Grave matter?

The Church has not published an official list of what is/is not grave matter, or if they have I have not seen it. Can someone help me by making a workable list?

According to the Vatican website

"1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.“132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”

I’ve had a copy of the catechism of the Catholic Church since it was published in English about 19 years ago, but I didn’t read the whole thing until recently, as a suggested activity for the current Year of Faith.

I can tell you, the CCC is easier to read than I thought it was going to be. It discusses grave matter all over the place.

You didn’t ask, but I’m going to add this as well.

look at paragraph 1735 of the CCC

1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

While you may commit a sin of grave matter, you may not be fully guilty of it. This paragraph follow paragraph 1734 which discusses human freedom. 1735 is thus telling you SOMETHING about what diminishes or even nullifies responsibility for it.

If there was one paragraph in the CCC that needs much further explanation, I would pick 1735.

Suppose you commit grave matter #1, #2, or #3, but you read this and see an “out” due to habit, ignorance, inordinate attachments, or “other” factors: a) do you even need to confess it? b) does this paragraph provide a loophole to allow you to commit the sin again, over and over, since you may find the temptation or circumstances of it overwhelming? c) if I ever confessed a sin of grave matter, I never had the priest ask me any questions to see if I qualified for the loopholes of 1735.

I think A LOT needs to be said about this.

I can’t get anybody to take up the challenge and explain this, I anticipate that they would merely ignore or disniss 1735 – but they do so at their spiritual peril, because 1735 is ALSO in the depost of faith, as much as any other paragraph defines examples of grave matter.

I think, intuitively, that we are called to grace, to holiness, and to repentence. If we can identify ourselves commiting sins of grave matter, we should at least also be praying for forgiveness and divine assistance to repent of these sins. I’m not sure God is looking for loopholes. We will be judged for what is in our heart. And, what is that supposed to be?
To love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and WITH ALL OUR STRENGTH.

First, I think we are only required to confess mortal sin. So you can do grave matter #1, #2, or #3 and if it didn’t meet conditions for mortal sin, I agree you don’t have to confess it.

So I guess the question is, what if you did have knowledge and intent, but would never have done it except for the psychological “out” factors? – Is that a logical contradiction? I don’t know; I’ll ponder it more.

What I’m wondering is, if the “outs” imply that full knowledge and free consent were not present so it’s not a mortal sin?

Or do they mean, if a sin can be mortal but somehow because of our condition we are not to be … what, punished as severely? That doesn’t make sense either, if the wages of any mortal sin is in fact hell, then if it’s mortal, I’m going to hell even though I’m not to be held totally accountable? That doesn’t make sense either.

You bring some good questions.

b) does this paragraph provide a loophole to allow you to commit the sin again, over and over, since you may find the temptation or circumstances of it overwhelming?

I would think that however this thing works for an individual sin, that repeated sins would be covered. My nephew, for example, has brain damage and literally cannot learn from his mistakes. So even though he says he knows something he did was stupid and harmful, he’ll do it again and then again he’ll acknowledge it was stupid and harmful, even though it’s a rerun.

c) if I ever confessed a sin of grave matter, I never had the priest ask me any questions to see if I qualified for the loopholes of 1735.

I’d say anything you confess is ostensibly troubling to your heart, so once you confess it you get absolution for all sins – including the ones you were qualified to get away with. I don’t think it hurts to receive absolution for things that weren’t sins. At least that’s a better way to err than not receiving absolution for something that was a mortal sin.

I think, intuitively, that we are called to grace, to holiness, and to repentence. If we can identify ourselves commiting sins of grave matter, we should at least also be praying for forgiveness and divine assistance to repent of these sins.

I’m not sure God is looking for loopholes. We will be judged for what is in our heart. And, what is that supposed to be?

Maybe “loophole” adds meaning to it compared to a more socially neutral term like “exception.” If I do grave matter because I’m sick in the head, and wouldn’t have had I not been, then the sickness explains why the grave matter took place, regardless of the issue of the sinfulness of it. So I see there are explanations for why we behave this way or that. Now if somebody tells me, “don’t blame me for doing this because I’m bipolar,” well I’m intimately acquainted with bipolar, so I have some way to determine whether it’s true or not. For example, I have a friend who cheated on his wife once while extremely manic. Due to his mental state, he honestly thought the Holy Spirit was leading him to do this – and because of my experiences, after questioning him I believed that he believed this. To someone without having experienced a similar illness, it might be very hard to tell whether they were really acting under influences that cannot be controlled or resisted, or if they’re just trying to get away with something.

