Does the circumstance of rage reduce or elimated the culpability of mortal sin?


If a man/woman comes home from work and is surprised to find his/her spouse having sex with another person, and as a consequence, kills one or both of them during a fit of rage, IS THIS A MORTAL SIN? The pastor of my parish - a priest, says it is not a mortal sin, since the circumstances reduce or eliminate the culpability of this moral act. Please advise?


Rage is not something that happens to you. It is the way you respond, so the person is absolutely in charge of whether he will act on rage or leave and decide another course of action. No one is forcing the person to react a certain way so the person is fully responsible for his actions.


If one happens to commit an objectively gravely serious act, I would assume that it is a mortal sin and get to confession as soon as possible, rather than looking for possible excuses.

Does anger and rage reduce our self control? Yes. That is why we need to avoid anger. Murdering wrongdoers, e.g. adulterers, does not right the wrong, it only makes it worse.


I think the answer lies in the fact we do not know the state of the person’s mind in that moment. We entrust them to an ever just and merciful forgiving God.



Oxford Dictionary defines rage as: “1 [mass noun] Violent uncontrollable anger”

If it is truly rage, please note from the above definition that it is “uncontrollable”, and thus a person in a rage is not capable of the sort of free choice that is required for personal mortal sin. This is presumably what the priest meant in terms of reducing or eliminating culpability.

If on the other hand, someone is merely very angry, but capable of controlling that anger, then they are not actually in a rage. If we accept the above definition, then it is an oxymoron to say that one should be able to control their rage. Control their anger - yes; control their rage - no, by its very definition.


I think your pastor is wrong. “Thou Shalt not Kill” is one of the Ten Commandments. It is definitely a mortal sin no matter how peaceful or wrathful you feel about it. Also anger is one of the seven deadly sins. I wonder what your pastor is talking about???:confused:


well, no… in the bible, God clearly tells us, anyone who is caught in the act of adultery, must be killed,(both of them). It is ONLY in ‘mans’ civil law that this is wrong, while that person would likely be thrown in jail here in our world, I think God would be OK with it.


Are you sure it’s not the Koran you’re thinking about?


Keep it simple. In order for a sin to be mortal, it must be:

  1. Grave matter (check - murdering someone is this)
  2. You must know it is a sin (check - an adult Catholic knows they should not murder)
  3. You must engage the will, i.e. you must do it with the full realization that it is a sin and you are freely choosing to do so. (ehh, maybe? This is really what we are discussing - would the fit of blind rage keep the person from realizing that they are willfully committing the sin?)

It seems to me that Father is taking the position that true blind rage where the murderer has lost control of their conscious actions and is only going on instinct would mitigate the sin to make it venial since the third condition would not be met. If the murderer were truly not of right mind at that time, I would agree with Father.


I don’t recall that in the NT - in fact, doesn’t Jesus stop the crowd from stoning the woman to death for just this crime? Perhaps you are thinking of one of the abrogated OT Mosaic laws?


Sorry but I disagree. Just because a person can’t control their temper doesn’t give them the right to go ahead and kill people. Long ago, having been abused by my former husband when he went into alcoholic rages and beat me up then felt so sorry in the morning…I do not think this is excusable. There have been other women who have been killed in similar circumstances. I don’t think God would think this is a venial sin.


From a religious stand point I agree that this pastor is wrong. First assuming we are speaking of normal people - no mental illnesses which those indeed may diminish culpability and it would be a different story - the rage in and of itself is a mortal sin. What fuels.rage is hate, jealousy and anger, hence starting there you have a mortal sin. Second you are violating the commandment that says you shall not kill and let’s be real here most people in this situation know perfectly what they are doing, the rage thing is an excuse and a legal theory made up by lawyers to get people out of jail.

Now if the pastor is talking from a legal standpoint that situation can reduce a murder charge from murder to manslaughter and there are a few legal theories that have been made to reduce culpability in these cases. But again these are all theories made in one specific field to reduce charges and to avoid long sentences or avoid jail.

But from a religious standpoint, the pastor is wrong. Unless you are telling me that there is a mental issue or illness in which the person truly doesn’t know what is going on, it is a mortal sin.


