MERGED: Sin/Confessing both thoughts and acts?


#1

Greetings,

I appreciate any advice you might give me, and I apologize for struggling to articulate myself.

I recently committed a horrible sin, which, on one hand, was certainly a grave matter. But while it was was a terrible sin, I did it in a matter of seconds without reflecting on it or thinking it out. That is to say, had I taken 10 seconds to consciously decide how to proceed, it was repulsive enough that I know without a doubt I most definitely would not have done so. But I didn't take 10 seconds, I took two, and this sin just sort of erupted out of a dark place within me, which I don't understand and which horrifies me.

I am struggling to find a way to describe a rather stream-of-conscious decision without denying that fact that it was a personal sin for which I am personally responsible.

In a matter of a few seconds, I got my head on straight and stopped. I immediately felt guilty. And tonight, I went to confession, where I believe I accurately and completely described what I DID.

I did not, however, describe what I was THINKING (and at this point, I've analyzed it in my brain so many times I don't think I could even explain what I was thinking---particularly given that this sin wasn't well thought out).

Here are my questions:

  1. Do I need to go back and confess the thought portion of the sin? (This isn't quite what I confessed, but for example, would a confession for an impure act require also listing "impure thoughts," or could we assume that confessing an impure act also covers the impure thought?)

  2. As I made my Confession, I said something to the effect of, "Then I realized what I was doing and stopped." Did I make a bad confession by indicating that I didn't know what I was doing--thus refusing to take responsibility for what I did?

  3. By simply listing what I did without explaining the dark motives that led me to sin, did I understate my sin and invalidate my confession, even though I think that I accurately and completely stated my sinful actions?

I apologize for excessive wordiness here and any lack of clarity. Thank you for your insights.


#2

This type of analyzing of how you got to the sin is a good exercise of your examination of conscience and can help lead you away from the near occasion of such sin in the future. As such, it would be good to talk to a confessor, spiritual director, or pastoral counselor about such things if self-reflection alone isn't helping you grow spiritually.

However, it is not necessary to do so in the confessional. When you go to confession, you are really self-accusing: "I did X act Y number of times," is all you need to say. The details of your thought processes leading up to the act are not essential to the confession. If the priest thinks the act requires more information on his part because of its severity or unusualness or other good reasons a confessor needs to know, then let him ask the follow up questions. If he doesn't ask, then let it go. You received absolution. All is forgiven.

What you're describing, though, is a common experience among penitents in that they have a difficult time accepting how easy was the forgiveness without a severe penance or shaming or racking oneself with emotional pain in sorrow. This is indicative of the penitent's own shame and guilt. Shame and guilt is good when it leads us to repent, reform, and avoid doing evil again. Shame and guilt is not good when we project it unto God and think that God's feeling as bad about us as we do ourselves. And if we're having trouble forgiving ourselves, then so must God. It is that projection that we must avoid. God's forgiveness is a free grace. The story of the Prodigal Son demonstrates how freely and wonderfully it's given even when we know we don't deserve it. We need to trust God's forgiveness and let that enable us to forgive ourselves and move on to a holier life.


#3

a. Confessing an impure act also implies that you nust have had impure thoughts that led to it. No need to confess them separately especially if as you say it was just a matter of a few seconds thought rather than deliberately dwelling on something for days or weeks.

b. Impure thoughts, especially the ones you describe, would be only venial sins so you don't HAVE to confess them to make your confession valid. And a valid confession forgives ALL your sins even those venial sins that you haven't confessed.

c. People say things like "I realised what i was doing and stopped" or "I came to my senses and stopped what I was doing" all the tuime and we understand it doesn't mean that they weren't doing teh thing deliberately. The priest no doubt understood you this way too.


#4

Without commenting on the other things said or on the OP at this time…(only just started my first cup of coffee)

I have to note and clarify that impure (lustful) thoughts are NOT only venial sins. They are grave matter for mortal sin. If there is lack of the needed knowledge or complete consent – such is then venial (or no sin at all).

As to valid confession absolving all ones sins – that can depend --such as one if one was contrite for them etc. And I will add too for mortal sins – if one -forgets- a mortal sin -it needs to be confessed when it is remembered (the next confession) (again I am speaking not necessarily per se regarding the OP here (he may want to bring his difficulty up with his confessor).


