Other possible understandings of Mortal Sin?


#21

That’s what I have been taught as a Byzantine Catholic.

ZP


#22

The catechism teaches two relevant points here. First, mortal sin is a direct act against love of God or neighbor. It destroys love in us. It’s a choice to hate, to turn away from goodness. The second point, less well known probably, is that persistence in it is required. Those two points bring the matter into sharper focus for me. While God judges by the heart, the Church is giving us guidelines for what an unjustified heart “looks like” on the outside. It’s not a mechanical thing, not to God anyway, as if He might otherwise have to send us to hell on a technicality if we happen to die in a car crash while distracted by an impure thought. But it easily gets twisted into a bit of legalism by us it seems


#23

I hesitate to jump in here, because clearly this is an area with the potential for all sorts of misunderstandings. But here are some thoughts–

The “Fundamental Option” is really Calvinism thinly disguised. It’s the idea that once you have declared for God, you are “saved,” and trivial little things like committing sins (!) don’t change your fundamental orientation. Clearly this is against Catholic teaching, as others above have pointed out.

But I think there is a solution to the problem (I’m sure its not my own invention, it’s probably a cliche to anyone who has studied it). If you make the assumption that someone who has “declared for God” is someone who is totally aware of the importance of God and the role of God in his/her life, then you would be led to the conclusion that this sort of person is extremely unlikely to sin. I don’t know how common these people are–1 in a billion? 1 in a hundred? 1 in 10?–but if you really, truly believed in an all-powerful God, etc. etc. I think it would be hard to sin. In an example above, Mass vs. football on TV, if you truly believed in God, it wouldn’t even cross your mind not to go to Mass.

I think the problem is that very few of us (again, how common??) have that sort of depth of belief. We SAY we believe, and we do to a certain extent, but very few of us act like it.

In the OP’s example of going back and forth from sanctity to mortal sin, I think you have to ask whether the “mortal sin” is actually perceived as such by the person committing it. In other words, does the person say, “Yes, this is really serious, I understand that. And I understand that this will fracture my relationship with God and potentially send me to Hell for eternity. But, hey, it’s a good football game, so I’m going to go with it…” Not a likely scenario. I’m not sure how to express it better, but this person lacks the depth (for lack of a better word) of faith necessary to understand the gravity of the act. So John Doe may be a great guy and do good works all over the place, but he would NOT have the “fundamental option” of choosing God (in the terms the Fundamental Option theologians would have it). And the “mortal sins” would, for this person, NOT be mortal sins.

I’m not being judgmental. I think almost all of us are like that (again, I’m guessing the actual percentage). But I think there is a combination of misunderstanding of “X is a mortal sin” and a lack of complete freedom to choose; I think committing a mortal sin is probably pretty rare.


#24

I think the fundamental option is fundamentally flawed, bad theology, and against reason. The distinction between mortal and venial sin is divinely revealed, i.e., it comes from the word of God itself, divine revelation contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Consider the doctrine of original sin. Adam and Eve were given a commandment by God which they disobeyed and lost sanctifying grace and other supernatural and preternatural gifts. They were expelled from the Garden of Paradise and suffered death. Both the expulsion from the garden and death of the body signify the mortal nature of their sin. This one act of disobedience was a mortal sin.

In the divine law given by God through Moses to the Israelites, there are a number of human acts that were punishable by death, i.e, mortal sins. It is inadmissable to suggest that the revealed divine law of God given to the Israelites of the Old Testament is fundamentally flawed. Again, certain individual acts such as murder and adultery were punishable by death.

St John speaks of certain sins that are deadly and the New Testament writings from the words of Jesus in the gospels to the other writings list various sins which keep us away from inheriting the eternal kingdom of heaven.

I do not see a problem with the notion that a person may go in and out of sanctifying grace on a weekly basis presuming they go to confession weekly. This indicates a person has a conscience. On the other hand, a person who repeatably commits acts that are intrinsically grave in themselves and doesn’t think that they might be in the state of mortal sin I think is very worrisome. It is possible that they may not be in the state of mortal sin. Only God really knows this. But I think it would be presumptuous which itself is a sin to not consider the possibility that they may not be in the state of grace which is why we need to go to confession if we commit an act that is grave even if it is not actually mortally sinful due to the other conditions not being completely fulfilled or defective. As the Church teaches, unless by a divine revelation, we cannot know with certainty whether we are in the state of grace.


