Mortal Sin before Death

I know I have always been taught that when Catholics die in mortal sin, without confessing or making perfect act of contrition that we will go to hell upon death.

You know, I find it very hard to believe that a forgiving God could let someone that lead a wonderful life of charity, helping to shelter and feed the homeless, numerous acts and devotions to our Lord, could just with one slip up of mortal sin (right before death thus having no chance or thought of confessing) die and go straight to Hell as a result, while someone like Hitler has a deathbed conversion and and is saved from the fires of Hell :confused:

I know what we are taught, but I’m having a hard time with seeing the logic.

I’ve learned that you must take your religion for what it is and embrace it, and not pick and choose what you like. That leads down a slippery slope.

So you believe it and see nothing wrong with the scenario?

On one hand I know that confession forgives all of your past sins, yet we are also told we will be judged on how we lived our lives… so will we be judged on the good works (we did and failed to do) or will we be judged on our sins?

A mortal sin is not a “slip up.” It’s a grave sin against the decalogue done with full knowledge and consent.

So, can you articulate what you believe such a “slip-up” to look like?


When I go to confession I am told “all of your sins are forgiven, they are washed away, forgotten.” So if this is the case how can we be judged on our sins?

Funny thing is even though my sins have been forgiven, I still can’t forget them… it feels like I am always asking myself if they really were forgiven, I have such regret that I can’t even forgive myself.

not quite because you have stated the teaching incompletely, if we die unrepentent of mortal sin that means, by definition we chose hell. It means that at the moment of death and judgement when we come face to face with God and he grants us full knowlege of what we have done, and the implications of repenting and choosing him and union with him in heaven, or rejecting him and chosing hell, if we choose the latter we condemn ourselves out of free will fully informed choice to an eternity without Him, that is, to hell.

Ezekiel Chapter 18:20The soul that sinneth, the same shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son: the justice of the just shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. [21] But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. [22] I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done: in his justice which he hath wrought, he shall live. [23] Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live? [24] But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? all his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die. [25] And you have said: The way of the Lord is not right. Hear ye, therefore, O house of Israel: Is it my way that is not right, and are not rather your ways perverse?

[26] For when the just turneth himself away from his justice, and committeth iniquity, he shall die therein: in the injustice that he hath wrought he shall die. [27] And when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness, which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment, and justice: he shall save his soul alive. [28] Because he considereth and turneth away himself from all his iniquities which he hath wrought, he shall surely live, and not die. [29] And the children of Israel say: The way of the Lord is not right. Are not my ways right, O house of Israel, and are not rather your ways perverse? [30] Therefore will I judge every man according to his ways, O house of Israel, saith the Lord God. Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities: and iniquity shall not be your ruin.


OK so someone like Hitler after having a deathbed conversion, confessing his sins to a priests, can be saved from the fires of Hell?

Yet the charitable do-gooder who commits grave sin (lets say fornication for example) gets hit by a truck , obviously didn’t have time to confess or was not in the state of mind to make a perfect act of contrition, will go straight to Hell?

So in other words your whole life is not judged, just don’t be caught in the state of mortal sin when you die?

The best way to think about it, that when you die, you have a choice between two wordls:

on one world there is ample sex, power over others, privileges through money, one can vindicate on his enemies and so on

In the other world there is no sex, no power over others, no privileges through any immanent things, and everyone shall love his former enemies.

There is your whole life behind the final decision.

I think there’re sound principles involved here but ones that easily get misunderstood and misused. A mortal sin, in one sense, is a conscious, deliberate choice against God-against goodness. In this sin we’re choosing death instead of life. I’d suggest that it represents a pattern, an ongoing lifestyle and stance. And we can’t forget about grace. If God’s working in our lives to save us, and is fair beyond our imagination, then He’ll see to it that His love for us will be matched by enough love for Him, as had been demonstrated beforehand in our lives, that we’ll be properly contrite and repentant in the end. We have to have trust in His goodness-not to mention His intelligence. :slight_smile:

Someone living such a “good life,” if they have a closeness to the Holy Spirit that matches such a life, will not “fall into sin” as easily as that; their sense of conscience will be so fine-tuned that it will take a willful decision to commit that sin. Having made that willful decision, they will be judged for it.

Your error is simply in assuming that everybody is impelled equally easily to mortal sin. But that’s like saying that an average person with a head cold, and a wine critic with a million-dollar nose, would equally miss the gas leak. Spiritually, your conscience is your million-dollar nose. Sin blocks the passages. And the Holy Spirit opens them up.

If someone with a sensitive nose ignores the gas leak, he has only himself to blame if he blows up.

Conversely, a deathbed repentance (which I’m sure happens rarely enough; the cloudy mind of a dying body is hardly a fit instrument for soul-searching) would be extremely difficult. For someone whose life had been caked with sin, the effort of will to repent might not even be available in his clouded mind. But if it is, the LORD who heard the prayer of HIS companion in death would not turn from another human being in distress.

