, would you feel like they’ve committed a mortal sin. Scrupulous people will often say no. They reserve harsh judgment only for themselves. I think it can stem also from lack of confidence to control your own actions. If I don’t control myself in little actions, I might do something even worse so I have to beat myself up for every little thing. This can be somewhat Obsessive Compulsive with an overactive imagination. It can also come from a sense of guilt of something for which you have not atoned or confessed or cannot forgive yourself for so your need for “justice” is manifesting itself like this.

Just throwing some stuff out there. Ask God to help you and I would get some reading material on the subject from a good Catholic source.

Good luck and may God grant you pardon and peace!

That is good advice. I only ask because I am a student who has a regular confessor in term time, and I find things less stable in the vacations; I do only have a couple of weeks left before term starts once more, but things have come to a head rather suddenly.

I suppose I was asking if anyone else would feel that eating before researching whether it was sinful to do so or not is grave matter. Of course, I do wonder how far this can be useful - most things can be grave matter, and only I know how I really felt during the action.

And thank you, Casey Cates. I might say it was venial because of the lack of gravity attached to eating just a piece of bread for pleasure, but I wonder if knowingly neglecting to inform oneself on such a matter before acting can be mortal in itself.

Well, I’ve seen people on the forum who have asked, “Is this a sin?” Sometimes, it is. Sometimes, it’s not. He probably said that, because he realizes you have scrupulosity. For most others, that’s probably not a good guideline.

If in doubt, probably best to ask your priest.

Scruples is often the symptom of a really good person trying desperately to do their best for God. However it is a scourge that has to be aggressively treated for your mental health. God is never as judgmental as we presume when we are nit-picking ourselves to death. See a good priest and try not to be so self absorbed in such a critical way. Remember God loves you and will lift you above your concerns.

Eating because the food is pleasant is not the same as gluttony. Bread and candy are both well within normal meal parameters.

Remember the Multiplication of the Loaves: “And they all ate, and had their fill.”

And in Leviticus: “And the ground may yield you its fruits, of which you may eat your fill…”

And in Exodus: “in the morning you shall have your fill of bread: and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”

So be happy. The Lord feeds us all, just as He feeds the rest of Earth’s creatures. He is a Lord of bounty and generosity; He does not grudge you the odd jellybaby. Taste and see that the Lord is good: tasty bread, and honey sweetness. In the Fathers’ old application of Samson’s riddle, the Lord is the ultimate example of “Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.” He is as sweet as He is mighty.

“Eat honey, my son, because it is good,
and the honeycomb most sweet to your throat.
Sweet also is the doctrine of wisdom to your soul,
which when you have found, you shall have hope in the end,
and your hope shall not perish.”

Now don’t worry a bit; just go see your priest for help. Jesus loves you.

Doubt it.

Perlesvaus, if you have a regular confessor who knows you well, has he given you any standing instructions to deal with such situations?

If he hasn’t, you should ask him in your next confession for such guidance.

If he has, then do what he has told you to do.

Typically, a scrupulous person may be advised not to rush to confession for doubtful mortal sins. They may be instructed to stick to monthly (or whatever frequency) confession and not to second guess every doubtful sin in the meantime.

Whatever approach you and your confessor take, don’t come here asking strangers to determine these issues. You’ll only feed your scruples and drive yourself to further doubt. And no one here has the God-given authority to determine these issues for you; that is for your confessor.

When does enjoying a certain food cross the line into becoming gluttony?

Looking at other discussions, it would seem that it is gluttony when you do yourself harm from eating, you deprive others of food, you refuse to eat something which is not quite to your demanding taste, or you are not willing to do without the gift of food if God would have it so (i.e. you hold it as a right, rather than a gift). I found someone suggest that ex genere suo, by its nature, eating too much cannot be a mortal sin. But I don’t know nearly enough to grasp that.

My concern about mortal sin was really that I suspended informing my conscience until I had already carried out the act; it was not sinful, but I didn’t seem to care enough whether it was or not. But from the advice of you, my mother, and my own sense, it does seem like a pretty bad idea to try and go to confession for the second time in two days. I’m going to stop trying to solve this with the internet (I have found the commandments of the scrupulous, and they help), and instead seek psychological help and speak seriously to my regular confessor when term starts in a couple of weeks. I suppose I just have a base fear of receiving communion after this without confessing first.

Take comfort in the fact that you CANNOT commit a serious sin by accident or oversight.

Ask yourself: Was this maybe because you already know yourself and that you are scrupulous, and were actually just trying to find confirmation for something you already FELT IN YOUR HEART - that it was not a sin?

(long struggle with scrupulosity myself, and I can really understand where you’re coming from… ouch it hurts where our thoughts may go…)

You mentioned about eating a piece or two of candy after meals as disturbing in some way.

When I eat a meal, I sometimes go to the movies and eat a large amount of popcorn and then some candy and just think how good the Lord has just been to me.

There is a time for peace and a time for war.
A time for eating and a time for fasting.
A time for speaking and a time for silence.
A time for joy and a time for sadness.

The above is taken from the Old testament, and there are more phrases like that.

So for now, if it dosen’t have “evil” stamped on it, then just thank God for it.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

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