SCRUPULOSITY?

QUOTE: Scrupulosity is a psychological disorder characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues. It is personally distressing, objectively dysfunctional, and often accompanied by significant impairment in social functioning. It is typically conceptualized as a moral or religious form of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), although this categorization is empirically disputable.  The term is derived from the Latin scrupulum, a sharp stone, implying a stabbing pain on the conscience. Scrupulosity was formerly called scruples in religious contexts, but the word scruples now commonly refers to a troubling of the conscience rather than to the disorder. As a personality trait, scrupulosity is a recognized diagnostic criterion for obsessive–compulsive personality disorder

Scrupulosity is the modern-day medical diagnosis that corresponds to a traditional use of the term scruples in a religious context, e.g. byRoman Catholics, to mean obsessive concern with one’s own sins and compulsive performance of religious devotion. This use of the term dates to the 12th century. Several historical and religious figures suffered from doubts of sin, and expressed their pains. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, wrote “After I have trodden upon a cross formed by two straws … there comes to me from without a thought that I have sinned … this is probably a scruple and temptation suggested by the enemy.” Alphonsus Liguori, the Redemptorists‘ founder, wrote of it as “groundless fear of sinning that arises from ‘erroneous ideas'”. Although the condition was lifelong for Loyola and Liguori, Thérèse of Lisieux stated that she recovered from her condition after 18 months, writing “One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible.” Martin Luther also suffered from obsessive doubts; in his mind, his omitting the word enim (“for”) during the Eucharist was as horrible as laziness, divorce, or murdering one’s parent.

Although historical religious figures such as Loyola, Luther and John Bunyan are commonly cited as examples of scrupulosity in modern self-help books, some of these retrospective diagnoses may be deeply ahistorical: these figures’ obsession with salvation may have been excessive by modern standards, but that does not mean that it was pathological.

Scrupulosity’s first known public description as a disorder was in 1691, by John Moore, who called it “religious melancholy” and said it made people “fear, that what they do, is so defective and unfit to be presented unto God, that he will not accept it”.

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