But why would God want there to be an explanation? Because each of us was made in His image, and His law is written on our hearts. The bushel baskets we use to cover our nakedness after we are socialized, that hide our light from shining ya know, all have different colors and patterns. But not only do our bushels pervert/distort our light God would like us to shine, they pervert how we see light that others are shining. So really it gets pretty complicated by human standards. For God, He sees through and sees the True Love within us, and will approach it if we give him a chance. I don’t think that how guilty we are for our sins is really matters as how open we are to His help. If it’s a small sin, but we are closed to His healing, that’s worse than if it’s a more serious sin but we open our minds and hearts to Him.

Like you said, with all your strength. But how do we love the Lord with all our strength? By giving Him our lives, and so we become nothing of our own ownership, but stewards of the gift of life that He gave us.

Sorry if I keep changing topics. I keep getting distracted.

Alan
.

There is no exhaustive list of grave matter things --but yes one could certainly point to many examples:

Missing Mass on Sunday or Holy Day (with out serious excuse -like illness or dispensation)
Hating ones parents
Serious disobedience
Leading someone into mortal sin
Serious detraction or calumnity
Desecration of the Eucharist
Stealing a car
Serious theft (either from the thing or circumstance etc)
Murder
Adultery
Sterilization
Masturbation
Abortion
Lying under oath
Drunkenness (where one looses ones reason for example)
Enslaving people
sacrificing to idols
Sorcery
Burning down someones house
Missing Sunday Mass (unless sick etc)
Various sexual sins
pornography
IVF
Deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor
Abortion
Contracepting before, during or after the marital act
Rejecting Christ
Gravely harming someone
Something gravely contrary to charity or justice
Serious lies
Serious scandal


Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

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?

1862-1864
1875

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.

vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

regarding my post, #3

I observe that paragraph 1735 does not distinguish intentional vs non-intentional sins.

This is pertinent.

Suppose I am using contraception continually, Grave matter I assume. But, if I continue using it under duress or for social factors (“pressure”), then I assume that is not with full consent, even if this use of contraception is intentional.

Again, I am amazed how broad 1735 is, and how vague it is. I might decide not to go to confession, because my sin couldn’t be more than venial, in severity (the second worse thing we can do to offend God).

Under 1735, the notion of sin – grave sin – seems to fade away.

That’s because the nature of sin cannot be analyzed logically or mathematically or otherwise formally. Personally I think the distinction between mortal and venial is overrated. Sin is sin, and we are to strive for perfection.

That we have a way of dualistically separating those who “are worthy” (aka state of grace) v. those who are “not worthy” to come to the table, is made complex by the fact that there really is no specific distinction that can be formally measured or determined. For some reason, when a sin gets to a certain “badness” we say, OK, if you’re worse than that, you’re in the “outgroup” and you must sit out while the “worthy” ones receive. But precisely how bad is that badness where the boundary lay, and how, precisely, do we know whether we are past that level?

The problem is, there is no natural boundary, but one that we are, by necessity, defining quantitatively rather than qualitatively. It’s like asking whether a particular skin cell belongs to your head or your neck. It isn’t like all of a sudden skin cells change pigment or DNA or something, when you cross a particular boundary. No, there is at least a fraction of an inch where, for all intents and purposes, you can assign particular cells either way. And it may depend on your reason for asking; a makeup artist, a surgeon, and a clothing designer may all have different opinions on where the neck “ends” and the head “begins.” So the boundary is vaguely defined. Because it is humanly impossible to analyze it and coming to an unambiguously “correct” result that applies in every case for every purpose. We like to have it clear cut, black and white, and be told “yes” or “no” but life does have gray areas. In fact, photographically black and white are just particular cases of gray.

