How "common" are mortal sins?

Recently, someone said something along the lines of “hardly anyone, even saints, goes more than a year without committing a mortal sin”. Is that true?

Maybe the good sisters at my elementary school just over emphasized how bad mortal sins are, but I always thought they were sort of hard to commit (at least all the ones not related to violating chastity of one’s state in life/ missing a day of obligation) because you basically have to kill someone or steal a lot of money or leave the Church.

Recently though, I’m thinking that I might think some stuff is venial that’s actually mortal… where is the line drawn? (Examples would be nice, as my reading the Catechism hasn’t made it very much clearer).

Also, can a sin of omission be a mortal sin? In what sort of situation?

You might find poll this interesting…

How often do you commit mortal sin

It seems that mortal sins are quite common, although the poll results show a HUGE spread between “daily” and “almost never”. HOWEVER I don’t want to encourage you to be thinking more about your venial sins being mortal!

Recently though, I’m thinking that I might think some stuff is venial that’s actually mortal… where is the line drawn?

How common are mortal sins? I have no idea, and really, none of us can: What’s a mortal to sin to me may not be a mortal sin to someone else and vice versa. Since the concept includes grave matter done with “full consent” of the will, and since none of us ever knows the state of someone else’s consent or, for example, factors that might ameliorate such consent, we really can’t say.

Now, lots of people can give the textbook definition of what mortal sin is. But it may be more helpful to consider that a mortal sin is that which breaks our relationship with God.

Personally, I suspect that for most people of virtue, i.e., people who genuinely love God and try to do what’s “right” in life, but who often stumble, fall short, etc., a complete break between them and God is hopefully very rare.

A poll is, respectfully, useless in determining the answer, for the reasons set forth above. However, there’s another reason. Judging by some posters on this board – who ask “am I in mortal sin??” over very subjectively minor matters – such a poll may attract the attention of those who are overly scrupulous and who may tend to see sin where none exists, and/or mortal sins where only venial sins are present.

I hope I’m correct.:slight_smile:

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.

Thanks everyone for answering. It seems I did have the right idea from the Catechism and elementary school teachers, and was just feeling the influence of some of my more scrupulous friends.

Also, thanks especially to Bookcat! Though I’ve already read that part of the Catechism in my paper version, I like the way the one you linked me is set up (it’s easier to copy and paste because it doesn’t have links to other parts of the text or to headings like a lot of other CCC websites do). I’m definitely going to have to bookmark that one. :slight_smile:

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
lying under oath
stealing a large amount of money etc
being drunk (loosing ones reason)
Enslaving people
sacrificing to idols
Burning down someones house
Missing Sunday Mass (unless sick etc)
Serious scandal
Deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor
Various drugs
Rejecting Christ
Gravely harming someone
Something gravely contrary to charity or justice
Serious lies

These are just some examples …but is mortal sin “common”? --unfortunately it is “too common” in our world.

Thankfully grace abounds all the more from Jesus of Nazareth!

It can be helpful to read through the morality section of the Catechism (Ten Commandments) etc

Bookcat, I’m sorry, but I have a VERY hard time accepting that every act you list is always a mortal sin, for the very reasons I articulated earlier: We can never know what acts are done with “full consent.”

In fact, I don’t think a “list of mortal sins” exists. Some sins are considered grave matter, but there is no per se “list of mortal sins.”

Has the Catholic Chuch ever formally declared, for example, that everyone who steals a car is going to hell?

  1. They would be “mortal sin” objectively (when one understands what is meant in each case --which I may not have been clear with – it was late and I just provided a quick list of examples…).

The term “mortal sin” (grave sin, serious sin: same thing) gets used in both an “objective” sense (murder* is* a mortal sin) and a “subjective” sense (I have* committed* the mortal sin of murder).

  1. Such was a list of “examples”. You are correct there is no complete “list” of mortal sins – for we could never keep with what all the ways man comes up with to commit mortal sin. Though one can of course point to many many “standard mortal sins” that are known.

  2. We can judge that “yes I had the needed knowledge and complete consent”. We can be conscious of mortal sin. So to say we can never know a mortal sin was committed would be incorrect.

(Of course we “could” make a mistake - and judge we had given complete consent when we did not in the vision of God.)

  1. I noted prior to my “list of examples” – the three aspects needed to *commit *mortal sin (see Compendium quote above).


In the list of mortal sins I notice masturbation.
As it is always done with one’s full consent it then must be a mortal sin but a priest told me it was a venial sin.
I am confused.

