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21 February 2011


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Thank you for this--I've been trying to set this right in my own head. Can I push things a little further? How, exactly, does one confess gluttony? Inasmuch as it is a habit, it doesn't lend itself easily to the "kind and number" breakdown. On the other hand, I feel as if keeping track of every single broken promise to myself verges on scrupulosity. Thoughts? And do forgive me if you've addressed this elsewhere.

By the way, I'm a first-time commenter who is very much enjoying your blog.



I think you have to distinguish between a *weakness* and a *sin.* In the confessional, unless we're making a general confession (the kind that covers years), my understanding is that we're looking for specific instances when we did a specific thing that we knew was inherently wrong, or omitted to do a particular thing that was our duty.

If you make a promise to yourself, and break it through your own weakness, I do not think that is a sin, unless the act is objectively sinful for some reason. (I.E. if I promise myself I won't eat dessert but then I do, it's probably not a sin; if I promise myself I won't steal a dessert but then I do, of course it is a sin!)

My theory here is that "gluttony" is a weakness which may cause you to commit a sin -- against charity, for example, or against obedience. If a religious suffers from the weakness of gluttony, and so he sneaks food from the refectory between meals, then he has committed a sin of gluttony that is also the sin of disobedience and stealing; or if you rather, he committed the sins of disobedience and theft because he is a glutton. It's the breaking of the restraints which is the act of sin, the thing that can be counted (how many times did he steal the food?) The gluttony is an underlying weakness or temptation, I think.

The language that distinguishes between a sinful act and a weakness or an attachment to sin is not very precise, I think. I think I remember some advice (maybe Francis de Sales?) that we shouldn't clutter up our confessions with descriptions of our weaknesses when we have sinful acts (or omissions) to confess. Maybe someone will disagree with me but I tend to think that if you can't count it or at least estimate it in "kind and number" then we are talking about a weakness and not a sin.


This is a timely post for me, Erin! I've been thinking about gluttony lately since I'm in a strange situation with eating right now. Normally gluttony is a pretty cut-and-dried one for me: I know when I'm overeating, and I just try not to do it. But I'm currently 23wks pregnant with twins, and one of the things that my doctors (maternal-fetal medicine specialists) recommend is what they refer to as a "super-physiological" rate of weight gain. The nutritionist at their office gave me an eating plan that includes 3200-3500 calories a DAY (for background, I started the pregnancy at 5'9", 158lbs) in order for me to gain weight at the recommended rate. This necessarily means I eat more than I'm hungry for on a regular basis. And it's not always fun! It's often a sacrifice. But worth it, obviously, if it helps the babies.

The thing I struggle with, gluttony-wise, is the make-up of the food I put in my mouth. There isn't anything that's forbidden to me, but I am supposed to be getting around 160g of protein PER DAY. I would often prefer to eat lower-protein foods because they're what I enjoy, but if I give into that too much, I feel like I cross the line between eating for nutrition and eating for pleasure. It's currently pretty much impossible for me to eat *too much* (I rarely hit 3500 calories a day, but am fortunately gaining weight anyway) but I think this is my current form of temptation to gluttony: eating the wrong things instead of what my babies and I need.

Anyway, interesting post! You gave me a lot to chew on. (Ha!)


Erin, you're the best food writer out there.:)

Another vote for the timely post award here: I'm losing weight right now through restraint, eating less than I want (though not less than I need), going to bed hungry, etc. This process has caused me to grapple with my innate gluttony. I'm starting to welcome the early sensations of hunger in perhaps the same way as the saints welcomed much greater sufferings -- as an opportunity to once again order my will toward the right actions that will strengthen me.


" I'm starting to welcome the early sensations of hunger in perhaps the same way as the saints welcomed much greater sufferings -- as an opportunity to once again order my will toward the right actions that will strengthen me."

I think that this is the beginning of turning it around (with respect to one's reaction to actual hunger signals, at least.) It wasn't particularly pious in an offer-it-up sense, but I think I made a real breakthrough when I found I was experiencing hunger more as good news than terrible news -- "Look, I feel hungry! That means I must not have overeaten in the last few hours and days! If I can stick with it for a little while I'll probably burn some fat! Yay!"

Reacting to cravings are another matter entirely...


Thank you--much to think about! I have a background that is more Calvinist than Catholic, so the distinction between weakness and sin is a tricky one for me. I'll certainly revisit St. Frances de Sales!


I wrote about St. Francis de Sales and confessing "vague generalities" in this post:


Here's a quote from St. Francis:

"Avoid vague accusations such as 'I have not loved God as much as I ought'; 'I have not prayed enough'; 'I have been lacking in reverence in receiving the sacraments', and so on; for such accusations convey nothing to your confessor as to the state of your soul; there is no saint in heaven and no one on earth who could not say exactly the same.

...Consider the particular reason you have for making such accusations and then accuse yourself simply and openly of the actual fault, for example: you accuse yourself of not loving your neighbor enough, perhaps because you saw a poor person in great need and you did not help or console him when you could easily have done so. Say, then: 'Having seen a poor man in need I did not help him as I might have done through negligence', or hardness of heart, or contempt, or whatever you know the real reason to have been. In the same way, do not accuse yourself of lack of devotion in prayer but simply of the fault which led to this, namely that you had distractions through your own fault, or that you did not choose a suitable place or time, and so on."


That quote is very helpful. I have a sort of sense in my examinations that considering motives is just "making excuses," but de Sales demonstrates how silly that logic is. Sometimes I eat beyond my resolutions because I'm hungry, sometimes because I enjoy the food, and sometimes out of a kind of icky rebellion, and I think in those last instances my weakness most approaches sin.


Soo, snacking when your hungry is gluttony?


Crystal: It might be, or it might not be. It depends on the circumstances.

If you can't stand to be hungry for a few minutes without sticking something in your mouth, then maybe it is. (Assuming no medical problems).

But if you've got the self-discipline to take time to prepare and eat something you feel good about eating, at a time and place that's appropriate and pleasant for eating, then maybe it's not.

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