In my last morceau, I said I’d conclude my ongoing consideration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation with mention of some mistakes a sinner can make in confession. First I mentioned excessive scrupulosity. This time, I want to deal with something far worse, and sadly, just as common.
If scrupulosity is wrongly seeing serious sin where there is none, the opposite is also something we have to avoid. This is selfish spiritual laxity or pride that, in the end, rejects the will of God and the wisdom of His holy Church to set moral standards for us all. It’s usually phrased as “I don’t believe that such-and-such is a sin” – even though certainly contrary to the Lord’s commandments and disobedient to Church teaching. I’ve even heard people mistakenly think that “If I don’t think something’s a sin, then it’s not.” Wrong!
Honest Christians realize that there are objective moral norms which apply in this world. Some things are so objectively disordered that neither special circumstances nor good intentions of the person who does them allow them: they always remain evil. Things such as murder, adultery, blasphemy, perjury, victimization of children and other defenseless persons, etc., can never be excused. Also, one may not do evil so that good may result from it. Blessed Pope John Paul II dealt with this subject most exhaustively in his 1993 encyclical letter titled Veritatis Splendor (the “Splendor of Truth”); this is summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church at nos. 1749-1775.
While circumstances and intentions can affect whether or not an intrinsically evil act amounts to mortal sin, it is important never to deny that evil is evil. In approaching confession, remember it’s a grave sin in itself to omit mention of sin on purpose, especially out of our dissent and denial of some moral truth. Instead of lying or denying, we acknowledge humbly that we have failed to think, say or do as we ought. In other words, by celebrating the Sacrament of Penance honestly we accept the Lord’s standards as well as the grace of His forgiveness. We won’t be punished for such forthright honesty; we’ll be blessed.