When I used to be in my phorensic studies classes, we were thought to use something called the “Choose” doctrine. What is this doctrine, simple:

If the killer does any or all of this:
-chooses its victim
-chooses the weapon to murder
-chooses the way to kill
-chooses how to get rid of the bodies
-chooses what to do with the weapon
-chooses a plan to hide the murder
The killer never loose consciousness, is not acting on instinct and is on the right state of mind acting on full knowledge of what he is doing.

In the real world the whole rage thing does not happen. The fame rage and lost of conciusnes is the killing in the heat of the passion, a theory developed by lawyers to reduce murder to manslaughter. While lawyers can definitely sell these ideas to a jury to get a reduces sentence for their client I hardly doubt that God is going to buy it.


Sometimes I think civil law creeps into one’s understanding of sin. In civil law, someone has to determine if a person was guilty or not and of what. So in the case of murder there is first, second and third degree (never mind manslaughter) and conditions for each. To me, it sounds like your priest was considering all the conditions that might mitigate culpability without actually knowing or at least discussing them. Hypotheticals are nearly impossible to determine because the circumstances can be changed anytime and neither party knows exactly where the parameters are. For example, the priest would have no idea if there was a moment of clarity where a decision was made, in a real life situation, to act violently or intentionally kill someone.


Please re-read what I wrote. I never said it did. We can agree nothing, short of self-defense, ever gives someone a reason to take another life.

I agree that it is not.

God might, if there is diminished capacity to really understand that what you are doing is a sin. I base this on these sections from the Catechism. Bold sections are mine.
1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.**
1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.


I am not enough of a psychologist to know for certain if “the whole rage thing does not happen” however it is obvious there are times when a person’s mental state leads to a diminished capacity to understand the full and immediate consequences of what they are doing and in those cases, a sin may not be mortal because all of the conditions are not met.

Please see the sections of the Catechism I quoted above to understand how I am approaching the questions.


Well, since I had the Catechism I went in and read the 5th commandment. Note that here when the Church talks of suicide, she again alludes to the idea that certain psychological conditions can lead to a diminished responsibility:

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide
Again, please keep in mind that I am not discussing whether the act of killing is right or wrong, justified or not justified, evil or not evil. What I am saying is that the act may or may not be a mortal sin and a mortal sin only based on not meeting the 3 conditions - and this was the OP’s question: Was Father correct in saying that this hypothetical rage killing may not be a mortal sin.


I think this is the crux of the OP’s question- there is at least a possibility that the person in a blind rage is not in control of their conscious mind so there is a possibility it may not be a mortal sin. It is really only something a Priest and the Pertinent in the confessional can know for sure I would think.


I do understand the sections and I know how you are approaching the question. What I ambtrying to tell you is that the heat of the passion theory (which is the actual name of what we are discussing here) was a theory created by lawyers for criminal law, not by psichologist neither by psichiatrists. It is a legal construct with very little basis on the real world.

There are situations in which there is a mental state that diminishes capacity to understand but the are no situations in the real world that involve the situation mentioned in the OP and a real diminishes mental state. A real diminished mental state is diminished for everything and is not “conveniently” diminished for certain things but surprisingly not diminished for others. First of all in a real situation of a diminished state of mind the person is going to grab whatever it has at hands reach - it is not going to be a knife, a gun or a murder weapon. It may be a pencil, a frame or a chair. A person with a real diminished mental capacity is going to go indistinctly for whoever or whatever is in front of him or her regardless or who is that person, a victim that is specifically targeted is a clear indication that the person does not have a diminishes mental state. A person with a real diminished mental state does not get a magical recovery after he or she kills the victim, the mental state will remain for a period of time in such a way that whatever the person used for the attack will be clearly identified by the police and the killer will also be clearly identified and if the police or someone else who heard comes they will also be attacked. That is a real diminished capacity.

If I get home from work and I discover my spouse on bed with someone else and I slightly go to the kitchen and reach a knife and after that I storm into the room and kill them both, and then I clean all the blood in the room, pack the bodies, drive them 100 thousand miles away and bury them and then drive another 100 miles to hide the knife and then I say that my sposuse has gone missing, that is not a diminished state that is anger and jealousy and I knew perfectly what I was doing. I may be able to get away with it in front of a jury or get my charges reduced to voluntary manslaughter but to God who knows the truth and who can see the heart of man I cannot come with lies and excuses.

As a previous poster mentioned, don’t mix criminal law concepts into your understanding of mortal sin.


Yes, well-said. Just because something is legally ok doesn’t make it morally ok. This is true in so many aspects of life.

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