Is the concept of scrupulosity "ridiculous," as this one critic says?


#1

I was reading from a Catholic blogger who had a commenter say that the concept is absurd because the Church expects us not to sweat over whether we are damning ourselves to eternal torment, a very serious matter which would seem to merit great consternation. What is a proper refutation to that?

(Dear mods, please move this post to apologetics. This was concerning an anti-Catholic polemic, not spiritual advice).


#2

Without actually seeing the commentary, it’s difficult to comment.

However, we are not supposed to be “obsessed” with sin, seeing it in every little corner and action or omission.

There needs to be a balance.


#3

From the online Catholic Encyclopedia:

The idea sometimes obtaining, that scrupulosity is in itself a spiritual benefit of some sort, is, of course, a great error… It is a bad habit doing harm, sometimes grievously, to body and soul. Indeed, persisted in with the obstinacy characteristic of persons who suffer from this malady, it may entail the most lamentable consequences. The judgment is seriously warped, the moral power tired out in futile combat, and then not unfrequently the scrupulous person makes shipwreck of salvation either on the Scylla of despair or the Charybdis of unheeding indulgence in vice.
http://newadvent.com/cathen/13640a.htm


#4

“Come to CAF and see for yourself” is the best rebut.

I’d drop names but that would be rude.


#5

Nobody wants to be scrupulous. It can be caused by a mental disorder like OCD. The Church also does not want us to sin at all but we do it. It’s turture dealing with scrupulousity. Anyone who suffers from it does not choose to be that way.


#6

Link please.


#7

As someone who struggled and sometimes still struggles with scrupulosity, it doesn’t look like someone humbling themselves before God in the understanding that they’re a sinner. It looks like:

Having a massive panic attack because you’re terrified that a microscopic, invisibly small piece of the Eucharist might have somehow fallen to the floor and gotten stuck on your shoe when you went to mass five days ago and now whenever you walk you’re sure that you may be commiting horrible sacrilege.

Or having a fleeting rude thought going through your head and breaking down in fear of damnation because “Hate is murder of the soul.” Or wherever the phrase is.

Or getting red wine vinegar on your subway order and panicking later because you’re not 21 yet and don’t know if there’s actual wine in it and you might have just broken the law which is generally a bad thing.

Or having the fleeting thought go through your head that if you don’t tell someone not to drive home tonight they’ll die in an accident, then having a breakdown over whether that was God’s voice or some random thought and having a massive panic attack for the whole night where you’re sure you’ve committed murder because you didn’t tell them.

Scrupulosity is awful, it’s horrific, and I’m still dealing with the effects of it though I’m no longer actually scrupulous.


#8

There all sorts of crazy on the internet. People who say the existence of Scrupulosity is absurd are one kind.


#9

Scrupulous is actually kinda like being an alcoholic. It may be under control, but it doesn’t really go away. Kinda like a “dry drunk”. That’s why even people years sober still introduce themselves in AA as “…and I’m an alcoholic.” It is best to always recognize that you will remain scrupulous.


#10

We should of course strive to be conscious of sin and avoid it, but scrupulosity is something else entirely. It’s like comparing regular sadness to clinical depression, and insisting that trying to treat the latter is the same thing as denying that people are rightly sad sometimes.

Surely we have all seen posters suffering from scrupulosity come on these forums with panicked questions about sin that seem like vast overreactions to most people … and then not be able to receive reassurance because their brains continue to lie to them. That is not normal or healthy. It is literally an illness.


#11

Scrupulosity refers to people with obsessive compulsive anxiety about sin. On top of that, their compulsion makes them very bad judges of their own actions or what is a sin. That is a bad thing.

Someone with a well formed conscience and without any obsessive compulsive tendencies should of course be scrupulous (as in diligent) with their actions.


#12

Until coming to Catholic Answers I had no idea so much apparent “scrupulosity” in Catholicism existed. It seems to be all over this forum.


#13

Anybody who’s “sweating” over whether they are going to hell needs to make a full confession, amend their ways so they don’t commit those serious sins, and then pray more and trust more in God and his mercy.

If you did the above and you’re still worrying all day long about whether you’re going to hell, then you should stop if you can. Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” St. Therese and St. Faustina said we needed to trust in God’s mercy. They didn’t say “worry all day long about whether you’re going to Hell”.

If you can’t stop worrying and the thoughts are compulsive, despite your going to regular confession and avoiding “grave matter” sins, you likely have the mental disease of scrupulosity.


#14

Scrupulousity is when it goes to a fault. It’s when you stop leaving your house and doing normal things because you’re afraid of sinning. Stuff like that. Or abusing the sacrament of confession for things that aren’t sins


#15

Yeah, I didn’t realize it was so widespread either. Most of the Catholics I’ve known sinned with very little concern/ remorse, and I’m talking about big grave matter sins, not the little nit-picky stuff that the scrupulous fret about.


#16

Excessive fear of going to hell can ironically make your life a living hell. Just my two cents


#17

I don’t think it’s actually as widespread as the forums seem to indicate. I was under the impression, based on my experiences here, that every third penitent would be scrupulous. In reality, it’s about every thirtieth one, if it’s that often. And it isn’t nearly as obvious a phenomenon as you’d think. The scrupulous are hardly ever hysterical–you have to listen for subtle verbal clues, particularly in how sins are described, in what degree of detail, and how harshly the person describes himself (that’s the biggest one). I think the forum gives off the impression that scrupulosity is rampant because the nature of an internet forum, with its anonymity and easy, quick validation, is such that it enables scrupulosity to continue. That’s why I always advise people who ask scrupulous questions and who identify as scrupulous to get off the forum and to seek help in person. To lean on the forum not only enables the problem, it stunts the true formation of conscience.

-Fr ACEGC


#18

Remember that this article was written in the early 1900’s. Knowledge of scrupulosity has come a long way since then, and I can’t even fathom anyone’s believing that this condition is a spiritual benefit.


#19

Thanks for this reply Father. You are in a position to know, as you have learned to discern scrupulosity in the confessional. I think for me, a 60 year old Catholic, it is just a new thing to keep hearing people on this forum self describe themselves as scrupulous. I have certainly read about scrupulosity at times in, typically, older devotional books but I never heard anyone in my generation call themselves scrupulous.
I know it must be a terrible thing, and related to the huge rise of OCD these days. Still, I always wince when someone on this forum starts a post, “As a person with scrupulosity, …” It almost seems like a badge of identity for some.
Not wanting to offend anyone here. Just my observation.


#20

I think it’s a good observation, actually. And when people realize that that’s what they’re doing–they’re identifying with their scrupulosity, that can be the first step in breaking free. None of us are the sum total of our scruples or anxiety or depression or any other wound or condition we might have. When we stop identifying with these things and start seeing them as something that is not the totality of our lives and selves, we can find healing.

-Fr ACEGC


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