I’ve talked about this in a few other threads, so let’s try here. My immediate cause was reading “Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. I’ve read five of his books, and I find him filled with common sense. However, in this book he says–and elaborates on–the idea that a sin MUST be an action, not a thought. To me this is nonsense.
Example: You see the movie “Old Man with a Gun” where Robert Redford robs banks. You say to yourself, “That looks like fun!” and then go have dinner. Not a sin. A passing thought.
But…what if you see the movie and say to yourself, “I could rob banks too!” and you begin a month-long immersion in the planning of a bank robbery. You buy a gun, find out where the guards are stationed, where the alarm bells are, what time of day there are the fewest people, what happened the last time they were robbed, and on and on. You are obsessed with robbing this bank. First, to get this out of the way, no, the police are not going to arrest you. It’s not a crime to think about robbing a bank, or (as far as I know) to plan to rob a bank. But is it a sin? Of course, and probably a mortal one–after all, you are planning something involving a lot of money, people could get hurt, etc.–it’s a big deal. And you give your full consent. And it’s clearly a bad thing.