Is it difficult to be in mortal sin?

to fulfill the three criteria, is it difficult if you’re a faithful catholic?

I’m having a hard time understanding this. there have been times in my life wher I have done things, not knowing the full extent of catholic teaching on the issue. but now that I do know, I do not want to intentionally do anything to hurt God or neighbor and I’m thiking most sincere catholics don’t want to either.

you know I’m scrupulous though so even a venial sin seems mortal, and things that aren’t sins feel like they are sometimes

I do have many sins, but I don’t think any of them qualify as “grave matter” but I could be wrong

If you (sincerely) do not think that any of them constitute grave matter, then you cannot fulfill the other criteria of full knowledge, even if they were grave matter. So do not worry about it.

Instead, a scrupulous person should be meeting with a regular confessor who can help in these matters - help to form your conscience in line with Church teaching, not mere “feelings”.

There are three sources of sin: ignorance, passion, and malice. The normally quoted rule for the three requirements for mortal sin is for when a person has not neglected the obligation to learn what is sinful, per the Church. The intentional ignorance itself is a grave sin. Also a person the intends to be gravely sinful, still sins gravely, even when the matter is not grave. For example a person decides to steal a valuable diamond, but then discovers that it is cheap costume jewelry. Finally, knowledge of sin means the objectively sinful nature of an act or omission, as instructed by the Church, regardless of if one agrees with the Church teaching. Even those not instructed by the Church can sin mortally in a grave matter by opposing their conscience.

The usual rule given:

Baltimore Catechism **Q. 282. {56} How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
A. To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.

I understand the terms.

but how many people sit around, knowing something is bad and do it anyways?

for the most part, my sins don’t happen that way. it’s usually not understanding, not thinking things through or maybe passion, like getting carried away.

most people generally do not commit major theft, murder, fraud or things that are considered 'grave"

but there are a lot of people who think homosexuality is right or abortion or contraception. for example. they might know the church is against it but I highly doubt that they really understand why and are actually convinced these things are not wrong because society has it ingrained in people.

You should not concern yourself with worrying about such issues. There is no way to know anyway. None of us are mind-readers.

It is sufficient to know that all people need to repent of their sins and turn to God. And it is sufficient to know that God’s grace and mercy are abundantly offered to all.

I think it’s in Three Ages that Fr. Lagrange says, as we grow spiritually, the less likely we will commit mortal sin, because doing the right thing becomes habitual (i.e. virtue).

That said, we do not start out in the advanced stages of the spiritual life, and unlike biological maturity, spiritual maturity is not automatic. Many of us spend much if not all our lives in spiritual diapers, because we do not take the proper steps to maturity (whether from ignorance, sloth, or what have you).

what are the signs of spiritual maturity?

and I suppose you’re right, when I became more serious about my faith, I definitely desired to only be good. not that I had a habit of being extremely bad before but there is always a way of rationalizing certain things or simply ignorance and lack of knowledge

For mortal sin, it is sufficient that they “know the church is against it” and not necessary that they “really understand why”.

We are not mindless automatons - of course we need to understand.

It must be difficult to commit a mortal sin, which is the total rejection of God.

Yesterday, someone posted this link to the 10 Commandments for scrupulous people.
The Author is a Redemptorist priest who founded “Scrupulous Anonymous”. Good read.

I don’t think so. I think people commit grievous matter all the time - missing Mass, using contraception, premarital sex. I think it would be impossible to commit mortal sin if we had to also understand the extent to which our sin affects God. How could we plumb the depths of His justice or love for us?

OP, in my mind, mortal sin looks like this: Faithful Catholic wakes up one Sunday morning, thinks about going to Mass. Her non-Catholic husband says, “Aw, you can skip one day, right? Let’s take the kids out to brunch. It’ll be a fun family date.” So the woman freely chooses to commit mortal sin, because she freely chooses to skip Mass with enough time to reflect that this is something that is wrong, even if she might justify the sin to herself in lots of different ways (“God wants me to be there for my family”, “One week won’t make a difference”, “I can go to Mass on Monday.”, “This will be good for my marriage,” etc.)

