Mortal sin question

I have no intent of debating this (remember I am NotTooSmart). However I do seek to understand and evaluate. I might clarify my hypthetical and ask stupid questions though.

In another thread, I was told I do not understand mortal sin. So please correct my understanding if correct. This is my paraphrase of your catechism.

In catechism sins are classified as mortal or venial. A mortal sin is a grave offense against God while a venial sin is a lesser sin against God provided it is committed under certain conditions.

These conditions are full knowledge and complete consent. If a Christian were to commit a grave offense against God under full knowledge and complete consent, this Christian would lose his salvation (not be in a state of grace) until that point in time in which he repents of the sin which would normally be in confession.

For a sin to be commited under full knowledge and complete consent it has to be totally deliberate and with full knowledge this is a grave offense against God.

Applying this to a hypothetical. A good Catholic decides out of the blue he really wants to go see a football game on Sunday. So he skips Sunday mass. Assume in this parish Sunday is the only date of mass and he does not go to mass at any other time. Having been raised Catholic, he knows that His church has classified missing mass as a grave matter. Also nobody is pointing a gun at his head, he is not mentally ill, he is missing mass as a free personal choice.

On the way to the football game he gets into a car accident and immediately killed, Now I know you say for sure this person is in hell at this point because he might have cried out to the Lord before he died. But let us say in this hypothetical he did not cry out to the Lord. He just died.

Am I understanding Catholicism that by missing mass under full advice and consent this man lost his salvation. And since he made no move towards Christ before he died, he appeared before his maker as an unsaved man, lost and without Christ.

I will save somebody the bother of copying your catechism:

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,129 became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. . . . But when the sinner's will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.130 

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."134

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.135 

1864 "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven."136 There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.137 Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

Especially at the time of death, this person desires and is angry because he is going to miss the game more than his chose of not going to Mass instead, yes, he will take this desire and this anger and disapointment to the gates of hell. He may even blame God for the accident, and curse Him for the interfernece. This guy has a lot of baggage to take to God. If his last councious thought isn’t an act of contrition, this poor soul will go to hell.:o
Our desires, deeds, accomplishments if not for the honor and glory of God, will be for some other reason, we take these thing with us when we die, if our life is for something else and a rejection of God, we could be in a lot of trouble. The thing most of us have is purgatory, where we can get rid of all of our baggage we die with.God Bless You, everyone.!!:slight_smile:
Jesus doesn’t tell me everything, sometimes I have to ask:)

That’s basically it. IF this person does not repent at that last milli-nano-second, it doesn’t look good for him.

Mass is where one goes to be with Jesus. Jesus is AT the Mass. It could be said, since this man didn’t want to go to Mass and be with Jesus, then, he doesn’t want to be with Jesus (since, he chose the world over Jesus) and, thus, if we follow logic, Jesus will give him what he wants.

Ohhhh, I feel so sorry for this hypothetical man you mention. It’s really scary to think this could happen.

His priorities are disordered, this HypoMan’s. He willingly and knowledgeably turned his back on God. He told God that HIS wants are more important than his needs and God’s wants.

We must pray to preserve till the end and we must pray for all others who are Christian and who will be Christian to preserve until the end.

Thank you John for your clear answer. I know to y’all that debating Sola Scriptura is more interesting, but thank you for taking the time to answer.

The rest of y’all, is john here correct.

And the make the hypothetical clear, not his last conscious thought was not an act of contrition. He was dead via the accident before he could express contrition.

(now being a good Catholic probably during the week, his negligence would have gotten to his conscience and he probably would have gone to confession the next week. But his death negated this possibility).

Thank you for your answer here.

If this man is not in a state of grace (and remember, only GOD can fully judge his heart) and does not repent, then he will go to hell–and he will have willingly and freely placed himself there.

Remember, nobody ‘deserves’ heaven. Grace is a free gift which we are capable of accepting–or rejecting–at any time in our lives until the hour of death.

At the hour of death we make our final acceptance or rejection.

Now the point is this:

No matter how ‘godly’ a person’s life. . .one rejection of God is all it takes if it is the ‘final’ rejection. Likewise, no matter how UNgodly a person’s life, one ‘acceptance’ is all it takes if it is the final rejection.

That means that the stereotypical–well, we’ll say “Joe Stalin” for example could with TRUE repentance at the point of death receive the grace of heaven, ultimately. . .as well as --well, we’ll say “Mother Teresa” could, with TRUE mortal sin and NO repentance at the point of death have chosen hell.

But of course, only God knows the heart. All we can speak on is the ‘appearance’.

