Can one unknowingly comit a mortal sin


#1

In “Ask an Aplologetic” a member asked if his reason for missing Mass was valid. The Apologetic told him to go to confession and the Priest would help him determine if he had commited a sin or not.

I am afraid this goes contrary to evertything I have been taught and believe about Mortal sin-that is it has to be a concious disobeidence /rejection of God. It is impossible, IMO, to unknowingly commit a Mortal sin.


#2

In order to be a mortal sin, three elements must be present:

  1. Sufficiently grave matter.
  2. Knowledge that what you are doing is sinful.
  3. Full conscent of the will.
    So yes, you cannot unknowingly commit a mortal sin.

This is not the case here, however. The person knows missing mass is grave matter, which begs another question altogether. The question here is not whether missing mass is grave matter, but rather whether or not the person’s reason for missing mass was a valid reason (nurse working a 36 hour shift vs. staying at home to catch some good football). If it is a valid reason, the Church provides for the person and he/she is excused from the mortal sin by virtue of the treasury of merit extended to them by Holy Mother Church. If the reason is not valid, they have committed a mortal sin and require sacrimental confession.

Make more sense?

God bless,
RyanL


#3

[quote=estesbob]In “Ask an Aplologetic” a member asked if his reason for missing Mass was valid. The Apologetic told him to go to confession and the Priest would help him determine if he had commited a sin or not.

I am afraid this goes contrary to evertything I have been taught and believe about Mortal sin-that is it has to be a concious disobeidence /rejection of God. It is impossible, IMO, to unknowingly commit a Mortal sin.
[/quote]

The confusion might lie in the distinction between the subjective and objective aspects of the action.

If I sit on my roof and snipe at a pedestrian with my .22 rifle and kill him, then I have committed murder. Wilfully killing another person for no reason is, objectively taken, gravely sinful. Objectively, it would be a “mortal” sin. But I’m mentally deranged and come from a place where sniping at pedestrians is considered to be a public duty. My CULPABILITY in that case would not rise to the level of mortal sin because the **subjective **knowledge that the act is sinful would be absent.

An act may, in itself, be mortally sinful. My disposition may mitigate my culpability even though the act remains gravely sinful.

When I came into the Church, in my general confession I confessed all of those things that the Church holds to be objectively sinful (i.e., contracepting during the early years of our marriage), even though when I was doing them I thought they were okey-dokey. My conscience had become conformed to Christ in his Church.


#4

Yes, and without full knowledge that the sin is mortal; then in that instance it is a venial sin. Once full knowledge is attained, then it is mortal.


#5

[quote=Psalm45:9]Yes, and without full knowledge that the sin is mortal…
[/quote]

I believe that is in error. If one knows that act is sinful is the criterion, not that one knows the act is a grave matter.

– Mark L. Chance.


#6

in my opinion…

if he asked, then it was weighing on his conscience…
if it was weighing on his conscience, it was probably
a sin…

but, if it wasn’t, and shouldn’t have been bothering him,
who better to reassure him than his priest?

:slight_smile:


#7

When I was a kid, I stubbed my toe one Saturday. It swelled up and was too painful to put into a shoe. Because I could not wear a shoe, my mother didn’t let me go to church on sunday. I stayed home alone and watched “Mass for shutins” and trembled because I knew it was a sin to miss Mass.

I felt really guilty and scared for a long time over this. Does that mean it was a sin for me to miss Mass? I was pretty sure I was in a state of Mortal sin.

cheddare


#8

[quote=cheddarsox]When I was a kid, I stubbed my toe one Saturday. It swelled up and was too painful to put into a shoe. Because I could not wear a shoe, my mother didn’t let me go to church on sunday. I stayed home alone and watched “Mass for shutins” and trembled because I knew it was a sin to miss Mass.

I felt really guilty and scared for a long time over this. Does that mean it was a sin for me to miss Mass? I was pretty sure I was in a state of Mortal sin.

cheddare
[/quote]

Well, now that you are older, what do you think?

If you were so worried about it, I presume you confessed it, including the circumstance that caused you to miss Mass. I presume the priest told you that you had not committed a sin because, as a child, you were under legitimate obedience to your mother.


#9

The quick answer to the question is, “No.”

But life is complex.

Suppose someone misses Sunday Mass 200 times in a row, believing Mass to be the moral equivalent of a Protestant Sunday service, for which attendance is voluntary. He only attends Midnight Mass for Christmas and Easter.

Finally, a friend tells him, “You know, it is a sin to not attend Mass on Sunday, if one is a Catholic.”

Question: Was the failure to make inquiry a mortal sin, whereas the failure to go to Mass was not a mortal sin? Perhaps.


