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Domine ut Videam

Confessing Addictions?

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Domine ut Videam
What does the church teach about addictions?

I guess my question is, clearly the actions themselves are sinful, alcoholism, drugs, eating disorders, etc..., but since it is an addiction should it be confessed?

Because the definition of an addiction in and of itself is something over which the person no longer has control. Are these actions sinful then?

Also, if this is so, how is it known when a few drinks that is a sin crosses the line and becomes an addiction which the person no longer has control over? Thanks so much!

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Raphael
[b]CCC 1859:[/b] Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

Addiction is a tricky area because it can remove the free nature of a personal act, which reduces culpability. At the same time, [i][b]if[/b][/i] a person is capable of overcoming that addiction and chooses to use the addiction as an excuse, then that situation would be similar to what the CCC calls feigned ignorance (except that ignorance has to do with knowledge, whereas making excuses has to do with will). If a person is using an addiction that can be overcome as an excuse, then the person's sin is not reduced but increased because not only is he doing something he shouldn't be doing, but he is ignoring his duty to better himself and overcome sin. If, however, a person's willpower is truly and detrimentally affected by addiction, then the guilt of the sin may decrease (keep in mind that the objective evil involved remains the same, it's just less the fault of the individual).

As for knowing when one has crossed the line from the sin of intemperance (the sin of excess, which of course begins all addictions) to addiction, this can only be known by God and by the individual.

Keep in mind that even if a person is an addict and is not fully guilty for what he or she does now regarding that addiction, addiction objectively begins with sin because it involves intemperance. So, for instance, a man who is known as an alcoholic may claim that he was not responsible for an instance of motor vehicular manslaughter because of his drunkeness, it was that same man who drank excessively in the first place and got into the addiction that eventually led to the traffic accident. This is why addictions are a tricky topic; it seems reasonable to understand that guilt is decreased, but it also seems reasonable to insist that the man is guilty. Ultimately, the guilt of the individual can only by known by God and the individual himself. This is why moral theology often stops at giving us guidelines and not clarifying each and every situation.

With that in mind, addictions should absolutely be confessed. The first step of any successful addiction recovery program is to admit that you have a problem. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous is based on Catholic theology of repentance and confession. If you are confessing an addiction, be sure to let the priest know that you are an addict. This will be very helpful to him in assisting in your recovery. As long as you truly intend to overcome the addiction, the Confession can be a very fruitful, grace-filled way to go step by step through recovery. Of course, it must be lived out; it means commitment to recovery and means really and truly removing from your life the things that tempt you toward your addiction in the first place.

One caveat: confessing anything that you do not actually intend to change can not only invalidate the Confession, but it can harm spirituality gravely and cause a person not to take Confession seriously or even to treat it as a meaningless routine.

I hope this helps.

God bless,

Micah

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