Is it still a mortal sin if you formed a habit out of it before you knew it was mortal sin?

When I was around 13 or 14 years old, I formed a habit of trying to pleasure myself through masturbation. At the time I didn’t know it was masturbation, and I didn’t know it was a mortal sin. I only found of out that masturbation was a mortal sin when I was around 15 or 16. Sadly, my habit exists until today, and I keep going to confession for it. However, my habit seems difficult to beat. I feel almost as though I’m hanging on a thread of forgiveness because I keep committing the same sin, :frowning: I learned in Theology class that habit is a modifier of culpability. Does this make the sin not mortal?


Our sexual organs were created for marriage and the procreation that comes from it. So objectively, pleasuring oneself is a mortal sin because it misuses those organs. There is no way that such an act can be an expression of marital vows made at the altar because there is no spouse involved at all.

It is true that habit can reduce the freedom in which an act is chosen, but you still need to go to Confession whenever you fall in this way. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to just rationalize such actions. I strongly suggest that you spend some time daily, before a crucifix, reflecting on the suffering the Lord endured on your behalf. If you can do this before Him in the tabernacle, all the better. This difficulty is His way of drawing you closer to Him by showing you how much you need Him. You are in my prayers. Feel free to write me privately by clicking on my name above. Below is a reflection the can help you to focus on His Passion.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Reflection on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ +

The agony in the garden was really the agony in His mind. He suffered the passion in His mind before He suffered it in His body—to the point of actually affecting the latter by sweating blood. From here on, the mental and physical suffering played off each other and caused Him greater pain.

At the base of all His suffering was the one thing that human beings dread the most: rejection. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and abandoned by all the rest of His Apostles; those He had hand-picked as His closest intimates. He was most rejected by those who put Him to death. They not only wanted Him dead, they wanted Him more than dead… They wanted Him to suffer. This significance was not lost on Him. He felt fully the rejection as each physical agony reminded Him. But most of all, the silence of the Father caused Him to feel so alone.

So we thank Him for joining us on our human journey and actually choosing to experience what we fear the most. We thank Him for enduring the arrest and the cruelty of the guards and the Sanhedrin. We thank Him for enduring the cruelty of Pilate who allowed Him to be executed rather than risk his own political ruin—and for the cruelty of Herod who considered Him not worth his time. We thank Him for all the time He spent satisfying their preoccupation with themselves, just delaying His ultimate death. We thank Him for the anxiety of that night in a cell.

The next morning He was brutally scourged with whips, then with whips with nobs at the end, and finally with whips with hooks that gouged out chunks of flesh. There was blood everywhere. The loss of so much blood not only severely weakened Him; it also caused a severe, throbbing headache that remained with Him for the duration.

We thank Him for this and for the mockery He received when they put a dirty purple cloth on His shoulders and open wounds, pushing a crown of thorns down into His head which intensified His headache. They blindfolded Him and struck Him, insisting that He ‘prophesy’ who had hit Him. Yet they were the ones who couldn’t see. They spat on Him and beat Him.

He stood at the praetorium in utter disgrace according to the attitude of the crowd—while in reality, He stood in utter glory: almighty God, being present to every person who has ever suffered rejection, joining them in their moment of pain. It was there that He was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Physically, He was utterly miserable. He revealed to St. Bernard that carrying the cross was His most painful agony. He was so weak, He could hardly walk. Nauseous and thirsty, He found the weight of the cross on His shoulder almost unbearable. It most likely dislocated His shoulder. It is not surprising that He fell down three times on the stone streets that were filthy with animal dung—with the cross on top of Him. And He got up each time.

It was only with the help of Simon of Cyrene that He made it to the top of Calvary. There they drove the nails into the carpal tunnels of His hands, causing pain throughout His upper body. The nail in His feet registered great pain through all the sensitive nerves there.

Here His agony was at its peak. After three hours of hanging there He had come to the point where His lack of strength simply was no match for what is known as Sepsis where the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria, and in this eternal moment He died, giving us His life. Transcending time, this moment of divine love is present to us on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world. Thank you, Lord. We adore you O Christ and we praise you. By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

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