I want philosophers to weigh-in.
Part of the catechism reads that a certain sin is “intrinsically” and gravely morally disordered. According to my research, the word ‘intrinsically’ means essential to the nature of a thing. One sample sentence might have been, “exposure to the arts is intrinsic to living a educated life, etc.” Frankly, though I know what the Catechism is getting at, I am puzzled by the awkwardness of its grammatical construction therein.

  1. how can sin or any kind of sin be intrinsic to our nature? If so, why bother worrying about this or any sin. Why would we hope to rid ourselves of the essential?
  2. If something is essential, then it has no hope of changing. Does this mean that the church has taken the position that certain sins are Hopeless? If there is not hope, how can we accuse or deem worthy of punishment?
  3. Since this sin is intrinsically disordered, to what is it intrinsic?

Lastly, it is merely for gaining useful clarification that I write. Prayers and blessings aside, will someone please give me an answer to this apparently pessimistic paradox. I personally think I am possessed of a general understanding, but in the hopes that clarification will assist me, I ask for philosophical help.

The gravity is intrinsic to the act, not to humanity. What paragraph are you reading?

God Bless you

Paragraph 2352 was the reference.

I don’t doubt the veracity of the paragraph’s intent. In fact, I’ve had a major epiphany if you will since reading over some of the theology of the body writings of the new Saint John Paul II.

But actions cannot be taken apart from the actor. There is no action without an actor. E.g. Charity is nothing is forsaken by the person whom should act on its promptings. MY concern is over rhetorical style and therefore teaching method as opposed to content. For the other matter, it is a favorite saying of many, “there is nothing beyond the text.” How to reach these, which might for all I know include myself, is important inasmuch as God loves us all?

An excellent answer. I’ve decided that I should retract my last comment. Why be so technical about so plain a matter.
Thanks, Survivor

Please, elaborate on both of your comments. I do not want to cause any misunderstanding.
We are clear this is a grave sin right (mortal sin if the circumstances are met)?

May God Bless you

Yes. Clear on the sin part. God help men.
But where is “sin”? If sin is a separate entity, how can one be grave the other venial? Is each sin a separate thing and how on earth do men get involved with it/these sins?
If the catechism qualifies this sin as “intrinsically disordered” is it trying to say that it may never be transformed? That is, after all, what intrinsic means in context. If so, why enunciate this qualification, since it must be a quality of all sin: some sin: no sins?

The Church teaches that there are three fonts of morality, the act, the intention and the circumstance.

For those acts that are not intrinsically disordered, they can still be sin if the intention or circumstance is disordered.

For example, intercourse is not intrinsically disordered. However if the circumstance is disordered, e.g., the couple is not married, intercourse is sinful.

So which font(s) of the sin under discussion is “intrinsically disordered”? If it is the act itself then intention and circumstance go “out the window”. The Catechism does identify anxiety, but that would contradict the intrinsic gravity and disorder of the act. I believe in the principle at stake here, but the presentation of the teaching seems to really back the sinner into a corner like a trapped animal. About as much compassion as you can put in a thimble, albeit unintentionally done?

The intrinsic gravity and disorder belongs to the act, I think.:whacky:

The act, or as the Catechism calls it, the object.

If it is the act itself then intention and circumstance go “out the window”. The Catechism does identify anxiety, but that would contradict the intrinsic gravity and disorder of the act.

Please explain how you got to this conclusion.

I believe in the principle at stake here, but the presentation of the teaching seems to really back the sinner into a corner like a trapped animal.

How is this so?

About as much compassion as you can put in a thimble, albeit unintentionally done?

Please explain. How can a definition be compassionate or not?

[quote=Michael19682] OK.
Please explain how you got to this conclusion.
Because if the act is Intrinsically disordered then it always remains a sin and mitigating circumstances are irrelevant. It becomes like a capital crime for which only
death is remittance. It’s like the Church saying – no amount of anxiety or circumstance
changes this when in fact the explicit message they give is that anxiety and/or circumstance Do mitigate. How can you have it both ways? Intrinsic means unchanging and essential.

I think you are inappropriately mixing up what constitutes a sinful act with whether the actor is guilty of a sin. Even though they are directly related, they are not the same.

