No Mortal Sin?

Today my DH and I went to the TLM that we normally go to, and afterwards stopped at another local church because I was interested in hearing the homily. Boy, were we in for a shock!!

Instead of speaking about the Gospel, the priest answered questions that had been submitted earlier in the summer. One question was, have I committed a mortal sin if I am not a virgin when I marry? The priest started out with (to paraphrase), “There are three things that have to be present for a sin to to be mortal. Intent, willingness and knowledge. I have committed many sins in my life, some silly, some serious, but I HAVE NEVER COMMITTED A MORTAL SIN IN MY LIFE, AND I DOUBT THAT ANY OF YOU HAVE, EITHER!” Huh? You mean no one there has ever willingly and knowingly missed Mass, no one has ever been drunk or done drugs, no one has ever used artificial birth control, no one has ever blasphemed God, etc? I couldn’t believe my ears. He explained that mortal sin is a sin that separates one from God, so is he implying that it is next to impossible to be separated from God? He went on to say that fornication is wrong, but what about those couples who are engaged? He said he would talk about that another time if people were interested, leaving the distinct impression that maybe sex between engaged couples might be all right.

If mortal sin is so rare, and so few people ever commit mortal sin, why did our Lord have to die such a horrible death on the cross? I think it should be noted that this particular church has one scheduled confession each month for 45 minutes. I think I now know why.

I am seriously thinking of reporting this priest to our bishop. Am I over reacting?


Not at all.

While he is right in that mortal sins are harder to commit than some folks seem to think, this is the sort of thing I would never tell to the entire congregation composed of scrupulous and lax and in-betweens alike. Such an explanation also needs much more theological nuance than he gave it to properly explain it. I would bet that after hearing that, most folks probably though, “Good, nothing I do can possibly be that bad…” and will happily go on sinning and sinning boldly.

Also, although I can’t know, I really doubt that he’s never committed a mortal sin and I really doubt that most of the congregation have never committed one. I bet there are plenty of folks in a state of sin in your average congregation.

Utterly reckless treatment of sin, I would say.

What gets me is how a priest, who underwent 7 years of formation, can say such a thing. the dichotomy between mortal and venial sin and their relationship to the Sacrament of Penance is one of the fundamental points of the Catholic faith. I even teach my Sunday school class about the difference between mortal and venial sin, something this priest obviously doesn’t know. Maybe I’m just a little hot-headed, but if this happened in my diocese, I’d be “some ugly about it,” as my grandfather used to put it.

I would caution you about reporting him to the bishop so quickly. The first thing I would do is to talk to some parishioners to see if he has done this routinely, and then talk with him yourself.

Fr. William Saunders

The presents the three criteria that must be satisfied for a sin to be mortal. First, the act committed must be considered grave or serious matter. Mortal sins are heinous in the eyes of God. Throughout the moral section of the , some sins are noted as “gravely sinful” (No. 2268). For example, “The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful.” Second, the sinner must have full knowledge of the sinful character of the act; in other words, he must be acting with an informed intellect and must know this act violates God’s eternal law. Third, the sinner must give full consent of the will, meaning that he has reflected on doing the action and deliberately wants to do it.

Mortal sin destroys our union with God and the presence of sanctifying grace in our souls. Because these are heinous actions in the eyes of God, for a person to knowingly and willingly commit them indicates a turning away from the love of God. Anyone conscious of a mortal sin must undergo an interior conversion and then receive forgiveness and absolution through the sacrament of penance. Until making a good confession and receiving sacramental absolution, anyone conscious of being in a state of mortal sin cannot receive holy Communion, except under extraordinary circumstance, e.g. no possibility of going to confession (Cf. , No. 1457). Moreover, an unrepentant person guilty of mortal sin objectively risks eternal damnation in hell; however, “although we can judge that an act is in itself a grace offense, we must entrust judgment of a person to the justice and mercy of God” (, No. 1861).

My question is, with preaching like I heard today, how is anyone going to know he/she has committed a mortal sin? The sermon I heard today was basically, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” Not exactly good catechesis.


Definitely not! I’m sorry I don’t have more to say, I’m a little speechless right now.

You are not overreacting! You should tell your bishop about this.

If the priest knows full well the doctrine of the church, doesn’t that mean he is under mortal for teaching falsely?

It is fairly safe to assume that the priest has been misinformed.

