"Catholic" sin vs. general sin

As Catholics we have an excellent guide for determining mortal and venial sin.
We also are culpable for many more sins than the average Christian since we also have the laws of the Church to follow.

My question stems from the fact that we Catholics can commit a varitable number of sins that non Catholics cannot (ie: eating meat on prescribed abstenance days; missing Mass on Sunday).

When does a ‘former’, non practicing Catholic become less culpable for these ‘Catholic’ sins?

Some of my adult children have been away from the church for 20 years or so. I believe they are no longer guilty of missing Mass etc.

What are your thoughts?
Thank you.

This is a very interesting question and one that I have never thought of before. I suppose there sins would be at the most venial, as they are not doing them with the knowledge that they are sinful. If they truly in there hearts (which only G-d knows) are doing when they believe to be the our Lords will then I do not think they are sinning. Isn’t it called infallible ignorance or something like that? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Invincible ignorance.

Pride and arrogance

Hello joanmo42
I am in a similar situation to you.At present my kids are non practising catholics.I myself was non practising for a bit.When ireturned i went to confession.Since that time i have become a daily attender of Mass.I have a close relationship to Our Lord.I want all of this of course for my children and i pray it will happen soon by them seeing my example.
In your kids eyes they are not committing sin by not attending Mass.To commit a sin you have to be in full awareness.However if and when they return they will have renewed faith and understanding and will realise the need to attend confession.All sins can be forgiven.
Hope this helps
God bless


If they knew their Catholic faith before, it would be difficult for them to claim invincible ignorance. There is the concept of culpable ignorance, however, where they would be held accountable for what they should have known, but by an act of their will, chose not to know.

God knows the heart of every person, and will display His infiniate justice as well as His infinite mercy when they die. I would pray mightily for your children, because they will be held accountable for walking away from His Church. As long as they are alive, they have an indellible mark on their souls, claiming them for Christ. They have a serious obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, as well as go to Confession for any mortal sins they have committed. People have a penchant for trying to rationalize their sins away, but God doesn’t recognize that rationalization. They know, deep inside, that what they’re doing is wrong. Over time, they can kill their conscience by repeatedly ignoring it. But they also have a serious obligation to properly form their conscience, too, and not making any effort will result in a disaster when they go before Jesus to be judged.

Prayer, penance, sacrifice. These are your weapons against Satan, who has grabbed hold of your children’s souls. Ask other people to offer prayer, penance, and sacrifice, too. Don’t try to do it alone. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Fast. Offer all the little aggravations of the day for the conversion of their souls.

We only have two worthy goals in this life: 1) The salvation of our souls. and 2) Helping as many other souls to be saved as we can.

It has been said that the greatest weapon an Apostle has against the devil are his knees. He should be on them, praying.

God bless! :slight_smile:

As a Catholic who left the Church when I was young…and have now returned by the Grace of God-after being away for well over 35 year…I feel I need to try advise you.

First, pray for your children, do not “henpeck” them. Just pray and commit this to Our Lord and Our Lady.

Second, when they left the Lord, there the mortal sin lies…for the definition of Mortal sin is that it SEPARATES US FROM GOD. They may verbally say that they are doing well and don’t miss the church or that they don’t believe, etc. … but God and Our Lady will continue to work on them… pray.

Third, with most of us who have left, it will take a crumbling of our world to bring us back. So, don’t help them be successful in their sinful ways…but remember not to preach. Remember to tell them how much you love them always…and never turn them away from your love.

The process for me was that I first felt the inclination to return, it was the BVM who called me back, I am sure. Then once I started attending Mass regularly, I felt the need to pray more…and to ask for forgiveness…then the Holy Spirit descended and instructed me on my sins and that I needed to confess. When I finally gave in to go to confession (I hated to do that)…came reconciliation. With confession came salvation…and then the peace of the Lord. That is when you once again can feel His undying love. That is when you know that the mortal sin(s) has been erased from your soul.

My parents are deceased and can only see my return to the church from their heavenly place in His Kingdom…but alas…their prayers have worked.

Have faith that your prayers will work too and forget about trying to analyze their sins - after all, only God can do that, for it is He that is offended. It only takes one Mortal sin to remove someone from the presence of our Lord and his Kingdom should they die outside of the state of Grace. It only takes one prayer to the Lord, in sincere repentence, to be brought back into His loving arms. Our Lord is merciful.

Also, check out this website: www.catholicscomehome.org they have a lot of resources to help you

Bless you.

It’s only invincible ignorance if they didn’t know it was a sin through no fault of their own. If these adult children were brought up Catholic and had even the most basic Religious Education, they would know that Missing Mass on Sunday is a sin.

In some cases, yes but in other cases, non-Catholics just get another set of sins to worry about. For example, in some non-Catholic denominations it’s a sin to drink or dance or to give less than 10% to the church as a tithe.

When does a ‘former’, non practicing Catholic become less culpable for these ‘Catholic’ sins?

Some of my adult children have been away from the church for 20 years or so. I believe they are no longer guilty of missing Mass etc.

What are your thoughts?
Thank you

Some sins stem from the 10 Commandments and others from the precepts of the Church. The former, I think would always be sins. The latter depends on if the person formally left the Catholic Church. The Church has said that if a Catholic formally leaves (called defection) he/she is no longer bound by Canon Law and the Precepts of the Church. To formally leave, the person usually sends a letter to the Bishop renouncing the Catholic faith and stating he/she no longer wants to be considered Catholic. After that they are free from rules such as those listed and also from the requirement to marry according to the Church’s laws. BUT, they also lose thier “privaleges” as a Catholic such as being able to be godparents to a child being Baptised as a Catholic.

