Is Scrupulosity a sin of anxiety and worry?

(I submitted the following to the Ask an Apologist Q & A about a week ago. Since it wasn’t addressed I am redirecting it here).

Fr. Vincent Serpa once answered the question: Is scrupulosity a sin? He says no.

Not very long ago, I heard a Catholic theology professor say that scrupulosity is a sin. This was said during class in a discussion about scrupulosity. I believe the question I had asked that gave rise to the discussion was something along the lines of “Why on the one hand are we told not to be scrupulous and on the other hand told that we commit venial sins every day? Scrupulous people are told they see sin where there is no sin … yet it is admitted that we sin all the time.”

I was surprised to hear him say that scrupulosity is a sin. I did not think it was. I reasoned within myself that scrupulosity is something like concupiscence in this regard: it is a tendency, but in-itself not sinful.

However, recently after a Mass I found a stack of ‘Examination of Conscience’ sheets on a table inside the church I was in. I looked it over and saw that “worry” and “anxiety” were listed among “Sins of Pride”.

Scrupulosity is very much bound up with worry and anxiety. What am I to conclude?

Fr. Serpa is right on the money.

Can you imagine if scrupulosity were sinful? That’d be yet ANOTHER sin! We’d NEVER get them out of the confessional! :wink: Gosh! No, it’s a form of obsessive-compulsive, a problem, not a sin.

Fr…Serpa is CORRECT in saying scrupulously is NOT in itself a sin. Here is his answer in its entirety, which I hope is alright to copy and paste (from your link above.) My bolding applied. Please listen to him so you’re not anxious and worried about this matter. God bless you.


Of course not! But this is exactly what a scrupulous person would think. Scrupulosity is a form of obsessive compulsive behavior and is a psychological matter. Such excessive behavior is fed by the fear of going to hell. So the person is constantly reviewing his actions in the extreme for fear of sinning.

I can see why the confessor said what he said. Fifteen minutes of reading sins is definitely excessive, unless the person is doing a general Confession ( i.e., a Confession for all the sins he has so fare committed in this lifetime.) Scrupulous people should never do a general Confession. They cannot afford to go over past sins–although they will very mush want to.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Note the comment of the professor there did *not *say scrupulosity was a sin - but that even Christians commit venial sins daily…

As to anxiety being a sin - is anxiety willed? Chosen?

Sin involves the will. Often the experience of anxiety that likely your meaning - that which one does not want to happen - such does not sound like something one “wills”. But rather something one wants to go away…

I think it best to go with a priest’s answer here rather than a professor’s answer.
For one thing I would say that priests have a great deal more intimate, front line, knowledge of those dealing with scruples.


You know, I think with some people is it akin to OCD. And it is a mental problem. But with others, I think it is a way to boast about how holy you are, or how good you are. When someone comes on here and posts about how "Do they need to go to confession because they accidentally blinked during the Consecration then what they are really saying is that the only sin they may have is that… They are also condemning in a way those of us who do not do things their way.

I have been taught that scrupulosity is a sickness, not a sin. If you will your anxiety or worry (choose to give into your anxiety and worry), then there is culpability, no? If you will to mistrust God and your spiritual director, then their is culpability, no? God bless you.

Some people are just “worry warts.” They can’t help themselves, & are not being that way intentionally. Not a sin but they should get help.

THIS^^^. And it’s getting worse. I’m always amazed at the posts that scold and lecture about confession, and then next day tell the same poster that he or she is being scrupulous. Sometimes I feel like we cultivate that garden pretty well here…:whistle:

But scrupulosity is a sin of EXTREMES. Extreme anxiety and fear of sinning. Fear of eternal death. Fear of not performing up to standards that people set up for themselves, not out of love for God, but out of fear of condemnation.
We should all have a healthy, holy fear of sin. It’s what drives us forward in growth and perfection of our souls. But it’s a journey. We fall, we get up.
Ever see those people who compulsively wash their hands? We can readily see that it doesn’t really help anything.
A wise person said once: *people don’t know how much damage they do to folks when they tell them their confession was invalid. *
It just feeds the scruples.

Very appropriate response, we are on Gods Earth to learn / live / suffer a bit / & enjoy
And not hide under the bed for fear we might see a naked Ankle

As a scrupulous person, this made me laugh… It is so true!! I certainly hope that anxiety is not a sin in itself, or I’m done for!

Scrupulosity is not a sin at all.

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