This is an interesting Old Testament Scriptural reference. I think it indicates, that a virtuous man can turn away and do wrong, in spite of the fact that a previous poster said it was unlikely for such a person to do so. I remarked above, that although it may be unlikely, it was still possible for it to happen, and I think that this Scriptural passage supports my view on it, as Scripture itself says that the virtuous man can fall and turn away.
Excellent point. It is not the eating of the meat that matters; it is the willful rejection of God’s friendship. Another analogy: Suppose someone seriously courted you for years and showed nothing but pure love for you right up until you proposed marriage. And her reply was “Forget about it; I’d rather eat this hot dog than share everlasting bliss with you.” Would you still insist on marrying her?
Father Larry Richards once remarked that when we die God gives us what we love the most. His will is that it be Jesus but we can choose the hot dog.
It does seem though that God would be more merciful than to condemn a man to eternal fire in hell, because he was hungry at a baseball game. He did not want to hurt anyone, but even though he knew it was wrong, he saw everyone else doing it, and his mouth was watering, and so he took a bite of a hot dog on a day of abstinence.
And if you see everyone else visiting a certain whorehouse in your neighbourhood, and it’s been a long time since you’ve been with a lady, does that mean it’s no longer a mortal sin to go in and consort with a prostitute? I mean you didn’t want to hurt anyone either, far from it. You just saw them, and you ‘got hungry’ and your ‘mouth started watering’, metaphorically speaking, for a piece of what they were having.
Christianity is about developing the guts and discipline to NOT do what everyone else does but to instead do what you know is right. How on earth can you hope to avoid real serious temptation if the mere sight or smell of a hotdog, when there’s plenty of other food available mind you, is enough to entice you to mortal sin?
Perhaps it is caving in so easily to what seems as such a small temptation is what is so offense and insulting to God? A “real man” claiming to be Christian, or generically, “a real Christian” should never cave into such trivial and wimpy temptations right? If we sin at all it should be only for the whoppers - that beautiful but seductive woman who threw herself at us unexpectedly at the cocktail party and made us have a reaction? A real Christian should have stayed cloistered at home in prayer to avoid these sort of temptations?
I look at the dozen or so people who routinely show up to confession at my church. This is less than .5% of the total congregation and imagine its typical of all Catholic churches around the world. I wonder of these few who avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation how many make “perfect” acts of contrition? Then I sit in the pews on Sunday and see the large numbers (about 70%) of obese (sloth and gluttony - deadly sins) individuals piously sitting in their pews waiting for mass to start. I watch perhaps 90-95% of these all go to communion who from all outward appearances alone are guilty of sloth and gluttony and are in a conspicuous state of mortal sin and commit the sacrilege of receiving communion while unrepentant. Then I see so many of these same put in a single dollar bill into the collection basket (the deadly sin of greed). These same then go out after mass into the social hall or parking lot and smoke cigarettes to pollute the temple of the lord. Then I wonder how many really ever make it to heaven? I wonder what benefit is served to the majority through religious practices when it becomes “an occasion” to commit grave sin by luring people who are not repentant into a false piety or sense of sufficiency and righteousness to sacrilegiously receive communion?
How many of us really make it to heaven? Of those that do make it do any escape the necessity of purgatory? And is it a sin of despair or lack of trust in God to imagine what the true numbers are? Do we risk invoking God’s wrath by taking a rough census if the intention is to change the teaching methods to improve the harvest?
Being given divine truths and teachings while jailed in a sinful human nature is a living torture for some of us.
All of these posts just confirm to me that we all have a sinful nature and are in need of the Church and Jesus.
Someone mentioned that the concept of degrees of severity of mortal sin are not consistent with Church teaching. I have read several books that claim that the different levels of Hell correspond to different levels and amounts of mortal sins. These books do indeed have the Imprimatur, so they can’t be inconsistent with Catholic theology.
One describes how hell will be much more unpleasant for someone who sins willfully all his life, than for someone who misses Heaven by one mortal sin. I am uncomfortable with this, as it sure sounds like Heaven is a prize to be won by actions and deeds.
