Mortal Sin - Free Will

When does free will end?

A gun to your head?
A threat of getting beaten up?
A threat of someone hurting a family member?

I understand loss of free will is where you do not want to commit the sin but someone is making you do it but how far does that person have to go where you couldn’t possibly say no to them or does it come down to each individual?

Thanks.

It may help you to think of the Holy Martyrs. They had free will till the end, and chose to suffered persecution and death for their love of Jesus Christ.

Your free will does not end until your mental faculties are diminished through loss of consciousness, or some mental disorder, or through physical manipulation (someone ties you down so you can’t get to Mass).

Just because you’re body is threatened, does not mean your will is threatened, but you’re culpability may be lessened.

From the Catechism:

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The Catholic Moral Theology declares the obstacles for free will action like violence, fear, concupiscence (passion), habits, psychosis, neurosis. Not every of them stops volition and frees from responsibility always and completely. Probably, the obstacles were proposed by theological and philosophical schools of Scholastic Age (8-14 centuries A.D.). They were described and analyzed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was progress in comparison to the Patristic Age where determinants of free will almost weren’t acknowledged in or, at least, described and listed in, especially, to be a reason for forgiving by God in Penance. The obstacles (determinants) in many ways are alike to those applied in the Criminal Law of many countries to free or to affirm of culpability of criminal act. However, there are problems in the Thomistic list of the obstacles:

  1. The Criminal Law doesn’t regulate so many branches of a person’s life (e.g. inner life as in case of lust);
  2. Contemporary Psychology is in some conflict with Criminal Law concerning determinism and free will or concerning free will abilities.
  3. The determinants don’t have strong relations with the notion of “necessity”, “needs” and “free choice alternatives”. in my opinion, there may be a bigger number of free will determinants which may force a will to commit objectively (physically) sinful actions. The actions also may be more prolonged than those discussed in “Summa Theologica” and even be intentionally prepared to avoid the risk of needs deprivation.

The Catholic Moral Theology declares the obstacles for free will action like violence, fear, concupiscence (passion), habits, psychosis, neurosis. Not every of them stops volition and frees from responsibility always and completely. Probably, the obstacles were proposed by theological and philosophical schools of Scholastic Age (8-14 centuries A.D.). They were described and analyzed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was progress in comparison to the Patristic Age where determinants of free will almost weren’t acknowledged in or, at least, described and listed in, especially, to be a reason for forgiving by God in Penance. The obstacles (determinants) in many ways are alike to those applied in the Criminal Law of many countries to free or to affirm of culpability of criminal act. However, there are problems in the Thomistic list of the obstacles:

  1. The Criminal Law doesn’t regulate so many branches of a person’s life (e.g. inner life as in case of lust);
  2. Contemporary Psychology is in some conflict with Criminal Law concerning determinism and free will or concerning free will abilities.
  3. The determinants don’t have strong relations with the notion of “necessity”, “needs” and “free choice alternatives”. in my opinion, there may be a bigger number of free will determinants which may force a will to commit objectively (physically) sinful actions. The actions also may be more prolonged than those discussed in “Summa Theologica” and even be intentionally prepared to avoid the risk of needs deprivation.

Much of the freewill is in the grey area. That is the reason it is difficult to distinguish between an action that is completely serious and less serious, and to be able to separate them.

There are three things that determine if an act is serious or not, but it is still difficult at best to determine an adequate judgment. What we have to do is our best assesment. Human beings and especially the mind, is complicated and experiences confusion.

So it is best in a questionable act to mention it in confession as best as possible in these cases. Because sometimes we don’t know and the safer decision is to tell it.

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