#25

(continued)

Also, this idea of the fundamental option can lead one to conclude that any sin that some person may commit is not mortal, for example, abortion, fornication, or adultery. A couple living together outside of marriage and engaging in sexual relations could conclude that their sexual relations are not mortally sinful as long as this ‘fundamental option’ is invoked in some manner. And this ‘fundamental option’ could be extrapolated to virtually any and all moral evils or sins such as another example, contraception. It doesn’t make any sense. A person continually engaging in fornication knowing it is a grave sin but invokes the ‘fundamental option’ so that the act is considered just a venial sin is not fundamentally any different in a certain sense than a person practicing chastity. In effect, it’s like calling evil good and good evil. It goes against common sense. A person could be a serial killer and says that they love God and neighbor and not be fundamentally different than a person who is not. Is it reasonable to consider that a serial killer is in the state of sanctifying grace?

Going back to the weekly in and out of the state of grace idea you mention, it is possible that this may not actually be the case depending on the individual involved but in many cases it is not possible to determine either by oneself or by the priest whether one is in the state of grace or not. In fact, the Church teaches that no one can know with certainty not even the priest unless by divine revelation that one is in the state of grace but there are signs of it. And this I think is more to the point. We acknowledge our failings and sins in confession and strive to do better. As others and possibly you have mentioned too, not only the the act committed must be grave but the other two conditions must be met also for mortal sin to occur. The act in question generally or always involves an act intrinsically evil in its object which neither circumstances or intention can make it morally good and acceptable. It is a bad human act always. Accordingly, we must strive and struggle with the help of God’s grace to overcome our failings and if we fall which all of us do at times or even often and daily, we go to confession. I see the ‘fundamental option’ idea as going against the very nature of the christian spiritual life which is a constant struggle against sin and the pursuit of the perfection of charity as well as cheapening the idea of sin resulting in the loss of the sense of sin which is mortally detrimental to the christian life.

‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord , Lord , shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven’ (Matt. 7:21).


#26

It’s kind of insulting to insinuate that an unmarried couple having sex is at all in anyway related to a serial killer, even if they both think they are not committing a sin the killer obviously is regardless of any religion.


#27

Without reading more of the book it’s hard to say how this author’s views are different from the fundamental option view. It sounds very similar.

I think the Church knows that there are degrees of “knowledge” (one of them being “full”), and that there are degrees of “consent” (one of them being described as “deliberate”). Priest are trained in all this stuff, but most lay people don’t seem to have a good handle on it.

I don’t think there is much of a problem with the Church’s sin definitions. They just aren’t very accessible to lay people in an in depth way.


#28

The point is they are both mortal or grave sins in their object. Any further relation such as what you insinuate or suggest is of your own doing.


#29

So from a Catholic perspective it would seem that some Mortal sins are much worse than others. But I’m just happy that all of Society agrees serial killers should be arrested.


#30

Well yes, some mortal sins are more grave than others objectively speaking such as killing is over fornicating but I think it is possible that the circumstances and intention in a certain case could reverse that. I used the example of the serial killer as like going from bad (fornicating) to worse objectively considered in speaking of the fundamental option and its application. So, in a sense, you kind of misinterpreting what I was getting at. However, any mortal or grave sin merits eternal punishment so in this sense they are all simply very bad. I mean, I wouldn’t want to work toward meriting either a higher or lower place in hell.


#31

Well I am sure if there is a heaven there are no such thing as levels higher or lower. If there are I would sure be happy with any kind of one bedroom studio in the suburbs. :wink:


#32

I would not be to sure of that… Imagine the, at least the internal, outrage if said serial killer preyed only on pedophiles.


#33

I agree. Just as in law, you can label a huge range of things “felonies,” but clearly stealing a car is nothing like killing 56 people in a mass shooting. And yet they are both felonies, and the punishment for each is not that different (assuming no death penalty).

I think one thing that hasn’t been brought up but probably (?) assumed is that a lot of people confuse sin in a religious sense and crime in a legal sense. A lot of things that are “crimes” are not a sin (unless you count disobeying a law as a sin…but of course you could do some of these things unwittingly). Jaywalking? Littering? Not coming to a full stop at a stop sign? And conversely a lot of sins aren’t crimes (missing Mass on Sunday, ignoring a day of fast or abstinence, coveting your neighbor’s wife…). So I think step #1 in any discussion like this is to clearly separate the two, despite some overlap (murder, theft, perjury, etc.), and realize that sins are not necessarily crimes.

