A headscratcher of mine

I am not going to get into my personal beliefs, but there is a logical weirdness that I always wondered about when it comes to Catholic precepts.

We are told not to receive Communion when we are in a state of mortal sin, because doing so is in fact another mortal sin. My question is, if Catholics subscribe to the belief that having mortal sin on your soul condemns you to hell, then why are we subjected to this rule if we are already technically hellbound?

In other words, what good would it do for a mortal sinner to follow a rule if they are hellbound anyway? If someone with mortal sin on their soul goes to Communion, they go to hell. But if someone with mortal sin on their soul abstains from communion as per the rule, they still go to hell. If both outcomes are the same, why not just go to Communion and save yourself the embarrassment?

Again, my goal is not to espouse my personal beliefs, but simply to clear up the logic.

For the same reason God posted a Cherubim at the entrance of the garden after the exile; to prevent them from deepening the debt of their iniquity. Contrition and penance are important facets of reconciliation and repeated offenses (especially willful) increases the burden of both.

But if having one drop of mortal sin on your soul condemns you to hell (the Catholic logic as I understand it), then how can you deepen the debt? It is not a sliding scale if mortal sin in and of itself condemns you to hell. You have the same outcome whether you go to communion or you don’t.

Firstly - unrepented mortal sin is what condemns a person, not mortal sin per se. As has been pointed out, more mortal sin means more difficulty repenting.

Just as someone with one gunshot wound is more likely to survive than someone with a dozen, a person with a single mortal sin on their soul is more likely to find the grace to repent before death than someone with many many such sins.

When a person is damned to hell for all eternity he sufferers in proportion to the number and gravity of his sins. So adding sacrilege on top of another Mortal Sin would make the punishment more severe

Also, each sin we commit has other consequences associated with it that we experience in this life, one of them is the hardening of the heart (which makes it harder to repent), a darkening of the intellect (we become less aware of the sins we commit) and the wrath of God in the form of various chastisements inflicted on us to bring us to repentance.

If you would like to know more about hell, I would highly recommend this free Audio-book on the topic alleluiaaudiobooks.com/catholic-audibook-the-torments-of-hell/.

In addition to LilyM’s comment, it is also important to keep in mind that, as JPII said, “There is no such thing as a private sin”. So let’s look at an example where your particular sin is one known by someone else. The act of you partaking can encourage this other to follow your lead, even if they also are in the same boat. There’s where you hit the “whosoever leads one of the little ones to sin…” thing.

Perpetuating sin (and not going to confession) can also lead us to begin convincing ourselves that “well it’s not that bad”. Given enough time, we can begin to excuse or justify the sins in our lives, leading to feelings of guilt, denial, or other such things.

Hope we helped. It’s a great question, by the way.

For the non-evil people reading this, if you are in a state of mortal sin, go to Confession with a contrite heart, then you can receive communion.

If you live in a continuing state of mortal sin to to Mass each week and work with your priest to fix your situation so you can receive absolution at Confession.

God Bless

That would be like someone saying ‘well I have cancer anyway, I may as well kill myself’. It further rejects God and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. It takes the condemnation into your own hand rather than striving to repent and reconcile with God. Paul says in 1 Cor 11:29

“For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves”

It is true that a single mortal sin is enough for a person not to make it to heaven, but we Catholics believe in the Sacrament of Penance. If a person is truly sorry for their sins and confesses them to a priest (the embodiment of Christ in this sacrament), mortal sins can be forgiven. However, we also believe in Purgatory. For every sin, both venial and mortal, there is a temporal punishment in Purgatory associated with it. We don’t know how long each sin costs us, but we know additional sins add more time. Therefore, it is in every Catholic’s best interest to avoid Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Here on Earth, it might not make a difference, but when we die it sure will make a huge difference.


Also many great answers for - as with many things - their can be various aspects to consider.

Let’s cut right to the chase…You are absolutely right in your thinking. If one is hell bound - the number and type of mortal sin really is of no importance. Someone else pointed out that one suffers differently in hell depending on number and type of sin - - but to me this is a distinction without a difference, considering one of my aims is to avoid hell altogether.

The key to answering this question lies in three places… repentance - respect and obedience.
As already pointed out, if one is unrepentant… That is what is going to send you to hell and receiving the Eucharist will have no effect on your destination.
However - what if you ARE repentant - shouldn’t you be allowed to receive communion? Yes - once you have gotten right with the community. This is where respect and obedience enter the picture.
Respect - Obedience:
Because we know that we have broken our relationship with God and with the Church through our sin, we do not receive communion out of respect (and sorrow). Instead we seek to be restored to communion through the proper actions of confession and penance.

Perhaps an analogy…
Say you belong to an exclusive club and enjoy all the benefits of that membership.
Then you violate the codes of the club in such a way that you are tossed out.
Naturally, you cannot be readmitted or gain any benefit until you have repented. You are now an outsider. No longer a member in good standing.
OK - Now you realize you mistake and you wish to come back…
You have to reapply in whatever manner the club has established.
ONLY AFTER DOING THIS can you be considered a member of the group - entitled to the benefits of the group - again.

In the same way, mortal sin separates us from the Church (spiritually even if not physically). The only way to rejoin the Church is through the methods prescribed by the Church. Only having completed these can we be readmitted to full membership.

Think of it this way…
In a manner of speaking - Mortal sin makes our baptism void - confession is the manner of “re-baptism”.
(Not a Church teaching - just my way of “visualizing”).


God would be more offended by adding another mortal sin and sacrilege.
Also, one would receive a greater punishment in either hell or purgatory. More people sould be hurt and also potentially scandalized.

I love that answer, and I agree.

Why do you think Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Confession? To forgive our sins if we are truly sorry for them. Then we can go to Communion once again. HE knows our weaknessess and HE helps us to over come them. If I were you I would talk to a priest and have him help you get to know your Catholic Faith. Sounds to me like you could use some help in that respect. God Bless, Memaw

Some Scriptural ref to think about for this particular subject:

Matthew 11

21 *Wo to thee, Corozain, wo to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon the mighty works had been done in you, they would long ago have done penance in sack-cloth and ashes.

22 But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.

23 And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom that have been done in thee, perhaps it would have remained unto this day.

24 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.

Let me try to make an analogy. It’s one thing to have dirty hands. It’s another sitting at the breakfast table with mud covered hands, and reaching for the biscuits!

nice analogy…

First, having mortal sin on our souls doesn’t condemn us to hell, DYING in mortal sin does. While we are on this earth there’s still time to repent, and that’s part of what this teaching is meant to lead us to.

But the main reason we should refrain even though we’ve already sinned is actually pretty simple. Love. We don’t keep on hurting someone we love just because we’ve already hurt them once.

It’s a grave offense against God to receive Him in mortal sin. Just because we already offended Him once doesn’t mean we might as well add insult to injury just to avoid embarrassment. Would we do that to someone we love? If you hurt your own dad, would you then keep punching him in the stomach because you’ve already hurt him once, so what’s the difference?

No, first thing you do is STOP punching him. Then you ask for forgiveness. Because you love him, and even though you hurt him once, you love him enough not to keep insulting him just to save your pride.

Same thing with God. If we are repentant, and haven’t gotten a chance to confess, then refraining from communion is a sign of our humility and love of Christ’s presence. We may have gravely offended Him once, but we shouldn’t keep doing it. Refraining is a step in the direction of conversion and repentance.

I’ve always seen the teaching as a wake up call also. It shows the immense gravity of mortal sin. Mortal sin literally separates us from God. But sometimes we forget that. Not being able to receive communion brings that truth to the front of our minds and leads us to repentance. (At least in my experience.)

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