How does every mortal sin inherently lead to hell?

Hell is separation from God. It would seem that a free choice to live forever without God would result in hell. But how is it that breaking God’s “rules” leads to hell as well? Catholic doctrine is that, whenever someone freely and with sufficient knowledge commits a grave act, that person commits a mortal sin and deserving of hell. Grave acts include such things as fornication or misusing sex, adultery, murder, etc. Grave acts also include not going to Sunday mass or refusing to abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent.

Please help me see the intrinsic connection between freely committing any grave act with separating oneself from God, or going to hell.

It’s not about rules but about a covenant. When we become Christians we enter a covenant relationship with God. Covenants form family bonds. Study what it means to be in a covenant.


Salvation is about being united to God, having the Holy Trinity dwell within your soul. When you commit grave sin, you cast out the infused love in your soul which makes your soul initially a worthy dwelling place to the Trinity no longer a worthy dwelling place.

If the King is living in your house, your house had better have decor and furniture worthy of the King (even if the King pays for all this furniture up front). If you go about trashing your house, causing it to become gross, then the King no longer has a worthy place to stay and will leave. You are not worthy of Him staying in your pig sty.

Mortal sin is the deliberate choosing to love a created thing over and above God. It is saying “I’d rather select a lower quality lifestyle than the one God wants me to have.” Now since we are fallen creatures, God mercifully gives us second chances when we make the wrong decision from time to time.

Heaven is a place of eternal love of God and neighbor. This love begins in this life when we enter the state of grace by baptism. This state of salvific grace includes the theological virtue of love, which is the love of God and neighbor.

When a person commits a grave sin, with full knowledge of its grave immorality and full deliberation, he loses the state of grace in his soul because every grave sin is entirely incompatible with the love of God and neighbor.

People do not generally choose separation from God in Hell explicitly. They implicitly make that choice by acting contrary to true love of God and neighbor, and by refusing to repent.

It’s simply because God IS love, and the law of love is the very law of God. So when a person sins mortally (violates God’s law), it is one and the same with rejecting HIM. Thus, the person has voluntarily chosen separation from God, even if he didn’t consciously think of God when committing the sin.

Mortal sins only lead to Hell when coupled with refusal to repent the rest of one’s life. It’s not just breaking God’s commandments–it’s breaking His commandments and then refusing to acknowledge this and turn back to Him. As Catholic Dude noted, it is choosing to permanently cling to the sin rather than confess it and return to God.

Good answer. This is also why venial sins are not worthy of Hell. While mortal sins are specifically defined as those opposed to love (love of God or love of neighbor) which therefore orient us away from God (who is love), venial sins are those disordered acts that stem from human weakness, but are not opposed to love. (See CCC 1856).

All sin is a violation of God’s law, not just mortal sin.

:thumbsup: Re bolded: that was a very important condition to point out.

Breaking God’s rules is to turn away from Him, choosing the opposite.

**1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.**

Sin cannot enter heaven. Sin is apart from God. Scripture supports this:

The kingdom includes the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12), and if necessary, purified by fire (1 Cor 3)

Scripture is also clear about the judgement (2 Cor 5, 1 Peter 4, Hebrews 9)

This is the whole reason we have the Jesus, the Church, and sacraments.

I like this answer.

But then isn’t the time of death arbitrary? What if, had a person in the state of mortal sin lived just one more day, that individual would have repented?

Or, what if, had a person lived a life in grace but if he were to live one more day, he would have committed a mortal sin? What is it about our finite time on Earth that should determine our eternity?

Here is my thought on this. Just conjecture but I have though of this…

God knows all things. He knows what we have done and what we are about to do, every thought and action of our entire life.

Some such as the person who lived a life of grace in your example, he takes when they are ripe, juicy and perfect, ready for heaven. Others such as the one not in a state of grace, he is patient with, like the gardener who asks for another year to put fertilizer on the fig tree and if it doesn’t bear fruit then it will be cut down. He does this because he is merciful. He picks fruit when it is ripe. :slight_smile:

Others he leaves because they have work to do. Some who will never repent he leaves because he can bring good from evil and only he knows what good will come from that person’s existence.

But yeah, I have though of this - why people die when they do. That’s all I could come up with.


Ultimately, this is a bit of a mystery since we cannot see the whole picture like God can. However, I think we can understand a little based on what we do know. God is the Lord of life and He doesn’t play a game of gotcha. He wants to save us. The Bible says He desires all to be saved and that Christ came to save, not destroy. The Church teaches He offers all the grace to be saved, but we must cooperate with it. Therefore, He is not waiting for us to commit a mortal sin just so He can quickly pounce on us and damn us. He gives us what we each as individuals need to come to Him–and we are all different.

Some mortally sin and instantly receive the prompting from the Holy Spirit and turn back. Some are left to wander the desert of sin for a while before they receive that grace–I know some very saintly people who would not be as saintly if they didn’t first sink to the depths of sin. Some convert on their death bed–which shows that even a lifetime of sin can be forgiven. Some, sadly, harden their hearts to grace to the end.

God knows how much time we need if we are to return to Him. I think God does not tell us the “day or the hour” because it keeps us from presumptuously doing whatever we want while planning to confess at the very end–that’s a recipe for a bad confession without real contrition, not to mention that lifetime of ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit can harden one’s heart to His voice.

So do your best to follow the commandments and confess your sins when you fall. Examine your conscience and heed the movements of the Holy Spirit. God won’t deny you the chance for confession if you seek it (“seek and you shall find, ask and it shall be given you”).

I hope that helps!

Check 2 Peter 3:15: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.”

I think you have the implication reversed. Mortal sins aren’t an arbitrary declaration. They are by definition sins serious enough that they separate you from God, and don’t require consent. If you do something that serious, then you’be committed a mortal sin.

Not quite – there are three conditions needed for a sin to qualify as mortal. One of them is that the person give consent.

Not quite – there are three conditions needed for a sin to qualify as mortal. One of them is that the person give consent.

If by consent you mean deliberation, that is not quite true (though it is normally required). If I am suddenly enraged at the person sitting next to me such that I rise up and kill him, then I have not deliberated but ought to have been able to prevent such a thing to the point where I would not be free of mortal sin.

If by consent you mean an act of the will (by commission or omission), then it is true for any sin (or else it’s called “violence” and one is not culpable). If an assassin grabs my hand, puts it on the trigger, and pulls, I am not guilty of murder.

If by consent you mean that the intellect is involved sufficiently in the decision to do some act that is contrary to the commandments, then that’s true.

Our intellect is our ordering principle. It determines the “direction” or “orientation” of our existence. When infused with the graces of faith, hope, and especially charity, our existence is basically ordered toward God as its supernatural last end (or “ultimate purpose”). When we do something contrary to charity (which is the virtue that makes us a friend of God), we lose that grace of charity… We have chosen something that directly violates the “rules of the friendship,” so to speak, and if we did so with that ordering principle, the intellect, we have completely turned away from God making something else the last end of our existence. In death, we are given what we want: God, or not God.

All mortal sins are violations of charity and are contrary to the commandments.

God can always see the big picture that bit better than our hypothetical observer could!

Our finite bodily time on earth is all we have, and have responsibility for.

I also think there are degrees of salvation.

You simply wrote that mortal sins are “by definition sins serious enough that they separate you from God, and don’t require consent.” (my emphasis)

Catholic teaching is very clear that if you committed a mortal sin, then you somehow consented to it. You don’t stumble into mortal sin by accident!
Look, I agree with your reply to me – I suspect it was just poor word choice in your first post, if you don’t mind me saying so :smiley:

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