The fonts of morality are used to determine if a particular act is immoral. They are not designed to determine if a person is guilty of sin if they commit the act. Two other factors need to be considered. Namely, knowledge and consent.

Because if you tell someone that a sin is unchanging, you liken it to “everlasting”.

Why is that a problem? Adultery is always immoral.

This puts the sin under discussion in the order of a particular type of blasphemy. It also traps the person because it attributes the sin entirely to a flaw in character and paradoxes the anxiety, I used animal as an example because we normally don’t try to work with an animal that has a poor temperament, say a dog that has bitten even its master’s hand more than once. In the same way I think, we don’t care if a dog is repentant once it has attacked since it then becomes intrinsically hostile and really therefore is incapable of repenting since its sin is “within it’s character”.

How does defining what is a sin, do what you are saying?

Well, the three fonts mentioned above are a kind of psychology in action to help the sinner overcome his tendencies. I think for example that the Catechism’s intention is to be merciful and operative in a constructive way. To say that the sin is a sin is to define it and that might require maturity on the part of the questioner to simply accept that sin is a reality of life. But compassion might mean giving a resource for determining if anxiety is present and that therefore anxiety can twist even personal intent. E.g. if the intent is to relieve anxiety, then intent is not a factor. If the circumstance is destitute loneliness or abuse in youth, the circumstance is not a factor. The Catechism could explain in more detail? Instead, they amplify and exaggerate the intrinsic disorder of the act, perhaps erroneously assuming that other factors are not germaine. I know that America in particular is sex obsessed, so the drafters of the Catechism probably would have assumed that the act is pursued for sexual gratification and not to relieve anxiety? Hence they treat the sinner more like a criminal than a victim?

The fonts of morality are definitional and instructional. There is no psychology involved.

Sin is remedied by the Sacrament of Confession, not by redefining what is sin.

True compassion is to lead a sinner to repentence.

I have not seen anything in the Catechism that treats sinners as criminal.

On what basis do you say that sinners are victims?

Thank you for your reply. I did not include a quote of you remarks as they were embedded with mine.

As human person we are not defined by what we do, but what we are, which a being who is a unique combination of the spiritual and the materia (soul and body). Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, we, uniquely, get to decide what we do. In considering morality it is imperative the the being be separated from the doing. This why we say, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.

For more information on the fonts of morality please see the Catechism beginning at article 1750.

Every sin is a disordered act. Each has temporal and spiritual consequences. Some of these are remedied by contrition. Others require restitution.

I believe the Church’s definition of sin is analogous to the definitions of basic math, not those of advance calculus.


1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."121
1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight."122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods,"123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God."124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125 1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate’s cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas’ betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter’s denial and the disciples’ flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world,126 the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.


It simply means that some acts cannot be done intentionally, with full reflection, full concent, and knowledge of the gravity of the act. Given the three conditions necessary for personal responsibility in performing an act, certain acts, abortioin, slaying the innocent, contraception, adultry, etc., are always mortal sins. Thus they are described as " intrinsicly " sinful, one is never justified in performing them, no matter what conditions may surround them.

These things are not a matter of philosophical debate, they are given to us in the natural moral law, the Ten Commandments. And there are a long list of them. They are not open to debate by anyone.


Well I’m glad you take away that conclusion. I agree with the conclusion, but there certainly is reading between the lines and interpretation. That is what I take issue with.

You must have heard the phrase “Won the argument but lost the soul.” Are we trying to be compassionate. loving, and win souls for Christ – or trying to squash what we perceive are debates about sin? Do we throw the sinner out of our aircraft, or do we give them a parachute? It seems compassionate to separate the sin from the sinner, but for many people that approach is not seen as gentle or kind because it is ridiculous in view of their upbringing in life. Who is therefore responsible for the sins of those not inculcated in our culture?

He said, “The well do not need a physician, the sick do.” He “did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” How do you answer? Shouldn’t the Catechism be more like a physician?

Nothing that was quoted from the Catechism states nor implies any of the negatives listed above.

Sure sounds like you are arguing against a strawman.

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