Is Scrupulosity a Catholic Problem?


#1

It has always baffeled me how some Catholics, and some confessors, blame scrupulosity totally on the penitent.

But aren’t our strict Catholic ethics themselves a contributing factor to scrupulosity (in the negative sense of the term)?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m against scrupulosity and I support Catholic morals. But, I think we have to see the connection between scrupulosity and the fact that God SEEMS to get pretty easily offended and ready to punish the slightest of sins.

I know I used to be pathetically anxious about each and every sin. If i committed masturbation for example, I’d feel the need to run out to confession right away for fear I’m might die first and be judged!

I look back on such practices now in shame. Such weak minded anxiety, resulting from perceived or even real moral offenses, doesn’t seem to point to or witness to a healthy relationship between God and an individual.

What do you all think abou this?


#2

Scrupulosity is akin to OCD in my opinion. People become consumed with the idea of everything being a sin. They start to see everything in ways that even they know do not make sense.


#3

I agree…with salvation hinging on the correct choice on things concerning church morals, it is no wonder why lots are so worried! I mean, if salvation is all we should be concerned about, one should pray for death right after a good confession, so one will get that salvation.

My confessor calls this being ‘too hard on yourself.’ Life would not be worth living if we lived it as above. If one takes a literalist view of all that is Catholic, scruples are what you end up with.

You may sin in an area of grave matter, but you have to really discern the other requirements for mortal sin and not be too hard on yourself. Get some help discerning from a priest, not a forum member. I was never scrupulous until I started to read the moral theology board! And NO, it’s not my concience talking to me!


#4

Scrupulosity is a lack of trust in God’s mercy and the fear that every little thing is a sin. It isn’t caused by Catholic teaching, because it isn’t Catholic teaching. We are not saved by faith alone but not works alone either. Scrupulosity is forgetting the faith part! That’s not Catholic teaching.


#5

Well, I don’t think it’s “weak minded” or a failing to go promptly to confession when you commit a mortal sin (assuming it met all the requirements for mortal sin, of course). But repentence is supposed to be a peaceful thing. That sounds so bizarre to me because I am scrupulous, intellectually I know it’s true, emotionally it might as well be in another language. I’m sure having struggled with this, you understand.

But anyway, as far as your actual question, I was scrupulous when I was still a Baptist. I’m not sure how much farther “once saved, always saved” can get from “confess your mortal sins or go to hell” so I would assume Catholic ethics was not the culprit. :smiley:

There is such a thing as “religious OCD.” If you look up posts on Protestant-run forums about this topic under that name, you would see clearly they are talking about scruples despite coming from an often very different perspective than Catholics. This beast attacks the faithful, no matter the faith.


#6

What is the problem with rushing to confession after you have committed a mortal sin? What is the problem with feeling guilty for having offended God when you sin? the Roman Catholic Church teaches us that when we sin, we offend God…Who is Jesus…Who died on the Cross after suffering terribly to pay the price for our sins. If we offend Him, should we not rush out to apologize to Him in the best possible way for humans to do so…by going to Confession?

Rushing to Confession after committing a mortal sin is the wise thing to do! If you have not committed a mortal sin, then rushing to Confession for any tiny little infraction would be scrupulosity.

From the above threads, it seems as though you expect God to just “understand” that at some point in the future you plan to go to Confession, and assume that you will not die before He gets you there. That, my friend is the sin of presumption. Presuming that God will not let you die in the state of mortal sin…or that you will not perish because of your choice to commit the mortal sin and not hurry to get to Confession…is to sin in that you believe that God’s word is not true. He tells us quite clearly that death will come like a thief in the night…and to live like we expect it to. Therefore, we should do all that we can to get to Confession as quickly as we can if we commit a mortal sin.


#7

You almost make it sound as if scrupulosity is a sin, which is certainly not Catholic teaching. It’s also irresponsible, as such a statement can cause excruciating mental anguish to a scrupulous person who doesn’t realize that you’re wrong.

As someone who suffers from scrupulosity (although I’m getting a little better) I can tell you that it has nothing to do with a lack of trust in God’s mercy. It is not God that we do not trust, but ourselves. For example, it is common for a scrupulous person to analyze his confession after the fact. Often, he will realize something that he forgot to confess, or notice something irregular in the confession, and begin to doubt that he made a sincere confession. He will ultimately come to the conclusion that he lied and retroactively attribute a sacrilegious confession to himself. He will then feel the need to reconfess everything, in addition to the sacrilege. This will happen each and every time he goes to confession. He perfectly trusts God, but doubts himself.

That’s just one example. Scrupulosity is a real mental condition closely related to OCD. It’s a cross, not a lack of faith.


#8

I don’t remember who made this quote, but it seems appropriate:

Goes very similarly to this - ‘Catholicism is the hardest religion in the world to live in, but the safest religion in the world to die in’.

