Effect of "executive willing" on mortal sin of thought

Hi there,

I was reading an article on the internet about mortal sins of thought.

It gives the scenario of a businessman who is thinking of mortally sinful ways to destroy his competition in business and taking delight in them.

It says that it is only when he either:

  • realises that he should not be thinking this and fails to turn his mind to something else, or
  • makes a conscious decision to carry out this act

that he is committing a mortal sin. Until then it is a temptation.

However, if it is consequent on “executive willing” based on another unrepented mortal sin e.g. if he had made this commitment to destroy his competition earlier in his life and is having subsequent temptations based on this earlier decision that the two conditions above would not be necessary for mortal sin.

This makes sense. However, is knowledge of the sinfulness of the act required for it to become a temptation i.e. he knows its wrong but is deliberating on it, or is it possible to commit a mortal sin once the thought crops up in his mind?

I do not want to in any way mislead anyone, so please don’t go by my reasoning. I am just wondering if anyone understands this. I am normally wrong on these things and this is based on a scrupulous conscience.



As far as I know,
A mortal sin in one’s thoughts is if you decide in thoughts to commit that sin (or would really really like to commit that sin if it wasn’t a mortal sin) dwelling long and fantasising on commiting that sin -deliberately, in free will, and full knowledge.

Jesus did say: that the commandments are much more than their titles, for example;
‘He who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’
(Deliberately thinking of impure fantasies is a mortal sin).

‘You have heard it said, thou shalt not kill , but I say to you; whoever calls his brother a fool is liable for the judgment of hell.’
(I read recently about a Protestant pastor in Africa who had a near death experience, his angel guardian told him that if it had been his time his judgement would have been hell because he did not forgive his wife about something that day, and because of name calling of others). So hatred is a mortal sin also.

‘Love one another as I have loved you. Forgive men their trespasses against you. If you do not forgive your fellow men their trespasses against you then neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses.’

If we do not forgive others up to the last moment before death- then we cannot be forgiven.

So thoughts can be mortal sin. If they are freely committed, deliberate, and in full knowledge that the thoughts are grave
The law of God is written on our hearts, so it is not necessary that we knew the thought was a mortal sin, if we know it was a grave offence or even that the thought was wrong, that’s enough accountability on our part for it to be a mortal sin in thoughts

This discussion is getting interesting.

My problem is that despite reading up on every piece of literature there is I still am not clear how to determine if a sin is grave.

I would originally have thought that name calling is a venial sin at most, and it would be grave if it was based on hatred. If not, most of the sins we are committing are mortal.

This is where I have the problem. Everyone seems to have different ideas. Several priests have told me that mortal sins are really really serious e.g. adultry, missing mass etc. and that we could be in no doubt if we committed one, but is it really a case that if we call someone names e.g. in traffic that that would be a mortal sin.

Common sense tells me that it would really need to be based on the sin of hatred to be a mortal sin.

Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?


One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?


One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.


Such would go for sins of thought as well as other sins.

This is why it is often best for those with scruples not to seek all sorts of opinions…but have a regular confessor to direct them (such is the age old practice).


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