Paved with good intentions

It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I have been told that if we do something with a pure heart and good intentions that we cannot sin.

As an example, “back in the day” many people thought that using psychedelic drugs would bring them closer to God. We now know that doesn’t work.

Without focusing too much on the example, how important are intentions? Where does our obligation to educate ourselves properly to know right from wrong end? Even within the Church there is disagreement upon some issues. How do we know? In a courtroom, intent is a major consideration for judgment and sentencing. Does God use similar criteria?

Your understanding is wrong. Sin is sin regardless of your intention.

Sin is NOT an arbitrary list of things you aren’t allowed to do. Sins are things that by their very nature damage your ability to give and receive love. It’s like gravity. Gravity doesn’t CARE if you INTENDED to walk off the cliff or not. You SPLAT just the same.

Now there IS a difference in CULPABILITY for sin that is based on intention. IIRC, you can’t commit a MORTAL sin unless your intention is as bad as the deed. But that doesn’t mean no damage at all was done. It’s still a sin and it has still damaged your soul.

I’m not sure if you addressed the full question. Yes, sin is sin. But how do we know what’s right and what’s wrong? We do have to learn the difference. God alone can do good. But He can work in us and through us to get it done.

I’m not sure if this address it all or not. Probably not. I’m sure someone else can fill in the gap.

Sin is sin but depending upon awareness and yes, partially intention a difference can be made as to whether its mortal or venial (also what you did). That said, I would never recommend under taking any sinful act with the delution that it will some how bring you to God. It will never bring you to God and will always damage your soul.

IMO, that’s most of why we live past the moment of major conversion! We need to learn that. But God hasn’t just abandoned us here alone to figure it all out. The story of salvation history IS the story of right and wrong, sin and redemption. God send patriarchs, prophets, a Messiah and the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition to guide us. And since we’ve proven we can easily muck even all that up, He left us the Magesterium to clarify and refute false interpretations of the above.

He’s really more than bent over backwards to point us in the right direction!

That’s not in and of itself true, according to Catholic teaching.

If I give money to the poor, that’s a good act.

If my intent in doing so is to gain favor for myself in others’ opinions, it could be a sinful act, based on my intention.

If my intent in doing so is to serve others in the example of Christ, it would not be a sin.

Intent can make something sinful or not in some cases.

that famous line is actually part of the lyrics in a song 24 Minutes (sung by no other than my fave Madonna duet with Justin Timberlake - nice disco song, im actually humming the tune right now with that same line hi hi hi). it could be only that righteous actions should always go with righteous intentions. they should always be parallel toward goodness and only then every road leading to hell may not be shut off but left in desolation.

the use of word is quite tricky. “good” in intention is quite vague and that it could actually denote something, which may not be favorable to the christian life. like for example, killing a baby in the womb for a good intention of saving a mother or vice versa is something not favorable to our christian life and by our christian criteria about killing, it is still a sin, a mortal sin. a good intention leading to hell, meaning good intentions do not always pave a road to hell.

so i say, “righteous” intentions hand in hand with “righteous” actions.

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hi everyone! :slight_smile:

I always understood that expression to mean that well-intentioned plans or programs often have unintended or unforeseen effects that eventually do more harm than good. It doesn’t relate specifically to sin or damnation or to Catholic moral theology.

For example, the institution of “no fault divorce” in the 60s and 70s was touted as a way to reduce the acrimony involved in the traditional divorce process which relied upon proving that one spouse was guilty of some fault like adultery, abuse, etc. It was supposed to make the divorce process easier on couples who, it was assumed, would have gotten divorced anyway. Well, maybe it did, but it also led to a lot more divorces and a lot less recourse for spouses who wanted to keep their marriages together.

Another example: some years ago the federal government placed a special luxury tax on yachts. The idea was to raise more revenue from people who could afford it. What actually happened, however, was that 1) rich people started buying their yachts outside the U.S. to avoid the tax, and 2) U.S. yacht builders started closing and laying people off. The intention was to raise more money, but the result was little if any new money AND a lot more people out of jobs. So eventually the tax was repealed.

These are the kind of things most people mean when they talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

I had thought the saying meant that if you have the intention of doing something good, but don’t act on it when you could have, you aren’t going to earn any brownie points for just thinking it.

On the other hand, I don’t think it counts against you if you have good intentions that you don’t act on because you can’t. For example, “If I won the lottery, I would give it all away to charity.” But I didn’t win the lottery, so I can’t give that huge sum to charity after all.

Just my take.

True, but the sin isn’t the act of giving money to the poor. That’s STILL an objectively good act. The sin in your example is one of pride. IMO.

The intent makes the action sinful. A different intent could make the action not sinful.

There’s a difference between an act being objectively good or not, and whether the person performing such an act is sinning.

As an example, “back in the day” many people thought that using psychedelic drugs would bring them closer to God. We now know that doesn’t work.

Are you sure…? have you tried them…? has God spoken to us and told us as much…? Does it say anywhere in the bible that eating a “psychedelic chemical” will not bring you closer to god…?

As far as I know he/it hasn’t…

Besides that point, the question is valid… People need to learn and grow… and take many different paths to the same (and different) conclusions… be at peace in your faith and trust in god… grow into the loving person that you can be… do not condemn without cause… judge not less you be judged…

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