#5

[quote="Bookcat, post:4, topic:310166"]

I have to note and clarify that impure (lustful) thoughts are NOT only venial sins.

[/quote]

Source?

As to valid confession absolving all ones sins -- that can depend --such as one if one was contrite for them etc.

How can one be contrite for them if one has fiorggotten them?

And I will add too for mortal sins -- if one -forgets- a mortal sin -it needs to be confessed when it is remembered (the next confession) (again I am speaking not necessarily per se regarding the OP here (he may want to bring his difficulty up with his confessor).

It is a good idea for forgotten mortal sins to be confessed at the next confession, but there is no "need" to do so. ALL sins are forgiven by a sincere and honest confession, even those mortal sins one has honestly forgottten to mention.

The OP is clearly struggling with scrupulosity and you are making his problem worse.


#6

There is sin through thought, action, and omission. An omission is a duty not done, and we are obliged to take a modicum of care to avoid the occasions of sin.

It is important to know that the refusal of a penitent to exit from the presence of a proximate occasion of sin (when the occasion is continuous and the presence is voluntary) makes denial of absolution imperative for the confessor%between%.


#7

There is nothing to indicate that that may be the case here. You too are unnecessarily fomenting the OP’s scrupulosity.


#8

I think not. There is no such intention on my part, and also one has to be aware of what is wrong and choose it to be culpable for it as serious sin.


#9

Thank you to all who have chimed in.

I guess I’m not really sure what you are suggesting here. I did a sinful act. I confessed the act. I absolutely and sincerely resolve to never commit that act again. So I’m not sure how it could be construed that I am “refus[ing] to exit from the presence of a proximate sin” and thus should be denied absolution. Perhaps I confused you with my admittedly inarticulate writing.

As I have continued to think about this the last 24 hours, I think my sinful thoughts were really indistinguishable from my sinful action. In a normal case, I would feel entirely settled with the idea of just confessing the action. For example, upon confessing the sin of detraction, I would never consider going back to confession a second time to inform the priest that I also committed the sin of entertaining the thought of committing detraction because I figure it just sort of assumed.

So why am I freaking out here?

I suppose it’s because this particular sin was so bizarre that I figure the priest might have written it off as unintentional or an accident or something. My fear is that while I think I offered enough specifics (though this always concerns me too), by not confessing my thought process, I might have contributed to the priest possibly writing the action off as an accident.

I am horribly embarrassed by what I did, and I did not want to admit my thoughts. So I simply stated what I did without adding much commentary. I don’t think I sugarcoated my actions in any way, but I was also careful to phrase my confession in a way that made me sound like as little of a dirtbag as possible without compromising the accuracy or completeness of my confession. Maybe that just added the sin of vanity to my list; I’m not sure. (Also, I know it’s said that if the priest needs more details, he’ll ask–but he was moving things along pretty quickly because the line was long and Mass was coming up.)

In any case, I am not the type of guy who needs to be convinced to go to Confession. I did that last night, and I try to go about monthly (or as needed). But I do want to put this sin behind me and never think of it or discuss it again. I want to move on. But I also have a fear that if my confession was insufficient that I’ll go to hell. And that terrifies me and keeps me from being at peace.

To anyone who has stayed with me thus far, thank you, and I apologize for being so annoying.


#10

If your (sinful) thought was closely connected to your (sinful) act, and you confessed the act, I think you have done enough–you were absolved and you are good to go. As someone earlier said, the act happens after the thought. For the sin to be mortal, you had to know what you were doing, know if was grave matter, and decide to do it. Those are all thoughts. Then you did the sin. That’s the act. You confess the act, and the assumption is that the thoughts went with it.

If your (sinful) thought was about something separate, something distinct, something apart from the act that you confessed, I’d say confess the thought separately.

Finally, if you are really troubled by this, go back to confession and tell the priest that you are troubled that you might not have made a good confession and get it done. Start from the beginning “I willingly entertained impure/lustful/hateful/etc. thoughts” and then “I did this act”

If you are a person who has problems with scrupulosity, you should discuss that separately with the priest.