Also remember, God doesn’t ‘cheat.’ He isn’t a ‘gotcha’ kind of guy, just waiting to get Ms. ‘goody two shoes’ out on a technicality, laughing to himself knowing, "all those good deeds aren’t going to do squat because I know you’ll be missing Mass the last day of your life and you won’t have time to be sorry, bwa-haha’.

God wills all of us to have sufficient grace to be saved. IF any of us wind up placing ourselves in Hell, it won’t be from some ‘tiny lapse’ that happens to be a mortal sin ‘according to the big bad Cat-licks’ that we (wonderful we) would have repented had we had ‘time enough’ to do so.

God isn’t ‘unfair’ and mortal sin isn’t ‘unfair’ and final impenitence isn’t unfair. . . in fact, God is extremely fair and the consequences to mortal sin and final impenitence are extremely fair. . .

Read Scripture and you will see references to God 'chastising" those He LOVES, “as a father does a favorite son.” The ‘fairness’ of the consequences of mortal sin are indeed that it IS mortal. Thus, the person KNOWS that he is in danger of eternal damnation. He HAS to, else the sin is not mortal. It is precisely BECAUSE He loves us that God warns us of the dangers of mortal sin and the consequences should we persist.

If we ignore that warning, we can’t hold GOD responsible for our damnation; He did everything He could, in His love, to save us. . .He gave us the warning, He gave us the means (repentance) to reject that sin which would have damned us, and to bring us back to salvation. . .but WE would be refusing to listen and refusing to take that ‘rope’ of salvation, and freely throwing ourselves into the pit of hell instead. . .with no ‘regrets’. No cries after death of “If only you’d have given me the TIME to go to confession later, I’d have done it!”

Harsh. Hope he was a cowboys fan.:smiley:

Your question, is a good one and, believe it or not, the Church has not addressed infallibly what exactly would happen in that case. It is unclear if people will be given an opportunity to reflect, however briefly, at the moment their soul leave their body and before they stand before God in the particular judgment. They are some who claim we will all have a chance to accept or reject God’s mercy and some who claim we do not. The Church has not spoken infallibly on this detail.

Your assertion that when a grave sin is committed and the circumstances of that grave sin make it a mortal sin is not completely accurate. It would be more correct to say that Catholic Church teaches that a person’s places their immortal soul in grave peril when they sin morally.

Another issue you may want to learn more about is that of perfect, imperfect and lack of genuine contrition. In order for a confession to be valid and for sins to be forgiven, it is not enough for the person to confess them. They have to earnestly and honestly intend to amend their ways and not to commit that sin again. If we were genuinely sarry for our sin, we would not want to commit it again. To confess without intending to stop is called lack of contrition.

Imperfect contrition is when we are sorry for our sins and earnestly seek to amend our ways but we are motivated by the fear of punishment or Hell. Still, it works.

Perfect contrition is when we are sorry or ashamed of our sins because we know each of our sins, mortal or venial, offend God and we are sad that we have offended God

Finally, let me add that the Catholic Church, the Church does indeed infallibly teach that certain people have made it to Heaven. These people are the canonized saints. However, in all her nearly 2,000 year history, while the Church does indeed teach that people can and do go to Hell, she has never taught that a specific person is in Hell; not even Judas.

Death, than which nothing is more certain
Judgment, than which nothing is more strict
Hell, than which nothing is more terrible
Paradise, than which nothing is more delightful
writings of Pope John XX111:):):):):):):slight_smile:

There is the prefect, truly sorry, heartly sorry, with the resolution of never doing such a thing again. needed for a valid confession.

No one accidently goes to hell, its a free choice, a rejection of God ; the rejection of everything associated with the Godness of God. One thing I would like to remind you of is the fact that its very difficult to sin while praying., keep a prayer in you heart, always, enjoy the love of the Lord.

Interesting. I sense the possibility of disagreement with previous posts. Just to clarify…

My hypothetical assumed no opportunity to repent. Is what you are saying is that it is possible that this hypothetical would never be.

BTW this theory of last opportunity to reflect at the moment of death is not a Catholic thing only. I have heard folks on my side of the fence reflect on the possibity of this.

Just to clarify, if it is possible that we all are given a brief opportunity to reflect before the soul leaves the body, I assume this fellow would repent. However, if that is not assured, then I am assuming that no opportunity is provided.

I don’t understand. Under what circumstances would a sin not be mortal if all of the conditions of mortal sin per your Catechism are met?