Back in the 90’s, designers of electronically controlled equipment went through a phase of embracing and touting “fuzzy logic.” The idea was that you didn’t have to define exactly what constituted a boundary. For example, a controller for a washing machine is supposed to do something when the washer gets “Almost Full.” Well, “almost full” could mean 80% full, 90% full, and it supposedly doesn’t matter exactly where the distinction is made. My opinion is that it was a silly thing, because really there was nothing fuzzy about it. At some point the machine is going to make a decision, and ultimately it’s going to follow a formula and get an answer. In reality, the fuzzy logic was more complicated than the logic is was supposed to simplify. We might have “almost full” be 70% if the it’s in wash cycle and 80% in rinse, or maybe 73% if the there is a full moon and 81% if the pope hasn’t been elected yet, and add 5% if the water is hot, or subtract 2% if the water is cold. That’s intentionally silly, but that was all the rage and was supposed to simplify things by hiding the details from the programmer so they could pretend they were making decisions like an “actual expert” would, one with a wise eye on just when to add the bleach or turn on the agitator. It was a sweet idea, but there really weren’t many situations I saw where it was useful.

That’s how I see we define mortal sin. It’s a mortal sin if we have full knowledge and consent, but if consent is given under duress within one month after being laid off then we can consider them 10% to 20% less responsible, yada yada yada. And if it’s a category 7-A sin, and temporal severity factor of 12 and getting caught factor of 0.2, and guilt species 3 level G-10, then you fail the test and are going to hell. But if you pass the test, you may go to hell anyway, so you are “almost” saved, maybe. Unless it’s been a year since your last confession, in which case you will go to hell. That’s kind of how it comes across when we get into trying to apply the logic to one case.

And this is all well and good; we need this for our initial formation of conscience, while we are in our first halves of spiritual life.

This is one reason why nobody can follow a set or written codes as a moral compass for each and every situation they encounter. It’s impossible to even define what’s right in any situation that isn’t ambiguous even to experts. That’s why the law of sin and death condemned mankind and put it to death so that Jesus could raise us into a new life. Because the old system wasn’t workable. So we model our attempts at figuring out at any given moment if we’re going to die are we going to hell, and if the answer is “yes” then we’re not in the state of grace but if it’s “maybe” then we aren’t. Or maybe the other way around. But ultimately the logic will be circular, fuzzy, and vague, because we’re dealing with artificial distinctions.

That’s why it’s important to move beyond the first half of spiritual life, and become born of the spirit, enter the kingdom, and become free of the law of sin and death. (see Rom 7-8) When we are worldly minded, we have to calculate and analyze our behavior to figure out whether we need to do this or that next. When we are of the spirit, we trust and depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. Of course this raises a problem with academics because then it means that there is no standard by which we can identify who is in the “in” group and who is in the “out” group. And the dualistic mind wants to know. That’s why I say that we live our life solely to improve our chances we’ll be happy after we die is the Bad News. The Good News is we can come into the kingdom and transcend all these technicalities by moving on the advanced mode – spirit led. Then we don’t worry about tomorrow and we are given the right motives and words as we need them.

Alan

Grave matter according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Reference (Numbers 2272, 2480, 2380, 2148, 2434, 2181, 2117, 2384 to 2386, 2290 & 2291, 2539, 2277, 2302, 2152 & 2476, 2353, 2303, 2357, 2388, 2482, 2352, 2268, 2163, 2354, 2355, 2356, 2439, 2120, 2284, 2281, 2297, 2413 & 2434, 2268, 2400, 2434):
[LIST]
*]Abortion (any formal cooperation in it)
*]Acceptance by human society of murderous famines without trying to fix it
*]Adulation of another’s grave faults if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins, but it is not grave when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
*]Adultery
*]Blasphemy
*]Defrauding a worker of his wages
*]Deliberate failure to go to mass on Holy Days of Obligation unless excused for a serious reason or dispensed by one’s own pastor
*]Divination, magic, and sorcery
*]Divorce (If civil divorce, which cannot do anything to the spiritual marriage in the eyes of God, remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the protection of inheritance, or the care of the children it is not a sin.)
*]Drug Abuse
*]Endangering their own and others’ safety by drunkenness or a love of speed on the road, at sea or in the air
*]Envy (if to the level of wishing grave harm to another)
*]Euthanasia
*]Extreme Anger (at the level of truly and deliberately desiring to seriously hurt or kill someone)
*]Fornication
*]Hatred of a neighbor/to deliberately desire him or her great harm
*]Homosexual acts
*]Incest
*]Lying (the gravity is measured by “the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims”)
*]Masturbation
*]Murder (except when done in self defense or defense of others when there is no other way)
*]Perjury and False Oaths
*]Polygamy
*]Pornography
*]Prostitution
*]Rape
*]Rich nation’s refusal to aid those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves
*]Sacrilege
*]Scandal (deliberately causing someone to sin gravely)
*]Suicide
*]Terrorism that threatens, wounds and kills indiscriminately
*]Unfair wagers and cheating at games unless the damage is unusually light
[/LIST]

A mortal sin should be one of the above grave matters only when it is done with full knowledge of the gravity of the sin, and with full consent of the will.

