Question about Mortal Sin and Reconciliation

If a person commits a mortal sin after previous Confession, for example breaking the Sabbath, and then dies, will he only pay in Hell the price of that one sin or of all his past sins?


The penalty for one unrepented mortal sin is eternal separation from God. The penalty for 50 unrepented mortal sins is eternal separation from God.

Yes, technically you will only be punished for that one unrepented sin, but the bigger question is does it really matter?

Eternal separation is not the only punishment in Hell. For each sin the degree of fire and torture is also determined.

AFAIK this is not official Church teaching. Certainly there is no mention in the CCC of ‘degrees’ of Hell.

In any event, eternal torture is eternal torture is eternal torture.

Do you honestly imagine that anyone who is there cares one iota exactly how many degrees their fire is compared to the fires of their neighbours? Or exactly how many times a day they get a pitchfork stuck in their butt compared to the others, or whatever?

Imagine someone suffering all the agony of a heart attack and saying to themselves - ‘well, at least I don’t have a paper cut on my thumb as well’!

Confession absolves one of past sins, and the eternal punishment deserved thereby. I was under the impression that there are degrees of suffering in Hell, but whether there are or not, after absolution, the absolved sins are no longer held against us at all, no matter what we do after. The eternal punishment is gone.

I am not clear whether temporal punishment can remain after confession in some circumstances, similar to what one would suffer in purgatory, and am not clear either whether those in Hell “pay off” their temporal punishment and hence have their suffering diminished by some degree (though probably not a very noticeable one if so).

But as far as the more important eternal punishment goes, that’s gone.

The temporal effects to various degrees of sin can remain after absolution.

See CCC section on indulgences.

The eternal punishment is gone; however, the temporal punishment remains. That’s where Purgatory comes in. I’ve also heard that suffering and penance during this life can mitigate some of that temporal punishment in Purgatory.

Ha, looks like I was too slow in my edit. I stand corrected about what I said before - it should have been restricted to eternal. (The question of temporal punishment did not originally occur to me in the context of Hell.)

LOL! :slight_smile: Sorry to steal your thunder.

So, what’s the point of purgatory?

If you try your hardest and slip up and miss Mass, you are going to be paying for it for all eternity. I have no clue how Hell is actually going to be. I think of chains and lots of manual labor. Anyway, the guy who materbates and then goes to bed and dies in his sleep is going to be in a place with serial killers and child molesters and people who HATE God. Yeah, they missed a Mass and died or played with themselves and had a heart attack. The hypothetical people could have been very charitable, good people. Purgatory isn’t good enough to cleanse these people of one sin that they would be sent to hell all eternity?

Put it this way - mortal sin kills the soul. We can thus compare it to bodily death.

Physically we can die pleasantly or painfully, slowly or quickly, we can fully intend to kill ourselves before we die, or simply know that our car is headed off a cliff. The results are all much the same - we end up dead.

So we can sin in ways that seem serious to us, or seen unimportant to us, either way mortal is mortal.

So it is with sin. Sin is an offence against God, mortal sin a serious offence. Surely when God tells us He is seriously offended by masturbation or when we skip Mass He has his good reasons for it. Thus it is not our prerogative to argue the point, simply to obey, and to confess and try not to sin again if we fail.

Why do we need more?

If my spouse tells me that it really upsets him for me to be late for things, then surely if I love him I will do my best to be on time even if to me punctuality is not such a big deal. And if I love him then I surely will really be sorry if I am late for no good reason, no? Because I know that it deeply upsets and disappoints him?

As for purgatory - it is like rehabilitation for bodily injuries, making our souls perfect and fit to enter heaven. A great idea from someone who is wounded but alive and capabke of recovery. For someone who has died from their injuries, though, there is no possibility of rehabilitation. It is simply too late.

Doesn’t God know if we are trying or not? Couldn’t we be trying and still commit Mortal sin? What if we don’t make it to confession? The guy so missed Mass says, “shoot, that was wrong. I should have gotten up and went. I need to go to confession on Friday” ( or whenever Reconciliation is at his parish). Say he dies on Thursday. Poor guy goes to Hell.