I don’t think anyone here disputes the idea that some things are intrinsically evil, or “mortal sins” if you want to use that term, objectively–i.e. in the eyes of God. I think there are several issues though, which seem to be skimmed over in Veritatis Splendor, probably intentionally. First, of course, is “How do we know God thinks this is a mortal sin/intrinsically evil?” No space to go into it, but I think if you consider it for a few minutes, it’s not quite the simple issue some may think.

Second is the issue you gave: clearly (to human beings–who knows what God thinks) there are gradations of mortal sin, just as there are gradations of felonies. Dante even wrote a poem about it! Pre-marital sex–mortal sin? Yes, as the Church teaches. Murdering numerous people after torturing them?–also a mortal sin. Equivalent? I for one can’t believe God would think they are equivalent. Deserving of the same punishment? Certainly debatable. I think the key here is that “normal” people would clearly see that natural law is against serial killing of random people. They would be repulsed by it and not even tempted to do it. Pre-marital sex? How many people are repulsed by that? How many wouldn’t be tempted? So in terms of “Do you believe it’s a serious sin,” I think any normal person would say “Yes” to serial killing, but very few (in the general population–but even among Catholics) would say “Yes” in the case of pre-marital sex. Or, as Veritatis Splendor says, “an act which is grave by reason of its matter does not constitute a mortal sin because of a lack of full awareness…”

The third point is full consent of the will. Veritatis Splendor says “…deliberate consent on the part of the person performing it.” What exactly does that mean? And if you got 100 cardinals in a room and asked them each to define it, how many different definitions would you end up with? Which is probably why the Church does NOT define it beyond that rather vague and ambiguous wording.


#34

Just as there are people in hell who are worse sinners than others and thus suffer a greater degree of punishment so also in heaven there are some people who were more good than others in their life on earth and thus merit a higher or greater degree of a share in God’s beatitude or eternal happiness. Not everyone dies in the same degree of holiness, charity, sanctifying grace, and meritorious works. Jesus said ‘in my Father’s house there are many mansions’ and this has been traditionally understood in the Church as the varying degrees of the sanctity of the souls in heaven. And St Paul said ‘star differs from star’ meaning the same thing. All this follows from God’s justice and various doctrines of the Church such as the doctrine of merit. We can and ought to grow in holiness and sanctity every day every minute of our lives on earth.

The angels themselves in heaven hold higher and lower ranks or orders among themselves as God created them. It is traditionally taught in the Church among the doctors and saints that there are three hierarchies of angels and nine choirs or orders, three choirs in each hierarchy. Each lower choir of angels have a superior choir or choirs of angels above them. Using an army of soldiers as an analogy, at the head is the general followed by the commander or commanders, next are the captains followed by the officers or lieutenants and finally the infantry.

Yes, I agree. If I’m the lowest person in heaven, I’ll be happy, extremely and eternally so just so long as I get there. Everybody in heaven is going to be fully happy for we will all be with God eternally.


#35

We know God thinks some particular act is a mortal sin by (1) the authentic teaching of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit which Jesus appointed as the authentic interpreter of the deposit of the faith, namely, of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which is the revealed word of God. As I said previously, in the Old Law which includes the 10 commandments given by God to the Israelites, there are various actions or sins that were punishable by death, i.e, mortal or capital punishment. This indicates obviously the serious nature of the sin. And the New Testament speaks of various sins that exclude one from the kingdom of God such as the lists that St Paul gives in various places and the words of Jesus in various places of the gospels. Sacred Scripture is the word of God so that is how we know what God thinks about various sins as well as what we ought to do in doing good works. This can be found everywhere in the pages of the whole Bible beginning with the sin of Adam and Eve which was an act of disobedience to God.

(2) We can use the natural light of reason to understand the natural law too to a certain extent. The Ten Commandments are said to belong to the natural law as St Paul says ‘they [the gentiles] who do not have the Law [the law of Moses] but who do the works of the Law have it written in their hearts’ (I’m paraphasing without looking up the precise scripture). One of the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve (original sin) was a darkening of the mind or ignorance and our own personal sins contribute to this darkening of the intellect and so it makes it more difficult to ascertain in certain respects what the natural law prescribes but it is not impossible but because of the effects of original sin and our own personal sins various people dispute what the natural law prescribes in certain respects and details. Accordingly, so that all humans, the learned and the unlearned, may know with certainty what God expects from us according to the natural law, God supernaturally revealed to us the Ten Commandments of which all the various virtues or good works and vices or bad works can be reduced too. And the Ten Commandments can be reduced to the love of God and the love of neighbor as Jesus taught. By the natural light of reason and as we been saying, we can determine that some sins are worse or more grave than others such as murder over stealing. We see this in the various punishments that the state imposes for various crimes. For certain crimes the state may impose capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole which is like an analogy of mortal sin.


