Mortal sin leading to damnation


I am in the process of becoming catholic but I cannot reconcile the church’s teaching on mortal sin with an all loving God. I don’t believe this is the perfect plan of an omnipotent God who truly wills all to be saved.

How can you reconcile the fact that a single un-repented mortal sin leads directly to hell and the fact by any sensible reading of the requirements of a mortal sin that the vast majority of people on the planet are very likely in a state of mortal sin? We can’t judge an individual’s situation but by my current understanding many millions are very likely damned every single year.

I understand that a mortal sin is terrible, but I can’t understand why an all knowledgeable and all powerful God would have setup such a ridiculous system where ignorant humans are at a constant risk of their eternal damnation.

I don’t think the church’s teaching on full knowledge requirement for a sin to be mortal can be stretched to include the billions of people that have committed a grave act (the vast majority of which aren’t even catholic/have never been to confession). An act of perfect contrition is described as extremely rare, and you still have to desire to go to confession ASAP so that doesn’t fix the problem. Nor does invincible ignorance, perhaps that makes sense for an Amazonian tribe but for the billions with internet access that doesn’t work.

All I can do right now is pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and consider Orthodoxy instead.

I hope someone can shed some light on this very troubling situation.


I reconcile it by believing that God gives us every chance to repent. And repent may not mean go to Confession - although for a Catholic it should.


Interested in reading the responses. This is a big issue for me, too.


Let’s say the Superbowl is on. Tons of viewers, tons of cameras and media coverage. Tons of lights and people. Then, you are dropped in the middle of the field with no clothes on. All the cameras, all the viewers close in to have a look at you and no part of you can be covered. What would you do? First of all I would die of embarrassment, then I would run to the nearest exit as fast as I could go.

This is how it will be when a soul comes before God and sees the state of it’s soul. Nothing is hidden from the sight of God who is all pure and all light. You will look in the mirror of God’s heart. If we are not ‘clothed with the light of Christ’ as the scriptures tell us, our reaction will be to flee and hide from that scene.

When you say God set up a ridiculous system where ignorant humans are at a constant risk of eternal damnation, I don’t see it that way. I see it as a God who set up a crazy ridiculous system of love, where a sinner like myself can have heaven and glory with God for eternity. Why? Because I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and in prison. He identifies himself with us so much that he will say You did it to me. That, to me, is crazy love.

So even though millions of people may never have heard the gospel, God is still very merciful. And, we have no idea what kind of grace is poured out onto the world just for the fact that we ask him to. Divine Mercy chaplet for the dieing is one example.

One thing matters. Get plugged into God and make a difference in the direction that the world is going. Together we are stronger. We need you. Don’t waste another day.


But you didn’t answer the question. You explained how you feel about the teaching.


How do you figure that the vast majority of people on the planet are in mortal sin? Do you think that the vast majority of people KNOW that stealing a car is a sin and they do so with intent?

There are three things that have to happen for a sin to be mortal:

Grave/serious matter (a gumball VS a Lexus for stealing)
Knowing it is a sin against God
Doing it intentionally in spite of the fact you know this is a serious sin against God

That is a rather high threshold to meet, if you ask me.

In my experience, very very few secular people (as well as Catholics!) know that things like fornication or lying are sins.


I’ve been taught grave matter includes:

Porn + Masturbation
Intentionally getting drunk + other drugs
Serious lies
Missing mass
Divorce + Re-marriage

99% of the population has committed at least one of these acts and they likely know that the Catholic church opposes them, but they don’t care, which seems like knowledge enough. I mean the majority of Catholics literally don’t even follow the church’s moral teachings in the US on grave matters (mostly sexual).

So it seems all we can do is cross our fingers in hope that they are ignorant, despite that fact that they probably aren’t. And if ignorance is the only thing saving the majority of the population from damnation then literally why does the church even teach about mortal sins.


I have always thought that God was all loving. I always will. God has no limits. But humans do. They need to know the rules. And they need to know the gradation within the rules (venial vs mortal sins). We need consequences. Therefore we have purgatory for many and the extreme consequence of hell for unrepented mortal sin for some.
We are by nature flawed. We will be selfish and difficult and commit terrible sins. Without the threat of hell, many (read most) would continue in their sins purposefully.
God has set up what we need, not what He wants.
Personally I hope that at the last moment of consciousness He shows us such love that we can hardly resist Him. At that time I hope I will repent for the last time and accept his mercy. Some will choose not to.
Although for the life of me I cannot imagine doing so.
I am not theologian. But my heart tells me this is how it may be for me. I pray so.
PS God does not send us to hell. We choose it over His love.


Did I not? Scripture says that Jesus said You fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those in prison, you did it to me. So even though millions may never had heard the gospel, we still have a claim to God’s mercy by how we loved others.
Is there something else in the question that I’m missing?


99% of the population knowing the teachings of the Church is a very, very high estimate.

16% of the world’s population is Catholic. Of Catholics, I would imagine MAYBE half have some knowledge that your list of things are sinful. I have taught faith formation to kids, teens and adults. Most teenagers/young adult Catholics I have taught might know that one thing on your list - Adultery - is a sin. They would not even be able to tell you what Blasphemy IS let alone that it is sinful.