Having said all that, I’m certainly glad that God will judge me at death, rather than some of the people posting in this thread!
—Make no mistake scrupulosity is a trap of the devil to discourage many–but, I don’t think it means the rules are unimportant, the rules of moral living are the Truth of God. Protestants can’t really be fully Christian if they are just living the love part, but not the truth part (as scripture says, its empty)…
Sodak - thanks for commenting since the severity aspect of mortal sin was something I wanted to shake out here and talk about more.
I think I am the one you are referring to about degree of mortal sin being against church teaching. For the record I was referring to the simple criteria for getting into heaven or hell: any number or degree of mortal sin=hell; and anything else=purgatory (venial sin or retention of concupiscence) or heaven (pure).
So that is not against church teaching. But I was unsure of the official teaching on a presumption of a hiearchy of punishment in Hell (e.g. like Dante’s Inferno). I too have read saints accounts that clearly state that this is the case. But from the perspective of losing paradise I don’t imagine anyone can take any comfort in being in an upper and easier level of hell since we have descriptions of hell being so awful that even a moment in hell would is more intense and terrible than anything we can imagine. An eternity of separation from God and left to the utter emptiness of self is horrid enough. Personally I could care less that Satan suffers the worst in hell “unimaginably intensity level 10” than “Joe Pimp” who only sufferers Hell at “unimaginably intensity level 1” for eternity. None of us ever want to go there at any personal cost!
But this whole hell notion certainly compels a “fear” component to our core beliefs. While we have God who loves us and gives us mercy we also have a just God who will punish us. Somehow we humans must strike a delicate and healthy balance between love and fear of God. While I personally think God wants us to come to Him from love rather than fear the overwhelming life examples of the saints show us that ALL of them FEARED God as well as loved Him. In truth it is impossible for humans to fully love God for Himself since we depend on God for all things. That dependence makes it impossible to love God by only a conscious act of accepting Him out of love alone. So I must conclude in the logic that we MUST fear God out of necessity since if he withdraws his grace from us we simply die or cease to exist.
I myself am personally am in a constant tension between balancing fear, love and scrupulosity. I think this is not uncommon for anyone genuinely wanting to perfect their relationship with God and that tension and balancing keeps us on our toes so to speak as we learn how to walk with God.
Note my earlier quote …
If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die. He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered
… if GOD places a stumbling block before a virtuous man, and the man stumbles, then he shall die for his sin and his past good deeds will NOT matter.
Apply that to the hungry man eating the hot dog. No matter how good he may have been, God has allowed another stumbing block to come before him. Does he remain virtuous or does he turn from virtue and do wrong? And if he does wrong, what does the bible say? “He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered.”
But doesn’t the application of the plenary indulgence depend on the state of one’s attitude? In other words there is no guarantee as to whether the indulgence is applied or not.
This is in fact true and is what is taught by the Church in all of the indulgence criteria as well as what we hear from the revelations of saints.
I have read of a carmelite nun who was permitted to journal the accounts from a deceased members of her order who God sent to purgatory but permitted the soul to reveal to her what she suffered. Her accounts are that very few souls actually get the benefit of a full plenary indulgence. Apparently few practising Catholics keep themselves both free from sin as well as free from concupiscence and the tendency to still “desire” old forgiven sins. It sounds almost like the human soul still holds a lingering addiction to past sins that takes a lot of mortification, self denial, prayer and life long personal penance to fully overcome.
This is why I have recently rediscovered the “fear of God” that has been out of vogue these many years. Since Vatican II the focus I think has been way overboard on God’s Mercy and Love. Now most priests do not want to talk too much about God’s justice since it scares people and drops attendance. But we must accept both God’s mercy and his justice since we know that only a few are able to enter by the narrow gate. I recall somewhere that over 60% of Jesus teaching is rally about God’s justice and we need to keep that teaching.
