Is the classification of what is (and is not) a mortal sin infallible?

I say this because the church once taught that eating meat on any Friday was a mortal sin. And then they changed this. Does this mean the church went back on something it previously declared as infallible?

You misunderstand.

It is not the eating of meat that is the sin, it is the disobedience to the lawful authority of the Church.

The Church has the authority to establish days of fast, penance, abstinence from meat, days of mass obligation, etc.

These are disciplines and can therefore change. While in force via universal or particular law, they are binding on Catholics.

Disciplines of the Church are binding on us while in force. The charism of infallibility is not relevant to disciplines.

I understand this.

So the classification of mortal sins are not infallible? How can i be so sure then that if i miss mass that I will go to hell if I don’t bother to confess it in a reasonable amount of time?

I did not say that. What I did say is that infallibility is not relevant to the changing nature of disciplines in the Church.

Mortal sin requires three elements:
*]Grave matter
*]Full knowledge
*]Free will

That is doctrine.

Because missing mass on Sundays and Holy Days is grave matter. It is a sin against the third commandment.

It is always a mortal sin to disobey a precept of the Church. The concept of “infallible” doesn’t really apply to this. It is “authoritative” and demands our obedience. To willingly reject the authority of the Church is the mortal sin. If the Church says that the appropriate way to observe Friday as a day of penance is to abstain from meat and you willingly disobey that, it’s a mortal sin. If the Church says that the way to observe the Lord’s day is to attend Mass and you willingly disobey, that’s a mortal sin. Those are both disciplines over which the Church has authority and that we owe our obedience.

If the disciplines are changing, how can I trust that the church is right in any discipline it issues? it might change the discipline the day after.

Why are the disciplines changing at all? Shouldn’t disciplines be static? The fact that the church changes the disciplines is an admission the church wasn’t right to issue that discipline in the first place.

Or the Church was wrong to discontinue the discipline.
And if the Church was wrong then what.
The Church does not teach that it’s disciples are infallible.

It is because of its theological foundation that a discipline can be changed – or not changed – by ecclesiastical authority. To understand why and how disciplines change, one needs to turn to theology as well as, for example, canon law and its study.

In so far as any given discipline is subject to change, that change is predicated on the actual situation of the Church in a moment in history. I do not think most Catholics in the 21st century would be enthralled with the discipline governing the use of the sacrament of penance or public penance as it was practiced in the Church antecedent to Chalcedon.

There is another point in need of clarification:

How can i be so sure then that if i miss mass that I will go to hell if I don’t bother to confess it in a reasonable amount of time?

The precept to assist at Mass is not an absolute. Missing Mass does not equal being condemned to hell. That is an improper understanding of the nature of the obligation.

There are times when not only is it permissible not to go to Mass but there can arise, actually, a moral obligation not to go to Mass.

If you miss Mass because you are sick, you are traveling, you are serving the military in a theatre of operation without access to Mass, you are caring for the sick – or actually for any number of other reasons – one is excused from the obligation.

In looking at law and discipline, one must always be conscious of the edict of the Lord Himself, which was pronounced as a judgement on those who misapplied both actually: “The Sabbath was made for man…not man for the Sabbath.”

It is important to reflect on this.

Some very good posts here to explain.

You are trying to apply “right” or “wrong” to a discipline when that framework is not appropriate.

Disciplines are things that are changeable. Like what color vestments the priest wears. What the priest wears outside of Mass. What language the mass is in. What saints we celebrate on what days in the liturgy.

These are all changeable and change to suit the needs of the time and place. For example, new saints have been canonized so when the liturgy was revised some of those new saints were added for feast days.

THESE ARE NOT MATTERS OF DOCTRINE. The Church has the authority to change them. There isn’t any “right” or “wrong” attached to them.

Because the world changes. Times change. Situations change.

When the Church first formed everyone spoke Greek. So the language of the Church was Greek. Then Latin eclipsed Greek, and the Church shifted to Latin. Then national languages eclipsed Latin, and the Church shifted once again. Languages change-- they come and go. So, the Church adapts. Not right. Not wrong. Just the nature of human existence.

No. Because the Church isn’t static. It is a living thing.

Not at all.

The fact that you wear a neck tie to work and not a powdered wig and tricorn hat does not mean powdered wigs and tricorn hats are “wrong” it just means that times have changed and with them so has what people wear.

You are trying to place “right” and “wrong” on top of disciplines, and that just makes no sense.

