Grave Matter, no consent or knowledge


If a person does something that constitutes grave matter, but gives no consent to the act and/or has no knowledge that it is grave matter, does the person commit a venial sin or no sin at all?


What is the meaning of “does something” in your question?


I don’t understand your question. I guess I could define “does something” as “performs some action”…this is not about a concrete sin, like I did something and am asking for personal advice, but a more theoretical question like if a person did something…


If they didn’t consent to it, they couldn’t have sinned. If they honestly didn’t know it was grave matter (example: Oedipus not knowing he was sleeping with his mother) it would be venial.


If the act either has no real consent or no knowledge of its immorality at all, then it is not an actual sin at all (no guilt). But sometimes an act that is objectively a mortal sin is done with limited consent or limited knowledge, making it an actual venial sin (the guilt of a venial sin only).


No, as 2 of the 3 requirements are missing.


Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI
395. 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.

396. 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.


Keep in mind though that one can have the needed knowledge for mortal sin - even though one does not know the “term” -grave matter. ie…a person who murders another is rather normally going to know that is very serious…even if they have not the theological categories in the question.


I ask because when you remove “consent” AND “knowledge,” one has to wonder what exactly such an action looks like. Is the person sleeping? Is it being done through violence (forcing someone’s hand on a gun and making his finger pull the trigger)? An act which can be morally evaluated is a voluntary act wherein the intellect and will are at least indirectly involved through allowing to occur in oneself that which can and ought be suppressed. It seems that there must be at least both some consent and some knowledge, or else it was not a human act at all but an animal or vegetative act, or was the result of violence (and is thus not an act at all).


Actually they said:





Still the same answer it seems… if there is really “no consent” or “no knowledge,” in what sense is the person acting?


Well if no knowledge of the gravely sinful nature of the act - then they are indeed acting -but in some sort of ignorance or other state.


But they know that they are acting in such and such a way. In most cases, that implies at least some very vague awareness of an act’s intrinsic immorality. The exceptions would be the “arbitrary” laws and commandments - such as a baptized wild child not knowing to go to Mass on Sunday. He is baptized and thus is bound, but he has literally no knowledge of this obligation.

AND YET, a total habitual neglect of worshiping God in the way he ought to have been able to understand he was bound by nature WOULD be culpable. (You can bet that I carefully worded that!) There is always sufficient grace…


It can.

Or not.


the original question here is addressed tersely in paragraph 1735 of the Catechism of the Catholic church.

1735 is difficult to understand. There are four cardinals who are seeking clarification of what Pope Francis meant by his quoting of 1735.

This is neither a small question, or a simple one, that is to say, both your question and theirs.

On the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is ignorance of grave matter.

Was Jesus referring just to the Romans, who crucified Him, or to us all, who by our sins don’t realize what we did, to cause Jesus to empty Himself of His rightful glory, to die, once and for all, for our sins?


What I’m asking is along the lines of this (as an example): St. Bernard denied the Immaculate Conception. Now obviously he had no knowledge that the Immaculate Conception is part of the deposit of faith. So would that be a venial sin committed by St. Bernard or no sin at all?


Likely no sin at all.

I imagine he was rather circumspect in this regards.

Sam does not know one is obliged to go to Mass on Holy Days (of obligation) -that it is a mortal sin to not do so - he honestly has understood that it is like other feasts and he can go or not go. He is not at fault for not knowing this - he was taught by his Parents that the only Mass one must attend is Sunday Mass and Christmas. He honestly never came across this discipline - and has even been studying the Faith and seeking to live a faithful Christian Life. He has no clue though about this.

Does he sin even venially?



Thank you


Material heresy implies a denial of material faith. Material faith implies a particular public revelation being made known. This is not the case here.


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