How are you supposed to know when a near occasion of sin is a sin in itself?


As I understand Catholic moral theology, we are obliged to avoid the near occasions of sin. But what I don’t understand is how we are supposed to KNOW if we have sinned by not avoiding the near occasions of sin.

Mortal sin requires among other factors, deliberate consent, which seems to mean that in order to be guilty of such a sin you would have to intend to commit the sin of putting yourself in a near occasion of sin (even if for some reason you do not end up committing the sin involved in the situation).

From my understanding I’ve taken near occasion of sin to mean situations where you go in thinking that you will ultimately end up sinning but proceed to enter these occasions anyway pretty much knowing that you will likely stumble (Like the classic example of the alcoholic, who goes to hang out at the bar, maybe not intending to drink at first, but knowing in his heart that if he goes there he is probably going to wind up drunk).

There just seems to be a lot of gray area that makes me uncomfortable. I’ll often think about such situations before and during, and then consider whether they are near occasions of sin or not. I usually think that they aren’t in the moment, but if the temptation turns out to be greater than I expected, even when I don’t sin, I still get discouraged because I feel uncertain as to whether I’ve sinned by not avoiding these occasions of high temptation (even when I didn’t consider them NEAR occasions of sin at the time and prior).

Ultimately what seems like the most reasonable explanation I can give myself is that in order for not avoiding the near occasion of sin to be a true mortal sin, I would have to knowingly and deliberately put myself in a situation where I expected myself to succumb to temptation and wind up committing a mortal sin (hence near occasion of sin). Does this sound about right?

If so, it would seem feeling uncertain indicates you didn’t commit this sin because it seems to demonstrate a lack of full knowledge and deliberate consent, even if these come out of a simple error in judgement as a opposed to a moral fault.

Thoughts appreciated


A positive intention to commit a specific sin is not necessary to sin mortally, such as when there is willful negligence or willful ignorance, both of which are more general. It is also possible to sin mortally without a grave sin, such as intending to steal something you think is really valuable (like $400) and then discovering later after it is stolen, that is is not very valuable at all.

Near occasions, are those through which we always fall. So how do we know that we always fall? Firstly, if there are two times one falls in the same situation, then that is a pattern. Secondly, we should guess at what would always cause a fall, such as in the answer to Q775.

Baltimore Catechism No. 3 Q. 771. What do you mean by the near occasions of sin?
A. By the near occasions of sin I mean all the persons, places and things that may easily lead us into sin.

Q. 772. Why are we bound to avoid occasions of sin?
A. We are bound to avoid occasions of sin because Our Lord has said: “He who loves the danger will perish in it”; and as we are bound to avoid the loss of our souls, so we are bound to avoid the danger of their loss. The occasion is the cause of sin, and you cannot take away the evil without removing its cause.

Q. 773. Is a person who is determined to avoid the sin, but who is unwilling to give up its near occasion when it is possible to do so, rightly disposed for confession?
A. A person who is determined to avoid the sin, but who is unwilling to give up its near occasion when it is possible to do so, is not rightly disposed for confession, and he will not be absolved if he makes known to the priest the true state of his conscience.

Q. 774. How many kinds of occasions of sin are there?
A. There are four kinds of occasions of sin:

  1. Near occasions, through which we always fall;
  2. Remote occasions, through which we sometimes fall;
  3. Voluntary occasions or those we can avoid; and
  4. Involuntary occasions or those we cannot avoid. A person who lives in a near and voluntary occasion of sin need not expect forgiveness while he continues in that state.

Q. 775. What persons, places and things are usually occasions of sin?

  1. The persons who are occasions of sin are all those in whose company we sin, whether they be bad of themselves or bad only while in our company, in which case we also become occasions of sin for them;
  2. The places are usually liquor saloons, low theaters, indecent dances, entertainments, amusements, exhibitions, and all immoral resorts of any kind, whether we sin in them or not;
  3. The things are all bad books, indecent pictures, songs, jokes and the like, even when they are tolerated by public opinion and found in public places.


I’m thinking the question isn’t “is it a sin”, but more “can it be a mortal sin.” Since we’re all called to perfection, I suspect that any choices we make that we know are NEAR occasions of sin are venial sins at least. It’s an interesting rhetorical question, but I think we need to be careful to keep the differences between sin as such and mortal sin clear. I see many questions here asking if non-grave matter is mortal sin. :slight_smile:


I will re post a post of mine on occasions of sin.

Occasions of sin…

There are all sorts of remote occasions of sin in life…all sorts of possible good things that one can do --where there is a possibility that some temptation may come.

Normally we are not “obliged” to avoid “remote” occasions of sin. (One might though foresee for example that it would say likely become a near occasion of mortal sin further in …and so that could be I think an example of sin to go willie nille into such…or there could be some sin due to other aspects - but it is a bit difficult to parse them out in the abstract.) Ones confessor can advise one.

There are lots of “remote occasions of sin” in life - such are not necessarily involving any sin (remote occasions where one could sin but most likely will not).

We simply cannot avoid all such things nor are we usually obliged to do so. We would have to knock ourselves unconscious…

(not saying here one does not still seek to avoid such often…one judges prudently such things…it can be quite good to “flee temptation”.)

Certainly though one is to avoid the near occasion of mortal sin.

We are obliged to avoid near occasions of mortal sin (usually more the focus is on such in this sort of question).

What though is a near occasion of mortal sin?

It is not simply temptation (though let us seek to avoid temptations).

A* near occasion of mortal sin* is such where one would generally falls into mortal sin -one generally commits a mortal sin (or even always!)–or is what is likely to cause one to commit a particular mortal sin now. Due to the nature of thing itself or ones particular personal weakness.

Though there can at times be good reasons to be in them…ones confessor can guide one or those that cannot be avoided (involuntary) (necessary occasions…which one still tries to make more remote…)

Those are the general principles for one to apply. Ones confessor can guide one. In specifics.

So can it be sinful to put oneself into a near occasion of mortal sin? Or remain in one? Yes. (it may be venial or even mortal).

A* clear example* of when such would be a mortal sin could be -(with full knowledge and deliberate consent) when I am morally certain that if I put myself into circumstance Y that I will commit mortal sin Z. And I do so with that needed knowledge and consent.

Ones confessor can advise.

Temptation, occasions of sin and near occasions are treated for what they are. Let us calmly but with due haste -avoid deliberate sins and what lead to them -especially mortal sins - and turn to the Lord.


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