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June 2016 Letters

Q. All sorts of unwanted thoughts about people, relationships, and options pop into my head. When do these thoughts become mortal sins?

A. Never. There is no such thing as unwanted thoughts becoming mortal sins. What you’re describing is common human behavior and experience. You have no control over random, unwanted thoughts. You didn’t generate them (other than by being alive). You may have anxiety, and there may be times when you’re startled by the intensity of what you’re thinking at any moment, but having that thought is not a sin.

The key word here is “unwanted,” and at no point do you become responsible for these thoughts.

Q. You were quite harsh to a person who asked about seeking opinions from other confessors. It’s out of our control that sometimes our confessor is absent. We have to confess to the priest who is there. You should be a little more understanding.

A. I’m sorry you feel I was harsh. My directive was intended to be strong, but not harsh.

People with scrupulosity should not seek additional opinions; a second opinion soon becomes a third, then a fourth, and so on.

You do have a choice when your confessor is absent: Don’t go to confession. It’s far better to stick with the good pastoral advice of a single confessor than to place yourself in a position that will do more harm than good in both the short-run and the long-run.

Published in2016 JuneSA Mailbox