#36

(continued)

Theologically understood, mortal sin merits eternal punishment while venial sin merits a temporal punishment. Eternal punishment I think is essentially a divinely revealed truth however it can be philosophically reasoned in a certain sense. For example, it can be philosophically demonstrated that the human soul is immortal or incorruptible in itself and that it survives death of the body which all humans experience. Accordingly, if God doesn’t annihilate the soul which depends on him at all times to preserve it in existence even though in itself it doesn’t have anything naturally to corrupt it, than it is possible to consider that human souls could potentially survive eternally without their bodies in a state of being half human like which could be considered a sort of punishment. However, God has revealed to us He has other plans such as the resurrection of all the dead to restore us to being a complete human being, body and soul. God had originally intended for human beings to be immortal body and soul in the persons of our first parents before they sinned and transmitted death to the whole human race.

Mortal sin also destroys sanctifying grace and charity in a soul. Sanctifying grace and charity are both supernatural gifts God bestows on the soul. Being that they are supernatural and above human nature, we could only know of their existence if God revealed it to us. Our end which is union with God in heaven and the beatific vision is supernatural and so we could not know this either without God revealing it to us. So, some or much of the things we are discussing here are based on divine revelation, God’s word, and considered within the context of humans last end which is supernatural. At the same time, we can use our reason to put the various truths of the faith together and draw conclusions from the natural light of reason. But being that the supernatural is above the natural, we can only reason so far or to a certain extent by the natural light of reason.

The question concerning the intrinsic evil of an act is really quite simple I think. It follows from the very definition or object of a human act. For example, in the Ten Commandments we have negative precepts such as thou shall not kill which we define as murder and murder is the taking of an innocent life. Murder by its very definition is a bad human act, intrinsically evil in its object, namely, murder. The same goes for stealing, perjury, lying, the seven capital sins, in fact, the names we give to all vices. We understand by the very definition of these various kinds of acts that they are bad or evil and thus intrinsically evil in their object. Virtues are good acts in their object such as acts of the four cardinal virtues. The difference between a morally good act and a morally bad act is that for an act to be morally good the object, circumstances, and intention must all be good whereas only one of these sources need be bad for a bad, evil, or sinful act to occur.


#37

[quote=“Richca, post:35, topic:523421”]
We know God thinks some particular act is a mortal sin by (1) the authentic teaching of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit which Jesus appointed as the authentic interpreter of the deposit of the faith, namely, of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which is the revealed word of God.
[/quote] I’ll end the quotation there for lack of space, but my response is for all of it.

I think we see the world differently. I see almost all shades of grey, you seem to see black and white. It’s all very well and good to say “X is a mortal sin.” Fine. But that’s NOT the issue I raised. In fact, the first sentence of my third paragraph reads “I don’t think anyone here disputes the idea that some things are intrinsically evil…etc.” The point being that objectively, out there in God’s mind, X is a mortal sin. The problem is reading God’s mind and equating the X in God’s mind with an action on earth. That is difficult and complex.

Please don’t spend more time telling me about the Ten Commandments, etc. That’s not the point. The point is this: How do you know that when Susie Q does X on Sept. 10, 2018 at precisely 10:15 AM in a specific set of circumstances, which include everything in Susie Q’s life up to this point that has made Susie Q who she is, that that specific act is a mortal sin? And the answer is, clearly, you don’t know. She shoots Mr. K with a gun and kills him. Is that a mortal sin? Who knows? It depends. Yet the Commandment is clearly “Thou shalt not kill.” But does it apply here? It is NOT black and white. It’s a very, very grey area. In fact, it’s SO grey that maybe Susie Q’s action is heroic and deserving of a medal. Maybe Mr. K was about to stab a baby to death, so she shot him. Give her a medal! Maybe she just hated Mr. K and shot him. Put her in jail! It’s complex.


#38

[quote=“Erikaspirit16, post:37, topic:523421, full:true”]

I think we see the world differently. I see almost all shades of grey, you seem to see black and white. It’s all very well and good to say “X is a mortal sin.” Fine. But that’s NOT the issue I raised.

Who said ‘X is a mortal sin?’ Your confusing certain grave intrinsically evil acts with mortal sin. These acts in their object or objectively considered are mortal or grave sins but the other two conditions must be met for them to be mortal sins.