It shows the other side of the coin - that those ‘rules and regulations’ which sometimes cause us trouble can at other times, if we embrace them as God intends, be a real source of comfort in times of uncertainty and struggle as well.


#9

You know, I never even heard of the word “scrupulosity” until I started reading the CAF.


#10

True Dat!! Most clergy who are trained in the matters of moral theology are much more trained at helping people through their sinful natures and to help the realize the good in themselves rather than the evil acts they may sometimes perform. At CAF, the evil is emphasized at the expense of the good, and that can make someone with a sensitive concience go haywire.


#11

Thank you for correcting her. You did it with tact and it was informative. I’m basically like you are. I am scrupulous over some things, and it’s not a lack of faith in God that puts me there in that condition or anxiety, it’s my own doubting myself. The example you give of the confession process is similar to how it makes me feel. I feel guilty if I leave something out unintentionally, but remember it later.

With mortal sins, like masturbation, for example, it’s clear cut and there’s nothing to be scrupulous with about a sin like that, unless you are addicted to it, you have fetishes/addictions which make it harder to resist, etc. At one time I was like that, so I felt less scrupulous about it because I KNEW that I had less control and it was less voluntary and was force of habit and the fetishes made it worse. But now that I’ve made huge progress and many of these pitfalls to sin are now eliminated from my life, I feel more scrupulous when I do fall again, because you’d think that I’d be stronger, and in actuality, I feel weaker because with more support and less temptation it still happens just much less frequently and with less severity. If I had a psychologist, he would probably say this is great progress and nothing to be ashamed about. But he’s only thinking of my mental faculties, not my spiritual life and immortal soul. Ultimately, God is the one taking care of me.

The devil and his demons also have their hand in scrupulosity as well, and rather than it being a “Catholic problem” as the OP states, it’s really spiritual warfare is what it is. It’s spiritual warfare, and it afflicts everyone from any religion or faith. What makes the warfare worse, as it gives the enemy more ammunition, is when we are scrupulous. He cannot make us scrupulous, but he can suggest it to us, make us doubt, and make it worse. So, I also think what alot of people think is depression, guilt, and scrupulous behavior are also demonic attacks or influenced by demonic attacks, which is why we need to pray to the Holy Angels more and more and have devotions them, our guardian angel, and Saint Michael in particular, so that they can help calm and sooth our souls, rouse our confidence, and help us find some balance so when scrupulosity strikes, whether the devil is behind it or not (he’s not always, since he figures the person will torture themselves enough with their own afflictions that he doesn’t have to lift a finger), we’ll have some relief outside of confession, mass, prayer and perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament.

You’re right to compare scrupulosity to an OCD, and I think that’s a fair way to look at it.

The plus side to all of this is that it’s completely reversible. When we’ve gotten to a point where it’s not as troublesome, the demonic aspect will be even more apparent, and we’ll be able to combat it better, because we’ll have the weight of the normal condition (or abnormal as it were) of scrupulosity lifted and non-existant to such a degree that we’ll be aware when it’s own minds doubting and when it’s the devil messing around. When we catch him red-handed like that, we know to pray more especially in those moments, since his diversions aren’t working and we’re more aware of his presence and know what we should and need to do- pray.


#12

<What is the problem with rushing to confession after you have committed a mortal sin?>

It’s not going to confess a mortal sin that’s the problem. You didn’t get the gist of my post. It’s the obsessive idea that God is waiting to strike you with lightening for every little fault.

It’s the idea that God is a petty dictator concerned not about you but simply about control over your life. And, if you’re in the least bit unruly, he gets really angry b/c he’s so insecure about his power.

I know this is a false image of God. However, I can understand how we Catholics and Christians can develop such and idea because it’s easy to focus on the negative (ie. avoid sin) vs. the positive (ie. love your neighbor).

<If you have not committed a mortal sin, then rushing to Confession for any tiny little infraction would be scrupulosity.>

I would say even if you commit a mortal sin, you shouldn’t run to confession. Just go at your normal two week or monthly interval and confess it then. There is no teaching that you have to go to confession right after you commit a mortal sin. I would think that the intention to confess the mortal sin within a reasonable time is enough.

Whatever the case maybe, it’s the attitude you take into confession that concerns me. If you are really, really afraid, then there’s a mental problem.

<From the above threads, it seems as though you expect God to just “understand” that at some point in the future you plan to go to Confession, and assume that you will not die before He gets you there. That, my friend is the sin of presumption.>

I think you have a legalistic view of confession. I’m not talking about a casual attitude after mortal sin. If people know they commit a mortal sin, they don’t have a casual attitude by definition. It’s not at all presumption for a person who commits a mortal sin on Monday to wait until their regular confession time on Saturday.

