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Anonymous Amy wrote:

Hi, guys—

I have a question about what makes mortal sin. I don't know how to generalize it so I'm going to describe it loosely.

To understand my problem, you will need some background:

  1. I have anxiety issues, and
  2. I can't go to Confession more than once a week because I fear a priest chewing me out for coming too often (this has happened before).

So I was freaking out about whether or not x was a mortal sin and checked my calendar for the nearest Confession date (just in case), which was after the approaching Sunday.

I thought:

"[Since there is] only one Sunday until I can get to Confession, I can always commit a sacrilege by going to Communion and confessing my sacrilege later so my mom won't ask why I'm not going to Communion."

After a few seconds of thinking about this (even though I knew sacrilege was bad),

  • I felt bad
  • stopped, and
  • apologized to God.

I then shrugged it off and resumed worrying over something else however, a few hours later, the thought suddenly occurred to me that by considering the action described above, I might have mortally sinned.

I never would have really committed sacrilege but I've previously pondered thoughts like the preceding one and never considered them to be mortal sins.

  • Did I sin mortally?

I went to Confession one or two days ago.

Sincerely,

Amy

  { Since I don't want to say why I'm not receiving Communion is it OK to receive when I shouldn't? }

Bob replied:

Dear Amy,

If you had sinned mortally, which I very much doubt, you could and probably should abstain from receiving Holy Communion.

Circumstances exist where one can receive Communion before Confession, but that is based on:

  1. necessity
  2. with intent to confess at the nearest opportunity, and
  3. with sincere contrition.
  • So, is it too hard to talk to your Mom about abstaining until you have had the opportunity to go to Confession without disclosing all the details?

You could try that and see how she responds. It may go better than you think.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Amy replied:

Thank you for responding Bob.

However, what I meant to ask was whether or not I sinned mortally by having the following attitude:

"Okay, I will commit a sacrilege (even though I later found out that what I was worrying about was not mortally sinful) and go to Communion, then confess it later".

This thought did not merely pass through my head. Instead, I weighed its merits as a valid plan and thought that I could do it. I later apologized to God and only a few hours later I realize that pondering this plan might be a mortal sin, since sacrilege is a very bad thing.

I have thought about doing this in the past and, for some reason, never considered it sinful — for some reason my conscience chose now, of all times, to tell me.

  • Do you get what I'm trying to say?

Amy

Bob replied:

Amy,

It is possible to commit mortal sin when the matter falls short because the intent was to consent to it.

For example, if you thought you were going to kill somebody by running them over, but you only injured them, you would still be guilty of murder in the eyes of God anyway.

It seems like in your case the intent was, Okay whatever, I'm just going to commit a sacrilege and deal with it later., even though it turned out not to be. So, it technically could be mortal sin, but God may also mitigate your culpability due to a host of things that He already knows about you. I get the sense that he isn't taking great offense at this, and would like you to find better ways of handling your conscience.

For example, when you really ought to abstain, if you are embarrassed to not receive Communion in front of others, offer it up, or confide in someone (like your mom) and say,

  • Do you think it would be okay if I abstain until after I go to Confession?

It's not super serious, but my conscience would feel better.

You don't have to discuss the matter in detail, and you can relieve the embarrassment by making the comment about the seriousness. It also relieves any worry she may have. Having someone share this decision can give you courage and not feel so alone.

In our parish, people can come forward and cross their arms for a blessing instead of receiving Communion when they are abstaining. It is commonplace so it is not awkward and it means the person doesn't have to sit in the pew with people climbing over them, drawing even more attention.

My biggest concern for you is that scrupulosity is preventing you from receiving Communion when you shouldn't worry. You worry far too much, too often, and you have to get past the notion that God is out to bust you at every turn.

I know you try to keep an objective hold on your conscience but the emphasis can quickly make Christianity simply about following rules. You need more focus on the relationship with God as Father and pray extemporaneous prayers as often as you can.

You are a great kid, and shouldn't have so many burdens.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Amy replied:

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your reply.

I think I will go to Communion because if God isn't so strict and judgmental as I paint Him to be, I think He will understand that I went to Confession 2-3 days ago and sometimes slip up.

I hope I'm doing the right thing by receiving this Sunday.

Amy

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