Priest said it is very hard to commit mortal sin



A priest and I were having a conversation about sin and he said that in reality it is very difficult for one to commit mortal sin; ie. you must have knowledge of what you are doing and consent to it.

What is the churches stance on this?
Is it really that difficult to commit mortal sin?
If so why is confession so readily available?


The priest is correct in the criteria ( Knowledge and Consent), there is a third, Grave Matter, the sin must be serious in nature.

The priest does seem to be heavily discounting the effect of Conscience on Knowledge. God provided each person with the ability to judge right from wrong on a basic level.

We might attempt to delude ourselves, or rationalize it away, like a man who thinks “My wife is not attentive enough to my physical needs, so I’ll have an affair”

Even if they don’t have a Christian background, that man knows in his heart that the action is wrong. This is all the Knowledge that is required.


Re Knowledge, note that it is knowing that it is a sin or having the capability to know that it is a sin. Failure to investigate does not excuse one. For example one might not believe that ABC is sinful, however there are few who do not know that the Church has declared it sinful. Knowing that one is obliged to fully study the matter and determine why one is in disagreement with the Church.


I expect that the priest is referring to the understanding of the graveness of the matter. Most of the time, if a person had a true understanding of what a mortal sin means, that by doing the act they are cutting themselves off from God, and that if they do the act and die without confessing they are damned…they would not follow through.

Most of the time when people commit a sin that is classified (as in a list) as mortal, they are not truly aware of the gravity. They know it is wrong, but not what the full implications are. So, they are not fully culpable.

It is one thing to make a clear decision to choose sin over a relationship with God, and quite another to give into temptation not understanding the damage it can or will do.

If I were you, I’d have a talk with the priest about it so you understand where he is coming from.


We don’t really know who gets to heaven.
With a handful of people their lives show heroic virtue, sometimes to the point of martyrdom, and God allows miracles or other signs to be associated with their name. So we can be confident that this small group, the saints, must have died without any permanent impediment to salvation.

For the rest, we cannot be sure, except that we know that know that the number in heaven will be “many”. It may be that in fact everyone will be saved, and thus no one has committed mortal sin and died unrepentant. That doesn’t mean no mortal sins, but it rather implies that they are rare.
Confession is necessary. Most good schools very rarely expel pupils, but that is only because misbehaviour is dealt with long before it escalates to the point where serious sanctions are required.


It is true that for a sin to be mortal three conditions must be met: 1) it must be a grave (serious) matter, 2) you must be aware that it is a grave matter and 3) you consent to do so of your own free will.

I would not necessarily agree that it is difficult. I don’t think that just because we manage to rationalize out a way to argue something might be ok or only a small thing, that we are necessarily unaware of what we are doing. In fact, If we did not know something was serious, would we bothering engaging in such thought processes to make it seem ok? I wouldn’t. After all, it’s a lot of work. However, I can look back in my life and see plenty of times where I rationalized out excuses for myself and why this obvious rule shouldn’t apply to me in these circumstances before doing something that I clearly understood was wrong.

I think my wording here is bad-- but I am struggling to come up with a good way to put all this. However, C.S. Lewis does it very nicely in his opening chapters of Mere Christianity. I highly recommend reading this book–he [Lewis] does an amazing job of showing the existence of an absolute moral law, our inherent understanding of that law, our general failure to follow it and to make excuses for ourselves, the existence of God, and belief in Christian doctrine all with argument of reason. And that’s just the first five chapters. It isn’t even difficult to read or understand.


It’s a whole lot easier than I like; I find it to be easy enough to be terrifying.


Here is how common Mortal sin is

  1. Birth Control
    2)Deliberately using the lords name in vain
    4)Divorce and invalid re marriage

Based on statistics alone I can say the Mortal sin is VERY COMMON .


Most everyone who uses BC do not think it is sinful …no one has taught then otherwise.

As well as with the other items…they may possibly know that it is wrong…but not grave matter.


He is correct in that Mortal sin requires serious matter, Free consent, and intent. A person cannot accidentally commit mortal sin.

