23 February 2015


One of the joys of priestly ministry is hearing confessions. To be able to say “I absolve you…” to someone who has made a good examination of conscience and a sincere confession is a great privilege. The time I spend in the confessional seems to me to be among the most spiritually productive hours of my week.

I’m sure it’s the experience of every priest, from time to time, to have the difficult task of trying to guide a person who is tortured with the burden of scrupulosity. I haven’t found it to be a common problem by any means, but I come across it often enough to want to mention it here. Of course, the more common task for the confessor is to help people make a complete confession, to assist them in getting away from telling what their spouse or children did and get down to their own sins. But for the person suffering from scrupulosity there is a constant fear that almost everything is, or leads to, sin. Scrupulosity has been called “the doubting disease” because the sufferer lives in constant fear that he has perhaps forgotten to confess something, or that an impure thought might flash through his mind, or that his contrition is insufficient.

Often I have recommended an excellent and helpful article by Mark Lowery entitled “Scrupulosity: The Occupational Hazard of the Catholic Moral Life”, and I certainly recommend it to anyone who thinks he may have tendencies toward scrupulosity. In fact, it would be helpful to every Catholic who seeks that holiness which is in accordance with the divine will of Christ.