Joe is a Catholic who tries to love God and neighbor, faithfully goes to Mass receives Communion goes to confession but Joe has “issues”, he sins mortally sometimes but Joe has a “problem”, he lives in fear that if he “commits a mortal sin” on Tuesday then if he dies before he can go to Confession on the following Saturday God will send him to hell, he knows that by sinning “mortally” he loses “Sanctifying Grace” plus all the “merits” he has accumulated and any “good” he does until he “confesses” to a Priest on Saturday is worthless. What is poor Joe to do? His life is a life of terror and fear.
- if Joe has a clear idea of what constitutes “mortal” sin.
- if Joe has a firm intention of amendment when he is in confession
- if Joe is scrupulous
- if Joe discusses these things with his confessor
Yes “Joe” knows the difference between “Mortal” and “Venial Sin”. “Joe” is an average but “devout Catholic” and not “scrupulous” and he does have “firm purpose of amendment” in Confession, but he does fall into “Mortal Sin”, he does not want to, but sometimes “the flesh is weak”. And yes to discussing it with his confessor.
Joe sounds like lots of people. Joe is not that unusual. Joe is just like me. Lol.
Joe can take some hope in the fact that his repetitve sin is probably not something he chooses 100% freely, but… he will never know for sure.
Since I take “before he can go to confession on Saturday” in your hypothetical strictly (i.e. that is as soon as he can go) then it would seem that “Joe” should be urged to ask for the grace to make and to then make a true act of perfect contrition.
A true act of perfect contrition would restore “Joe” to grace between Tuesday and Saturday, when he would then submit his sin to the power of the keys in sacramental confession.
What does Joe think?
Make up your mind, is Joe an average Catholic or a devout Catholic, they aren’t, unfortunately, the same. To be devout means to be devoted to the Catholic faith, to be pious. It isn’t your “average”, whatever that means, Catholic.
No one, Joe or anyone else, “falls into” a sin, it isn’t an “oh my I sinned”, especially for someone “devoted” to God.
Oh please! He simply can’t resist? Really? If someone were to stand in front of him with a .44 cal pistol and say “Hey Joe, you do this, I’ll blow your brains out”! He has no choice but to have his brains blown out? Weak yes, but you really think he can’t say no?
So we have Joe here who just can’t say no, and John here who can say no. Exact same life but he (John) resists temptation, in all fairness you think God will reward Joe and John exactly the same? Interesting idea of justice.
As to Joe not being able to resist this sin I have to ask:
Is Joe doing all he can to avoid this sin, i.e., staying away from anything/anyone who leads him into this sin, including what he sees, reads, touches, smells, etc.?
Perhaps Joe should jump into a cold shower before “giving in” to this sin of his? Yes?
Well, Joe obviously has a scheduling problem; he needs to plan his sinning on Friday night or early Saturday! (I hope everyone knows I’m being sarcastic!) If Joe were indeed devoted to his faith he would avoid the occasion of sin.
That’s a contradiction, kotek. Part of the definition of mortal sin is that you freely choose to do it - so if he committed it, then he wanted to.
This is the issue, if one sins mortally, he ought to confess his sins as soon as possible. Suppose, he commits a mortal sin the day after his last confession.
There is no Canonical Law that denies a Catholic from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I remember a few years ago, that I committed a mortal sin a day after I had confess it. I went the day to confess it because it was mortal. The priest didn’t feel comfortable giving so soon, and give his opinion to wait a week.
At the time, I didn’t know much about Canonical Law and I didn’t have access to Catholic Answers. I never heard of Catholic Answers. Anyways, any Catholic who commits a mortal sin must go to confession as soon as possible. That is the Catholic’s right. He cannot be denied this sacred gift of mercy.
It is good that Joe is discussing this with his confessor, and especially he should discuss the fear and terror. Living in fear and terror is not conducive to being a good Christian. If Joe really wants to avoid this sin and is having a hard time doing that, that may be a mitigating factor that would make the sin not mortal. (Note the “really wants to” and the “may be”.) The thing to explore is the reason the underlying sin is so hard to avoid. If the confessor is not equipped to help with that aspect, it might be a good idea for Joe to find someone who is.
The one thing that I have to take issue with is the idea that this sin deprives Joe of all merit or the benefit of any good he has accumulated. In the first instance, Joe can not “merit” salvation it is a free gift to be accepted, although mortal sin may work a rejection of that gift. And Joe doesn’t have to, and really can’t, accumulate “good”. Joe is already good, he was made good, and he is good. He can do good, or he can do bad, but he is good and he is powerless to change that aspect of his created nature.
“Fear of the Lord” is a good thing in appropriate measure, but excessive anxiety and terror can indicate a lack of confidence in God’s justice and mercy, imho. God is NOT looking for an excuse to condemn us on a technicality or bad timing. This life is a process of sanctification. If you have a truly contrite heart over whatever sin you may have commited, I very much doubt God is going to say to you “Haha, you died before you could make it to confession, off to hell with you, sucker!” God is Good. We can trust Him.
Hope this helps…
Are you really a part of the same Catholic Church that I belong to? What you are describing here is not Catholicism, but Jansenism, i.e., a disordered form of Catholicism tainted with Calvinistic Puritanism (thank you, John Calvin and the Westminster Confession). This is not the authentic Catholic Faith at all. Catholicism is not a fear-based faith, nor is it a positively presumptuous and pollyanna faith (as is Protestantism). Rather, it is the balance between these two extremes, and it encourages a Christian to look at sin realistically for what it is. Yes, if one commits a mortal sin, then one does lose Sanctifying grave (i.e., a person who is guilty of unrepentant sin is CLEARLY not holy or in conformity with Jesus Christ), and he does loose “merit” in terms of the good works he has performed in the past (which were performed in the context of a holy unity with Christ, and so were occasions in which Christ acted through this Christian in the context of their loving and holy relationship, which has now been denied and contradicted by the sin committed). This is REALITY.
