Where does the Church say we are not to ever be scrupulous?

Scruples seem to be coming up everywhere on this site and what people say about it leaves me thoroughly confused.
I have never read any document or dogma stating scruples are sinful so where is all the fuss (and even condemnation) coming from?
By scrupulous I am neither referring to OCD nor a situation where being scrupulous is abused or twisted into something wrong (after all you can also pervert charity, justice, mercy, kindness, etc. yet none of these are in themselves vices)
I mean scrupulosity in itself. Why do people treat it like the eighth deadly sin?
Especially when it can be used to glorify God and defend His Truth from all those potent little half-truths (in other words- very convincing lies) that blind us overtime.

Most importantly- more important than mine or anyone else’s two cents, where in Church teaching is this ever said, that scruples are bad?

Could it just be that most people are misusing the word? As far as I know scrupulousness is not synonymous to having both faith and OCD. It is not synonymous with paranoia and extreme anxiety, shame, or guilt. It is not synonymous with being a Pharisee (yet another commonly misused word). Mayhaps people mean these things when they instead insert the word “scrupulous”?

Can anyone please provide the Church source to clarify this? I would be grateful if ya’ll could. I would hate to be justifying a vice. It’s just I don’t even understand how this is a vice.

I’m not sure there is anything that is specifically stated in a document. When people are saying they are scrupulous, there is a tendency to see sin where there is no sin or to make a big deal out of something that is very minor.

Yes, and nothing about seeing sin where there is no sin “glorifies God,” but takes the focus away from God; the person suffering from scrupulosity becomes the center of their own troubled world.

I think you’re misunderstanding scrupulosity.

There’s nothing wrong with being scrupulous in a specific sense. It just means, having scruples.

However, we can also use it to designate a psychological problem wherein the afflicted sees sins where there are none. I remember a woman who came here before who thought she was in sin because her son showed her a fortune from a fortune cookie that said “energy” and she read it.

Sometimes someone will throw around the condition a little haphazardly, and in these cases the individual is to blame. “Hey, I did–” “shush, you’ve got scrupulosity!”
But often, there was no sin committed, and the people really are creating a falsehood out of neurosis.

Look, no one is saying that telling a white lie is ok. It’s not. In fact, it’s an infinite offense against God (although it’s also infinitely forgivable by Him, and among the least of all sins)

Scrupulosity does not take what is being scorned by hard-hearted Catholics and bring it to its true light, that of corruption and sin. Scrupulosity takes nothing and turns it into sin, because scrupulosity is a perversion of understanding and it can often lead to the sin of believing that you cannot be saved by God.

If this does not clarify the issue for you, let us know. But if it does, then this should be suitable without providing evidence from the Catechism or some such document. I do not even know if there is citation, there, although I think it can be inferred from a lot of other points from the Catechism and beyond.

Lastly, and an addition, you must understand the incredible toll it takes on a soul. Saint Thérèse writes briefly on it, a woman of great holiness, and calls it a terrible martyrdom, and it was in her early childhood that she was afflicted of it. There is not peace in the soul of one such as this, but only fear and anxiety. She called it terrible and indescribable.

Scrupulosity in its worst forms literally has the ability to ruin an individual’s life, waste away their physical being and wreck their soul as well. Real scrupulosity requires help.

You both have the same definition it seems. Is that the Church’s definition? Where can I find it? I don’t mean to ask a dumb question. It’s just I’ve never seen this word and people mean so many different things by it. I’ve sifted through whole twenty page arguments where, even though I’m not certain myself what the word means, I know the only reasoning others are butting head is they’re using the same word to mean very different things. At the same time, I don’t have any idea who, if anyone, is actually using the word correctly.

And I would agree that seeing sin where there is none is not good. It’s just what if there is sin?

Maybe this is where I’m getting caught but the term has also been used a great deal when there is in fact a definite sin that slipped in under the radar. From that kind of connotation, I thought being scrupulous was having an acute awareness/sensitivity for those kinds of subtle sins we sometimes fall into or all too easily excuse. That and the insistence not to let up on that sin until it comes to light. Having that kind of awareness and persistence could be used to glorify God, defending against those tiny ways the devil tries to get in and deceive us. But that kind of awareness isn’t what scrupulosity is either is it?

