Expert Answer Forum

near occasion of sin QUESTION from Charlene September 5, 2000 My question may sound strange, but I am a convert and uncertain about how to address some things in confession. If one begins a sinful action, but stops before the sinful act is committed how would one confess this? Should you confess this as a near occasion of sin or should you confess the sinful action and confess that you didn't carry through with it?
Thank you for your help.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on November 20, 2000 Dear Mrs. Charlene:
A general rule of thumb on any confusions about confession is to go ahead and discuss it with your priest, either generically in his office, or while in confession. He should be able to clear up any and all misunderstandings (unless the priest is a liberal).
However to your description above, it is generally not possible to begin a sinful action and not commit the some sort of sin. Either you are sinning or not. Once a sinful action is begun, the sin is committed in most circumstances that I can think of. You'll need to be specific before a more clear answer can be given.
But for example, say one wishes to shoplift. You place the item in your coat pocket and begin to walk out, but then change your mind and put the item back. The shoplifting began but was not completed. Was there a sin committed. In my opinion, yes a sin was committed. The sin of theft was not committed because the item was place back on the shelf, but the sin of lusting after that item, or coveting that item, the sin of dishonesty was committed.
Remember Jesus said actual physical commission of the sin is not needed for a sin to occur. The sin can be from within the heart. Thus He said to look upon a woman in lust is to commit adultery in your heart. If the primary sin that was intended was begun but not finished there is likely to be a fundamental sin underneath that one.
If you are tempted to sin and come close to committing the sin, then you are in a near occasion of sin. If one has a problem shoplifting then perhaps to be in the near occasion of sin would be to go into a store alone. Near occasion of sin for a person with a drinking problem might be to visit a bar. Near occasion of sin for a person with an addiction or pornography might be to go into a store that sells pornographic magazines or to watch certain movies on TV. If one has a lustful fantasy toward a particular actor or actress then to be in the near occasion of sin is to watch any movie in which that actor or actress is in the cast.
Whatever might place us in danger of temptation we need to avoid. To avoid the near occasion of sin is to avoid situations and circumstances that endanger or impair or threaten your ability to resist temptation.
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