I’m a fairly new member of the Catholic Evidence Guild in New York City. A question came up during our monthly Apologetic meeting in Washington Square Park…is stealing a mortal sin. I would like to get some feed back from other forum members. Thanks for your time, and God Bless to All.
The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others. (CCC 2408)
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. (CCC 1754)
It is my understanding that the gravity of the theft is conditioned upon the level of harm it does to the offended party, and the need of the person doing the stealing. Which is to say, it can be a mortal sin, but is not always.
First of all sins are more correctly described as ‘grave’ rather than ‘mortal’, since a sin requires full knowledge and consent on the part of the sinner to actually be mortal. Knowledge and consent are really something only a sinner can judge about themselves.
Stealing quite obviously varies widely in gravity depending on the circumstances. For example the amount stolen - I think everyone would agree that taking 5 cents in any circumstances would be venial, taking $1 million in pretty much any circumstances would be grave.
There is a huge amount of gray area in this as many other sins - was the stealing done out of dire poverty or while the thief was in the grip of addiction? These would make the sin most likely venial. Was the robbery done with unnecessary violence or utilising fraud as well, or was it planned well in advance in cold blood and with no real need for the valuables? That would make it more serious and most likely grave and/or mortal.
There is no easy answer for this one.
thanks for the replys. This is the exact situation that came up during our discussions. It seems to depend on the gravity of the situation. But I said that stealing is a mortal sin…a sin is a sin. You can’t make it into a subjective issue. One member said that stealing $10.00 from a rich person won’t hurt them as much as stealing $10.00 from a poor person. While on the surface this is true, its still stealing, still breaking one of the 10 commandments. And it still meets the qualifications of a mortal sin, 1-its an evil act, 2-you have full knowledge, 3-dilberate consent of the will.
Thanks in advance. !!
But. The fact that it is an evil act does of necessity make it a mortal sin. It is definitely a sin. But the subjective element comes in to distinguish whether that sin is mortal or venial. I don’t think either of your responders said it was definitely a mortal sin. Sometimes it is. But not always.
You mis-characterized the first – and key – condition for a sin to be mortal. It should be: 1-It must be a grave matter. That is what makes the difference between mortal and veniel sin. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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.”
The distinction of mortal vs. veniel sin is crucial Catholic belief which distiguishes our view of sin from many Protestants who do not make this distinction (despite 1 John 5:16). Being a member of the CEG (great organization, BTW), you need to gain a good grasp of this concept. I suggest the following resources:
Thanks for the answers. So, what then is a Grave Matter?? Isn’t stealing a grave matter?? From what I know A grave matter is an evil or immoral act. Am I being too picky??
You are not being picky – you are are being imprecise by failing to differentiate between what is a sin, as opposed to what constitutes grave matter.
Stealing is the type of sin that is commited. The circumstances of the sin is what determines whether it is grave matter or not. See Post #2.
Also, Please read the links I gave you for a more comprehensive treatment.
Exactly - a good place to look is under the section of the Catechism that deals with the ten commandments - under the commandment ‘thou shalt not steal’.
As the earlier post points out, the Catechism itself states that whether stealing is grave matter (and hence possibly a mortal sin) or not varies from case to case.