Eating meat on Friday was a Church rule and can be changed…Sins against the 10 Commandments cannot be changed. Keeping Holy the Lord’s Day, for example.

So is it official Catholic dogma that if you miss mass on Sunday and die on Wednesday without confessing, then you are going to hell?

Thank you

You are only required to obey the lawful authority of the Church as directed by Jesus. (Mt 16:19) While the discipline is in force you are required to comply, when it changes you may modify your behavior accordingly. It’s as easy as that.

You are conflating disciplines with sinful behavior. Many things, like rape and murder, are objectively wrong, and in law we call it malum in se. Other things, like driving on the left side of the road, are only wrong because of a rule established by a recognized authority and this is called malum prohibitum. Raping someone is always wrong, driving on the left hand side of the road is only wrong if it has been prohibited. It is wrong to drive on the left side of the road in the US but not wrong in the UK. Is either the US or the UK in error? Of course not.

The Church’s disciplines are not to established to proscribe what would otherwise be sinful behavior. We are already obligated to avoid sinful behavior so a discipline that we must not rape people would be superfluous. On the other hand, eating a particular type of food is not sinful in and of itself, but there are times, like on Fridays during Lent, when the Magisterium requires that we refrain from eating meat.

It depends on the circumstances. As [user]1ke[/user] said earlier, mortal sin requires three elements: grave matter, full knowledge and free will. If someone missed Mass on Sunday because they were in a horrible car accident on Saturday and were in a coma continuously until they died on Wednesday, I’m sure you’d agree that missing the Mass would not doom them for eternity. However there may be circumstances where someone, fully knowing about their Sunday obligation and the gravity of the issue, freely and deliberately choosing to disobey that requirement, then that person will have something to answer for. There are, of course, many factors that may serve to mitigate an individual’s personal culpability for sinful behavior. Such matters are best left to the Lord to determine.

Say someone stays out late on Saturday night. The alarm goes off, they wake up completely coherent and think, “Nope. Not going to make it today.” Later in the day they get caught up in other secular activities. Wednesday roles around and they haven’t confessed. They’re walking down the street in a big city and a piano falls on their head. Bam, they regain consciousness in hell.

Is that correct?

BTW, these are sincere questions. On my way to Catholicism, I’m just trying to learn Church teachings on this subject and the practical results.

Thank you

There are simply too many variables to make a definitive declaration. As I said there are many factors that mitigate personal culpability. Only God is capable of knowing the truth of all the relevant factors.

I’ve mentioned in another thread that I find it very notable that, while the Church has a formal process for recognizing when there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate when a departed soul has definitively achieved heaven (canonization), there is no analogous process for recognizing when someone has definitively gone to hell. Not for Hitler, nor Stalin nor anyone else you could name. To my knowledge, the Church hasn’t even affirmatively claimed that Judas went to hell upon his death despite the scriptural implication that “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Mt 24:26, Mk 14:21). The Church simply does not teach “Do X and you will go to hell.” The most the Church teaches is that engaging in sinful behavior puts you at risk of eternal damnation. Our merciful Lord always has the last say.

I agree. We can hope that all are saved by God’s mercy, but we have no idea. We only know the Bible says there is a hell and you don’t want to go. :slight_smile:

It seems that making malum prohibitum behaviors mortal sins could be problematic. It could be analogous to getting the death penalty for driving on the left side of the road. However, I’m sure there was a good reason for it.

Thank you

You misunderstand. The malum prohibitum behaviors are not being “made” sinful, the sin lies in the deliberate and knowing repudiation of the lawful authority of the Church.

Scripture makes clear that Jesus gave his Church the authority to regulate the behavior of the faithful. (Mt 16:19 & 18:18). Therefore to disavow the authority of the Church is to disavow Christ’s authority. “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16)

But it is not a mortal sin to not abide by everything the church teaches. There is a difference between dogma, doctrine, and theological opinion. Given that it is a mortal sin, missing mass sounds like it is on the level of a dogma. How do they specify which behaviors are mortal sins and which are venial?

Thank you

Yes, missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin because it is a violation of the dogma of the Church to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.” (3d Commandment) See Why We Go to Mass Every Sunday for a quick explanation on how the Lords Day shifted from the Saturday Sabbath to our current Sunday obligation.

It is through exercise of the Church’s authority that particular matters are considered grave enough to constitute a mortal sin. I did a quick search and found this to be helpful: What is a Mortal Sin?

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