Can young children commit mortal sin?


#1

Are children who are of the age of Communion, but still too young to get to church or confession by themselves, able to commit mortal sin?

An argument has been made that it is better to deny First Communion and even CCD classes to children whose parents will not commit to coming to Mass every week in order to allow the children to remain innocent because of the lack of parental support.


#2

[quote=MariaG]Are children who are of the age of Communion, but still too young to get to church or confession by themselves, able to commit mortal sin?
[/quote]

Mortal sin, it must be remembered, requires grave matter, full knowledge, and full and free consent of the will. If any of those conditions are missing, there is not a mortal sin. While a young child may be capable of committing an objectively grave action, his youth and lack of knowledge may mitigate against the grave action being a mortal sin. If the requisite full knowledge and full and free consent of the will are missing, the sin – if there is sin because of sufficient knowledge and consent – would be venial.

[quote=MariaG]An argument has been made that it is better to deny First Communion and even CCD classes to children whose parents will not commit to coming to Mass every week in order to allow the children to remain innocent because of the lack of parental support.
[/quote]

Such an argument is specious. It may appear attractive to those trying to protect young children from mortal sin, but demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the requirements for mortal sin and the absolution of mortal sin. It also shows a lack of trust in God.

Even if a young child did commit a mortal sin, he would be forgiven his mortal sin the instant he repents. For Catholics, such forgiveness is dependent upon sacramental confession as soon as is reasonably possible, but if access to confession is impossible through no fault of one’s own then the sin is still forgiven. That means that a child who committed a mortal sin, repented, but could not get to confession because of his parents’ unwillingness to take him to confession, would still be forgiven. Only if he himself refused to go to confession, knowing full well that he must in order to be forgiven, would he be held accountable. Of course, a parent who refused to take his child to confession, preventing access to the sacrament, would himself be answerable for such an action according to his own knowledge and consent.

Jesus himself told his well-meaning disciples not to prevent the children from approaching him (cf. Matt. 19:13-15). Those today who would deny children access to Christian education and the sacraments out of a misguided fear for the children’s innocence do the children no favors by attempting to keep them in ignorance of their Lord and Savior.


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