Sorry to go on so long. The point is that there is a differences between a former Catholic and a non-practising one. A former Catholic, who has formally defected, is no longer bound by those laws/precepts so breaking them is not sinful. A non-practicing Catholic is still bound and if he/she willingly breaks those precepts, it would be sinful.

I’m sorry because I think this is not what you wanted to hear.

Joan I think Hyacinth II gave good advice.God bless

When they re-become ignorant of the Church’s teaching concerning a specific sin.

Expanding on my answer above using this sin as an example… If as a child, a person is instructed correctly that missing Sunday Mass (without good cause) is a mortal sin, and that child grows up understanding this concept; he or she will be held accountable. There is no “statue of limitation” on this. Sin, to be considered “mortal” must meet 3 criteria:

  1. Grievous in nature
  2. Known by the participant as being a grievous sin
  3. Having met the 1st 2 criteria, the participant freely chooses to engage in the act

So, in this instance, is missing Mass “grievous?” Yes.
Do the people involved know that missing Mass is a grievous sin?
Do the people involved freely choose to miss Mass without having a valid reason (IE - Sick in bed)?

The only question anyone here can answer is the first one. Missing Mass is a grievous sin. The second question can really only be answered by the participant and God. The 3rd question is another question that cannot be answered here as we do not know the hearts of those involved nor their intentions. If those involved knowing reject Mass and understand that they are obligated to attend but simply choose to do otherwise, I would certainly start praying for them.

What a “wonderfully” senseless dialogue. Your premise: Endless semantic debate and worries makes someone a better person and more holy or like Jesus. Your proof: You worry about pork eating and general eating rituals.

I will cease the sarcasm and give you my impression and assessment of what you are talking about and your own implied opinions.

The act of being Christian does not come from following endless rules without direction or sense for the spirit of the rules. And Christianity has the benefit of being rather simplified in the basis for its teachings. It all revolves around the idea of what Jesus and the Father would approve of if we were to ask them in person. So, this should not be such a difficult task considering the historical and evangelical/Gospel narratives which have been given to us as guidance. But, the odd thing is that I often hear Catholics squabbling about the most tedious elements of Holy Law and ignoring the most essential.

The things is you’re not a Christian if you don’t believe in the extreme version of charity, altruism, tolerance, honesty, love, and non-violence that Jesus taught and showed by example. There is no disputing that. So, worrying about keeping food codes is pointless if you are becoming inflamed or angry at people who oppose your point of view or, well, violating any of the essential laws and rules written out in the New Testament and the Ten Commandments.

This is a bit off the point, but I will indulge in it for a moment. So, the Laws of Moses in general were Draconian and superseded by what was passed down by our Lord on his time on Earth and written in the New Testament and many of the testaments and writings left out of the official canons. However, some of what was written in the extended form of the Ten Commandments (approx 600 commandments exist in the Old Testament) are still good principles to follow to varying degrees as long as they do not take away the spirit of humanitarianism and charity of spirit and humanity.

One of my major underlying principles in saying all of this is that you CANNOT just glean piety by rote practice of memorizing rules and following them on and off to varying degrees without analysis of the spirit of the rules and the lessons that underpin them. You are either devoted to the spirit of Christianity or you are not. It is a very black and white decision to make. You are either in or you are out. There’s no on the fence when it comes to the ethics of Christianity. You can question the existence of the Divine and still be a good Christian. But, you CANNOT question the ethics of Christ if you are to be a good and moral person and Christian. That is set in stone and your own church says doing that is a mortal sin and will land you one place and one place only.

Compassion for all human beings and a very strong and tough sense of tolerance for everyone is what is needed in order to be able to practice the central tenets of the religion. Without tolerance in profound degrees for so many things in this world you will in due time turn your back on the majority of Christian teachings. Altruism is one of those central tenets. You can practice a large amount of the minor rules and codes and simultaneously adhere to none of the central tenets of Christianity. But, that’s called gaming the system a church sets out for you to help you to become a better a purer person. It is a rather evil thing to do in spite of whether you feel it is forgivable or not. But, not uncommon in the United States and elsewhere.

So, in line with those ideas believing in fascistic and Machiavellian principles cannot sit in agreement with Christian piety. If someone told you or implied they could they were either lying, not paying full attention to what you were asking or talking about, or too ignorant or dull witted to pick up the nuance of the questions at hand.

In my mind and many others, you have to believe in giving up everything, including your life and soul, to good is as important a belief as raising your children to be happy or doing a good job at work. And if you put the latter things in front of the former it is almost always impossible to be an ethical person. Believing and following good must be an absolutely necessary path in your heart or you fall like Lucifer fell. It must be instinctual to say throw yourself in front of a car to save the life of a someone else or you will not have fully taken in the spirit of selflessness and Christianity.

That’s my two cents, but I believe it to be true.

They are always culpable. It is their choice to reject the faith, but that does not make the less culpable for their duties and responsibilities as a Catholic.

There is no such thing as a former or ex-Catholic.
Once someone is baptised Catholic they are Catholic forever no matter how they feel, what they think or do, even turning their backs on the Church. They remain Catholic.
There are only two types of Catholic. Those in a state of grace and those in a state of mortal sin.

Duh, didn’t see the date. This is a 3 year old thread. Reported to Mods.

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