"God will not forgive me unless..."

Dear Father Bloom

I was raised Catholic but have been away from the Church for many years. I have had problems with alcohol all my life and have been in and out of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. About three years ago I found casinos and gambling. What started out as $10 or $20 for fun in slot machines turned into thousands of dollars of debt and a continual chasing of losses.

I have hit bottom, approximately $100,000 in credit card debt and my minimum credit card payments have reached $2400 a month with an average of 18% interest and I can't possibly pay this for 8-10 years and meet the needs of my family at the same time. I have tried Consumer Credit Counseling Service and they could only bring my monthly payments down to $2200 a month at 10% interest.

I then considered bankruptcy and went to see a lawyer. At first the lawyer recommended Chapter 7 bankruptcy, with a complete liquidation of debt and later he said we would have to do a Chapter 13 paying back about one third of the debt over three years.

I feel so guilty and ashamed and I feel the God will not forgive me unless I pay back the money I owe in full. However, I'm not sure if I should look up the credit card companies after I pay the court trustee for 3 years and offer to continue to pay.

I don't know how I can confess my sins when I'm not sure if I can meet the obligation to make restitution in full. My life is a mess...I am so stressed out...I started attending Gamblers Anonymous...but I have a this feeling of doom and gloom hanging over me like there is now way out....do you have any suggestions?


Dear L

You have been in my prayers since receiving your email. What an awful situation. Tho I have gotten myself into messes, debt has not been one of them. My advice would be to follow the lawyer's recommendation. The interest is too excessive and you have to consider you wife and children. The following may sound like strange advice, but you need to start tithing if you have not already begun. The only way to get your finances in proper order is by dedicating the first fruits to God (5% to your parish, 5% to other charities). You may not be able to start at the full ten percent, but at least begin at 1%.

I am glad to hear you are with Gamblers' Anonymous. I do know personally about addiction and that the only hope is following the steps - especially the first one, recognizing our powerlessness before the addiction.

You definitely should go to confession. Perhaps when a priest has a bit more time and make it part of the Fifth Step. Concentrate on getting your own life in order - and in the future take up the question of what restitution you should make to the credit card companies. My prayers. Say an Our Father for me.

God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom

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