In fact, the first sentence of my third paragraph reads “I don’t think anyone here disputes the idea that some things are intrinsically evil…etc.” The point being that objectively, out there in God’s mind, X is a mortal sin. The problem is reading God’s mind and equating the X in God’s mind with an action on earth. That is difficult and complex.

We can’t read God’s mind nor does he ask us to read his mind. How can we read an infinite mind? This is a non-starter.

Please don’t spend more time telling me about the Ten Commandments, etc. That’s not the point.

I think the Ten Commandments are the point. They are the expression of God’s mind and will for us. This is the eternal divine law, our guide. And as I mentioned in the previous post, the Ten Commandments are an expression of the natural law as the CCC teaches. So, without the guide of the divine law of the Ten Commandments and all that is contained under them, we’re kinda lost. Have you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the section/s under the Ten Commandments? Jesus said that he came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. The gospels mention the tassals on Jesus’ cloak probably sown onto the cloak by Mary, his mother and which was a normal practice for the Jews as I believe it is mentioned to do so in the Old Law of Moses. The tassals had the ten commandments or ‘ten words’ written on them as God had commanded the Israelites through Moses to have the Law ever before them even written on their foreheads.

The point is this: How do you know that when Susie Q does X on Sept. 10, 2018 at precisely 10:15 AM in a specific set of circumstances, which include everything in Susie Q’s life up to this point that has made Susie Q who she is, that that specific act is a mortal sin? And the answer is, clearly, you don’t know.

I never said I did know that a given act is a mortal sin except possibly in its object. I believe I made it pretty clear in a prior post that only God really knows if we are in the state of grace or not or if we actually commit a mortal sin in some acts. But I also said that I don’t think this is the point for the simple fact that we don’t know ourselves with certainty. The point was that the object of the act may be grave for which reason we go to confession to a priest as the CCC teaches. I also mentioned about the other two conditions that need to be met for the act to be a mortal sin. So, I’m not sure what your point is.


#39

(continued)

We can analyze the morality of human acts as the CCC teaches from its sources, namely, the object, the circumstances, and the intention. The specific act that Suzie does is the object of the act such as you mention with the general name of ‘killing’. The object is essentially what is the person doing or the kind or species of act it is. Accordingly, simple or general ‘killing’ as it were is most likely not going to be the object of the act. We are probably going to be talking about self-defense or murder or varying degrees of these too.

From: Erikaspirit16:
She shoots Mr. K with a gun and kills him. Is that a mortal sin? Who knows? It depends. Yet the Commandment is clearly “Thou shalt not kill.” But does it apply here? It is NOT black and white. It’s a very, very grey area. In fact, it’s SO grey that maybe Susie Q’s action is heroic and deserving of a medal. Maybe Mr. K was about to stab a baby to death, so she shot him. Give her a medal! Maybe she just hated Mr. K and shot him. Put her in jail! It’s complex.

One must also consider the circumstances and the intention and not the object of a human act alone. Was Suzie’s act of killing in self defense in which case it is not murder? A circumstance such as self defense changes the species or object of the act to self defense which is lawful. We would not have murder here which is the deliberate taking of an innocent life. Was Suzie’s act of killing out of malice or what? These sorts of things lawyers try to figure out too in a trial. If we can determine the object, circumstances, and intention of a human act than the case in question becomes pretty clear. These three sources of the morality of human acts from our great theological tradition are the tools we have to work with and they are extremely useful. Some cases can be complex while others not so and in certain circumstances the application of God’s law may not be easy to determine. I don’t think it is the case that most of a human’s actions on a daily basis are all that complex in a certain respect. I mean, it’s not like I’m in total confusion every moment of my life wondering if the act I’m doing at every given moment is in accord or out of accord with God’s commandments and will. I’m going to go eat dinner here in a few minutes and I know that that is a good act I can offer to God’s glory.

‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes’ (Psalm 19: 7-8).


#40

I think that looking at sin as a directional thing has a problem of being too superficial. We are not only walking towards God or away from God, we are also shaping ourselves, to add an analogy.

Sin does have an effect on ourselves as persons. It’s like those people who apologize by saying “That’s not who I am.” Well, no, that actually is part of who you are.

Another way of looking at our relationship with God is looking at a marriage. If a husband constantly beats his wife but always apologizes, well, what does the apology mean?

So if a person constantly commits grave sin but always apologizes, what does the apology mean?

In the first case, what kind of husband is he turning himself into? In the second, what kind of Christian?

It might have been St Augustin who said that someone can pray seriously or sin seriously, but they cannot continue to do both: one or the other will fall away in the person’s life.


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