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Dealing with Scruples

Item Number: 20368

Catalog Code: DWS-DIS

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Dealing with Scruples

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Dealing with Scruples
by Dermot Casey, S.J.


It’s possible to be too hard on yourself

Or maybe on others, too, who suffer from scruples

“Scruples” -- defined in the old Catholic Encyclopedia as an “unwarranted fear that something is a sin, which, as a matter of fact, is not” -- was once a familiar term to Catholics, but has since fallen out of use. No wonder: Catholics today are more likely to suffer the delusion that nothing is a sin.

Yet for Catholics who still take sin seriously, scrupulosity is more a danger than ever. Why? Because in an atmosphere of moral and religious laxity, some of us overcompensate by being too hard on ourselves. The resulting mental anguish can lead to serious spiritual consequences as well -- warping judgment, sapping moral strength, and not infrequently leading to despair of God’s goodness.

Fortunately, the cure for this age-old problem hasn’t changed since Dermot Casey, SJ, wrote this definitive guide more than a half-century ago.

Using simple, non-technical language, Fr. Casey divides his treatment into two parts:

(1) “The Nature of Scruples” (diagnosis), and

(2) “The Treatment of Scruples” (cure).

Some of his helpful advice:


  • 8 common errors about Catholic moral and religious obligations that can lead to or exacerbate scruples


  • Why scruples lead a person away from sanctity, not closer to it


  • 5 common experiences or changes of circumstance that can bring on a serious case of scruples


  • Telltale signs and symptoms of the scrupulous person. Dangers of incorrect diagnosis


  • How to distinguish scrupulosity from a healthy fear of sin


  • The main component of scrupulosity


  • Why scruples are most troublesome on such occasions as Confession, Holy Communion, prayer and other devotional exercises. Remedies for each


  • The kind of person most liable to scruples


  • The most common form of scruples in priests


  • Two deficiences of upbringing and education that can contribute to scruples in later life


  • Why scruples often begin at adolescence


  • 4 essential steps in the treatment of scruples


  • The “rule of certainty” which the scrupulous person must grasp in order to be cured.


  • Examples of how it is applied


  • Four psychological exercises that by themselves actually short-circuit the mental strain associated with scruples


  • St. Ignatius’ Rules for Scruples


  • Categories of spiritual reading to be avoided by the scrupulous


  • Why each case of scruples tends to focus on some one area of guilt


  • How character, habits, daily work and other duties influence the particular focus of scruples


  • How scrupulous people misunderstand the distinction between thinking and willing


  • Superficial resemblances of scrupulosity to certain forms of mental illness. The all-important differences


  • Why scrupulous people tend to change confessors


  • What can a confessor do if a scrupulous penitent comes to him


  • Why men’s scruples can be more difficult to cure than women’s


  • The fundamental rule for confessors and spiritual directors in dealing with scrupulous people


  • How scrupulous people can be reasonable about sin in general -- yet unreasonable about their own acts


  • “The really scrupulous person will tend rather to refuse to believe that he is scrupulous”

 BONUS: Full text of the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia essay on scruples

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7 1/2"  (19.0 cm) x 5 1/2"  (13.9 cm)
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