How to reconcile 1 Corinthians 4:4 with full knowledge of mortal sin?


I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted, the one who judges me is the Lord. ------1 Corinthians 4:4

St. Thomas Aquinas offers the following commentary on this verse:
He assigns the reason for this when he says: I am not aware of anything against myself, i.e., I am not aware of any mortal sin: “My heart does not reproach me for any of my days” (Jb 27:6); but I am not thereby acquitted, i.e., that does not suffice for pronouncing myself just, because certains sins can be hiding in me, which I do not know:

If one is not conscious of mortal sin…how could there be any chance at all that he/she is not “acquitted”?

Furthermore, how could “hidden sins” (as Aquinas pointed out) ever be mortal?


Yes, if it’s out of willful ignorance (I refuse to hear anything saying artificial contraception is a mortal sin because out of legalism because then it’ll be full knowledge).


He gives a long explanation in multiple points. Scroll down

consider 190 - 196 for context


Is that really “hidden” though?


You may be surprised. But I was mostly using it as an example. I could also replace artificial contraception with IVF or membership in the Freemasons. The point is that they’re trying to avoid the spirit of the the law by a legalistic adherence to the letter of it.


I don’t think this is necessarily addressing sin (mortal or otherwise) directly. Paul is speaking about the faithfulness of his ministry, which God alone knows and will reveal when we are judged, not to determine salvation (Paul is already saved), but to determine the rewards he would receive for his ministry. I would say it is stretching the text a bit to apply this to mortal or venial sin.


Matthew 23:23-24

”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

Don’t get stuck on the brashness of mortal vs venial, focus on the bolded section. It’s good we acknowledge there is mortal sin but dwelling on it as if it’s the only thing in the world isn’t healthy. Advice a priest gave me in the confessional


Maybe from this this link will help…

Saying that mortal sin requires “full” knowledge and consent is a handy memory cue that may useful in catechesis, but it not a precise formulation of the kind one would get in a moral theology manual.

The kind of consent needed, more technically, is the degree of consent needed to make a fully human act. This does not mean saying, “Yes! I want to do something really evil!” and having no reticence about it. One can have misgivings, regrets, mixed feelings, et cetera and still give deliberate consent to an action.

Similarly, one does not have to know with metaphysical certitude that a given act is gravely sinful. Lesser degrees of knowledge will also count—again, the degree of knowledge needed for an authentically human act is the key. Indeed, someone might even be feigning ignorance or being hardhearted toward the evidence in such a way that he is responsible for knowing something even though he professes not to know it.

These facts mean that it is possible to have some doubt—especially after the fact, when one can’t remember one’s precise state of mind—as to whether a given act was mortally sinful. The rule of thumb is, “If you didn’t think it was a mortal sin at the time, it probably wasn’t.” But this is not an invariable rule. There are gray cases.

When presented with a gray case, the received rule of thumb is for persons of normal or lax conscience to go ahead and confess it anyway, to be safe and to have peace of mind.

Also wanted to add I looked it up in my Ignatius Bible and it relates this verse to Romans 2:16 as well as the Catechism 678. Which if you read you will see that it is interpreted using like 14 other verses of scripture.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


Ben, you’ve posted on this before.

Please get help dealing with your scruples and anxiety surrounding it from a spiritual director and a therapist.

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