Habitual sin is NOT mortal!

Ok… That is not my thought. It was the thought of a priest that my friend went to confession with. He stated that because it was a habitual sin… the culpability was not present, so he said it was not mortal. This sin was masturbation? So… to a young male that would be easy for him to hear. Hey don’t worry is’t not mortal… you can’t control your self. Is there any truth to this?

Dang self theorists! I’m ok your ok! No it’s not ok!

it isn’t a sin if the habit was something that the person honestly did not know it was a sin. But clearly they knew (or found out) and that is why they confessed. Unless the person has some disorder, yes they can control themselves.

Pax vobiscum!

That statement by the priest could be true in certain cases for certain people. I’d ask him for a clarification if I were you.

In Christ,

The force of habit can reduce the level of culpability for the particular act at a given moment in time.

However, one does not acquire a habit simply by accident. At some point in the past, the action itself was deliberate and planned.

At some point in the past, the action was deliberately repeated over and over again, until it became a habit.

This is where the mortal sin occurred - when it was done deliberately, and when it was repeated over and over again, in order to develop the habit.

The fact that it has now become a habit does not take away the gravely disordered nature of the action, either. It is still harming the person’s psyche and soul, even though, at this point, the actions taken since the time it became a habit have reduced culpability, he still needs to break the habit. He still needs to find something healthier to do in his spare time.

Please read the catechism. It states this fact that culpability is lessened by different circumstances…one being habit.

That doesn’t lessen their need to work on stopping it.

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The priest was most likely referring to this paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. (CCC)

That’s from ETWN, and the priest that I’ve discussed the same issue with sort of echoed those same sentiments. I don’t think it’s a mortal sin in the majority of contexts that most adult and faithful Catholic men struggle with the issue. After all, it is by far the most widely confessed sin for Catholic men. That being said though, I think it’s a good sin to confess as a means of facilitating accountability and improving yourself.

Sins that involve grave matter should always be confessed. The sin may or may not be mortal- only you and God know whether or not it was. If they are not mortal sins for you because of habit, that doesn’t mean that it is ok to do it. You have to try and break the habit- and confessing it each time can help you.

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He should have said that the culpability is lessened.

That’s what the CCC states.

Habit may reduce the culpability of an objectively grave sin. Nonetheless, it should be confessed along with all grave sins. Hopefully he wasn’t implying that it was OK, but sometimes that can be the impression the penitent is left with.

It is important to remember that habits cut both ways. Aquinas (following Aristotle) wrote that virtues are habits toward good acts, and vices are habits toward evil ones. In the same way that one is praised for his virtues because he has developed them actively over time, so one is condemned for his vices because, again, he has developed them over time by repetition. So, while a vice may limit the culpability of the sinner in an individual situation, the existence of the vice itself could very well be the result of mortal sin (Aquinas certainly thought so). I guess my point is that saying that one is not responsible for his vices, is the same as saying that one is not responsible for his virtues. Bad habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to make: it is a cross Christians bear.

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It is true that once a good habit is formed, then the individual moral act takes less of a struggle to accomplish, and therefore has less meritorious value. However, one must keep in mind that the culpability of habit very much depends upon the degree of voluntariness.

Consider also the following…

From the point of view of ethics, the main division of habits is into good and bad, i.e. into virtues and vices, according as they lead to actions in conformity with or against the rules of morality. It is needless to insist on the importance of habit in moral conduct; the majority of actions are performed under its influence, frequently without reflection, and in accordance with principles or prejudices to which the mind has become accustomed. The actual dictates of an upright conscience are dependent on intellectual habits, especially those of rectitude and honesty without which it happens too often that reason is used, not to find out what is right or wrong, but to justify a course of action one has taken or wishes to take. Custom also is an important factor, as that which is of frequent occurrence, even if known at first to be wrong, little by little becomes familiar, and its commission no longer produces in us feelings of shame or remorse. The voice of conscience is stifled; it ceases to give its warning, or at least no attention is paid to it.
By lessening freedom, habit also lessens the actual responsibility of the agent, for actions are less perfectly attended to, and in varying degrees escape the control of the will. But it is important to note the distinction between habits acquired and retained knowingly, voluntarily, and with some foresight of the consequences likely to result, and habits acquired unconsciously, without our noticing them, and therefore without our thinking of the possible consequences. In the former case, actions good or bad, though actually not quite free, are nevertheless imputable to the agent, since they are voluntary in their cause, that is, in the implied consent given them at the beginning of the habit. If on the contrary the will had no part at all in acquiring or retaining the habit, actions proceeding from it are not voluntary, but, as soon as the existence and dangers of a bad habit are noticed, efforts to uproot it become obligatory.

Habit, insofar as it diminishes voluntariness in either good or bad moral acts, also diminishes merit/demerit of the agent. It can only eliminate merit/demerit if it was completely devoid of voluntariness…which is rare. We call that “inadvertent.” Mortal sin requires 1) grave matter, 2) full advertence, and 3) perfect consent, otherwise it is venial at most. Venial sins require some advertence and some consent on the part of the moral agent, otherwise the act is not even a moral act, and therefore lacks ANY culpability.

So, the Confessor has to take into consideration “voluntariness”, not to assess the OBJECTIVE grave nature of the sin, but to judge the subjective elements of culpability. BTW, the Confessor can be wrong in his judgement. But the beauty of the Sacrament of Confession is, given that you made a good confession, all your sins are forgiven. :thumbsup:

The way I see it is habits can be broken. If one is making an effort to break the habit I don’t think it is a mortal sin but if one knows it is a sin and chooses to use the habit as an excuse and not make any effort to stop then habbit or not I think it would still be a mortal sin. Oh, and yes this is a breakable habit. I’ve for the time being managed to break the habit or addiction for over a month now (probably a record for me). Now I can easily fall back into the habit again but will try not to. The point is it is controllable and breakable but it is very hard to desire to break the habit especially since the church, as in the priests as well as people in general, is divided on whether the act is sinful or not.

Robert Scott:

“A capital vice is that which has an exceedingly desirable end so that in his desire for it a man goes on to the commission of many sins all of which are are said to originate in that vice as their chief source. (Aquinas II-II:143:4)”

Here Aquinas links the originating act with the compounding effects it creates.

Our last judgement will include the revealing of the effects of our sins on others. If we were only culpable of the source sin then this could not be.

Also “Those actions alone are properly called human or moral actions which proceed from the human will deliberately acting with knowledge of the end for which it acts.”(NA). The end includes knowledge of the compounding effects, thanks to the Church’s teaching. We obtain this knowledge yet again by dutiful attentiveness to the Church’s teachings.

Habitual in secular terms means a habit that was formed from an action that was the original source. The “habit” is the effect of compounding of evil and the lessening of grace every time a person does the act. Habitual in terms of macula peccatti. reatus culpae describes the compounding effect. The Church places clear warning signs that original acts will cause this effect as just stated. Therefore the choice he made included the acceptance of possible negative effects he finds himself caught in.

We avoid the sin in order not to commit the original sin, but also to prevent the compounding sure to follow.


It’s hard to comment out of context. But if compulsion (because of a psychiatric disorder) was present then the culpability is reduced.

One must distinguish between fully culpable acts, which pertain to those sins where full advertence and perfect consent are present, and those sins which have less than full culpability.

Vice would not REMOVE culpability unless such a vice is completely involuntary.

One way or the other, the individual in question must make every effort to break the habit. Even if, in some situation, a person was non-culpable for grave sins due to some sort of habit, they would be culpable for the mortal sin of not trying - or not trying hard enough - to break the habit.

And I would say, at least in my best estimation, that the day the individual is tempted by the sin and recognizes/feels the power to say no to it is the day that the individual is fully culpable for the act.

I think in cases like this, it is very important to give very cautious and prayerful counsel. Certainly the boy must be alleviated of any fears that might bind him. The boy must be given as much legitimate access to Holy Communion as possible. The boy must be made aware that God isn’t constantly angry with him. However, its also very critical that excuses and oppurtunities for the devil to work with aren’t allowed to make their way into the boy’s mind, either.

I had a problem with masturbation myself, once, and I talk to a few people who do currently in a sort of support role, and I can say that there is no question that any very simple advice, as the OP suggested was given, will not lead to any positive results.

The key to overcoming any sin, and especially active (as opposed to passive) sins like masturbation, is to be able to see through all the clouds of society and of our own feelings to realize how much power God actually has given us to stop it, and to come to recognize that the will really is in control of everything. The worst thing you can do is take all the responsibility away from a person.

The most important thing for them is to be made aware that it’s their choice and given some responsibility. In the case of a habit, it’s not much different. It’s harder for the person, and it takes more work because the will really needs to be brought back into the right alignment where it was before the habit formed. Also, the person has to be prevented from feeling imprisoned, lost, or frustrated. At its core, though, is to start to give the people responsibility. Even Alcoholics anonymous and other 12 step programs realize this. That is why they reject all ideas such as “alcoholism is a disease” and “I’m a victim” and others that take responsibility away from the person. Responsibility is the core. The thing with those caught in a habit is to get them to realize they have the control they do and give them the support they need to use that control. Grace, of course, is most important.


Habit’s can be broken, in this case, for example, by breaking the perps fingers in such a way that it’s not practical to “practice” that habit any longer,… and after some weeks, when the habit “fades”, if the act is then commited it would be a mortal sin.

That’s a ridiculous “cure” of course, but the simple fact is that “habit” is not a sufficient excuse to demote acts of mortal sin into lesser sin.

Mahalo ke Akua…!
E pili mau na pomaikai iaoe. Aloha nui.

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