Can we judge whether or not someone's sin is mortal?


In another thread the topic came up about the possibility to determine whether or not someone else’s sin is mortal. I maintain that it is not possible to know this unless the person himself directly tells you so or if you are a priest hearing confessions and by way of asking questions you help the penitent determine his or her culpability. I concluded that since we cannot know for certain that the charitable thing to do is to hope that some mitigating circumstances occured and therefore culpability is reduced. Others disagreed with my conclusions, and I am interested to find out how everybody else feels and why.

Lets keep the examples to hypothetical situations only.


Unless it’s my spouse, my parent, my kid or my best friend, it is none of my business.


So you don’t love your neighbor enough to help them get to Heaven, or care if they might spend enternity in Hell?

How is that Christian Love?


I KNOW my neighbor well enough to know that he won’t listen.


Isn’t that the sin of dispair?


The sin of despair would be in despairing of your own salvation, not in despairing of getting your neighbor to listen to you.


No. It is the virtue of discernment and discretion.


You can know if their sin is OBJECTIVELY grave matter.

But you can never know if it is a mortal sin subjectively imputed, though you can talk to them about their internal state or conditions for mortal sin…but they might lie, so you can’t know for sure.


one cannot judge the state of anyone’s soul, not even that of a parent, child or spouse. The forum for that judgement is confession by a priest with the authority from Christ, through his ordination, and acting in the person of Christ in the sacrament. the most one can do is make an objective judgement about an act which one observes or has knowledge of, but a subjective judgement about whether or not an individual has committed a mrotal sin, no.


lying to someone by inferring that you have been given authority to judge their sins is not love. Instructing the sinner on the objective nature of sinful acts, yes, but not to say that "you are in a state of mortal sin."
You can say “what you are doing or planning to do is gravely wrong” and give the reasons why, but never do you have the right to say “you have committed a mortal sin” unless you are the priest in confession. (you here is in the editorial sense not personal to any poster)

this comes up all the time for instance in RCIA, when the catechist is bound to inform the candidate that, for instance, his civil marriage to a divorced person is objectively wrong, and why the church teaches this, and why the situation must be rectified before the sacraments can be received worthily. But for the subjective judgement, and for pastoral counselling, that candidate is sent to the priest. that is precisely why the pastor is always on the RCIA team.


No we cannot. We can see what the person does and that grave matter is involved but the state of the soul we cannot see only God can do that.
But who are you kidding? God cannot be decieved.


Our consciences can tell us the right-and-wrong of what others are doing, if we have formed our own conscience according to objective teaching.

Look, if someone is speeding, I’m not going to say they’re not breaking the law, because I don’t know what internal state they’re in or what their reasons are. Those things are mitigating circumstances, but, they are breaking the law.

The law holds us accountable, in some cases, if we go along with something that is illegal.

It’s a favorite plot line (if you watch Law and Order, for example) for somebody to lie to protect a friend. That situation is taken to extremes (on the show) most often when a juvenile is involved.

I learned about “cognitive dissonance” in first-semester college psychology, but so many people have no idea how this common rationalization works.

In particular, like here, people are trying to create a third kind of sin, the gray sin, neither mortal nor venial, and so gray, that we’re not sure if it’s a sin at all.

That priest on EWTN that does the Christ in the City program has pointed out, quoting yet another moral scholar like Acquinas or somebody, that venial sin is the second-worst kind of offense against God. There’s almost no point in quibbling over it, when you stop and think about it.

Missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, unless you have a good reason; doesn’t everybody have a good reason, who misses Mass?


I agree 100% :thumbsup:

You can say “what you are doing or planning to do is gravely wrong” and give the reasons why, but never do you have the right to say “you have committed a mortal sin” unless you are the priest in confession. (you here is in the editorial sense not personal to any poster)

I also agree, in fact, out of Christian charity, we have an OBLIGATION to let our neighbor know when their actions are objectively grave, or are contrary to Church teaching.


I maintain my position that certain actions by their very nature can only be mitigated by the most narrow circumstances. From the previous discussion on this issue I will again bring up marital infidelity. I maintain that by its very nature it can only be excused by truly exceptional circumstances, mental illness for example and can and should be judged as a mortal sin by others. I’m not saying that others should spread this to others but I do believe that as humans we have not only the right but the obligation to point out behavior that violates the basic rules of our faith and our society.

Everybody going around ignoring the abject sins of others and by extension accepting them makes for a very sad state of affairs.

Sometimes we take the idea of charity way too far.


even if culpability is reduced by mitigating circumstances—which incidentally can only be applied by God—it does not mean the sin is not mortal.

one of my pet peeves is this sense that we can not ‘judge’ anything. that is ridiculous. of course we can judge. We cannot condemn, we cannot pass final judgement on any soul…but we most certainly can and should use judgement in our everyday life including in our relationships with others! Jesus said you will know them by their fruits. The CCC gives us examples and guidance concerning venial and mortal sins. If we could not ‘judge’ a sin mortal–how would we be able to avoid it? Leviticus 3:1,2 mentions our responsibilty to our brothers to ‘report’ sins or else be equally bloodguilty of them! Surely this principle still holds true for fellow Christians under the New Covenant of Love?

perhaps we can ‘judge’ the danger of a certain sin in being of the ‘mortal’ possibility?

but still I do not think judging the sin is the same as judging the sinner–which we have no right to do.



where did I talk about mitigating circumstances?
why don’t you read the previous posts more carefully.
no one has said that mitigating circumstances can change the objective fact that a grave action, freely chosen with full knowledge is a mortal sin. What is being debated here is whether or not any person, other than the priest in confession, has the right to tell another individual “You have committed a mortal sin, you are not in state of santifying grace.” The answer is no.


I think you can say someone has committed a mortal sin–because we can certainly identify a mortal sin, but you cannot comment on whther or not they are in a state of sanctifying grace! You can read a person’s actions but you cannot read their heart or the state of their soul.


I think there is some confusion about terms here. To be in a state mortal sin means that you are cut off from sanctifying grace, to be spiritually dead. I think what you are trying to say is that we can identify whether or not a certain action is grave, but we cannot judge the extent of personal culpability in regards to that action, which is what I and others have been trying to say as well.


1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

The above quote is from the Catechism. So the answer is no we cannot judge the soul of another person, we can judge the action as a grave offense but we cannot tell them they are in the state of mortal sin.


That is not what I get out of that. I get that we can’t judge thier soul.
A Catholic woman gets an abortion… knowing that it is wrong… and you know her to personally defend it and refuses to yield to the Church. She says I know what the Church teaches and it is my body and choice. You know she doesn’t go to confession. Therefore we know that they are NOT in a state of grace and should not recieve the eucharist. Thier sin is mortal because they have been educated approached and defended thier disobedience to God. This is the proble why are people so afraid of talking. We bury our heads in the sand in regaurds to our brothers and sisters. Thinking that if we don’t know or have the awkward turtle conversation that we then can’t judge. This is why SO many Catholics are ignorand of Church teaching.

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