Dear Father Angelo,
My name is Sandro, I would like to ask you a question about the effect of sin on our conscience.
Put simply, is that sense of oppression and restlessness that accompanies a sin due to our Catholic upbringing or is it objective in everyone?
Maybe we Christians, induced from childhood to deem an act evil, make it weigh on our conscience as a result. While, on the contrary, the same act would not upset anyone who has not been led to think of it as a sin.
And then on confession: with no doubt, after receiving forgiveness I feel a sense of relief, cleanliness and openness to the world that is difficult to explain with suggestion, but is this too a suggestion or something objective?
Does conscience maybe take it as a palliative so that we can get by?
And how can those who cannot access Reconciliation not feel an imperative NEED for freshness of the soul after acts that wound the conscience?
Personally, I would feel so overwhelmed that I couldn’t raise my eyes anymore.
If you wish, you can post this email on the site.
I warmly greet you, thanking you for the service you offer us.
Answer of the priest
1. You ask me if the sense of oppression that one feels after a mortal sin is due to a conscience educated in a catholic way or is it a natural fact.
Well, a distinction is needed here.
Some precepts impose themselves on our conscience because they are written in our heart. They are precepts of natural law, such as not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery.
These are not the result of Catholic education.
This is why anyone feels uncomfortable if he steals (so much so that he does it secretly), if he spreads a slander, even more so on a good and innocent person, if he kills another person.
Anything that hurts natural law, hurts our nature and makes us feel bad.
2. Then there are other precepts that derive from our Catholic education, such as the sanctification of feast days, abstinence or fasting, the prayer life.
Then only those who believe feel discomfort and remorse.
3. Certainly Catholic faith and education refine the conscience, so a good Christian feels greater remorse even for violations of the natural law, such as for example for a single malevolent word said in the absence of the person concerned.
In this respect Dante was right when he said: “O pure and noble conscience, you in whom each petty fault becomes a harsh rebuke!“.
For this reason, the saints have a greater sensitivity both towards good and towards evil.
4. Conversely, some people inveterate in evil (think of certain criminals) have anesthetized their conscience to the point of not feeling remorse even for sins against natural law.
Delinquency in some is second nature.
Then it may happen that some not only no longer perceive anything but even boast of what they should be ashamed of.
Saint Paul remembers this well when he says of some: “Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things” (Phil 3:19).
Even today we see people who are honest, good and competent in their work.
But in some areas of their life they have allowed evil to enter their hearts, they have become dissolute and publicly boast of what they were previously ashamed of.
5. Then you ask me if the sense of freshness and relief that one feels in confession is simply a psychological fact or if it corresponds to reality.
Well in this regard we have data before us. Many people today turn to a psychologist, but they leave as soon as they enter.
Perhaps, at first they feel some relief. Shortly after nothing more.
Yet with the psychologist they sometimes go into details to describe their life and their actions, which is forbidden to do in confession so as not to profane the Sacrament.
The difference is this: from confession one comes out relieved.
6. Indeed, the same people who go to the psychologist and at the same time also go to confession testify to the profound difference between the two practices.
In the first there is a psychological liberation.
In the second there is a liberation, indeed, a moral purification combined with a sanctification of the soul.
This moral purification also includes in itself a psychological liberation.
For this Freud would have said that the confession practiced by the Catholic Church has represented the psychoanalysis of the poor for centuries.
7. Freud thought that with psychology and psychoanalysis it no longer made sense to resort to the sacrament of Confession. But even on this point he was wrong.
Many people at some point leave the psychoanalysis they have been doing for perhaps years and with scrupulous fidelity in paying the analyst because they discover Confession.
And they realize how right God was in saying through the prophet Jeremiah: “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water” (Jer 2:13).
8. Finally I think that everyone feels the need to be internally renewed and to be purified.
Unfortunately, many do not know that at their fingertips there is a sacrament of regeneration and life. And it is the sacrament of confession.
It is certainly a grace for you to have known it and I wish you to always access it on a regular and frequent basis.
Much is drawn from this well.
It is a priceless grace.
I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by Chiara P.