<Therefore, we should do all that we can to get to Confession as quickly as we can if we commit a mortal sin.>

I disagree and I don’t think the Church requires what you suggest. You go confess at your regularly scheduled time. Otherwise, someone in habitual mortal sin should be confessing every day. Of course, that’s absurd.


#13

This is a good point overall. Satan works on individual doubt, and one of his most effective flaming arrows is to transform awareness of sin to obsession with sin. This leads to self-persecution, self doubt, anxiety, and possibly depression. I’ve been down that path before.

I’d add one more tool to the spiritual warfare toolbox, and IMO this may possibly be the most important thing. You heard it in the second reading on Sunday – “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend.” ***Every knee ***- that includes Satan and his minions. Many a time when faced with temptation I have cast Satan away from me in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a powerful tool.


#14

Yeah, even he has to acknowledge the power behind the name of Jesus! What a relief!:smiley:


#15

Thank you so much for sharing something which must be very problematic for you. You have explained perfectly the difference between scrupulosity and the wise need of those who have committed mortal sins to rush to confession.
I have had this conversation with others who take God’s mercy and love for granted…even with mortal sins.


#16

I disagree. If you die with a mortal sin on your soul, you go to Hell. Only people who presume that God will not allow them to die before they go to confession when they decide it is time to go will do that. A mortal sin kills God’s grace in the soul. If one is a habitual mortal sinner, he should become close friends with his confessor. Also, the graces recieved from the Sacrament of Reconciliation help us to “sin no more”. And it is better for our souls to recieve the Sacrament of Reconciliation as quickly as is possible to recieve those graces and take away any chance of dieing and going to hell. As I said, Jesus said that death will come like a thief in the night. The person who waits could die in a car accident or drop dead from a heart attack. Would it not be better to have “rushed” to confession in order to be free of that sin before the car accident or heart attack?
Nowhere in the Catechism does it say that when a mortal sin is committed to just wait until your normal confession time.
Rather, for the sake of your soul…rush to confession.
The consequence of sin is death…believe it.


#17

I disagree. If you die with a mortal sin on your soul, you go to Hell.

So you have more authority then the CCC?

If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

Nowhere in the Catechism does it say that when a mortal sin is committed to just wait until your normal confession time.
Rather, for the sake of your soul…rush to confession.
The consequence of sin is death…believe it.

And absolutely NOWHERE in the CCC does it say you must RUSH to confession.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

We also understand, as Catholics, that if someone repents before death, they may be forgiven without confession to a priest. Only God knows what is in the heart of the man about to die.


#18

<Nowhere in the Catechism does it say that when a mortal sin is committed to just wait until your normal confession time.
Rather, for the sake of your soul…rush to confession.
The consequence of sin is death…believe it.>

The point of this thread isn’t so much the time elapsed between a mortal sin and confession.

The point is about the fear and anxiety caused by scruples. If you have any comments on that, I’d appreciate it.

Even so, I know of no directive that requires a person to go to confession right after a mortal sin. Of course, you don’t want to put it off indefinitely. But I know of no teaching that says one must drop everything and go right away, as opposed to going on Saturday, which is when most people go.

I know that what’s ultimately important is contrition and firm purpose of amendment. If by chance you don’t get to confess, but have those two things, you’re ok.


#19

Dwelling on things like the amount of time lapsed between the sin and the Confession can definitely contribute to scrupulosity.

I agree with the poster who stated that scrupulosity looks and feels like a form of OCD, which is considered a personality disorder. It can not be treated or helped with the same approaches that might taken with the average lay-Catholic, who may be somewhat uninformed about their faith. On the contrary, the scrupulous tend to know a lot about their faith and tend to concentrate on the “negative” or “hellfire” aspects of the Bible and CCC.

We have a few posters here who suffer with this and, IMO, it is always best to keep the advise offered limited to “speak to your priest.”


#20

<Dwelling on things like the amount of time lapsed between the sin and the Confession can definitely contribute to scrupulosity.

On the contrary, the scrupulous tend to know a lot about their faith and tend to concentrate on the “negative” or “hellfire” aspects of the Bible and CCC.>

I agree and i think this is ultimately a theological question. How does God react when we sin? How does God relate to us after a sin?

Also, I think it is possible for people to believe that God hates humanity because it is fallen/wounded. Is our concept of nature primarily good, in the sense of creation, or evil, in it’s fallen state.

The theologically correct view, I think, is that God loves human beings b/c he made us. But, our fallen nature and God’s disapproval of sins that we seem to naturally commit can confuse us as to whether he really loves us.

I think that’s why so many people balk at the notion that God is offended by, for example, sexual thoughts. To many people, sexual thoughts are as natural as breathing. Why would a God who created our nature hate something so natural?

Of course, the answer is that such people have no concept of “fallen/wounded” nature and that sexual thoughts CAN be an expresion of fallen nature as much as with nature itself.

But, do I understand people’s confusion? Absolutely.

What do you think?


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