Its been a very sobering and life changing reality for me to read the lives of the saints and see how far we all deviate from those early examples in this modern world. Only absolutely pure souls get to heaven and almost all require a lot of time in purgatory - so the messages are do the indulgences now and pray for loved ones deceased since they can pray for us too.
If you think that eating a hot dog and visiting a prostitute (in a “whorehouse”, as you so delicately put it) are equivalent, then you need some perspective.
I agree. I think there are degrees of importance, however, that we all tend to lose sight of.
Good post James. I agree with you overall, although I’m still undecided on some of these points. I’ve seen posts saying that if the gates of Hell were opened, nobody would leave. Also seen (in the book that I referenced) that someone could “miss” heaven by one mortal sin. Those two views are at odds with each other. The second seems to imply that she “just missed” the mark. I would think that she would run out of Hell, given the opportunity. I would, I’ll best most anyone else would too.
As for the hot dog, this is the first that I’ve heard that it’s a mortal sin. This is a Church discipline, not dogma. I have a very hard time believing that eating a hot dog represents a rejection of God, no matter how much I’ve read here. And yes, I’m Catholic, and I do abstain also, but not out of fear of Hell.
Scrupulosity can be evil in many ways. I could be checking on an elderly neighbor right now, rather than worrying about a hot dog. Which do you think is more important?
I’m not saying there aren’t rules. I AM saying that getting wrapped up in the rules turns too many people’s gazes inwards, when they should be answering God’s call in their lives.
I related to what you say. It goes against my reflexive and automatic human nature and reason to think souls would not escape hell if given the opportunity. But after thinking a moment it becomes clear that right now all of us are receiving the benefit of God’s grace - some more than others depending on the state of their souls. So we now all have the power and the means to get off the pathway to hell now if we can see we are on that path. I note that even the very fact of existence and having life is done so only by permission of God and through His grace. So having an empathetic ability to relate to the concept of a poor fallen soul “who just missed the mark” is only possible because we benefit through God’s grace to project that pity and empathy. That empathetic ability all goes away in Hell.
The difference at death is if we die impenitent in mortal sin we have committed that single one sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus warned us was unforgivable (and which no one really understands without digging into the theology). By dieing impenitent in a state of mortal sin we have blasphemed the Holy Spirit by not accepting His incessant spiritual pleading with us and intercession with God to repent to God and receive God’s mercy. We have literally rejected God’s love and the gentle spirit of intercession from the Holy Spirit that pleads with us incessantly to come to God and perfect ourselves. So dieing in mortal sin we have forever separated ourselves from the hope of being forgiven since we have decisively rejected God and committed the one unforgivable sin. At the instant of death the judgement is made. I believe the condemned soul leaps of its own accord away from God in horror straight into Hell. This ruined soul can’t face His wrath nor bear His holiness without being annihilated by his magnificence (an immortal soul can’t escape God’s judgement through a mechanism of suicidal unmaking so it flees). In that instant the soul is stripped of all beneficial grace - save perhaps only the residual grace necessary to exist as an object of punishment. The condemned soul loathes and hates God since it only has the abject emptiness of itself and perhaps a burning vision of what God intended for that soul to remind it of its eternally pathetic state to intensify its torment. Such a soul knows it will never ascend to that vision and it will now forever be all it will ever be; and that is an empty shell that can do nothing but suffer punishment and loath its very existence. In the place of grace, the soul has nothing but its own pain, torment, regret, envy, loathing etc. as its its only perpetual companion. Thus souls in Hell have truly found the one thing they have always sought - “themselves”. These simply can relate to nothing but themselves and so have no desire to leave their home in hell.
Let’s work hard to make sure none of us our our friends ever go there. Pray.
Every mortal sin IS running away from God, and therefore away from heaven and towards hell. Life is like a path to heaven, on which we should become more and more like God by Sanctifying Grace. If you deliberately leave the path, you’ve made a path of your own, away from God. If your life ends, God does not force you back to Him.