In this instance, the question would be, is valid repentance even possible in this extremity? – not, will our LORD accept a valid repentance; HE has shown HE will; but CAN one “turn their life around” when there is no life left to live?


I suggest you go back and read puzzleannies answer again - and slowly.

I know that we are taught, generally as young children that if we commit a mortal sin and don’t confess, we go to hell…
But what is often not taught, and not grasped is the first principle for an act of mortal sin.

What we are taught by the Catechism is that there are three conditions for a sin to be mortal…Grave Matter, Full knowledge, and Full and Free Consent…
But what is not stated is the pre-condition for for acting on the third part of the above.

Full and Free Consent requires that one first reject God, His Lordship and His Salvific plan. Having done this, the person removes himself from God’s protection and cuts himself off from grace and salvation.
So - long as he remains in this state, that is the state of rejection of God, the person must be sent to hell. It is only by turning from this rejection - that is by repentance, that there is a renewed hope of salvation.

Please consider this, along with Puzzleannie’s very good post, very carefully and I think yoyu will begin to understand.


I guess no matter how slow I read the posts – doesnt make sense to me. Oh well… guess its just one of those things…

Hopefully (and prayerfully) I will never be in the state of mortal sin at any point in the future.

Maybe, maybe not. No one knows who goes where but God. Even someone who makes a deathbed confession is not guaranteed of anything. God is the all-knowing and all-just Judge.

Maybe, maybe not. How do you know that God does not give him the time he needs to beg forgiveness in the microseconds between the time the truck hits him and the time he dies? God exists out of time remember.

You are judged on your whole life. What you did. What you failed to do. Why you did it. Why you did not. What was the state of your soul, of your mind, of your heart. In the end, the only thing I do know is that the judgment of God will be just (and I pray tempered with mercy for a horrible sinner like me).

I’ve quoted this message on another thread, but I believe it’s needed here, too. I find much comfort from these words of Jesus to St. Gertrude:

“When I behold any soul in agony, who has thought of Me with pleasure, or who has performed any works deserving of reward, I appear to that soul at the moment of death, with a countenance so full of Love and Mercy, that the soul repents from its inmost depths for having offended Me, and that soul is saved by this repentence.”

Thanks for explaining this to me. I feel the same way.

Don’t feel to badly. We see many posts similar to yours here.
Perhaps a good analogy to explain the “first principle” idea would be the marital relationship. Your spouse (in a good and Godly marriage) is one you Love above all others and you would never intentionally, with full knowledge and consent of will, offend in any way.
Our relationship with God needs to be the same spousal type Love. The type that says we would never intentionally offend Him. If this is the case, it is because we have stopped Loving God more than ourselves…We have replaced our Love and worship of God, iwth love and worship of self.

Hopefully (and prayerfully) I will never be in the state of mortal sin at any point in the future.

You have spoken wisely here and display the correct side of the first principle that I spoke of earlier. By prayer and by seeking God in Love, we will not find ourselves in mortal sin and the problem becomes moot.

If I may suggest, the book in my signature explains this so much better than I ever could. It’s an easy read and well worth it. I believe it would help you immensely


Someone else can provide the sections of the Catechism or Code but is there not two forms of Contrition? Perfect and Imperfect.

What we know is that those who die in a state of unrepentant sin reject God and choose Hell.

However, correct me if I am wrong but one does not need to go to Confession to make a perfect contrition. For example, if one is truly sorry for their sins becasue they love God and have offended God, and not just sorry because they fear God or Hell, one can be forgiven for their sins without the need for Confession.

An imperfect contrition occurrs when one is sorry for their sins because they fear God and the punishment of Hell. If one goes to Confession and received the sacrament, all that is necesary is an imperfect contrition to be forgiven.

Therefore, as long as a person makes a perfect contrition before death, we can trust and pray for God’s mercy and that person will hopefull still die in God’s grace.

But then the question comes up as to why one needs the sacrament of Confession at all?

The answer is that while it is true it is not impossible to obtain Heaven without receiving absolution through the Sacrament of Confession, it sure makes it a lot harder and one is taking their chances. How does one really know if they are sorry because they love or offended God or simply because they don’t want to go to Hell? Also, would one really want to deny themselves the graces of a sacrament? Purposely doing so may very well be an intentional act rejecting God.

So the conclusion is that God is merciful and through the process of perfect contritions, one can still die in a state of grace even if they were not actually absolved by the formal sacrament of Confession.

That is not correct. You are judged only on the state of your soul at death.
Good works have no merit if you die in a state of mortal sin.

A horrible person sinning their whole life but who repents and is absolved and then immediately dies is saved.
A good person spending their life doing good works etc but who commits a mortal sin and dies unrepentent immediatley thereafter condemns themselves to Hell.

To think that after you die God weighs up the good and bad you have done in life and will save you if the good outweighs the bad is Protestant thinking.

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