But one need not hold that ‘full’ means '100%, because no one could ever say that they were '100% knowledgable on ANYTHING. Also, with today’s societal conditioning, people would say that they never FULLY consented because they were under duress, it was a ‘situation’, they were impaired, etc. etc.

The average person who knows something is wrong, whether he read it in the catechism, learned it in the 7th grade, hears it from his priest, or simply knows from his own ‘gut’, has ‘full knowledge’ in terms of what the ‘average person’ would assume sufficient, and therefore ‘full.’

Does the AVERAGE person know exactly how a car’s engine works, or a computer motherboard? Heck no, but we have sufficient knowledge that we can USE the car/computer compentently, therefore ‘fully’. The man or woman with MORE knowledge of engines or computers to the point where they are design engineers are NOT the ‘standard’ by which we measure whether a person can utilize a car or computer. Likewise, the ‘perfect person’ such as the person with the intellect of Einstein and the sensitivity of Mother Teresa is not the ‘standard’ whereby we can claim that since we aren’t so smart or so spiritual, we don’t really ‘know’ ourselves or our actions the way they did.

I think for a mortal sin you have to know the consequence that will follow. If you think of it in personal relationship terms, a mortal sin is a sin that severs or ends or kills (mortal) our relationship with God. To terminate your covenantal relationship with God, you have to know that you are doing so.

It seems that many people commit sins that objectively are grave but they don’t really intend to break their relationship with God, so they haven’t really committed a mortal sin even though what they did was grave matter.

If you stop to try to really ponder mortal sin, it is pretty ugly…it is pure evil, choosing to have nothing at all to do with God and choosing to prefer hell…

Now, that is not to make light of venial sin and the slippery slope of sin. It just is probably the case that few people actually intend to break their baptismal covenant with God.

Actually such would not be quite on mark. While one does need “grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent”

–in order to commit a mortal sin one would not need to:

“intend to break their relationship with God”

And so I would not follow with:

“so they haven’t really committed a mortal sin even though what they did was grave matter”

Rather as Blessed Pope John Paul II noted:

“Likewise, care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal sin to an act of " fundamental option”-as is commonly said today-against God, intending thereby an explicit and formal contempt for God or neighbor. For mortal sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered."

-Bl Pope John Paul II

Ooops, I should add under the bullet Defrauding a worker of his wages that it can be a grave unjust but that doesn’t mean it always is.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2434 “A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.”

It’s my hope and prayer that Pope Francis really will rebuild the Church, and make things simpler while he is at it. Reading this thread makes me wonder if the only ones who would have any inkling about whether they are in the state of grace are the intellectual elite.

I’m going to share a quote about mortal sin that has helped me. It puts things in a way us common folk can understand and use it in our lives. It’s from Believing in Jesus (3rd revised edition). I got it when in the RCIA.

“Those who commit mortal sin make a decision. Fully realizing that what they choose (the object of their decision) is seriously wrong, they decide with full freedom to do what they know, at least subconsciously, is fatal to their friendly relationship with God.”
(The words in italics are as they appear in the book. The quote is on page 148.)

It also says that since it is such a terrible act, it’s not committed lightly. And it goes on from there. It’s part of a great chapter I’ve read often through the years.

Another thing that has been of help is a Catholic Update titled “Understanding Sin Today.”
It can be found by Clicking Here.

:tiphat:

You’d think so, but they are usually the ones in the worst conditions, because all of their knowledge puffs them up with pride. (1 Cor 8:1) So they are truly the blind leading the blind.

“Those who commit mortal sin make a decision. Fully realizing that what they choose (the object of their decision) is seriously wrong, they decide with full freedom to do what they know, at least subconsciously, is fatal to their friendly relationship with God.”
(The words in italics are as they appear in the book. The quote is on page 148.)