Or likewise, people can get carried away with sins of passion, but if a person puts himself in a position where he knows he will be severely tempted and is likely to fall, I think that could still be grave matter. In that case, it may looks like this: A Catholic college guy is having trouble remaining pure with girlfriend. He’s confessed this in the past and knows that it’s wrong and that he is most tempted when his girlfriend is in his dorm room alone at night. One Saturday she invites him to watch a movie. They talk about going out but decide it’s too expensive. Decide to watch the movie in his dorm room. They pick a movie that is rated R. He puts his arm around her and things get heated. He realizes what is happening but rationalizes it all sorts of ways (“God will understand,” “I plan on marrying her some day”, “I’ve already gone x far, this is just a little farther” or “I can always confess it later,” etc, etc.)

Mortal sins can’t happen by accident, but I think it’s wrong to assume that “full knowledge” means we have to grasp the full gravity of our potential sin, which would undoubtedly paralyze us.


Right we are not mindless automatons - we are Christians.

We know Christ. We are Christians…who know what the Church is - who know here authority given by Christ to teach etc and make disciples…to bind and loose…

One though does not need to “understand” . They do not need to understand all the theology behind why XYZ is a grave matter for mortal sin. One knows that the Church Teaches such.

As to “it must be difficult to commit a mortal sin” - no it is not - many people do.

Though yes for those who are striving to follow Christ and daily be his disciples - who have become more and more holy - yes it will become “less” easy. More difficult for they do not want to be separated from Christ…yes that part can be true (but even then there can be sins of weakness)…so that can yes be the case. Mortal sin is not some “accident” but something chosen deliberately - with full knowledge.

For clarification - mortal sin is not “a total rejection of God”. Yes in its effects one has turned away from God -but one does not need intend to “totally reject God” nor do those who fall into mortal sin necessarily choose to “totally reject God” - they often still want to return to God - they still have faith in God. etc.

Mortal sin rather is choosing something that is grave matter with full advertance (full knowledge) and deliberate consent -for whatever reason. Be it out of weakness…etc.

From the Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI (emp. added).

  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…

  2. 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.

It really does not require understanding of why, rather of the sinful character:

CCC 1859 “It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law”.

CCC 1860 “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.”

Two big ones are charity and humility. See , I, 10Three Ages on that.

the thing is, I look at the 10 commandments, which is suually our guide for those things, and I don’t feel that I’m really committing those sins.

but I also find it hard to believe that I wouldn’t be commiting mortal sins

Not just the Commandments of course as literally noted but that which comes under such (that is grave that is)…(like abortion and lusting after someone is against the commandments in a grave way -but is not directly named…But I imagine you know what I mean.

One ought to discuss this with ones confessor.

But anyhow in order to commit a mortal sin one needs those three aspects. The Christian life is not meant to be lived where one is falling into mortal sins (though God is merciful if one does)…but rather lived in following Christ - so one ought to expect not to be committing mortal sins and rather direct ones thoughts towards faith, hope and love and and the other virtues and good things…and peace and joy (even if not always felt) in Christ.

I will re-post another older post of mine (general information regarding scrupulosity -since you mentioned that you may be struggling in that area)

A person struggles with scruples - what ought they do?

A person with scrupulosity --ought to have a* “regular confessor” who can direct them --and even give them some general principles* to follow -to apply (principles for them due to their particular scruples -they are usually not for those with a normal conscience).

Thus with their direction they can “dismiss scruples” (in the older language despise them) - “act against them” (agere contra).

Scruples are to be dismissed ~ not argued with.

To borrow and image from a Carthusian from centuries ago: Scruples *are like a barking dog or a hissing goose -one does not stop to argue with a barking dog or a hissing goose does one? * No one keeps walking.

Such ‘obedience’ to a regular confessor who knows of ones scruples (except in what is manifest sin - such as if he told them it was ok to murder someone or something certain like that) is key. Such is the age old practice.

Also counseling -(especially if one also has OCD) could be helpful depending on the case -but one would want to look for a counselor who can assist one in following the Churches Teachings - not go contrary to them (I have heard CA staff mention

Here was a not too long ago post from Jimmy Akin of CA that I saw in the Register and saved for those who struggle with such.


1395 By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins - that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.

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