mortal sin and Hell

Hi gang - Ive read a lot about mortal sin, so don’t need the 3 criteria re explained. Heres my particular questions:

1)Lets say I commit mortal sin (miss Mass on Sunday because I’m feeling lazy; totally screw up at a party and sleep with someone not my spouse; panic at work and forge documents ( btw, I’m just giving examples, not saying Ive done these things!!!)

2)I decide to go to confession next Saturday

3)I have imperfect contrition - I am sorry, but also pretty scared of Hell - I have mixed feelings about my sorrow (as people often do), and I cant claim I have “perfect contrition”.

4)On Wednesday I get knocked down by a bus and killed.

My understanding, because I haven’t made it to confession yet, and my contrition is imperfect, is Im heading straight to Hell - is that right? It doesnt seem right to me, and yet thats the teaching?

Thanks! If folks can stick to this idea of mortal sin/imperfect contrition/not yet reached confession/killed by bus, Id appreciate it! Not veer off into other areas…

If you die in a State of Grace, that is not having committed another mortal sin since your last confession, you will be saved, however purgatory may be necessary to complete your penance if you didn’t fix your relationship with God.

Hi Murraymuzz - Thanks but please go back to the scenario - I’m looking for folks to address that specifically, not just give general advice.

Oh sorry, I thought you meant the following Wednesday after the Saturday haha. Anyway in your scenario the most likely result would be hell, and you would not want to be in that situation in your judgement. God however does have mercy (im sure you’re well aware :)) so he may choose to give that person a second chance, or he may choose to accept the act of contrition as sufficient or he might not in which case hell would be the destination. So even in your scenario I have a hard time saying that such a person would go to hell immediately, however you really would not want to be in that position.

I’m sure there would be many opinions on this topic and I agree with the traditional position that ordinarily if one dies in mortal sin then they do immediately go straight to hell. Though I do believe there are some extraordinary cases where people are spared from hell, but I would say to anyone living in mortal sin, don’t expect to be one of the extraordinary cases.

Thanks MurrryMuzz - yes, I def meant we are hit by the bus before confession, thus dying in mortal sin, lol! I shouldnt say “lol” its really no laughing matter, right?

It doesn’t seem to fit with mercy, to consign someone to Hell if they really truly plan on going to confession - but yet, thats what the teaching is - if your contrition is imperfect. Its a really scary thought.

I think there has been at least 1 saint (who was it?) that said God comes to us in that moment of death and gives us the chance of that perfect contrition - ultimately gives us the chance to turn back to Him - thats a comforting thought. I dont think it takes away our responsibility to use the Sacraments, etc - but if that worst case scenario happens (the bus before confession) we do have a chance to turn fully to God - I hope!

I don’t want to move the topic but isn’t it strange that we all say (me included) getting hit by a bus.

So many more cars on the road to be hit by but always a bus.


The short answer is no. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church (all my quotes are from it)

1)Lets say I commit mortal sin (miss Mass on Sunday because I’m feeling lazy; totally screw up at a party and sleep with someone not my spouse; panic at work and forge documents ( btw, I’m just giving examples, not saying Ive done these things!!!)

At that point (assuming you are not sorry), if you know you have done wrong, you are in mortal sin, having turned away from God. Do you go to Hell at this moment for a lapse? I just don’t know, but I would offer prayers for you as I believe you loved God and could be in Purgatory. God’s ways are not ours.

2)I decide to go to confession next Saturday

You have turned towards God so you would be on the right path.

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

3)I have imperfect contrition - I am sorry, but also pretty scared of Hell - I have mixed feelings about my sorrow (as people often do), and I cant claim I have “perfect contrition”.


1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

4)On Wednesday I get knocked down by a bus and killed.

My understanding, because I haven’t made it to confession yet, and my contrition is imperfect, is Im heading straight to Hell - is that right? It doesnt seem right to me, and yet thats the teaching?

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: (958, 1371, 1479)

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

958 Communion with the dead. “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.”500 Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

The above isn’t an ideal answer, so I would suggest reading the sections on Purgatory and the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Nelka - LOL about the bus!!!