In that case- can you please elaborate about what scrupulosity actually is? I guess it’s obvious I’m quite confused…

Having a scrupulous conscience may be a very hard burden to bear. People like this tend to think they are always in a state of mortal sin and often see no point in going to Communion or daily Mass. There may also be doubt about doing most any relevant action on the chance it could somehow be sinful.

This is not the way God wants us to live our lives.

A scrupulous conscience is not a proper conscience, it is a conscience that develops erroneously.

Priests and other qualified moral scholars routinely direct those with such consciences even to the point of where the scrupulous person obeys them blindly.

As far as posting on the forum goes, those with a scrupulous conscience should inform their spiritual director of their on-line activities.

Here is the New Advent Definition of Scruples. Does this help?


[quote=]An unfounded apprehension and consequently unwarranted fear that something is a sin which, as a matter of fact, is not. It is not considered here so much as an isolated act, but rather as an habitual state of mind known to directors of souls as a “scrupulous conscience.” St. Alphonsus describes it as a condition in which one influenced by trifling reasons, and without any solid foundation, is often afraid that sin lies where it really does not. This anxiety may be entertained not only with regard to what is to be done presently, but also with regard to what has been done. The idea sometimes obtaining, that scrupulosity is in itself a spiritual benefit of some sort, is, of course, a great error. The providence of God permits it and can gather good from it as from other forms of evil. That apart, however, it is a bad habit doing harm, sometimes grievously, to body and soul…

I thought being scrupulous was having an acute awareness/sensitivity for those kinds of subtle sins we sometimes fall into or all too easily excuse.That and the insistence not to let up on that sin until it comes to light. Having that kind of awareness and persistence could be used to glorify God, defending against those tiny ways the devil tries to get in and deceive us. But that kind of awareness isn’t what scrupulosity is either is it?

What you are talking about is more of an enlightened conscience. A scrupulous conscience is “where a person sees sin where there isn’t any.”

In that case- can you please elaborate about what scrupulosity actually is? I guess it’s obvious I’m quite confused…

One example is trying to pray in Church, looking at a cross and thinking lustful thoughts. The intention to do well is there, but the person is unsure if they are sinning or they should even be praying while having or trying to fight off such thoughts.

People who are on the verge of sinning SHOULD pray and SHOULD be thinking about Jesus dying on the cross.

Scrupulous persons may also be obsessed with duties to the point of not wanting to act.

Honestly, true scrupulosity sounds to me like OCD and should be treated as though it’s an affliction. If someone is constantly worried whether or not they’ve sinned beyond God’s forgiveness, I wouldn’t say that it’s “sinning” as such since they appear to be suffering from a mental condition. Still it can affect your life in a very negatively way and possibly cause you to be physically sick in its more extreme forms. I would pray for that person and encourage/reassure them as often as possible. If they are concerned about their sin, that means they almost certainly have not committed the unpardonable sin but they should be encouraged to get help.

It IS an affliction and one doesn’t have to have OCD in order to have it. :yup:

But believe me, OCD can make it worse.

Oh wow, I didn’t see that last response, forgive me. Thank you for the clarifications SighGuy. You too SuperLuigi.

As far as posting on the forum goes, those with a scrupulous conscience should inform their spiritual director of their on-line activities.

If this is directed at me ('not actually sure), I don’t have a spiritual director and I didn’t start this thread asking for one either. Just wanted to know what this word meant and why emotions run so high when it’s used.

One more question. If what ya’ll are talking about is termed scrupulosity, then what’s the word for what I was talking about? (Is there one?). Keenly attuned awareness and despise of sin is a bit of a mouthful. Is there a word for it? If scrupulosity is the vice, what is the virtue it distorts?

Geez it happened again. Ya’ll are answering my questions before I even ask them specifically. Thank you!

I found these two articles about scrupulosity insightful and hope that they will help you understand it better.

[LEFT] Church Teaching Q&A | Catholicism 101

Understanding and Overcoming Scrupulosity – Part I
****How do I know if I am scrupulous or
just sensitive to sin?
****by Father John Bartunek, LC **

Question: Father John, I seem to be struggling with scrupulosity. However, when I read St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, they exhort that any small sin or attachment can keep us from union with God. How do I know if I am scrupulous or just sensitive to sin? How do I avoid taking sin too lightly? If I am scrupulous, how do I overcome it?

Answer: First thing: if you are sincerely concerned about not taking sin too lightly, you can rest assured that you are not taking sin too lightly. If, on the other hand, you find yourself convinced that you really don’t sin and don’t ever need to go to confession, then you are probably taking sin too lightly. All the saints were keenly aware that they were sinners and made good use of the sacrament of confession. Now on to the heart of your question.

