My dad and I were “debating” (I use quotes because it’s his way of trying to agitate me…) what mortal sin is, since we just got back from my uncle’s funeral and they could not receive communion. My dad is a former Catholic (and my mom baptized Catholic, but raised Lutheran - she was in the room at the time, too), now “Lutheran” (again quotes, because he has not been to church in 30 years).
The short version -
My dad claims that the definition of mortal sin “changed” (his biggest complaint is that the Catholic Church is always “changing things” and therefore doesn’t know what they’re talking about) because back in the 1950s - that would be elementary school age at a Catholic School - he was taught that a mortal sin was only “when you killed someone”. I kind of doubt that this was the case, since I’m guessing it’s something simple they told children. Whether or not they taught him otherwise, I don’t know (he was the type of kid that always got sent to the principal’s office for making the kids laugh behind the Sister’s back, so there’s probably things he never paid attention to).
So, was the definition of mortal sin, or the way it was taught, ever different?
The long version - (EDIT: Ok, I think this turned into a little bit of a rant I just had to get off my chest)
We just got back from my uncle’s funeral and at the funeral Mass, they didn’t receive communion, so this evening, my dad starts off as usual with, “Hey, I wanna ask a question…”. (This usually means “spiritual shields up!” And yes, I do tense up, because this kind of thing has been going on ever since I became Catholic 6 years ago). He started asking about mortal sin. I tried to explain it the best I could, and then he asks, “So, what if I did go and receive communion, is that a mortal sin?”, and I said yes (note, he did not go up to communion, but stayed in his pew. He loves asking these hypothetical questions). Then, he said (to paraphrase), “No! I didn’t kill anyone! So it’s not a mortal sin! See!? The church always changes the rules! When I was a kid in the 1950s, it was when you killed someone! Does someone go to hell if they receive communion unworthily?”. Then we were talking about confession, and he says, “Oh, so I can just go to confession and say, 'Whoops! I’m sorry! haha, and I can do it again in 5 years after the next funeral!”. Then the topic of going to church came up, and I mentioned that missing church is a mortal sin, and he says, “No! That doesn’t apply to me! I legally became Lutheran, so I don’t have to abide by ‘THOSE RULES!!!’” (caps for emphasis - he likes to get angry). Then my mom (who’s Lutheran) starts taking his side. (My mom is the perplexing one, since she’ll sometimes agree with me, sometimes agree with my dad). Then he adds in about fasting before Mass, (now in a sarcastic tone), “So, ALL those people who had to abide by the 3 hour fast rule before the rule changed an didn’t are staying in purgatory longer than those who didn’t abide by the 1 hour rule? I DON’T THINK SO!!!”.
Another day before Mass, he was asking me about food before Mass -
Dad: So, can you drink water before Mass?
Dad: So… what if it had minerals in it?
Me: Yes, that’s ok, that’s not food, and you’re not intentionally eating food.
Dad: So, what if the water was dirty?
Me: Why would you drink dirty water?
Dad: Ok, what if they were really, really poor and only had dirty water, and the organisms feasted on meat? Then you’re eating food from water!
These are the things I deal with on a weekly basis… Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to talk to anger. Once when I was talking with my mom, she said, “What has the Catholic Church ever done for me! NOTHING!”. (ummm, baptism, mother?) Meanwhile, my dad is always complaining about how the church changes the rules and they can’t do anything right (implying that all people are incompetent)…