When in doubt, abstain from communion?

If we are ever in doubt about our spiritual state, is it better to abstain from receiving communion?

I have read and heard both opinions: that it is better to abstain and confess before receiving; that it is better to receive anyway since doubt means that a mortal sin was not committed.

But isn’t there always room for doubt?

Sometimes I find that I might say, do, or think something that I know is sinful and then wonder whether I had crossed the line from venial to mortal sin. I usually receive communion and then (if it still bothers me) mention it later during my next regular confession to avoid scrupulosity. I try to avoid ‘emergency’ confessions.

This is particularly difficult when it comes to sins of thought, since those are so easy to fall in to.

Is it a sin to receive communion when in serious doubt about being in a state of grace?

Are there levels and degrees of doubt that we should discern in our examination of conscience?

:confused:

I see this issue as one of devotion. I agree that if you have doubt, you could probably go and receive the blessed sacrament having recited the confiteour at the beginning of Mass. However, if you are in love with our Lord and experiencing some levels of doubt about your worthiness to receive Him in Communion, what harm is going to Confession going to do? Surely it is only going to serve to add to the graces you will no doubt receive? Surely you are making sure of your worthiness and this demonstrates nothing but care and devotion to your faith? What possible harm could it do to be so wonderfully faithful?

God bless you! :slight_smile:

It depends on the person.

Someone who is scrupulous should probably receive if they are in doubt. Someone who is more prone to the other extreme, of rationalising everything, giving themselves reasons why they’re not fully culpable etc (as society is prone to encourage us nowadays) should probably not receive, only because in the first case the person is likely to be wrong in their doubt and in the second they are likely to be right.

A good confessor would be able to guide you as to how well formed you conscience is and whether the things you perceive to be mortal sins are or not, you can then use this advice to extrapolate the next time something happens.

As for an examination of conscience, I am assuming you would have a specific sin in mind (if you are just generally afraid that you have unknowingly committed a mortal sin but you can’t think of anything in particular, then as long as you are someone who regularly goes to confession, examines their conscience etc you are almost certainly worrying about nothing). In that case, test under the three conditions for a mortal sin: was it grave matter? Did you freely do it? Did you know it to be sinful? For sins of thought, something would not be a mortal sin if it came into your mind and you immediately dismissed it (because you didn’t consent to it), but it could be if you entertained the thought and dwelt on it.

There are, of course, degrees of doubt in that doubt encompases everything between absolute certainty that one is in mortal sin and absolute certainty that one is not, which is a lot of room for manoeuvre, but I would think that there would be relatively few occasions on which you would be bang in the middle, mostly you can be reasonably sure one way or the other.

I agree with FightingFat that if confession were available just before the Mass I would go to it if I were unsure of being in mortal sin. I probably wouldn’t bother the priest to make an unscheduled confession though. Like I say, it depends a lot on how well formed your conscience is.

if you are in doubt, that means you do not have full knowledge and full consent to any mortal sin, so most likely are free to receive communion. Since a mortal sin requires full knowledge and consent to grave matter, if you are in doubt, it follow you probably have not sinned mortally. But you should seek instruction from the priest the next time you are in confession about that matter.

The principle in Latin is: Impedimentum dubium, impedimentum nullum. Dubious obstacle is no obstacle.

As a practical resolution discuss the problem in the confession, and follow his advise.

Maybe, but “beyond reasonable doubt” is enough.

Sometimes I find that I might say, do, or think something that I know is sinful and then wonder whether I had crossed the line from venial to mortal sin. I usually receive communion and then (if it still bothers me) mention it later during my next regular confession to avoid scrupulosity. I try to avoid ‘emergency’ confessions.

This is particularly difficult when it comes to sins of thought, since those are so easy to fall in to.

I’m no theologian but I’d say that it would be just about impossible for a sin committed only in one’s thoughts, to be a mortal sin. Especially if it’s just the type of fleeting thought which one easily falls into.

As others have said, it does depend a lot on the individual and the particulars of the situation.
Yes there is (nearly) always room for doubt, But I work from the perspective that I would rather accuse myself and have God excuse me, than to excuse myself and then have God convict me…I think this is particularly applicable based on what you say next…

Sometimes I find that I might say, do, or think something that I know is sinful and then wonder whether I had crossed the line from venial to mortal sin. I usually receive communion and then (if it still bothers me) mention it later during my next regular confession to avoid scrupulosity. I try to avoid ‘emergency’ confessions.

This is particularly difficult when it comes to sins of thought, since those are so easy to fall in to.

In this case you are seeking to understand in yourself, if your sin reached the level of being mortal…In other words, you know you sinned venially, but aren’t sure if the gravity is sufficient to make it mortal. This is quite different from a person who knows they sinned badly but is trying to discern if it was really a mortal sin…
A subtle, but important, difference.
In the first case, I’d say go ahead and take communion. In the second case, don’t take communion.

Is it a sin to receive communion when in serious doubt about being in a state of grace?

If your doubt is serious, then yes…refrain from taking communion ot of Love and reverence for our God in the Eucharist.

Are there levels and degrees of doubt that we should discern in our examination of conscience?

I don’t think that there is anything really quantitative about it. It’s more a question of trying to open your heart ot God. To His Love to you and your Love for Him. To understand what you did, why you did it and how serious the fault really was.
For myself personally, as I look at the things I do or don’t do, I like to do what I refer to as a “root cause analysis”. I compare my actions, not just against the 10 commandments, but against the “7 deadly sins” which underly our sinful actions.

