Ask a Priest

Confession, Reparation and OCD/Scrupolosity

Dec 19, 2016

Hi Father

I have been away from the church for a long time but his year I made a general confession. However I am finding a lot of problems. I am also suffering from OCD and scrupolosity and I am having treatment for these conditions. One of the problems I am facing is that of reparation of sins. During my life I told some lies/exagerations/inaccuricies about people. I have confessed such sins and have been given absolution but will I have to tell the individual that I lied to the truth about another person in order that my sins to be forgiven? If I fail to tell the person that I have lied to the truth about another person will I be guilty of another sin? The problem is that four or more years have passed from when I lied and it is a bit difficult to talk to certain persons and telling them that in that particular occasion I have not told the truth about the other person. The problem is that many of them are not exactly clear cut lies; they may be a bit exagerated, I may have left some information out or I lied about a person without the intention to harm him/her. Some of the persons may also not know the person I lied about or may know him and have no connection with him/her. Some may have some connection.

My great problem is that of how to tell another person that I lied to about the other person. Just imagine contacting a person in person or by e mail and then telling him something that I may have said about another person; things which he may have long forgotten or just don’t care about them. I am finding this extremly difficult to do. I have tried to amend my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations and in a case it was a success, in another I think that I have been largely ignored or with little success but in another I was told that I was saying that because I have something in mind such as some trickery or for some other obscure reasons. The problem is that you cannot just contact a person and telling him/her that some years ago I have told them a lie/inaccuracy/exageration about a person and not being looked as I am not quite well mentally. You just can’t force such things since I feel that I will look very strange and awkward. I have told about these problems to my wife (which is very religious) and she told me that I am not obliged to contact such persons about my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations of time ago. She also told me that what I have said about certain persons was probably true; which probably she may be right but I have changed a bit the truth. She then turned very worried and promptly contacted the psychiatrist which he adjustd my treatment. I know that currently I am suffering with OCD and scrupolosity but I think that I need also some spiritual direction.

I strongly feel tha telling the truth will not make any difference to the persons that I lied on. Maybe the persons that I lied to may look at the other person a bit more favourably although I dont’ think that it will have any serious positive effect. Some years have also passed. What is your opinion about my problem? Do you think that I should stop thinking about this problem and look forward?

Thanks and Kind Regards


Asked at 09:11 pm on December 19th 2016

Hi James, no confessor would ever require a person who’d lied to go back and confess to the people the lie was told about. Maybe if it was the kind of lie called perjury, where I swore in court something that involved another person being wrongfully accused of a crime, I’d be bound in duty to do all I could to right that wrong. Or if I lied about a person’s competence, saying that this or that person was a qualified surgeon or engineer, whatever, where that person might do serious injury to others.

We could do greater harm to our relationships with this persons if we in fact owned up to lies we’d told about them. Much better to pray for them and trust that God will make up now for any injury done them in the past – if indeed there was any injury caused them, which doesn’t sound like it from what you’ve written.

But sometimes I may have seriously wronged others, who have perhaps died since, or at any rate can no longer be contacted. How can I make it up to them? In these matters I remember what a famous Jewish philosopher called Martin Buber wrote about this: ‘the wounds of the order-of-being can be healed in infinitely many other places than those at which they were inflicted.’ In other words, by trying as best I can to love the people I’m with now – since Jesus is in every one of our neighbours – I am also loving the Jesus in the person I may have wronged, and I can trust it to Jesus to ‘pass on’ that love to the other, whether they’ve left this world or are far removed from me now. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 06:24 am on December 23rd 2016

Hi Fr. Brendan

I am not sure if I totally comprehended your answer. OK, I am not obliged to tell a person that I lied about him or her. But am I obliged to confess the lie to the person I lied to? For example if I said a lie about Person A to Person B. Will I have to confess that lie to person B? I am finding this very difficult because some years have passed and you just don’t contact a person to tell him/her that what I said about another person is not true. I have done this and was faced with different reactions. Moreover I dont think that this will change anything serious.

Thanks again


Replied at 10:48 pm on December 27th 2016

Fr. Brendan

I do completely agree with the answer you gave, but this part of the catechism is confusing, so any clarification would greatly help and be appreciated.

Replied at 02:23 am on October 31st 2017