The key to the issue is the concept of “full consent of the will” and knowledge of the seriousness of the act. The pastor is voicing his opinion that full concent of the will and full understanding of the seriousness of the act is lacking in most human activity. You may not agree with him, but after 60 years of observing people, I think he’s probably right. Most people don’t think enough to make the judgements required to make a sin mortal. The Church’s problem is that the people writing the rule book believe that the rest of the world thinks as much as they do. Clearly an unwaranted assumption on their part.
Further, the fact that he was speaking to people who were at Mass on Sunday morning meant that they had not sinned so far as to cut themselves off entirely from God’s grace.


So you agree that mortal sin is very rare? You don’t think that people outside the church who are involved in hedonistic life styles are aware that they are doing wrong? The apostle Paul said there is a natural law that we all know.

I know that it is very common for Catholics to miss Mass, use artificial birth control, believe abortion is okay, homosexuality is okay, etc. What about these Catholics? Haven’t they committed mortal sins?


maybe he’s right? perhaps people aren’t as bad as you all seem to think.

No-- you are not over reacting.

I doubt if many adult Christians are scared by term, “Mortal Sins“, because of Romans Chapter Eight.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1,2)


It isn’t a question of ‘people not being as bad as you think’. The Calvinistic extreme of all being totally depraved is just as much an error, though, as this current teaching of people being, really, not all that bad. A grain of truth in it, but that’s why it’s so dangerous. It’s the extremes --we are TERRIBLE, we are WONDERFUL–that cause the trouble.

Seriously, some of the great theologians once wrote that, in any given age, the devil works hardest to do two things:

To make the most ‘prevalent’ virtue of that age twisted or exaggerated. For example, ‘courage’ is a virtue to combat cowardice. To exaggerate courage, though, one can become a bully. . .and what is a bully but a coward?

To make the most prominent vice of that age seem LEAST important, and to make the least prominent vice of that age seem MOST important. Thus, he works to make people think that sexual immorality, for example, is the LEAST of our problems, while he makes it seem that intolerance is the MOST important problem. This artificial exaggeration leads us to ignore the vice that most people are REALLY struggling with, and makes it seem as though EVERYONE is guilty of intolerance. Further, anyone who starts to talk about sexual immorality is THEN accused of INTOLERANCE!!

So in this age of 'I’m ok, you’re ok". . .the Devil is working hardest on making us think that, hey, we are NOT really that bad. Not as bad as many others, in fact, pretty darn good.

Of course, this ignores many Biblical passages. . .gives rise to the vices of pride and sloth, totally disregards the virtues of humility. . .

Yes, some scrupulous people may take things to heart. . .but far more are taking the fast track to the hot place by NOT taking things to heart. I’m by no means belittling the scrupulous, but there are and have been many more safeguards and helps available for them, whereas for those who blindly follow along with “I’m a pretty okay guy” there are NO safegards, no helps. While a scrupulous person ‘knows himself’ quite well and frets at his 'failings", these “I’m okayers” do NOT know themselves (or they would indeed be aware that, while they may not be guilty right now of a serious sin, they certainly have faults and failings which THEY NEED TO ADDRESS), and thus they do not think they need do any more than they already do. And that is quite wrong, and it may indeed be death to them eternally, though I pray it will not be.

your also not looking at the population as a whole. do you think 90% of Catholics using ABC actually KNOW church teaching?? you’re on this forum, you’re among folk who search out the truths of the faith… notice there are only about 1000 people who regularly post here out of the entire WORLD?

people are dumb, and their ignorance is what keeps the sins from being mortal.

don’t overestimate the intelligence of the average person. if you polled the average Catholic they wouldn’t know a motu proprio from a palliumm let alone the seriousness of their sins.

Amen and Amen! Father Groeschel says he has heard the confessions of many holy people in his life, some of whom will no doubt be cannonized saints, and they always had so much to confess. One time, though, he heard the confession of a man in the mob who was on his death bed, and he couldn’t think of anything he had done wrong.

As the Bible says, Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall, and always remember, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I can’t believe Christ died such an ignominious death on the cross when he could have just said hey, they’re all stupid and don’t know any better, so there is no sin! And I can’t believe any Catholic who can read is unaware of the Church’s teachings on birth control, attending Mass, etc.

I have been guilty of mortal sin in my life, and I find it hard to believe that anyone can live in this world and not have committed mortal sin. I need a Saviour, and I thank God he has provided himself as a Saviour, not only for me but for the whole world. But first, all must admit they need a Saviour.


Father Amorth says that ignorance is the eighth sacrament and it saves more people than all the others put together. I honestly don’t think that a lot of people truly know what they’re doing when they sin, and that if they did they wouldn’t.

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