Lacking a sense of guilt

Hi, I’m a recent revert to Catholicism. I was estranged from the Church for about 13 years and prior to that only had minimal instruction in the faith. For the last year I’ve been attending mass again weekly and reading extensively about the faith. But there are obviously still some things I am unclear on.

My question is this: If you commit a sin (especially a mortal sin) but don’t feel guilty about it, what do you do??? I want to go to confession and be reconciled with God, and I feel bad that I don’t feel bad about sinning (if that makes sense) but I don’t actually have remorse for the particular sin I’ve committed. I fear this may be in part due to what I’ve heard called the “searing of the conscience”, meaning that due to certain sins becoming a habit for me I have thus become desensitized to them.

I’ve tried to create a sense of guilt in my heart by doing things like contemplating the Passion of our Lord, but for some reason this hasn’t been as effective for me recently as it has been in the past. I think part of the problem is that because I fall into this sin so often it almost seems pointless to confess it (though I always do confess it) because I am almost certain to commit the offense again. Isn’t this an abuse of the Sacrament of Penance?

I have also been told that I shouldn’t rely too strongly on my feelings, but rather realize that matters concerning faith are matters of the will and not matters of emotion. However it seems like I should at least feel something. Doesn’t the Church teach that part of what makes a confession valid is a feeling of shame and regret for the sins committed? Without that wouldn’t my act of contrition be hollow?

Sorry, for rambling. I hope someone can help me here.

There must be an underlying reason why you do not feel guilty;

I apologise if I am being speculative but I really wonder if it is possible to not feel guilty about the sin and to be guilty of mortal sin; the conditions of mortal sin are: Gravity, Consent and Knowlege.

If you truly know that your (serious) sin is a bad act, and yet acted on it will full consent I don’t see how it is possible not to be guilty, unless you are justifying the act to yourself as “oh its only habitual etc.” or you some other way do not have full knowlege of the gravity of your sin then perhaps it is not mortal.

Nonetheless, I can only encourage you to go to confession, and tell the priest you don’t feel guilty - no doubt experienced priests especially will have come across this before, especially with sins of a… “personal” nature.

what makes a confession valid is a feeling of shame and regret for the sins committed? Without that wouldn’t my act of contrition be hollow

Not if you honestly and with conviction explain that you do not FEEL guilt, yet you understand you must confess the acts. I can only speculate that “not feeling guilty” is because of:

  1. You don’t know in your heart that it is a sin, even though you might recognise it abstractly as one.
  2. You know it was wrong, but feel absolutely no guilt, which might be a sign of depression or other illnesses.
  3. You’r justifying it
  4. You disagree with the church on if X or Y act is a sin.

Whatever the case - speak to a priest about it - thats what theyre there for!


I have tried really hard to find the “official” place where I read this but I just can’t. Anyway, what the Church teaches is that “repentance” is what is required. Repentance is actually the firm resolve to do better, which is NOT the same as a “guilty” feeling- which can actually cripple the ability to do good.

You can certainly resolve to do better even without an emotional response of guilt.

A person struggling with an addiction also does not feel guilt even though the person may be aware that it is a sin against God because it is putting something above God. I am not saying you are addicted to sin obviously, I am just saying that unfortunately, is completely normal for people to not be bothered by sin. I was listening to an audio lecture in which a person mentioned he was becoming frustrated because he would confess the same things all the time, and the priest responded that struggling with the same sins is better than having new sins every time because they would be in addition too the reoccurring ones.

I think the more you come to know God, the less you want to offend Him, the more sensitive you become to your own sins. The saints were not overly critical of themselves, they just had a very full understanding of how their actions would go against God’s love. I think the more you come to know the faith, the more your heart will catch up to your head.


Leastofthese, If you know your sin is mortal,confess it in the Sacrament, you are forgiven,you rec’ absolution. If you do not feel remorse, offer it ferfently to Christ’s suffering on the cross in your heart over and over again. Believe he is going to heal you. Place yourself and that sin in the Cup of Salvation on the Alter and offer it up with the Priest,who is in Persona Christe, everytime you attend Mass.
Remember the prayer, Lord, I believe help my unbelief!
I pray for you, God grant you peace, :)Carlan

Thanks everyone for your input/advice. I will definitely have to bring up these concerns with my confessor later this week. I keep asking God when I pray to give me true, deep sorrow for sin whenever I commit sin and to give me a great repulsion towards sin so that it is harder for me to commit sinful acts. I really hope He will grant these requests sooner than later.

Every day imagine yourself at the foot of the Cross, and pray an Act of Contrition and “Lord Jesus I love you, help me to love you more.”

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. Amen.

O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.

It isn’t so much the sin itself that is the problem, rather it’s the fact that we literally hurt God’s heart and put a wedge between God and us that can’t be repaired until we seek forgiveness. Jesus died for that sin; *that alone *should make us sorry and repentative for doing anything against our Father and the Son that died for that particular sin.

So start with repentance at that place. Ask God’s forgiveness and for Him to help you to repent, if for no other reason, because you have hurt Him and know that you need to make things right between Him and you. The rest will come from there.

I decided to re-read the section in the Catechism devoted to the Sacrament of Penance and found the following:

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At teh same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).”

1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is ‘sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.’”

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”

1453 The contrition called ‘imperfect’ (or ‘attrition’) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.”

After reading over this, particularly the sections pertaining to “perfect” and “imperfect” contrition I felt a great deal of relief (though I am still very bothered by my lack of guilty feelings). Whenever I have repented of my sins and gone to confession in the past I have always felt what the Catechism calls “perfect” contrition. I had assumed this was the only proper response and it is what I sincerely felt in my heart. I felt/feel that since God is our Father, then like our earthly parents, we should feel sorry when we offend Him not because He could potentially punish us, but because we love Him and don’t want to hurt our relationship with Him.

However, if “imperfect” contrition combined with going to confession is acceptable, then in this case I feel I’m ok. Though I do not feel that deep distress in my heart for offending God that I would really like to be feeling right now, I do fear God’s just punishments for cutting off my relationship with Him due to my sins.

I will be going to confession this afternoon. I’m hoping that a little more meditation on my sinfulness and how it offends God’s love will “create in me a clean heart” and “put a new and right spirit within me”. But if I must end up settling for “imperfect” contrition for now at least I can hope that sooner or later God “will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”. And until that time I can at least find comfort in knowing that I have been absolved despite my unworthiness and need not fear Hell for the time being.

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