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Shawn wrote:

Hi, guys—

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Lent thus far!

A dear friend of mine is contemplating leaving the Catholic Church because he is unable to deal with the uncertainty of whether he has committed a mortal sin or not. He has some psychological issues as well and always feels guilty.

He is leaving for the Lutheran Church.

  • Is there anything I can say?

Thanks!

Shawn

  { Is there anything I can say to an over scrupulous friend who is thinking of leaving the Church? }

Paul replied:

Dear Shawn,

He seems to have unhealthy scrupulosity. There can be a psychological or a spiritual cause to this.

Ultimately, it may stem from a lack of trust in a loving God, and/or a lack of faith in the authority of the Church that states we're responsible for confessing only those serious sins of which we are honestly aware.

Moving to another denomination would not help this problem.

Trusting God would.

Paul

Shawn replied:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your response!

I did share what you said with him this afternoon. From his view, only God knows if we have sinned mortally, in total rejection of his love. Basically, he is saying no priest, laity, or other person can judge him or his sins — not even oneself can fully know. I asked what he meant, and he said:

How can I say I sinned mortally if I'm not full convinced I did.

I said,

It's better to confess to make sure.

And he finally said, "

    Why confess if I'm uncertain? I confess privately but only to a priest if it is mortal. Without any doubt and I don't think I've ever done that because who is to say:
  • habit
  • stress
  • psychological, and
  • other factors don't play apart?

This is not [a] mortal [sin!]"

I must admit, I don't see what his problem is. I too only confess when I'm 100% sure I have committed mortal sin.

  • Isn't that what I should stress to him?
  • That he is right?

Shawn

Paul replied:

Shawn —

I would rather confess to a priest when it think it might be a mortal sin, not only when I'm 100% certain it is.

That way:

  • you can cover your bases
  • receive the grace of the sacrament, and
  • receive good counsel as to how best to avoid it — even if it isn't mortal.

Paul

Shawn replied:

Hi Paul,

You said:
I would rather confess to a priest when it think it might be a mortal sin . . ."

  • But if you are uncertain, why confess to a priest and not God alone since a mortal sin requires the condition of deliberate consent?

Shawn

Paul replied:

Shawn —

If there is grave matter, I would rather err on the side of caution. I think it is better to confess when we are not 100% certain it is not a mortal sin rather than confess only when we are 100% certain that it is.

Paul

Shawn replied:

Hi Paul,

You said,
I think it is better to confess when we are not 100% certain it is not a mortal sin, rather than confess only when we are 100% certain that it is.

This seems to go against the definition of mortal sin. The three requirements that must all be present.

  • If one is uncertain, then how did they reject God on purpose?

Example One:

  • John Doe had an impure thought.
  • He thinks he may have, but is not certain that he entertained it.
  • Since he is uncertain, he doesn't want to displease God, so he repents to God right then and he's done with it.

This example would show no mortal sin.

Example Two:

  • I'm going to purposely fantasize about some person I saw.
  • I know that I'm rejecting God but do not care.

This would be mortal sin. The person is deliberately consenting to carry out the thought.

This is how I view it and since it's subjective and based on the individual and God, no one except the person and God can understand the severity of it.

When I explained it like this, he agreed completely and said this is how he feels too.

Shawn

Paul replied:

Shawn —

I was talking more about sin of deed, not thought.

Discerning sins of thought, perhaps, include more gray area since it is generally more difficult to discern at what point deliberate entertainment occurs.

Paul

Shawn replied:

Absolutely!

I see what your saying and I agree with you 100%!

Thanks for the help,

God bless you!

Shawn

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