Scrupulosity is oversensitivity to faults. It consists in seeing sin where there is no sin, which causes us to become emotionally tense and spiritually tied up in knots. It paralyzes the will, fills the mind with turbulence, and can cause intense interior suffering. Since it comes in different forms and from different sources (and since the word itself is slippery), there is no single solution.

We’ll tackle this one in two parts. First we’ll look at the types and causes of scrupulosity, then we’ll examine the practical question of what to do about it. [continued…]**

                            **Scrupulosity And How To Overcome It**

by Rev. Thomas M. Santa, CSSR

The Vatican II document “Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes) offers a beautiful image of the center of the human person: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: Do this; shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged.” For each human person, our conscience — the core of our being — can be a place where we are “alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (16).

For most people of faith, such an image is appealing. But for some the thought of communicating this intimately with the Lord produces a feeling not of comfort but of terror. Such people are convinced that because of the presence of evil in their life, God must be displeased with them. As a result, any sin — any manifestation of weakness or imperfection, often the most minute and insignificant — becomes their primary preoccupation, and an intimate relationship with the Lord is impossible.[continued…]

Scrupulosity is not a virtue - prudence is. Scrupulosity might be considered a disordered form of prudence. Might be, I said. The scrupulosity we see here at CAF mostly manifests itself as doubt regarding God’s mercy. Yet, we are neither to presume God’s mercy (a violation of the theological virtue of hope), or to doubt it (a violation of the theological virtue of faith). Without God’s mercy, none of us has a true hope. Prudence is a grace that is available for the asking. The problem is that few seem to ask. From that too-often fogotten publication, the catechism:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

You’re welcome, and no, that wasn’t directed at you. :slight_smile:

Finally some source material! Thank ya’ll! Goodness, I completely missed the fact new advent had an article on this…

Others have already responded with good definitions and source materials. I wanted to touch on your question about why emotions run so high.

I think that this forum is one of the most natural places that someone with scrupulosity would come (if they are Catholic). One of the hallmarks of the scrupulous conscience is that the person is always seeking affirmation and always asking the question “Is this a sin?” Here at CAF, they can anonymously ask that question any time of day or night and receive feedback very quickly.

Thus, our forum gets a fair bit of these questions. (Just search the forum for the thread title “Is this a sin?”…there are lots of hits.) Sometimes, it is the same person asking questions over and over again. When some of the regular posters notice this, then they can often respond to these threads in ways that seem peculiar for someone who is coming late to the party.

Of course, then you get the other posters who seem to be a bit oblivious towards the OP’s scrupulosity and will respond to the question as though it is just a theological though exercise. That can create a tension between those who are trying to get all the theology perfectly straight and those whose main goal is to get the OP to talk to a priest in person.

That’s my take on it anyway. I could be wrong. :shrug:

Scrupulosity is defined under moral theology. You will not find magisterial teachings on it. You must study moral theology textbooks and manuals for confessors.

Scrupulosity is not a sin: it is an affliction and is something that is to be absolutely despised, fought, rejected and opposed with the help of regular confessor. Scrupulosity causes great pain and suffering to otherwise faithful Catholics who strive to please God, but due to some defect, see sin everywhere and are tormented even when there is no guilt.

Scrupulosity is not a “cross” to be borne, unlike other afflictions. No one, absolutely no one, must ever have to deal with scrupulosity.

No, you are correct. And the problem with a lot of theses scrupulous posters is that they don’t take the good advice already given and keep coming back with the same “is this a sin?” questions over and over again, DESPITE having been told multiple times: “obey your confessor.”

It’s a terrible way to live. That’s why we’re told not to embrace scruples as a “cross” as if we can gain merit from it. I can embrace a stubbed toe as a cross and gain merit from it. But scrupulosity is to be absolutely rejected and despised, because it’s not the way God wants us to live.

I would note that there are various degrees and kinds of scruples -(even transient scruples of those newly converted) and one will find in works on the matter that it is both something to be worked against with the regular confessor etc as you noted –as well as a cross to be borne (like other struggles in life)- in so far as such is not overcome or overcome yet. A ‘suffering’ that can be offered -so long as it persists (which does NOT mean one is not to work on overcoming it with a regular confessor - such is what one is as you note to do -as has been the long practice in the Church).

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