Impure Thoughts - Mortal Sin?

I’m just wondering - are impure thoughts, even the worst kind, mortal sins. Even if you try to stop them and you never try to start them in the first place - they just pop up? If you want to recieve the Eucharist, but I don’t think you’ll get to go to confession before the next mass can you?..are these thoughts mortal sins?

Mortal sin only if you purposely dwell on them. Whenever they come to your mind, just say a quick prayer (Jesus, help me), or some such one, and go on with your business.

This is good advice. The thoughts that randomly enter our minds are not by deliberate choice. This kind of thing is completely beyond our control. It’s what we do with the thoughts that determines whether we commit sin or not.

melissa09, you may have problems with scrupulosity. Many scrupulous people deal with problems of obscene “random thoughts” and worry these thoughts count as mortal sins. As long as one does not want them and rejects them, they are not mortal sins. I’d advise you to look into the condition of scrupulosity, and see if descriptions of the condition seem to describe you.

This, for instance, has helped scrupulous people that I know.

Good source, I’ll agree.:slight_smile:

It is only a sin if you start dwelling in them (i.e. day dreaming, carrying out ceratin actions, etc.).

A lot of people, myself included, get tortured from time to time by these thoughts (sometimes for long periods of time). Try to say a quick prayer (hail mary, god/jesus help me, etc.), ignore the thoughts, and/or find something to keep your mind and body occupied (idle hands are the tool of the devil).

thank you, these posts help a lot and I read your posts to some of the other people who were going through the same sort of thing! Thanks!

Brief entertainment of thoughts for example if anything is a venial sin. It becomes a mortal sin when you wish to become aroused by those thoughts and so act them out in your head to achieve that purpose. If you are trying to avoid arousal and also try to pray, these are clear indications it is not a mortal sin and at best venial (if you tried to avoid them only hap hazardly).

Well I never consent to them and try to avoid them, but sometimes it seems that the more I try to avoid them the more they appear - and in a way I feel like I’m causing them because I keep thinking about them - or rather about getting rid of them

P.S. I’m probably scrupulus (or however you spell it)

I’m not probably scrupulous - I think I definitely am scrupulous!! Those 10 Commandments definitely pointed that one out 100%. Thanks to whoever posted those - I forgot your name:( . The 3rd one about repeating prayers definitely hits right on. Thanks again!

Those were very helpful for me as well.

I grew up in a tradition of evangelical Protestantism (the “Holiness Movement”) that positively encourages scrupulosity (they don’t call it that, of course, and they are somewhat aware of its dangers, but the basic theology and piety are extremely conducive to scrupulosity). One of the things that I like about being an Anglican is the freedom from those sorts of worries, and one of the things that has put me off Catholicism is that Catholicism (with its much stricter and more legal approach to these things) is closer to my Holiness background. I am no doubt partly influenced by reading too much Luther, who was of course troubled by scrupulosity and could with some exaggeration be said to have founded Protestantism in order to deal with it!

It’s very helpful, both personally and in terms of my attitude to Catholicism, to read this article and see how sensible and gentle this priest’s approach is. I crave the greater authority and clarity of Catholicism, but I worry that this is just because of my strict Holiness background (in other words, that anything not ultra-strict seems inadequate to me) and that I would plunge back into scrupulosity and legalism and fear if I became Catholic.


Speaking as someone who has scruples, I can tell you that impure thoughts which just pop into your head are not your fault. Sometimes they are the devil trying to tempt you to sin - especially if the same thoughts keep on returning - and other times they are just thoughts that come up, without you’re thinking of them. In either case, I’ve found that the best way to combat such thoughts is prayer and thinking. Say a Hail Mary, or an Our Father, or the Jesus Prayer, or some other prayer. Then, before you think you’ve committed a mortal sin, think it over:

Did you think the thoughts yourself, or did they just pop up?
Did you entertain the thoughts, or did you try to resist them?
Did you know the thoughts would come, or did you not know?

If you said Yes to all three questions, than it is sin. If not, fear not, for it is not sin.

Also, a good advise that many people forget to give: NEVER trust the devil. He dose not tell the truth - ever. So if he tells you you sinned, don’t believe him. Don’t reply to him, either - he loves attention. Just ignore him. Just make the Sign of the Cross. Satan cannot stand the Sign, and he flees from you as soon as you make it. The reason is because he hates the Mercy of God.


I think you should try Catholicism out. I know it’s stricter (in some ways) and I don’t think I’d be as scrupulous if I was Protestant, but it’s so rewarding. There are people to help with scrupulosity - here and elsewhere. I can’t imagine myself anywhere else except in the Catholic Church! and maybe you’re unsure feeling is telling you to come to Catholicism. I’ve just realized that through these few posts and the help I’ve received through all my struggles that the Church will always be there and the generous people that are in it are truly amazing!

what if you answer yes to possibly one of the questions or two , but not all - through I’m not sure. Again when I discuss impure thoughts - it seems like they come into my mind more…I think I’m being scrupulous again…

Try Bishop Sheen’s video on temptation:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

It depends on what kind of Protestant! I grew up with the idea that before making any even moderately serious decision I should pray and make sure that what I was doing was God’s will–if I didn’t I would be sinning, because “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Talk about scrupulosity. . . .


There’s a big difference between impure thoughts that “pop into your head” and fantasies. The sudden, random thought is easily banished and not a mortal sin-no full consent of the will. The fantasy that is deliberately entertained even though you know it is wrong is the mortal sin.

At least that’s how I’ve been taught to view them…

True…but another question: if scrupulosity occurs in many religions…why would that hinder you from becoming Catholic?

Melissa I thought I might also add that the devil does this sometimes where the more you try to avoid thinking about it, the more it appears and become stronger. If you make an avid attempt through prayer at the time and call on Jesus or look at some Holy Picture, although you may suffer this for sometime; struggling against it and not saying in your heart (I want to be aroused) is not wrong, but actually can be a source of glory to God. I remember in reading in St. Faustina’s Diary on temptation that those struggle against temptation and seek to not give into the sin (in this case, seeking arousal), give glory to God actually. He said seek the help of Mary and the Saints. This was the same response to Paul who was suffering from a thorn in the flesh (meaning something like you are in not wanting to commit a sin by seeking arousal from these things), and Paul wished for Jesus to take it away and instead Jesus said His grace was sufficient to overcome it rather than Christ removing it. If you offer this temptation to God, and through prayer, fasting, and good works seek not to give in to it by acting on those temptations or seeking to get aroused, you HAVE NOT committed a mortal sin. Offer this struggle to Christ who will be very pleased, and if you have committed any sin, know it is very most likely venial and this can be repaired through a simple act of contrition.
If you are really concerned, speak with a spiritual advisor or priest to help you discern these things and once they let you know how to judge your actions with these thoughts, stick to that standard and don’t second guess yourself on whether it is a sin or not.
Hope that helps!


What I was trying to say is that I come from a background that encouraged this, and I know how destructive it can be.

Anglicanism (at least in the forms I’ve encountered it) certainly does not encourage scrupulosity. It does, alas, encourage laxity and dilletantism. But every form of Christianity has its weaknesses. . . . :o