Avilla - Thank you for all you sent - Im going to read it more slowly - Ive always been intrigued by the communion of the saints, and also Purgatory.Its quite likely my “simple” explanation of the teaching (mortal sin, planning confession, but dying first in imperfect contrition - therefore Hell) is just way too simplistic. Perhaps its taught that way to stress the utter importance of the Sacraments, and a “right heart”, but God and prayers and the influence of the Saints are bigger than those “rules.”

In ordinary circumstance as you said it’s quite normal to have imperfect contrition, but in your scenario, what would happen in the last milliseconds before that person expires? Could God grant him/her the grace of perfect contrition at the realization that these are his/her last breaths?

Indeed we cannot read the hearts of men and need to trust in the mercy of the Lord.
You see this is the perfect scenario of the unforgivable sin against the Holy spirit. Unrepentent we have no forgiveness.

I hope I am right.

Maybe the intention to confess is good enough for God? I mean, He do know that we not always can confess, and my understanding is that many “good” Catholics confess only a couple time each year and even a priest have time to commit a few mortal sins during one year. This “couple times each year” is from a source I can’t remember so I might be wrong.

We all sin. But God do loves us, so maybe our biggest hope and consolation is in that. It is very very important that we confess our sins, but if God know that we are having a true and real intention I think we can say that we are already forgiven.

However, faith is not about who sin and is it a venial or mortal sin and how often we do sin. I have heard this a few times: “you Catholics are so lucky, all you need is to confess and then you can sin again as much as you want” and nothing can be more wrong. Many sins are repeated sins (masturbation, lying…) and truly mortal ones. Faith is in fact nothing about sins. When we accept a faith, we accept that we are not perfect. We do fail. We make mistakes. Every sin hurt God more then us, and that is what we should think about when we talk about sin. We hurt God! Faith is to believe and understand that. Confession is good and well needed, but more important is to know that we hurt God every time we hurt someone else. Sin is a “by-product” of living in faith. Faith give us the knowledge of what sin is, and what it is to sin. Without faith there is no sin, but no hope either. Our hope is in our faith. Our hope is in God and the fact that He loves us. Our hope is in the fact that Christ did die for our sins, sins He never did but took the burden all the way to the cross. All sin did die that day He died. What we commit when we say “sin” is something already punished for. Christ took the pain, and that is why we have faith. All we need is to have a real and true intention to not sin (once more) and I think that is enough for God. He know that we want to repent and in a way our confession start the same moment that we admit that “yes, I did sin and I am very sorry and I want to change my life and ask for strength so that I will not sin again”. What happen in the Church when we actually confess is important, but that is also the last step on our way out of sin. Our sins are all forgiven by Christ, all we need is a heart and soul that repent. When we confess we admit that we a sinners, but God knows that, all He want is that we want to repent. A life in faith is a life with sin, but faith come far before sin. So I believe that intention, if it is true, is enough because God know that not all of us will die in a state of grace.

Sin can not be forgiven outside of confession with imperfect contrition, and all who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell. When you think about how offensive those sins really are, there is no excuse for us to not be beating our breasts in repentance before God for offending his majesty.

The above isn’t an ideal answer, so I would suggest reading the sections on Purgatory and the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Your presentation is entirely off. If it were true, it would practically not be possible for us to go to Hell.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1453: "The contrition called “imperfect” (or “attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance."

#1472: Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin.

Catechism Of the Catholic Church #1035: " The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs."

  1. Correct imperfect contrition does involve the forgiveness of mortal sin outside the Sacrament. And yes if we die in a state of mortal sin -our choice of hell is --well our choice.

And yes we “know not the hour” so let us avoid always such and live rightly with the grace of God “walking in the Spirit”-- and if we should fall -let us repent right away -make acts of perfect contrition and get to confession…

  1. On a sort of side note- remember 1. The grace of perfect contrition out of love of God above all - can *co-exist *with lesser motives (such as fear of hell). 2. One though does need to resolve to go to confession as soon as (reasonably) possible in regards to perfect contrition.

