Dying in a state of mortal sin


Ok, one again, there has been a lot of hype about this topic. People think it’s the worst thingk in the world. However, if one committed a mortal sin and was planning on going to confession at the next scheduled confession (e.g not making an appointment/running to a priest), and they die, what happens?

From what other people have said, it seems like an automatic ticket to Hell. However, the God that I know isn’t that cruel. He knows if you are sorry for your sins, and wouldn’t condemn you to an eternal life of misery because you failed to confess your sins to a Priest before you died.

Is this way of thinking incorrect? :confused:


What is needed absent confession is what’s called ‘perfect contrition’ - which is defined as being sorry for your sins out of love of God and not merely (as so many of us tend to) because you fear Hell or anything else.

Perfect contrition will obtain forgiveness of your sins, and you won’t go to hell even if you haven’t confessed, although perfect contrition necessarily includes the desire and/or actual resolve to confess at the next opportunity, and perfect contrition alone won’t allow you to, for example, receive the Eucharist except in danger of death.

However, those who fear dying in sin are probably right to do so. For one thing, how do you know you will be sufficiently conscious in your last moments to be capable either of repentance or of desiring or resolving to confess? As Jesus said, death comes ‘like a thief in the night’. You’d be kinda stuck in such a situation if you’re not prepared by frequenting the sacraments beforehand.

Above all, though, humans are notoriously bad at accurately judging ourselves and our true spiritual (or any other) state. So I can’t ever be 100% sure that I have attained this state of Perfect Contrition even if I think I have. It’s been described by theologians as a state only obtainable by God’s grace, rather than our own efforts, so it’s not something we can produce on our own as needed.

Whereas for sacramental absolution to be effective, simple attrition (sorrow for sin, including because you fear hell, etc) is sufficient. I can be far more confident that I’ve attained this level of contrition at least.

I’d take the much safer bet and combine frequent confession with serious efforts to conquer and avoid mortal sin, rather than relying on any sort of (chancy at best) deathbed repentance.


I fully agree with your post.


As always, Lily gives a solid answer. She has written about the nature of contrition vs. attrition. I feel it needs to be stressed the nature of a mortal sin. Mortal sin, by its very definition (full knowledge, full will, grave matter) is an utter rejection of God, His grace, and His love. In His infinite justice, we exclude ourselves from Heaven. It’s too much for our minds to comprehend the true infinite severity of a mortal sin, but in the next life, everyone will know that they are truly where they deserve to be.


One caveat I would give is that one must be careful,of how one defines “love of God”. Is it that warm fuzzy feeling that comes of really liking someone? Exactly what is it?:confused:


Love of anything may not necessarily be a “warm fuzzy feeling”. As a parent, when my son was young, I loved him sometimes so much I had to discipline him. I certainly felt bad that I had to, but I also recognized that not disciplining him, even though it was “warm and fuzzy” was actually not loving him at all.

Love of God means to do as He told us. Sometimes, it is harder than others, sometimes, from my own walk I go in kicking and screaming. Sometimes it is hard becuase we want our own way and it is easier to justify sin if it is easy.

Conscience can be strengthened or weakened according to obdience or sin. It is like a muscle. The more you work your conscience in trying to do good, the easier it becomes to resist sin. However, also like a muscle, there will be days you have fatigue and pain and suffering by strengthening your conscience muscle.

As to dying on the way to the sacraments, my priest in RCIA described this (if you are in a state described by others above) as a “Confession of Desire”. In short, if you are hit by a bus on the way to the sacrament and you had every intent to follow of the letter of the sacrament and it’s penance then you are “safe” until the sacrament was “perfected”. However, if you intend to go to confession, and put it off then the validity of the “confession of Desire” would be in question.

I do think that your “confession muscle” can get stronger if you do it regularily. I think we can be drawn to it just like being drawn to any of the sacraments.

Hope that helps.


What if you fear going to hell because you fear being without the love of God? I don’t want to go to hell, mostly because I fear being without God’s presence and love. And while burning in hell scares me, it upsets me more to think that my actions could mean me not choosing Him, and that I could put myself out of communion with Him.


