picture of Alphonsus de Liguori Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787) was a Catholic theologian who was born near Naples. He believed that the path to overcoming scruples (a term for obsessions and compulsions) was complete and absolute obedience to one's spiritual advisor. He suffered from scruples himself.

The suffering that affects scrupulous souls comes, not from the fact that they have a scruple about what they are doing, but from the fear that what they are doing might be sinful and that they are, in fact, committing sin. But they should realize that whoever obeys a competent and holy director does not, in fact, act in doubt but acts with the greatest certainty that one can have here on earth, namely, the certainty which comes from the divine word of Jesus Christ who declares that whoever listens to the instructions of his ministers listens to himself.... In a word, to quote St. Bernard, "The great remedy for scruples is blind obedience to one's confessor."... "Scruples are to be completely disregarded, and one is to do the very opposite to what they suggest, provided one is following the advice of a prudent, competent and devout spiritual director" [apparently quoting Father Wigandt]....

Gerson [John Gerson (1363-1429)] puts the whole matter succinctly. He says that one must take a very determined stand against scruples. Philip Neri [(1515-1595)] suggested that the best remedy for scruples is to treat them with contempt. In his life it is recorded that as well as advising the accepted remedy of total submission in everything to the judgment of one's confessor, he also advised his penitents to treat scruples with disdain and contempt. His practice with scrupulous persons was to forbid them to confess frequently. And when they did confess to him and mentioned their scruples he ordered them to go to Holy Communion without listening further to their scruples.

So to conclude. Scrupulous souls should follow the way of obedience.... Moreover, any fear that scrupulous souls may have should be treated with contempt since such fears are not authentic norms of conscience.

From Frederick M. Jones, ed., Alphonsus de Liguori: selected writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 209-14, 322-3.


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