Is scrupulosity sinful?

Such is the age old practice in the Church and is key. The regular confessor may need to direct a penitent even on the matter of confession -but such is still key.

The regular confessor can guide them. Direct them

A regular confessor can guide them. The person with scruples needs such…whatever concern that can be raised the answer will be the same. Such is key.

Some scrupulosity can be a lack of formation. Sure. Such often is cleared up rather quickly.

There can be “transient scruples” such as in the case of new converts or those who have had a deeper conversion. Again such can be more quickly cleared up.

Otherwise scrupulosity can be of various kinds and degrees and I imagine various causes (biological etc)- in some cases a person with OCD for example with be scrupulous as well. As you noted Canonized Saints who where quite well formed - or even masters of Moral Theology -struggled with scruples. The very patron of Moral Theologians for one! Priests and religious can struggle with such as well as rather formed lay persons.

In any cause a kind of “obedience” to a regular confessor who knows of ones scruples and can direct one is the age old practice. Also sound Catholic Counseling may be in order in some cases or medical intervention (such as cases of OCD).

I have been accused of scrupulosity before but i think a lot of people misunderstand the condition. Most of us worry about sinning and the fact that we continue to sin and that is normal. This is not scrupulosity as I understand it.

Scrupulosity I believe is rooted in a misunderstanding of God’s Word of lack or faith as demonstrated when we worry about past sins and future sins to the point that everything else is given lesser importance. It’s characteristics are constant guilt and worrying which of course is not reflective of believing that we are forgiven.

It just seems more complicated than that. A regular confessor cannot look directly into the mind of the penitent and the penitent wont always convey perfectly what his troubles are. This is especially the case in instances of religious formalism or spiritual self-indulgence, because the penitent won’t recognise their sinful character and will not confess them. In which case the confessor will only be unwittingly encouraging this behaviour. The problem is for scrupulosity to be identified I the first place, because it will often be misinterpreted as piety. Even when it is diagnosed correctly, and genuine piety is prescribed as the solution, there is no way of knowing that than equally extreme false piety (such as formalism and self-indulgence) have taken its place.

I’m not sure how accurate the categorization of scrupulosity as an OC disorder is. It is clearly different from other medical issues. And as for the treatment, if it involves counselling and the use of non-spiritual guidance to assess the scrupulosity objectively, uncovering its logical faults, then it only confirms that the answer does not lie in a regular confessor (or at least not in his capacity as a confessor, but as someone trained in techniques and adopting a perspective external to the religion). The answer lies in a more grounded understanding of morality, which confession won’t always achieve due to the fact it is less analytical and probing that other psychological techniques.

A person, canonised saint or otherwise, can only call themselves a master of moral theology once they have overcome scrupulosity (if they develop it) and learned its true, corrupt nature. I would not say that at the time they suffered scrupulosity they were masters of moral theology.

Such is the age old practice - and very key as noted century after century.

As I noted some who have OCD struggle with scrupulosity. I did not say it was per se OCD. It is not a OCD = scruples or scruples = OCD per se.

No. Such does not follow.

And no the answer may or may not involve greater understanding of morality. It is not simply an understanding matter. Though as I noted there can be cases where scruples can yes be cleared up via understanding morality or with less direction (such as transient).

The Church disagrees. As does history, as does the study of this area of theology.


I guess that what I am questioning is whether the practice is adequate. Regardless of its antiquity.

**As I noted some who have OCD struggle with scrupulosity. I did not say it was per se OCD. It is not a OCD = scruples or scruples = OCD per se. **

I know. I meant only in those cases where it is believed to be caused by OCD.

**No. Such does not follow. **

Ok. I am willing to accept a different point of view, but I need to know why it doesn’t follow.

The Church disagrees. As does history, as does the study of this area of theology.**

I’m not sure it does. The saints weren’t canonised until after their deaths - that is, after their fight against scrupulosity was over. And it is possible to be a master of moral theology in certain matters but not in others, since it is a broad field; the church does not teach that everything a saint says is 100percent correct, even a doctor of the church. Nor do the studies of a saint mean anything until he has understood the content of his learning, which can happen later in life.

As I noted counseling or other aspects may need to be added to having a regular confessor. Even the theological works from ages ago mention other aspects regarding other treatments (doctors etc). (And one can note too that much of the pastoral practice in such cases fits quite well with later finding from empirical science and practice). And the fact that such treatment can be helpful to many who struggle with such does not negate the key role of a regular confessor. And it is very well established in long experience in the Church that it is not only a matter of better formation…

As to that last part -yes the Church even recognized a man who was very scrupulous at one point of his later life - as a Doctor of the Church -holding up is teaching as a light in the Church ( *not saying -except when he was scrupulous…). It is well know in the theological writings on the subject that Professors of Theology or others (Priests etc) can be very well versed in theology -even in the matters where they are scrupulous - but still struggle with scruples themselves and need to be directed by another. Tis often less a matter of knowledge… They can yes be a Master of Theology and a great guide of souls and still struggle with scruples. This is a point stressed in theological works on the subject.

It is a mistake that people can easily make - to simply think it is a matter of “understanding” or of theological formation. That once the understanding is there - then the scruples will vanish. In some cases sure. But often not. Though as noted - it can be an important part of things.

Not necessarily OCD. :wink:

God bless.

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