Really finally, someone here questioned whether one can sin in their thoughts alone, without acting, and asked for a reference. Matthew 5:27-28. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Jesus equates looking at someone with lust, with actually committing adultery. Good enough for me.

Also, I read somewhere :smiley: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” “Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s.” Coveting is a thought, not an act. The acts that are connected are “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not steal.” Violating one of the Ten Commandments would qualify as a mortal sin, I would think. :eek:


#11

[quote="Steve_Rock, post:9, topic:310166"]
Thank you to all who have chimed in.

I guess I'm not really sure what you are suggesting here. I did a sinful act. I confessed the act. I absolutely and sincerely resolve to never commit that act again. So I'm not sure how it could be construed that I am "refus[ing] to exit from the presence of a proximate sin" and thus should be denied absolution. Perhaps I confused you with my admittedly inarticulate writing.

As I have continued to think about this the last 24 hours, I think my sinful thoughts were really indistinguishable from my sinful action. In a normal case, I would feel entirely settled with the idea of just confessing the action. For example, upon confessing the sin of detraction, I would never consider going back to confession a second time to inform the priest that I also committed the sin of entertaining the thought of committing detraction because I figure it just sort of assumed.

So why am I freaking out here?

I suppose it's because this particular sin was so bizarre that I figure the priest might have written it off as unintentional or an accident or something. My fear is that while I think I offered enough specifics (though this always concerns me too), by not confessing my thought process, I might have contributed to the priest possibly writing the action off as an accident.

I am horribly embarrassed by what I did, and I did not want to admit my thoughts. So I simply stated what I did without adding much commentary. I don't think I sugarcoated my actions in any way, but I was also careful to phrase my confession in a way that made me sound like as little of a dirtbag as possible without compromising the accuracy or completeness of my confession. Maybe that just added the sin of vanity to my list; I'm not sure. (Also, I know it's said that if the priest needs more details, he'll ask--but he was moving things along pretty quickly because the line was long and Mass was coming up.)

In any case, I am not the type of guy who needs to be convinced to go to Confession. I did that last night, and I try to go about monthly (or as needed). But I do want to put this sin behind me and never think of it or discuss it again. I want to move on. But I also have a fear that if my confession was insufficient that I'll go to hell. And that terrifies me and keeps me from being at peace.

To anyone who has stayed with me thus far, thank you, and I apologize for being so annoying.

[/quote]

You don't give details of the situation so there is no way for me to know that it was avoidable or not, so I give the general statement.

You wrote "I did it in a matter of seconds without reflecting on it or thinking it out." What you describe sounds like action without forethought, and that can mitigate culpability. Why? Because serious sin is a lack of charity towards God or others, therefore a matter of the will or willful neglect. You have to ask, could I reasonably avoided this? Also was there knowing intention to be uncharitable?


#12

Nobody here questioned whether one can sin in his thoughts alone. However I questioned whether a thought alone can be a MORTAL sin and asked for a source. Meaning a source in Catholic doctrine, not somebody’s personal argument from selected passages of Scripture.

If you seriously believe that our Lord was literally saying, or that the church teaches, that looking at a woman with lust is of the same moral evil as actually committing adultery, I feel sorry for you.

Coveting is much more than a few seconds fleeting thoughts. It is deliberately dwelling on the desire for something whiich it would be wrong for you to have,
so hard for so long that it becomes almost inevitable that you will then act it out and take what you desire.

Also the Commandments are written in order from most important to least important. These are nos 9 and 10.


#13

The Catechism is very clear on this topic.

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1853 Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: **“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.”**128 But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.


#14

Well Vico provided one good one for ya: forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=10205131&postcount=13

Various works of Moral Theology expound on the subject etc


#15

One can be contrite for all ones mortal sins


#16

[quote="Petergee, post:5, topic:310166"]

It is a good idea for forgotten mortal sins to be confessed at the next confession, but there is no "need" to do so. ALL sins are forgiven by a sincere and honest confession, even those mortal sins one has honestly forgottten to mention.

The OP is clearly struggling with scrupulosity and you are making his problem worse.

[/quote]

It tis not just a "good idea"

Actually there is a need -- an obligation-- to confess forgotten mortal sins.

Usually in the next confession --but one many not remember so soon --so when one remembers.

A bit more from:

Fr. John Hardon: catholicreference.net/index.cfm?id=33610

Jimmy Akin: jimmyakin.com/2006/09/a_reader_writes_1.html

etc

(scruples are another story)

(and well if one never remembers that creates an impossibility....so no worries)

(As to those who are scrupulous or struggle to one degree or another with with scruples -- a "regular confessor" can guide them -- they can be even "in a different boat" than others. They can start to want to confess all sorts of unneeded things and unneeded details and need a regular confessor to direct them--often they are they have been told to not confess any "past sin" that is remembered unless both of the following is true 1. One is certain it was mortal and 2. Certain it was not confessed rightly. And their confessor might for example tell them not to look for past sins (being it stirs up their scruples) etc etc . And for anyone --one is not obliged to confess "doubtful sins" (like doubtful it was mortal)


#17

I struggle with unwanted thoughts and feelings of impurity. In the past I committed these sins on purpose, but now that I am trying to avoid them they come up with everyday people I know, from totally everyday day normal thoughts and interactions. Sometimes just being in the presence of, thinking of certain people (not impure thoughts but just thinking of them), seeing a totally innocent picture of them on their Facebook will bring on these feelings. I do not want these feelings or thoughts but they come anyway. I reject them, but then later I find myself second guessing if I rejected them fast enough. (One of the people this sometimes happens about is my priest. Which I guess is why I feel particularly guilty) I feel that I should completely stop thinking about these people, looking at pictures or the Facebook of these people or talking to them. I don't have these thoughts or look at them with the intent of creating these feelings they just come out of nowhere. I don't have romantic feeling for these people, So I don't know why this is happening. Is it an occasion of sin for me to be thinking about or associating with these people? Do I commit a mortal sin when these feeling come or when i associate with them?


#18

I have similar struggles, so believe me when I say that I can relate. The trick here is to determine where it crossed form a thought that popped unsolicited into your head and something you deliberately dwelled upon. Also, so long as you are fighting it, it is not sinful, providing that you are indeed consciously fighting it. I know it can be tricky to figure out the difference between temptation to and acting upon sinful thoughts. I'll be praying for your success.


#19

Hi - Follower123

This I believe is a frequent occurrence. Have you ever heard or read it that each time the Holy Mass is said in our Churches - particularly on Sundays - that if you could take an image of all spirits present you would be astounded at the incredible volume of numbers of all spirits - both Holy and otherwise - present and cramped up in the ceilings of the Church.....throughout the whole Mass. These spirits are there to pull / distract us away from our (clear?) intentions of attending that Holy Mass.

I have to confess that on very many occasions in my earlier years (up to age of 50 or so) that each time I approached to receive the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion I was tormented by the most foul of thoughts, potential blasphemies and other evil images. This, despite the fact I believed I was in a state of Grace. Several times I related this in subsequent Confession / Reconciliation and each time was told that this was not intended and depended on how I reacted to it in each circumstance.

Satan is forever prowling around for weak souls. He starts with those that he believes he can pull down a hundred thousand others with you. After not inconsiderable research I found the answer and YOU MUST BELIVE IT: State quite clearly, positively with determination and with the Grace of God - "Get behind me satan; Jesus Christ came down on this earth and was made Man. May the Lord rebuke you!"

With a firm belief and with the assistance of St Michael the Archangel - it works every single time. Thanks be to God.


#20

Been there done that - STILL fighting it…:crutches:

What you are experiencing is not at all uncommon. It is the result of deeply engrained thought patterns that you hardly were even aware of before. Now that you ARE aware of them they stand out like the proverbial sore thumb…and they make us crazy…

The only cure for this is time and effort.
As pointed out by others above, the thing to do is to recognize the “pop-up” thought and dispose of it as quickly as possible. Divert your mind with some other thought. I have sometimes just “laughed off” the thought as being to ridiculous.

As to occasions of sin…They are temptations to be sure, but they are not sins. Not unless you embrace and cultivate them. Mostly what they are is just “residuals” of your past life and way of thinking.

Peace
James


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