It also says that since it is such a terrible act, it’s not committed lightly. And it goes on from there. It’s part of a great chapter I’ve read often through the years.

That is a more workable definition of mortal sin than the whole issue was whether or not something was actually grave matter. IMO if you intentionally do something that you believe God would not like, then really what difference does it make whether it was grave matter? For example, I can speak angrily to a brother or sister in Christ, especially one I have some type of authority over, and separate myself from God every bit as much as a scared teenage girl who gets an abortion.

And I’m quite sure Jesus (and probably the new pope) would back me up on that claim.

Ah, as it turns out, Jesus did speak on this very issue:

[BIBLEDRB]Matt 5:21-22[/BIBLEDRB]

So the scared girl does kill but maybe not with full knowledge or intent? If that weren’t the case, then confessors would not have the authority to forgive abortions since it would otherwise have been an excommunication.

But if I sincerely and totally call my brother a fool, then I am guilty.

Jesus was trying to get across that it’s not the particular physical acting out of the sin itself but what’s going on in the minds and hearts of the sinner. That He makes absolutely clear by His next example in verses 27-28.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

So frankly, I find the whole thing about mortal sin as spiritually confusing. I believe we have those “heirarchies of sin” to help keep the social order. Crowd control. Basically for crowd control; we can’t stop them from hating each other so we at least try to stop them from killing each other physically – they can kill each other emotionally, spiritually, socially and mentally instead and then it won’t be grave matter because we just expect that as part of the social order? A human mind thinks we have to stop the physical violence but the spiritual violence is touchy-feely and is beyond quantification or classification. But the spiritual mind knows that the physical violence is in fact, born of a lack of spiritual development.

Personally I can’t see how whether a sin we commit is or is not in fact Grave Matter – actually does matter at all to God. It matters to the Church, apparently, so if we are obedient to the Church we need to go confess. Maybe the reason we only have to confess grave matter is that if we really had confession for all our sins people would be running to the confessional every five minutes to confess every difficult thought and that’s not manageable. But then again, we have that happening too, but we them “scrupulous” so those whom we don’t call “scrupulous” don’t clog up all the confessionals all the time.

Alan

Yeah, the issue of grave matter can be confusing. For one thing, there’s the statement that a violation of one of the Ten Commandments would be grave matter. Seems simple enough. But… (there always is one! LOL) there are many things not specifically listed that are said to be “implied” by them. Can’t remember where I read that one. Talk about causing a brain cramp!
Then you have Jesus’ commandment:

[BIBLEDRB]John 13:34[/BIBLEDRB]

And the greatest commandments:
[BIBLEDRB]Matthew 22:34-40[/BIBLEDRB]

Now to this layperson, Jesus makes things clear and raises the bar even higher than the 10 Commandments at the same time.

Another good way IMO of thinking about what would be seriously sinful, or that I’m about to head down a slippery slope, would be to ask myself if it was an act of malice. Doing/saying/not doing something hurtful, on purpose, to another (God included)… that to me is what regularly needs looking at. Usually that’s a good start towards a change of heart, with prayer and God’s grace. Then there’s the unintentional stuff…
I’ll just say that it often boggles my mind to look at a crucifix and think that Jesus did that for me. It’s too much for my brain and heart to grasp.

IMO if you intentionally do something that you believe God would not like, then really what difference does it make whether it was grave matter?

Yup, either way an about face is in order.

There is no exhaustive list of grave matter things --but yes one could certainly point to many examples:

Missing Mass on Sunday or Holy Day (with out serious excuse -like illness or dispensation)
Hating ones parents
Serious disobedience
Leading someone into mortal sin
Serious detraction or calumnity
Desecration of the Eucharist
Stealing a car
Serious theft (either from the thing or circumstance etc)
Murder
Adultery
Sterilization
Masturbation
Abortion
Lying under oath
Drunkenness (where one looses ones reason for example)
Enslaving people
sacrificing to idols
Sorcery
Burning down someones house
Missing Sunday Mass (unless sick etc)
Sexual sins
pornography
IVF
Deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor
Abortion
Contracepting before, during or after the marital act
Rejecting Christ
Gravely harming someone
Something gravely contrary to charity or justice
Serious lies
Serious scandal


Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

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?

1862-1864
1875

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.

vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.