Peace
James

Remember that it’s not obligatory to receive communion except once a year.

You receive graces from just attending Mass. While it is true if you have bona fide doubts as to whether you gave full consent or whether the sin you committed was “grave” (for example, gossiping), then chances are you didn’t commit a mortal sin. However I fail to see any added graces to receiving if you know it will continue to bother you after communion. Especially since now you’ll be worried if you just compounded the sin. So what would be the point of receiving when you’ve already received Mass graces?

It’s good to know, however, there are people who take the matter of receiving communion worthily seriously. Hope you resolve the matter quickly with your priest. God bless.

(from previous posts of mine)

Regarding unwanted thoughts

While Jesus makes it clear that one can sin in ones thoughts…just cause some lustful thought happens does not mean that one sinned…

(and one can have a sufficiently good reason to think about sexual matters…for instance studying moral theology…but care must be taken to avoid things that would be a problem…but that is another question)

What should we do with* unwanted* sexual thoughts or other bad thoughts…thoughts against God etc? Those pesky temptations that can come …even though we are not seeking them etc…

(there are of course some things we should avoid that cause them…and there can be sin if it is something one should reasonably avoid…but often they come uninvited)

First…Relax. Do not worry.

Now are they mortal sins?

For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter …full knowledge AND deliberate consent!!!

A. If you do not want the thought…it the thought displeases you: it can be a sign actually that you did not give consent or do not give full consent.

B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought – and were drawn to it —but rejected it and maybe even turned to God : again a sign not full consent.

C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment…but then rejected it for one did not want to sin? : it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.

D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often – but this does NOT mean one has consented! so worry not…even it they go on for a long time…

remember --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!

What to do? on the spiritual side–relax first of all and remember the above.

Next – know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come… or said another way --the more a person seeks to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them. (but do not worry about this either!)

for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.

tick tock …

tick tock…

Ok what did you think of? Most likely an apple.

So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing…for instance whatever you are doing. Simply do not consent and move on. and do not worry

another point – thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think…it is up to us to consent and take them further or not. and just because they are REAL VIVID and almost “think themselves” does not mean per se that one has given ANY consent.

they can be annoying…but need cause no actual harm …

(Now difficulties with thoughts can happen to anyone…and has for centuries…nothing new!..but I will note too that “some” have a condition known as OCD (I knew someone with this once…it was a painful experience)…and thus should seek further professional help to work at overcoming it and to live a more peaceful life)


Another help…is the distinction between “first thoughts and emotions” (as Baur calls em) what they call the prima of the prima…“the first of the first” (as one of my Professors called em…he was a Dominican)…these are involuntary things that just come up…such are not sins. They can tempt one of course to sin…or one can then proceed to some sin…but they are the stuff of the mind and emotions which “happen to one” …and really the are opportunities for growing in virtue etc as well…

How to deal with these? First of relax…don’t scruple…don’t fear them…to try to swat them all as the come…just simply turn to other things…or the thing you are doing…or to God…(of course do not consent)…but if you are too defensive against them…they may get worse actually…and confuse you more…instead turn to God or again other good things…accept that hey…somethings wild thoughts will come to you…

There is a story from the desert of the early Centuries of the Church where a younger hermit when to an older one with the problems of thoughts happening to him all the time…the older hermit told him to go outside open his cloak and catch the wind.

The younger hermit said such is not possible…

the older hermit replied --neither is it possible to stop all the thoughts that can come to you…your choice is to say “yes” or “no”.

So relax about “unwanted thoughts”…sometimes they just come…you know like unwanted phone calls from politicitians and salepersons etc…but you can always say “no thank you” or just ignore the call and go about your business

Remember too:

The classic stages of temptation when we are tempted are:

  1. Suggestion (the evil is proposed to us in some way) this can be quite attractive …can be thoughts that happen, ideas etc.

  2. Pleasure (a kind of automatic pleasure can happen from the suggestion) this pleasure can just happen…one is not “trying to have it” not wanting it…this is just a reaction.

3…then one either consents or does not consent.

(one can either consent fully and thus engage in things willingly …or not consent and perhaps thus grow in virtue…following Christ!)

Now it can often happen that one begins to “partially consent” but then rejects it and thus does not give full consent.

When one is tempted…

Some signs that one lacked consent or gave only “partial consent”:

If even though there was some instinctive pleasure …we do not want it…we are unhappy or horrified about the evil…or struggle to not be overcome …we turn to God in Prayer --these are some signs of no consent (if of course we stay in this stage…and do not later consent)

(For example some thoughts come out of the blue just cause one happened to see an attractive person…and one does not want the thoughts but turns to God in Prayer or is horrified by them and turns to something else etc…no matter how much they come back…if one does not consent at all…there is no sin…but rather possibly growth in virtues)

If one hesitates for a moment but then does not want to sin and so rejects it and does not give full consent (thus a fault against prudence)

If one resists but the resistance is half hearted…one does resist but it is weak or slow…but in the end one rejects it…such would seem to be half consent and thus venial

Of course if one then gives in and gives full consent…then such can be mortal…remember…partial consent or half consent is not full consent…and thus not mortal.

(Based on A Tanquery… he bases things on S. Augustine…but much of this is simply repeated in various places…for it is the basics in judging such)

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