  2. It is possible (but not to presume) that God can give the needed grace in the last moments of life.

I think that you have not understood what I had typed which was based on the specific scenario given by the OP which was having committed mortal sins, the person realised what they had done and wanted the Sacrament of Reconciliation but died before reaching it. On that basis they were facing God, had repented (albeit it imperfectly) and therefore, were not cut off from God when they died. That is why I quoted the sections on Purgatory, had the OP put the scenario as dying unrepentant, then I would have probably used the Sections you quoted.

As you will also see from my post I suggested the OP read ALL of the sections in the CCC about Purgatory and the Sacrament of Reconciliation as I was fully aware that I had posted small sections only in response to the specific scenario given.

I do not agree with your view that a repentant sinner will end up in Hell simply because they repented before God, but were unable to reach the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Having read the part of the CCC on Purgatory and the story in Maccabees about offering the prayers for the faithful died in sin, I am confident that our Merciful God would not send repentant sinners to Hell. If he did, Heaven would be empty.

God bless

Imperfect contrition --does NOT restore a person to a state of grace prior to confession. Even if they are headed for confession (but remember perfect contrition can co-exist with say a motive avoiding hell -and it does not mean “perfect” as in “absolute perfection” or something.).

Is it possible for God to --knowing their seeking confession etc - give them the grace needed even at the moment of death? Yes it is possible. Let us always hope and turn to Jesus the Good Shepherd who is able to give us life even in those last moments.

But simply because the person had imperfect contrition and is seeking confession does not yet restore the person a state of grace.

For he is “dead” -such a fall cannot be repaired “from within” -as is the case with those who are “living” in grace and commit venial sins. There needs to be a new infusion of grace to restore the person to life.

The purification called purgatory is for those who die in a state of grace – who are “among the living” when they leave this world --not the “dead”.

But yes let us without presumption - always with great hope - keep turning right away -to the Good Shepherd in whom there is “true life”.

Hmmm my personal opinion is that we cannot tell. This would be the perfect scenario in which the don’t judge idea falls because here you are asking imperfect judges to determine the status os someone’s soul at death. We don’t know the hypothetical person’s souls neither his feelings nor his intentions. We are judgimg an entirw life on one thing and that is incorrect because that is not just. There are manyamy things at the time of one death that go into play that only Jesus can see that is why only Jesus os the one to know judge the state of your soul and give a final judgmemt. We are uncapable of giving an accurate answer to your hypothetical so I think that the right answer is only Jesus knows. All we know is that we must be at a state of grace at the moment of our death and do our best to live per his word, anything besides that only jesus knows.

According to what I’ve been taught, the short answer to the OP is:

Confession removes the eternal punishment due to mortal sin, even if the penitent’s lacks perfect contrition (as long as the penitent is sincere, of course).

Lacking the sacrament of confession, only perfect contrition can save our souls from Hell.

This is why being Catholic is such a huge advantage in terms of attaining salvation, and part of why God would want all people to enter His Church.

I will still go with the CCC in its fullness. Only God knows if a person has repented of their sins before they die and whether they repented only out of fear of hell (imperfect) or because they know they have offended God.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace.If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. (1742, 1033)

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” (1861, 393, 633)

I am not saying that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not very necessary or important because we do not know what moment we will be called (which is why the daily examination of conscience is also important) . But that if we genuinely cannot receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before we die, but have truly repented because we have offended God and He has accepted our repentance we no longer separated from Him but are again in communion (whether we are in a state of grace or not can only be known by God).

Not everyone can get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are still large parts of the world where the faithful do not have access to a Priest very often e.g. Australian outback, Africa, Middle East etc. Would the Church or even God reject a truly repentant sinner simply because there are not enough Priests available to minister the Sacraments?

My previous answer is made in full awareness of what the Catechism teaches etc.

See above.

Yes God can give grace - God can do much more than we can know here about – and remember perfect contrition involves grace from God– and yes can even give the life of grace to those who say through no fault never heard the Gospel …Jesus can yes save them -give them* true life*.

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