They have been raised to believe that as long as you are a good person, you don’t murder anyone, you will go to heaven when you die.

You will find threads here where Catechists have been stopped from teaching that missing mass or remarriage after divorce is a sin because too many of their students would be shocked to learn this.

Another thing to remember, you are responsible for the sins of exactly one person - the person in the mirror. Live you life in friendship with God, be a light to others in the darkness of this world.


Every time you sin, you say to God, “I don’t love you more than these” (“these” being your sins). In choosing to sin, you purposefully distance yourself from God.

So how do we reconcile the damnation that mortal sins are deserving of with an all-loving God?
It’s in the fact that He lays out clear instructions on what sin is, not hiding what they are to say “gotcha!” when we’re judged. It’s in the fact that, when we do stumble, He offers us a way to be reconciled to Him, if only we’ll do our part to obtain His forgiveness.


All these ignorances are in fact “vincibles” ignorances so they can not be used as an excuse to get rid of a mortal sin.
It is virtually impossible for a person in this digital age to be in invincible ignorance. Whoever wants to know the truth will certainly know it nowadays.


Me too



To be fair, Jesus did say that many are called, but few are chosen and that few find the narrow gate. That looking around seems to bear this out, while difficult to bear, should not cause us to lose faith.

I’m not sure why it is shocking that final impenitence excludes from salvation–I doubt the Eastern Orthodox would say otherwise.

That being said, God offers all the grace necessary for salvation and the grace necessary to obey the commandments or to repent sufficiently if we fall. He also knows who is truly culpable and who is not. No one is condemned unjustly.


Maybe we need to define terms. “Invincible” ignorance is not the same as an “invincible” superhero.

From the Catechism: the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment

The vast majority of people are not responsible because they have never been taught what the Church teaches.


that’s the first mistake we teach people, maybe because we want to do God to our liking, like a “good, kind dad”.
God does not absolutely want us to be saved, that’s wrong, because everything God wants in absolute ways always happens.
What God absolutely wanted in creating us was the extrinsic glory of his Son. And then, and only then, he wants us to be saved, but only in a hypothetical way! This is the first truth that we do not want to say today, but the modern man has difficulties to understand this, because he is in a culture where the man is at the center of everything, with all rights (human rights), and the Church has been corrupted by this humanistic ideology, and suddenly its message becomes absurd and contradictory.


@iamtidal , some seem to think you can commit a mortal sin at the drop of a hat , with God just round the corner ready to pounce .

GRAVE matter , FULL knowledge , FULL consent . Let’s get real . It’s not easy to get 100% of those three conditions . And mortal sin needs 100% .

You need to talk this over with a priest , preferably one whom you could have as a spiritual adviser . Tell him what you have told us in the OP .


Yes, they are responsible because nothing, absolutely nothing prevents them from using their time to seek the truth! I can still understand that a North Korean is in an invincible ignorance. But for the Western man, it’s impossible! if he is ignorant it is because he wants it!


I just wanted to add, that the Eastern Orthodox Churches believe the same as we do with regard to mortal sins, or at least they used to until pretty recently.

For example, in St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite’s Exomologetarion, one of the most common EO manuals on confession, he distinguishes between mortal sin and pardonable sin (what we call venial) and says “mortal sins are those voluntary sins which either corrupt the love for God alone, or the love for neighbor and for God, and which render again the one committing them an enemy of God and liable to the eternal death of hell.”

See also the following from an older EO Catechism (linked at bottom):

Question 18.

What is mortal Sin ?


Mortal Sin is, when the perverse Will of Man doeth a thing manifestly forbidden by the divine Law ; or, on the other hand, omitted to do, with the whole Heart and Desire, that which is commanded of God, whereby Charity towards God and our Neighbour is broken.

This Will of Man excludeth from the Grace of God, and killeth him who fulfilleth it in his Works. For which Reason their Degree of Sin is said to be mortal ; according to the Apostle {Rom. vi. 23), The Wages of Sin is Death.

And after discussing original sin:

Question 21.
What is voluntary mortal Sin ?


Voluntary mortal Sin is that which, after having received Baptism, and being arrived in Years of Discretion, laying aside the Love of God and of our Neighbour, and of our own free Will we commit against the manifest Command of God. By which Sin we are deprived of the divine Grace that we received in holy Baptism, and of the Kingdom of Heaven, and become Captives to eternal Death : As saith the Apostle {Rom. vi. 16), Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves Servants to obey., his Servants ye are to whom ye obey ; whether of Sin unto Death, or of Obedience unto Righteousness ? This Sin is taken away by Repentance and the Mercy of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, when his Priest absolveth the Penitent at Confession from his Sins.

(The approval of this Catechism by the four traditional EO Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, states: "this book is in perfect accordance with the dogmas of the Church of Christ and with the sacred Canons; that it contains nothing contrary to the Church: and we declare, assembled in Synod, that every pious and orthodox Christian, who is a member of the Apostolic Church of the East, ought to read this book, and not to reject it.).


Oh yes! the natural law is written in the consciousness of everyone, so that ignorance is almost impossible!
When someone watches a porn, he is well aware of what he is doing. When someone steals he is well aware.
Stop misleading yourself and others by making it clear that it is rare to commit a mortal sin.

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