#10

[quote=BibleReader]The quick answer to the question is, “No.”

But life is complex.

Suppose someone misses Sunday Mass 200 times in a row, believing Mass to be the moral equivalent of a Protestant Sunday service, for which attendance is voluntary. He only attends Midnight Mass for Christmas and Easter.

Finally, a friend tells him, “You know, it is a sin to not attend Mass on Sunday, if one is a Catholic.”

Question: Was the failure to make inquiry a mortal sin, whereas the failure to go to Mass was not a mortal sin? Perhaps.
[/quote]

There is such a thing as culpable ignorance. This would definitely qualify – but in the catechetical environment of the past 40 years, I believe there may well be mitigations . . .


#11

[quote=cheddarsox]When I was a kid, I stubbed my toe one Saturday. It swelled up and was too painful to put into a shoe. Because I could not wear a shoe, my mother didn’t let me go to church on sunday. I stayed home alone and watched “Mass for shutins” and trembled because I knew it was a sin to miss Mass.

I felt really guilty and scared for a long time over this. Does that mean it was a sin for me to miss Mass? I was pretty sure I was in a state of Mortal sin.

cheddare
[/quote]

In a sense, no it’s not a mortal sin, since there are circumstances that should be weighed in (you were a kid, your mom didn’t let you go to Mass, you were in pain then). I think in this case then you were not in grave mortal sin at all under those circumstances.


#12

[quote=estesbob]In “Ask an Aplologetic” a member asked if his reason for missing Mass was valid. The Apologetic told him to go to confession and the Priest would help him determine if he had commited a sin or not.

I am afraid this goes contrary to evertything I have been taught and believe about Mortal sin-that is it has to be a concious disobeidence /rejection of God. It is impossible, IMO, to unknowingly commit a Mortal sin.
[/quote]

It is possible to commit a gravely sinful act and not know it. Determining if we are guilty of a Grave sin by doing so depends on circumatances, meaning knowledge and consent.


#13

About the stubbed toe and missing mass, now I think that my mom should have let me go to church without a shoe. That she put importance on the wrong thing. I actually thought that then too but I didn’t dare argue with Mom. So I felt I was sinning in not speaking up and insisting I go to Mass. See, it got very complex. I mean, if Jesus was willing to die on the cross…I should have been willing to stand up to mom, and take the consequences, or was it more important to honor my mother’s authority? Seems like it was more important to stand up for the teachings of the church.

This happened before I had taken my first confession, and I am not sure if I brought this up later with a priest or not. That was many years ago. But I appreciate the opportunity to hash it out here, since, obviously, i still think about it.

cheddar


#14

[quote=cheddarsox]About the stubbed toe and missing mass, now I think that my mom should have let me go to church without a shoe. That she put importance on the wrong thing. I actually thought that then too but I didn’t dare argue with Mom. So I felt I was sinning in not speaking up and insisting I go to Mass. See, it got very complex. I mean, if Jesus was willing to die on the cross…I should have been willing to stand up to mom, and take the consequences, or was it more important to honor my mother’s authority? Seems like it was more important to stand up for the teachings of the church.

This happened before I had taken my first confession, and I am not sure if I brought this up later with a priest or not. That was many years ago. But I appreciate the opportunity to hash it out here, since, obviously, i still think about it.

cheddar
[/quote]

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. The fact that it bothered you then testifies to a wonderful sense of conscience, and the fact that you would have gone to church without a shoe coulda been brought up with your Mom. But SHE was the boss, and you were under her authority. If that’s the worst “sin” you can come up with, then either you are a saint, or you have NO conscience at all, or you’ve latched onto this because you don’t want to face up to the real sins in your life. :stuck_out_tongue:


#15

cathec

[quote=estesbob]In “Ask an Aplologetic” a member asked if his reason for missing Mass was valid. The Apologetic told him to go to confession and the Priest would help him determine if he had commited a sin or not.

I am afraid this goes contrary to evertything I have been taught and believe about Mortal sin-that is it has to be a concious disobeidence /rejection of God. It is impossible, IMO, to unknowingly commit a Mortal sin.
[/quote]

The CCC states:

*1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

**1860 *Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest

Unintentional ignorance can dimminish guilt. But there is such a thing as intentional ignorance (I really want to do something, I suspect it is sinful, but I won’t check my cathecism or talk to a priest).

The cathecism also points out that the principles of the moral law are written in the conscience of every man. Although our sinful nature sometimes blurrs our conscience and reasoning process, I doubt that anyone is unintentionally ignorant of the fact that murder and adultery is sinful.

Vidar


#16

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