I think that if it would occur to you to go to a priest to confess your sins, then you probably did not consciously will to sin in the first place, and thus, while your sins may be grave, they are not mortal, anyway.

People who sin mortally (that is, they commit grave matter on purpose and with full knowledge) aren’t likely to be the sort of people who love God and seek out the company of priests.

Not that I think people shouldn’t go to Confession - I think that Confession gives us many graces, without which the world would be in much worse shape than it already is. But those who are going to Hell have already set their footsteps in that direction, and aren’t going to be worried about making it to Confession before they die. Indeed, these people have already rejected the Church and God.


Right, thanks. It occurs to me now that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Our mere existence is testament to that. But hell is, as i said before, a rejection of God and His grace.


I am sorry but your statement does seem to imply that if you are willing to go to confess to a priest then quite possibly your sin is not mortal. That it is false. I think that is is not that difficult to give free consent to grave matter. I think that is not that difficult to commit mortal sin. However, I think that it can be difficult for a good catholic to choose to live in a state of mortal sin.


It’s easy to give free consent to grave matter; what’s difficult for someone who loves God, though, is to give free consent to grave matter in the full knowledge that it offends God - and this is the third criteria.

I can certainly imagine someone freely consenting to grave matter in the full knowledge that it offends God, because I can easily imagine that there are people who hate God, and who go out of their way to offend Him whenever they can - but I cannot imagine someone who loves God doing that.


God bless you, JMcRae, that you love God so dearly. I must disagree though, because the only reason that anybody sins is that it feels “good”. Moreover, it feels good NOW. I know that God wants me to be happy with Him in Heaven forever, but sometimes (pray for me please!) that thought just gets ignored.


That is not correct. It must be grave matter (thus offending to God), you must know that is grave matter, and you are giving full consent to the grave matter. These are the three requirements that meet the specs for mortal sin.

Once you give full consent to grave matter you are committing mortal sin even if you were to say/think “I am doing it, I know it is grave matter, but I do not mean to offend God”. JPII made a very clear point about it.


If someone who loved God knew that it offended Him, they would not do it at all. In the case you are speaking of, either they don’t really love God, or they don’t understand what it really means, to offend Him.


Dying in a state of mortal Sin equals eternity in Hell!

Anyone who disagrees with that disagrees with the Catholic Church.


J, I know God’s love really does seem so awesome that, how could anyone refuse it? But it does get refused, and then accepted, and repeat as desired. The way you’re leaning sounds very much like OSAS. Maybe you’re thinking that after a mortal sin, it takes a person X years to truly repent, but we can’t define X here.


I disagree with you on this. To me it sounds almost like OSAS. I firmly believe that people can love God and sometime choose to offend Him by willingly accepting grave matter (committing a sin). Some are more fallen than others. On the other side repeating mortal sins in a systematic manner (living a sinful life) is an indication of lack of love for God.

edit: spirithound got to OSAS before me


edit: spirithound got to OSAS before me


First, I want to say that I certainly believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - I think people should make frequent use of it, even when all they have to confess are venial sins.

Second, I know how easy it is to commit sins of grave matter - gossiping, watching violence on television, various kinds of sexual sin, lying to protect one’s reputation or the reputation of another, cheating to get ahead - these things are so common that we consider them “normal” - and obviously a Catholic who does any of these things needs to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

However, I doubt that a Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday, who prays six times a day, and who is doing his or her best to be of service to others in their daily activities, is thinking, “I’m gonna get God, today, and make Him feel some pain. I’m gonna offend His likeness and image by trashing my neighbor’s reputation, watching a violent movie, and then fantasizing about sex with a movie star.” I honestly don’t think that’s what’s going through people’s heads.

Rather, I think what happens is that people are somewhat thoughtless, blab out stuff in the heat of the moment about their neighbor that really is nobody else’s business without really even considering the fact that they’re hurting that person’s reputation, never mind that in hurting that person’s reputation, they’re hurting the image and likeness of God in that person - and then following the crowd to whatever movie happens to be popular, and letting their thoughts wander without being in complete control of them - so from that point of view, yes, they committed grave matter, but not with the full understanding of the damage that they were doing to God and to their neighbor.


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