However many people freely and intentionally commit Mortal sin every day sometimes several times a day and don’t think twice about it.


A person does not have to know it’s grave matter. It just has to be a grave matter. They have to know that it is wrong. Most people when asked about their behavior such as ABC will try to hide or disguise it because they know in their conscience that what they are doing or have done is wrong, and they don’t want it to be known. IF you want to conceal what you have done, then you know it was wrong.


It is not that I disagree with you. but I know a lot of people who think these things may not even be sins. Let alone grave matter.

Is the teaching we were taught/ Did these conditions exist when we were growing up? The conditions to commit mortal sin, that is.


Once we gain knowledge of all grave matter, it is very hard not to commit mortal sin. Especially those of us who have become accustomed a sinfull lifestyle without full knowledge.

My question is, “Now that i have full knowledge, am I fully consenting and, therefore, accountable, when I commit sins with which I’ve always struggled?”


A deacon once told me to think of it this way. If you have a big fight with your wife the next day you may not be sure how mad she still is, but you would certainly know if you had gotten divorced. Mortal sin is like divorce, it is a deliberate separation. But that does not mean that lesser sins are not important. If you keep fighting like that divorce is probably on its way, and she may ask you for one before you thought things were ‘that bad’.


The Moral teachings of the Church do reflect Grave Matter, ABC IS seriously sinful matter. They may convince themselves it isn’t but that does not change the fact that it is. Some people have convinced themselves that ABC is not sinful, I will agree with that and those that have will usually reply when asked that they use it and it’s not sinful. Those that reply in a different manner know that it is wrong.


I think mortal sin becomes easier to do when you are accustomed to doing lots of venial sins. One of the reasons is that doing venial sins often puts you into situations where mortal sins become more available.

I know these are serious sins, but consider this example about how one sin provides a new opportunity to sin. Say you are robbing a store. Everything is going to plan until a cop shows up. You are now in a new position, the position of perhaps considering taking his gun and shooting him in order to escape. You should NOT do this, obviously, but it might be tempting to use violence to escape, and you would not have had this temptation if you hadn’t already started down the wrong path with the sin of robbery.

Or for a lesser example, say you sneak out of the house to do something wrong. This creates a “opportunity” later on to lie to your parents when they ask about it. Once you have established a pattern of lying to your parents, this can escalate into doing more things that are wrong since you have figured out they aren’t on to you and you can get away with it. That can lead to total disrespect for your parents in the end. I’m not that great at explaing this. :blush:


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.

<A href=“javascript:OpenPopupWindow(”

<a href=# onclick=window.opener.SetPage(“pt3sect1chpt1art3.htm#1735”)>1734

<a href=# onclick=window.opener.SetPage(“pt3sect1chpt1art5.htm#1767”)>1767

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.

It appears to me that intentional ignorance does not excuse one from mortal sin. That is if one could know it is wrong one is just as guilty as though one did know it. If one knows that the Church has said this or that is wrong then one is obliged to find out why the Church teaches that way and gain the necessary knowledge of its wrongness.


This makes more sense…it is just too much to wrap around my head that mortal sin is very rare. Most Catholics have been told that pre-marital sex, or second marriages outside of a blessing, or masturbation is mortal sin…yet they do not perceive it as such.

I was guilty of the birth control thing. i was young and thought the pope had no business in my bedroom until I was convicted by the Holy Spirit years later. How birth control is used to to control the birth…and everything snowballs thereafter.The church in her wisdom knew this prophetically…I just thought I knew better. I was guilty of disobedience for sure…and because of the disobedience, mortal sin corrupted my soul. I now am so repentant and I thank God that He, in His mercy, brougth me to this point.


See Daily Retreat for 10/21/07 - The Excuse Factory. It’s appled there to failure to pray, but fits most of our failings.


He’s right about the 3 requirements for mortal win, but he’s wrong when he says it is difficult to meet them. To commit a mortal sin is very easy, and people do it every day.

It really bothers me when I hear pastors and teachers talk like this. I only hope and pray he realizes how wrong he is before he leads his parishioners down this deceptive path.

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