I think this is a variation of the question, “How many will saved?” I hope to read Ralph Martins book soon to see what he has to say.

The reason I think it is so hard to answer this question is because it is really hard to know when a person has full consent of the will or really knows it is a mortal sin.

Actually, the Church does not consider that masturbation is “always done with one’s full consent”. See below from the catechism refering directly to masturbation:

“CCC 2352 … 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.”

Most priests are well aware of the difficulty many men face in overcoming a habit aquired before they were properly adults and/or properly aware of the disordered nature of the act. The act is always grave matter, but not always mortal sin. Often, given the lessened moral culpability, it is a venial sin. Presumably this is what your priest likely meant.

What if a couple is “senior” and there are no longer any “marital relations?” Wouldn’t masturbation be better than for a spouse go outside of the marriage? Isn’t celibacy in this instance an unfair burden?

No. Such is grave matter for mortal sin…

Life sometimes brings various difficultes…sickness of the spouse etc. One bears the difficulties with the grace of God.

One can never do evil in order that good may come from it. Whenever I think something is an unfair burden I think of Christ on the Cross and secondly the various martyrs who were put to death in some pretty extreme ways. When we bear these burdens we are becoming closer to Christ by joining our suffering with His. I’m sure someone else can say it more eloquently.

I’ve also been wondering how common mortal sins are, and after reading through this thread as well as the one linked with the poll, I’m more confused than ever. And kind of worried a bit.

So, about four months ago I had surgery and went to confession the day before. Before that I tried to go to confession every week, but after my surgery I got out of the habit and actually didn’t go for three and a half months. This was brought up during conversation with friends, and one person said asked about taking communion when I hadn’t been to confession in so long. I responded that the only thing I did intentionally sinful was driving faster than the speed limit, and I didn’t drive so fast that it was a grave matter.

Since then I’ve been really concerned that maybe things I thought were venial, are actually mortal. But if that’s the case, I could only take communion right after the priest gave me absolution in confession! What I’ve been considering venial sins, well, they stack up quickly.

And in these two threads I’ve read through, there was a comment made by someone who said they couldn’t believe that someone could only commit a few mortal sins in their life. Why can’t they believe that? What sins are they thinking of that they think everyone commits them every month? (I would have asked this person, but the other thread was from several years ago)

I’m sure there are many people alive right now who have never committed a mortal sin. It is hard to commit a mortal sin if you don’t want to and live a life of prayer. It is easy to commit a mortal sin once you think it is okay to commit venial sins.

I think you are too concerned with the “percentages” and with what others think. Even if you knew that 99% of people were going to Hell, you could still be in that 1% going to Heaven as long as you aren’t committing mortal sins. And vice versa, even if you knew 99% of people were going to Heaven, you could be in that 1% going to Hell if you die if you commit a mortal sin and have not repented (Paraphrased from the Sermon of Port Maurice).

On the other hand, I have had several priests that I respect talk about how rare those who have a relationship with our Savior are to actually commit a mortal sin.
The first time was when I was on a day of renewal. If you are in the habit of receiving the Sacrament o Reconciliation on a regular basis, it is unlikely that you are committing any mortal sin. He encouraged those of us attending to focus on one area in which we struggle with sin when receiving the Sacrament. Part of this was a matter of logistics, of making sure that everybody attending had an opportunity to receive the Sacrament. If you are receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the devotional level, about once a month, you are in the habit of regularly examining your conscience. If you find your conscience is clear, as St. Paul assures us, there is no need to worry.
Mortal sin involves the intentional turning away from God. If we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, why would we do anything to intentionally sever that relationship?
Yes, Scripture also tells us that “righteous man sins seven times a day.” These sins are not mortal sins. These sins are venial sins, absolved when we receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We bring these venial sins into the Sacrament of Reconciliation to prevent them from growing into larger, more serious sins.
The marital relationship is often used as an analogy. When spouses love one another, they do not intentionally hurt each other although they may unintentionally do so. It is the same with our relationship with God. If we truly love God, we will not do anything that would intentionally offend Him. We will not commit mortal sin, although we will inevitably continue to commit venial sins.

Very appreciative of the last two responses. Thanks for taking the time to post and share.

And, yes, often I’m confessing that I think too much about what others think instead of what God thinks. And, of course, I go on here and post something that illustrates that so very well. Thanks for the insight!

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