"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

Being too Scrupulous About Sin!

Published November 13, 2011 by Fr. Paul Counce

In wrapping up this little series of morceaux on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are just a few other items that I wanted to make sure I mentioned. For instance, I’d like to mention some very big mistakes a sinner can make in confession.

The first of these is to be too scrupulous about sin. Overly scrupulous persons make themselves – and sometimes their priests! – miserable by thinking that they sin far more often and far worse than they really do. Someone afflicted with scrupulosity usually confuses temptation with sin, even though they’re not the same. A “scrupe” usually rejects Church doctrine that in order for wrongdoing to be a mortal sin a fully aware and deliberate consent must accompany it. Therefore, he or she usually will mistakenly think every venial sin is horribly, mortally wrong. Thus the scrupulous person will think sin happens a lot more frequently than it really does. The Sacrament of Reconciliation for such a person rarely really gives relief, since the self-doubt about sin begins again as soon as the confession is over!

In its extreme forms, over-scrupulosity is usually a sign of mental illness. Such people can’t help worrying obsessively, and it usually takes a terrible toll on their health and relationships. We all need to be very compassionate toward them, even though we can’t agree with them. But even when not so severe, scrupulosity is bad: it really is a form of despair, to doubt God’s love for us so much that one cannot entrust oneself to His mercy.

If you find yourself tempted towards over-scrupulosity, try to relax spiritually! Just do your best and don’t be too hard on yourself! After all, Christians are people of hope, living not in fear but in confident expectation of divine blessing and forgiveness when they honestly just do the best one can in living good lives.

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