Monsignor Pope gives us some much needed clarity on Mortal Sin


For several generations, the Church has used a kind of shorthand in referring to mortal sin, for example, “X is a mortal sin.” The problem is that this general statement is an oversimplification. In order for the individual committing a particular act to be guilty of a mortal sin, three conditions are necessary: grave matter (the act must be intrinsically evil), full knowledge, and deliberate consent (CCC 1857).

The phrase “X is a mortal sin” gets tossed around on here with abandon. I observe two main discussions on the subject of mortal sin:

  1. Armchair moralists declaring everything bad to be a mortal sin, out of hand, without knowledge of the circumstances or intention of an act (since moral acts are comprised of these things in addition to the “object” of the act)

  2. People trying to find loopholes–if it’s a sin, but not a mortal sin, well, who cares, right?

Monsignor Pope very clearly and concisely puts to rest both forms of the discussion, neither of which is very helpful. All sin is bad. Not all sin is mortal.

Tolle, lege.



Thank you for this article.


I just use the word mortal sin interchangeably with grave matter. I think most people do it out of habit or maybe that was the terminology back than.


It’s imprecise though. Theology, and particularly moral theology, requires precision in language for making distinctions.


Most of that was helpful…until the part about divorce and remarriage. He was doing such a good job, why did he have to go off on divorced and remarried people as if he’d forgotten the parts before about reduced culpability. Was his aim to confuse people? Out of the blue he just hammers the divorced and remarried as if he lives in the absence of their company, and feels free to judge them. Wow.


Thank you for posting this. Monsignor Pope (what a name!) is one of the bright lights in the US Church.


Cut some slack! He is presenting the faith! We live in a corrupt culture in which “divorce” and remarriage is almost as common as choosing flavors of ice cream. Someone has to speak the truth - varnished or not.


I’ll ignore those who speak it without love. There is no truth without love, period. To think so is to think that we simply exist to follow rules.

He does a good job of showing that at first, then he shows his true self. I’ll look elsewhere for guidance, I’d advise anyone else to take Monsignor Pope with caution.


One day, may you realize that truth is charity.

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