I’m not trying to argue. I guess I’m not fully understanding how people make it seem like Moral Sin isn’t easy to do. A lot of posts I read about this topic comes off as “duhhh. Like, just don’t do it”

Yes and No, respectively. In order for a sin to be mortal, three things are required: full knowledge, full consent of will, and grave matter. A mortal sin is completely intentional and knowing. It is not something that happens despite one’s efforts (at that time) to prevent it. By definition, a mortal sin is a grave, purposeful putting of one’s own will above God’s. Addiction and the like can lessen the sin to venial, as can other circumstances.

That said, we are also pretty good at lying to ourselves, so we should distrust the excuses we make to ourselves to say that an act that was grave matter was not a mortal sin.

But God knows, and if we really and truly did not mean to commit a mortal sin, whether we are consciously aware or not, then we did not.

What if we don’t make it to confession? The guy so missed Mass says, “shoot, that was wrong. I should have gotten up and went. I need to go to confession on Friday” ( or whenever Reconciliation is at his parish). Say he dies on Thursday. Poor guy goes to Hell.

If he makes an act of perfect contrition, then he’s definitely good.

If he does not, then we trust that God is merciful. We cannot say that we know that he is saved, but God does the just and merciful thing, which I think we can have reasonable hope is to save the contrite man who gets hit by a bus on the way to confession.

That said, it is hope not certainty. So we should all look both ways before crossing the street.

I’m not trying to argue. I guess I’m not fully understanding how people make it seem like Moral Sin isn’t easy to do. A lot of posts I read about this topic comes off as “duhhh. Like, just don’t do it”

We all fall, we just have rely on God’s mercy for cases that to us appear to be unclear. Though He will honor His promise to act through the sacraments, He is not restricted to only act through them, and He is infinitely more wise and fair than we are.

But again, that “infinitely more wise and fair than we are” may mean that what seems fair to us really isn’t. So while we can have hope for the “borderline cases,” the times to us that it’s not obvious whether a sin, even though it involved grave matter, is mortal, whether contrition was perfect, etc, we should just do our best to avoid sin and get to confession when we fail.

You may know this, so I don’t mean to insult you, but for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be met - the sin must be of a grave nature, the sinner must have sufficiently reflected upon whether to commit the sin before committing it, and the sinner must have committed the sin with full consent of the will. So every mortal sin is a free and conscious choice to gravely act against the law of God with full knowledge that that’s what you’re doing. That is why even one mortal sin causes the death of the soul and merits eternal damnation - the sinner is ACTIVELY CHOOSING to kill his soul and be eternally separated from God. However, that choice is revocable while we are on earth - God in His infinite Mercy gives us until our last breath to repent of our sins and turn back to Him. The person who is in the state of mortal sin will be forgiven the moment he makes a sincere act of contrition, even outside the Sacrament of Penance, provided he makes the intention to receive the Sacrament as soon as he is reasonably able. So, a person who has committed a mortal sin and has not repented of it, even privately, will be damned because God will give that person exactly what he wants.

The common expression is true that there are two types of people: Those who, in the end, say to God, “Thy Will be done”, and those to whom God, in the end, says, “thy will be done”.

What is a perfect act of contrition? I know of the prayer that goes: My God, I am sorry for the sins with all my heart…

Perfect contrition vs. imperfect contrition refers to the motive - love of God (perfect) vs. fear of Hell (imperfect). They’re both always there, of course, but love of God should be foremost. The great Fr. John Hardon (may he soon be raised to the honors of the altar) says it far better than I can:

It’s actually the Act of Perfect Contrition, not Perfect Act of Contrition. Do a google search.

ACTUALLY, it’s just the Act of Contrition (or an act of contrition generally), which one makes with either perfect or imperfect contrition. The prayer does not change for perfect vs. imperfect contrition - nobody would willingly make an Act of Imperfect Contrition.

This is not Church teaching rather, it comes from Dante’s “Inferno”. Not to be uncharitable, I suggest that you re-read the Catechism, ( It wouldn’t hurt)

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