A grave sin (as described in this thread) is a mortal sin. When someone commits a mortal sin, the soul becomes “spiritually dead”. This means that Sanctifying Grace (what makes us holy and united with God) is lost - it is the “supernatural life of the soul”. This is why such a sin is called mortal.

A soul is immortal with regards to natural life. Someone in the state of mortal sin (or even in hell) still has a immortal soul.

OK. That is what I was saying and was what my understanding was in the first place.

For me, I believe the best course is assume we will have no opportunity to repent at the moment of death. Rather we should strive to always be in a state of grace and when we fall, we should repent and confess as soon as possible.

I don’t understand. Under what circumstances would a sin not be mortal if all of the conditions of mortal sin per your Catechism are met?

I think a typo in what I posted may have thrown you off. Note I corrected the last word. (I am the typo king! :o )

Your assertion that when a grave sin is committed and the circumstances of that grave sin make it a mortal sin is not completely accurate. It would be more correct to say that Catholic Church teaches that a person’s places their immortal soul in grave peril when they sin mortally.

First, remember that foir a sin to be a mortal sin, a sin that brings death to the soul, three criteria must be met. First, the sin must be a grave sin. For example, it is not likely that a husband’s answer to the wife’s question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” would be mortally sinful because it is not grave matter. Lying on a job application, however, would be a grave sin if the truth would prevent you from getting a job.

Second, The person must know it is a sin. In reality, most mentally healthy people know right from wrong and thus cannot claim ignorance. Rejecting the sinfulness of something does not qualify as ignorance either. For example, one cannot claim ignorance what having sex outside of marriage is sinful.

Third, the act must be willful. That means you cannot sin accidentally. For example, it is not a sin if you give people false information if you believed that information was accurate. It is not a sin if you made a mistake when you filed your taxes because you thought a deduction was permissible.

When all three are present in an action, then the sin is mortal. The soul dies and communion with the Lord is broken. Only sincere repentance with true contrition, normally, but not exclusively, in the sacrament of Confession, can bring life back to the soul. Baptism and Extreme Unction (Last Rites) also have the ability to forgive sin.

What I am trying to say is that quote is that it is also a very grave sin top judge the state of a person’s soul. That is, after all, what Christ meant when He said “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That is why the Church would say a person’s soul is in grave peril [of Hell] when they commit a mortal sin.

Correct. However, we must remember that Christianity does not teach dualism, that our bodies and souls/spirits are somehow separate. Our body and spirit are inseparably connected and we are not complete unless we posses both. That is what separates us from animals and angels. Animals have a body, but no immortal soul/spirit. Angels have a spirit, but no body.

Between the time of our death and the resurrection, we are not complete, even though we may be in Heaven, purgatory or Hell. At the end of the age, when Christ returns, our bodies will be resurrected, perfected and out soul reunited with our body. Then there is the General Judgment where people are sent bodily to Heaven or Hell. (I am not sure if Purgatory will be empty by the time of the General Judgment, if not, then some will go there, bodily, as well.)

Question. Let me see if I can word it correctly.

Is my understanding correct.

It is true that if a person commits a grave offense under full advice and consent and then dies prior to repentance and contrition, then this person will be in hell. In other words, this is the rule.

Then the reason why you can not say that a given individual is in hell is not whether the rule is correct or not. Rather it is because there is no way that you as a third party observer can no with 100% accuracy (1) whether all of the conditions for mortality were present (2) whether the individual did or did not repent prior to the point of death.

But before the resurrection our body and soul are not inseparably connected (in actuality) - they are separated at death, and then we are not complete. (But I agree that our body and soul are inseparably connected in the concept of what we are, as compared to the animals).

At the resurrection, we will be forever complete, our body and soul reunited inseparably.

(I think we’re really agreed)

Yes, I believe that is correct. I would not use the word “rule”, however. Instead, I would say that is God’s justice or a Catholic or Christian “teaching”.

Then the reason why you can not say that a given individual is in hell is not whether the rule is correct or not. Rather it is because there is no way that you as a third party observer can no with 100% accuracy (1) whether all of the conditions for mortality were present (2) whether the individual did or did not repent prior to the point of death.

Correct on both points.

As an aside, I appreciate that you ask these questions with sincerity and respond in a polite manner. Thank you for that.

Like I say, my motive for being here is not to debate. Instead it is to learn and evaluate.

I have a little thing against using the Word of God as a debate tool. Besides I am NotTooSmart and therefore not very good at debating anyway.

I believe Matt. 24:43-44 gives the necessary guidance on the hypothetical for this thread.

When death comes, our account is closed and being in a state of unrepented mortal sin becomes our final choice.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit