The Sears Catalog and Mortal Sin

A priest recently cited Matthew 5:28 (“Whosoever looks at a woman…”) and chided me in confession for going to Communion after committing adultery with a woman in my heart.

Ever since my age of puberty, I’ve had a fetish for women’s shoes, and this priest’s admonishments reminded me of my early years when Sears still published a catalog and I had those “impure” feelings when looking at the shoe section, just as other young men may have viewed the intimates pages. Thus, I would go to confession for committing “mortal sin” and be told not to look at the catalog.

The problem with having a fetish (psychological abnormalities aside) is that women wear attractive footwear to the supermarket, in restaurants, on the street and to Mass, so I’m constantly battered by “pornography.” As a member of Sexaholics Anon, I know the tactics, e.g., bouncing the eyes away, etc. I’ve said all that to say this: If I’m in moral sin every time I look at a woman with sensuous footwear, then I will constantly be in a state of moral sin. However, is not the question here the amount of attention I give? This is true of any temptation to sin. And, in fact, I do not lust and commit adultery with a woman (Matt 5:28); I lust after their footwear, so I’m not even sure that this verse applies, although St. Paul also admonishes against the flesh and impurity.

I am not, I hope, trying to justify my sin. I appreciate your insights.

I was always told that the problem is giving in to a temptation, not in feeling one. Sin is an act of the will, so you have to choose. You do not choose when a temptation will strike, so just the temptation alone isn’t a sin. Look away and ask God to help. And your guardian angel. You have my sympathy. That must be a tough burden to bear, with temptation everywhere.

Ditto to the above poster. I talked with my priest in Confession about random thoughts I’d been having, and he said the same thing: “Well, that’s more like a temptation.” Sometimes we cannot help the thoughts or feelings we have, but we can will ourselves to turn away and instead pray to God for help. It’s giving in to that temptation that is sinful.

In psychotherapy, have you ever attempted to get to the root cause of this problem? It might be possible. Being out of the ordinary, it strikes me that this is a strong conditioned response to something that happened to you at some point in early childhood. Why not attempt to figure it out, thereby getting rid of it altogether?

On a lighter note, might seem ridiculous but as a behaviorist this is what I would suggest: buy a pair of the “sexiest” shoes you can find (I know, this will be embarrassing, but that’s a good thing; and it also might not be possible but remember that there are women with big feet too) and WALK AROUND IN THEM whenever you are at home alone. Trust me, they hurt. I think your attraction might very well result in some severe foot issues that may be just the counter conditioning you need.

Also: when you find yourself attracted to the “shoes”, think (conscious decision) about the dirty feet and toes in those shoes. Ewwwwww. Can’t hurt.

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