Does 'knowledge' have to be conscious? Was this mortal sin?

Does our knowledge that an act is sinful need to be actualised on the conscious level?

I was reading a web article, and felt drawn to scroll back up to see something in the margin. I think I had some level of knowledge that the thing I was looking for was not edifying, but it had caught the corner of my eye and I was curious to see what it was.

Anyway, turns out it was a thumb-nail of a woman who was sufficiently undressed to count as pornographic. As soon as I saw what it was I looked away again and prayed an act of contrition.

So, there is grave matter, because pornography is always grave matter.

There is consent of the will, because a conscious person doesn’t move their body except by an act of will, and I moved a mouse on my computer.

The question is, does the level of knowledge I had (knowing that the thing I was looking for might not have been good, maybe having subconscious knowledge that it was a naked woman) suffice for this to be a mortal sin?

I certainly didn’t know THAT I would be committing mortal sin, but as I understand it, you only need to know that the thing you are doing is sinful, not know that it is mortal sin, for the knowledge criteria for mortal sin to be satisfied.

Does a prayer of intention for purity when switching on my computer mitigate this? The intent of my will was not to sin at that time.

Does my lack of recollection at that moment excuse my sin, or does it make it worse, because I should have known that I should be recollected at all times?

I feel bad for this, but am trying to move beyond running into the confessional every time I have an inkling of a scruple, trying to move toward an understanding of God’s justice and God’s mercy. On the one hand, I find it hard to believe the good God would send me to hell for such a momentary indiscretion, but on the other hand, I know that He is infinitely perfect, and I should not have been guilty of such an indiscretion.

As soon as I saw what it was I looked away again and prayed an act of contrition.

Yes, take it to confession, but I deeply doubt that this was mortal.

Your subconscious may indeed have recognized the picture, and drew you towards sin. In fact, that sounds like the definition of concupiscence.

But it takes a *conscious *act to sin. As soon as you were conscious of what you were doing, you stopped. You didn’t dwell on it. You said, “Oh, no!” and prayed. YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. You successfully resisted temptation.

Our subconscious can only tempt us. It’s what we do consciously with that temptation that defines sin. That’s why we can’t sin when we are asleep.

God bless you!


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