Only God knows, but I imagine that most mortal sins at the end of a life wouldn’t come “out of the blue” (although they could, since we are free). However good a person seems, he could be growing careless, proud, smug, indifferent to knowing and loving God (and so to mortal sin), careless about venial sins etc., paving the road to mortal sin. An “out of the blue” mortal sin might well be very evil indeed - committed by a person who really was holy, but then rejected God almost like Lucifer did.
A mortal sin is never commited by impulse or unintentionally. If God knew that you mistakenly thought something was not a sin or was in actual fact only venial, then you might not have commited a mortal sin at all. But if God knew that you deliberately avoided learning or remembering the real truth before, that might itself have been a mortal sin.
The phrase “just 1 mortal sin” (by which you miss heaven) is far more absurd than “just 1 terrorist attack on the White House” (by which you miss becoming the President of the United States). It is only by His Mercy that God that lets us live beyond any mortal sin at all.
We just don’t get it, how very evil and inexcusable a mortal sin is. A mortal sin is like playing with swords, getting careless, and killing a child, and then hiding the body thinking “it was all in play; it was only an accident; I thought they were toy swords”. Then God meets us, searches our soul, and reminds us of the hidden hate and intention behind our act, and the knowledge that we had of HIM, His goodness and justice, and His command not to kill. Every mortal sin is something like this - if we looked at what we had done face to face, we would KNOW it was deadly evil. Not only murder is extremely evil; and every mortal sin deserves hell.
I just came in from another planet, and have begun to hear the history of mankind.
I have had a VERY hard time believing that eating an apple in the Garden of Eden represented a rejection of God.
Not eating meat is a very small penance that the Church commands us to do. It helps identify us as Catholics, in some cases.
Obedience for obedience sake is absolutely appropriate when the command comes from God or God’s Church. Christ said “he who hears you hears Me”.
God wanted Adam and Eve to obey; whatever significance the apple had, the main point was OBEDIENCE.
Humility and Obedience is what is required, not thinking “if I were God, I wouldn’t have commanded THAT”. Disdaining God’s Church and Her right to command obedience is what makes this a mortal sin…
You are right, it is NOT dogma; but the Church has the authority from Christ to give commands that have the penalty of mortal sin (even if they are later modified).
It is not a mortal sin if done unintentionally (we forget). It is not a mortal sin if we really would be prevented from a true charitable act (not some trivial excuse), and that is the real reason we eat the meat. It is not a mortal sin if we are starving and there is nothing else available.
But we are supposed to take this command seriously. If you get into the habit, it really isn’t hard to do! There is no need for scrupulosity, just effort to obey as a simple child would, not to say “I can’t do it because the whole meaning of the command is scrupulous”.
This sort of thing can be as much a part of our lives as exercise. You don’t get all worried if you miss a day; but you don’t stop exercising either.
Suppose though that the person is not starving. He is just hungry and at a football game. Would it be a mortal sin for him to take a small bite of a hot dog on a day of abstinence ?
Yes, but we are not saved by our works…
The good Catholic you described asks “how can I please God” he doesn’t ask how far can I go before I go to hell." I’m not that great a Catholic and have been faced with similar situations, you eat the bun and give away the hot dog! Your example doesn’t exist, it’s impossible, if you really love God you’re not going to rebel over a hot dog! If the “damned” hot dog is so important your relationship with God is NOT so great! You;re asking if I really love God surely He won’t mind if I urinate on His head. Give me a break you wouldn’t even think about it! Wow, this hot dog, woman, porn, (what ever) really looks good, I think I’ll give my eternal soul away for it. It ain’t gonna happen to the person you described! If he can’t resist the hot dog, trust me, he has other problems!
Then the Bible is wrong, because the Bible says that the virtuous man can turn away from God?
I think this has degenerated to a “what if” ad nauseum. Look, no on e ever commits a mortal accidentally. Period. End of statement.
And no, the Bible is not wrong. It is more likely that someone’s understanding of the Bible is not as complete as it should be, despite the numerous clarifications. In fact, some posts on this thread are beginning to resemble willful ignorance (I mean this in the theological sense, not pejorative or insulting).
And more than that, the Catholic Church has an important teaching on this. It is called Purgatory.
