Is it possible for Protestants to break a moral law without full knowledge?

Since moral law is written on the heart of every man (CCC 1860, Romans 2:15), is it possible for a protestant adult (that has crossed the age of reason) to a break moral law without full knowledge?

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. **The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

Everybody is accountable for their actions to some extent, including children. It should also be noted that a protestant in today’s world is almost certainly afflicted with vincible ignorance, not invincible ignorance. Meaning that the truth is readily accessible to them, but they do not attain it out of lack of hunger for it.

So sure, people break moral laws all the time. Whether or not it is in mortal defiance is left to be determined.

**I differ with your post. Many denominations - including Catholics are invincibly ignorant…I was one. Accessibility to the truth does not make one vincibly ignorant - just because it is there one must hear it. To be vincibly igmorant one must hear the truth and deny it.

Expample - I grew up in a Catholic family, went to a Catholic grade and high school and did not know about many of the moral teachings of the faith. Even though it was available to me - I did not know enough to even seek the truth. My fault? No - the fault of inadaquate catechesis…which is a possibility for many people in many demoninations.**

I agree that People do break moral laws all the time. The question again is if they can claim to be ignorant of moral law if they have the ability to reason?

**The natural law you refer to is - Do good and avoid evil. If one had not heard or does not know what is “evil” they are not held accountable.

CCC:

1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

**

This is getting into an area where it takes an omniscient God to answer the question, but invincible ignorance refers to people that are literally incapable of hearing the gospel.

A person that grows up in a Christian household and follows whatever denomination they were born in is not invincibly ignorant. They have great access to exploring the truth, but they don’t do it because they don’t care. It’s easier to follow the path of your upbringing than it is to go into uncomfortable & uncharted territory.

A person that is only vincibly ignorant might not be guilty of mortal sin, however the defense of invincible ignorance is one that is shrinking day by day. That is, after all, the purpose of spreading the truth. It heightens culpability, where before there was ignorance. From those who have been given little, not as much will be expected. From those who have been given much, much more will be asked.

I think if you Read Romans 1 - 3:23 you may come to a different conclusion. Romans 3:23 is a clear statement that all have sinned and broken the moral law.

Does the CCC mention vincible versus invincible ignorace? What I read in the CCC is this “But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.”

A person that is invincibly ignorant is still going to be accountable for what they do. Everybody is accountable for what they do, but without the proper exposure to the truth, God will hold people less or more accountable.As a person becomes exposed to the truth, they become increasingly accountable for their actions.

I think I understand what you are getting at. However, I can not find this concept in the CCC or the Bible. From what I read, every adult that has the ability to reason has been exposed to moral law. If moral law is “written on our heart” how much more exposure to the truth does one need before they are held accountable for breaking a moral law?

Part of this is because there are certain things that are impossible for man to determine on their own. A virtuous pagan could never, ever, be able to conclude independently that God is Triune, or that Jesus Christ is our Savior, or that in order to attain forgiveness from mortal sin, one must confess to an ordained priest. These are all things that we know by revelation.

However, because mankind has been embedded with souls of reason and with a conscious, they are still capable of sin, even without the knowledge of revelation. This is what is called the natural moral law. If you explore various ancient societies, you are always going to find certain moral tenants being taught in all of them, albeit imperfectly.

I’m sorry. I know scripture very well but unfortunately I don’t yet have the power to be able to easily pick out parts of the CCC. :stuck_out_tongue: I’m sure somebody else would be happy to guide you with select articles of text.

All humans break God’s moral law everyday, we are all liars with a desperatally wicked and deceitful heart.

How many lies does one need to tell to be a liar?

How many murders does a murderer need to do to be a murderer?

Thanks for your response. I am not sure I would include " that God is Triune, or that Jesus Christ is our Savior, or that in order to attain forgiveness from mortal sin, one must confess to an ordained priest." as moral law. My original question was if God reveals His moral law (i.e. the ten commandments) to all adults that have the ability to reason. It seems fairly clear that God did not give anybody an excuse and that when reasoning adults break moral law they had full knowledge of the moral law.

Every rational adult person is responsible for informing himself or herself of the teachings of his or her religion. If it wasn’t received in childhood, then it’s necessary to study it in adulthood.

The knowledge that you should be informed about the things you identify yourself by should be “written on the heart” - it should be interior knowledge. At some point along the journey, it occurs to everyone to ask, "What do I mean when I say that I am a … " (Canadian, a Catholic, a woman, an artist, a daughter, a wife, a mother, etc.)

I created a new thread to answer this follow up question.

Is it possilbe for a protestant to avoid committing a mortal sin for their entire life?

You can find the thread here.

Feel free to add your thoughts there. Thanks.

**TK

It should also be noted that a protestant in today’s world is almost certainly afflicted with vincible ignorance, not invincible ignorance. Meaning that the truth is readily accessible to them, but they do not attain it out of lack of hunger for it.**

I agree. I would only extend the point to apply to some Catholics and atheists, many of whom should hunger but have no appetite for learning about God and morals. They are more than satisfied to be vincibly ignorant and afflicted with spiritual entropy. It often requires a crisis in one’s life to shake one out of the spiritual doldrums.

Not Mary, mother of Jesus.

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