Enough with the “what if…” and “suppose that…”
The questions have been asked and answered so completely that there is nothing left here to analyze.
There has been some good dialog here. It all helps me recalibrate “my attitude” from one of a personal & self-centered perspective to one of God’s perspective. From the selfish perspective it does seem absolutely pathetic to the common-sense that a man could go to hell for just caving in & eating a hot dog (even a kosher one ) on a day of fast. But when one looks at it from the perspective of an awesome & loving God it changes the entire climate of the vignette. No doubt that there are other more attitude-neutral examples one could have made to make the same point but let’s run with the one at hand.
The “hot dog” example itself is suggestive of a certain carefree or fun attitude we all can relate to. But during a time of fasting one would be in a spirit of reverence & repentance or sorrowful contemplation. Culturally this very food is something more associated with the culture of a baseball game or having a fun BBQ get together at home. None of this is consistent with what we do during an introspective fasting season. So even though this example could be reformed with something more neutral to the original OP concept we may actuanally have here a serendipitous occasion to demonstrate the perspective of God’s in His relationship to His Church.
In the early Church there was much more severe penance of prayer, self denial & severe fasting (specific numbers of “quarantines”). Given the consequence of eternity – even a strict fast was as a mere penny or “tithe” of one’s mortal life. But now we only have a few days a year of partial-fasting.
Given the very “mild yoke” required by current fasting standards the severity of casual rejection of obedience to God and Church becomes very disrespectful. From God’s perspective the token show of piety & devotion specified in fasting is really just an opportunity for us to say to God “I care and willfully obey you”; it’s as a small kiss on the cheek to the one who created us. Even Judas did that to Jesus before he betrayed Him. But in ignoring a token show of affection and obedience to God we profoundly reveal our true attitude and the insincerity to Him. In fact given the ease of the act in comparison to the severity of Christ’s mortification and suffering on our behalf and the pain God suffered in giving up His Son it becomes grave. We not only reject God we spit in His face at the same time we try to take the gift of salvation that He gave us. We call ourselves “Christians” (e.g. “Christ-like”) yet by taking that name while rejecting the small suffering “in Christ” that God wants us to share in to show our commitment we instead severely and blatantly disrespect God. Clearly we can not expect to share in the Glory of Christ if we are not willing to identify with Christ through sharing in some minor suffering in Christ (e.g. giving up that damned hotdog). When we can’t suffer to bear some small act of service and respect to God we in fact mock our very identity as Christians and only pay God the same lip service as did Judas. We essentially are also rejecting the authority of the Christ’s Bride (The Church). In so doing how can we then rationally accept the Church’s authority in granting the sacraments of penance and Eucharist without becoming hypocrites and making a mockery of justice? All for a little hot-dog!
One should never want to risk being indifferent to God nor put one’s immortal soul in jeopardy over easy and small acts of charity nor think to put His Mercy to the test by deliberately ignoring a required act of charity. We never want to insult God by thinking ‘He is so great that he could not care nor be offended by me showing indifference to just a small “symbolic” and token act of piety (fasting)’. Rather, by consciously rejecting the opportunity to give even a penny or “mite” of respect to the God who created us vividly communicates the worth we have placed on our own soul. Is this in fact God’s justice (being judged by one’s own standards)?
We never want to discount our own soul through indifference. That is a grave insult to God; especially knowing that God asked Jesus to die for us to save us! If we are disrespectful and unthankful its only fair that God can take back His gift of life remove his blessings and grace. Life is God’s free gift. So we should never disrespect The Giver of life nor devalue that gift. God has much more gifts and ornaments to place under and on the tree of life (think Christmas tree!). But we must continue to show respect, thanks and reverence. He is literally coddling us and graciously giving us these opportunities to bond with him and reflect His nature. None of us can ever be worthy of life nor God’s eternal rewards and graces. As adopted children of God we can show him kindness, respect and on special occasions even a small amount of patient waiting and mild self sacrifice. Jesus gave all – we can give up a hotdog & kiss God in exchange for the gift of eternity.