However, this does not mean that this Catholic Christian is “worthless” or that he is cut off from Christ until he receives Sacramental Confession, or that he will go to hell without Sacramental Confession; rather, his connection to Jesus Christ in the wake of committing this mortal sin depends on the disposition of his heart and whether or not he is sorry for offending Jesus and breaking communion with Him. If he is genuinely sorry for committing this mortal sin, then the relationship between this Christian and Jesus is already essentially repaired. But, since Christ established His Covenant in an Incarnational and communal way (that is, the establishment of a Covenant People who are called to be in collective and intimate unity with Him: His own Body), this Christian, as a full and appropriate expression of his sorrow for committing the mortal sin, should seek reconciliation with Christ in His Church, through the Christ-given means of Sacramental Confession to a priest (i.e., a Sacramental Head of the Sacramental Body, who can impart forgiveness and reconciliation to the sinful Christian on behalf of the Body, and so on behalf of Christ Himself). This is because, when we commit mortal sin, we separate ourselves from the Body of Christ (the Church); for the Church (the communion of saints) is sinless and perfect (see Eph. 5:25-32) just as Christ Himself is sinless and perfect.
And so we Catholics recognize and practice a perfect form of repentance to Christ and in Christ, which is Sacramental Confession in and through His Church, His own Body. It is not that we “fear” until we make this perfect expression of repentance. How can we fear if our trust is in Jesus Christ? Rather, if we are truly sorry for what we have done wrong, then we anxiously desire to make our Confession, since we anxiously desire to express our sorry for offending Jesus in the most perfect (Divinely prescribed) way possible, so that we may be united with Him in holiness in the most perfect way possible - through full communion with His Church, His own Body. A mature Catholic knows this and understands it.
It seems that the problem with you is that (like most Evangelicals) you imprudently and dangerously presume that a Christian will always automatically be sorry for his sins. What you fail to grasp is that sin affects us and changes us; and there comes a point where our love grows cold because of it; and this is how Christians end up in hell. If one is not anxious to repent in the most perfect way possible (i.e., through Sacramental Confession) when they commit mortal sin, then it is a strong indication that they are on their way to hell.
continued. . .
But, you apparently don’t have the maturity to see this or appreciate why the Church stresses the great need for Confession when one has committed a mortal sin. For, if one is not anxious to repent in the most perfect (Divinely-prescribed) way possible, then how can they be certain of their salvation - a salvation that is based on love and the unity of a love relationship. If one has no passion to Confess, then one has no passion for intimacy with Jesus Christ; and someone like this is far from where he should be in his Christian walk.
Such a person like “Joe” is clearly not in deep love with Jesus Christ, and so he should be afraid for his soul - therefore, the Church’s strong emphasis on getting to Confession before you get hit by a truck. It is not that you should fear that Christ will not receive you if you die prematurely without Confession; rather, you should fear that your love for Christ is not strong enough (that you no longer possess “faithful-faith” as you call it) and that you are not in a situation in which you can receive Him! A person should be afraid of this, just as St. Paul was (1 Cor. 9:27, 10:12, Phil 212). But, if one truly loves and trusts Christ, then one has nothing to fear, since the passion to repent when one falls manifests itself immediately; and this will naturally lead to a speedy Confession and sure reconciliation with Christ and His Church. This is the wisdom of the Church which you do not see.
Suppose Joe mortally sins and heads for Confession. On the way, he is run over by a bus. Will he go directly to Hell? If he was truly sorry and was (obviously) unable to go to Confession, I believe the Church teaches that he will not go to Hell. If i’m wrong, someone please correct me.
No, he will not go to hell.
Joe seems truly afflicted with terror and fear but not from the sacraments of his faith - but from the effects of a sin that seems to follow him like a vulture waiting for death.
Joe is doing the right thing by going to confession as often as possible. Joe is doing the right thing by participating of the Eucharist only when he has gone to confession. Joe will probably have a “dog tag” or a card in his pocket that tells someone to call a priest in the event of any condition leading to my possible death. Joe will be remembered by the Lord when the Lord arrives at His kingdom…or perhaps Joe will be with the Lord that day.
This is a good scenario,…Joe.
Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.
And if he doesn’t go to Confession at all he will never be forgiven. And if he convinces himself that his sins aren’t really sins then a little nagging voice will remind him, and his life will be dominated by the attempt to keep up the illusion that he dodesn’t sin.
So Joe’s doing all that he reasonably can, given that he doesn’t have the willpower to stop sinning.
What you are forgetting is that the rules are not arbitrary - God decides that sin X will carry such and such a penalty. Rather the inability to enter heaven is an inherent effects of Joe’s sin. Let’s say Joe is a serial killer, for example. His desire is that those women be destroyed. So the women and Joe cannot both be in heaven. If Joe repents of his killings, however, and the women forgave Joe - maybe in the minutes before he killed them - that particular problem won’t arise.
I am not sure that I understand what you are saying, but I think you are mistaken on a couple points.
If he doesn’t go to confession at all he can still be forgiven. Confession provides forgiveness even without perfect contrition, but forgiveness is possible without the sacrament.
And if he convinces himself that his sins aren’t really sins then a little nagging voice will remind him, and his life will be dominated by the attempt to keep up the illusion that he dodesn’t sin.
This I agree with. A life of pretending that one is not ‘really’ sinning is a troubled life and a serious danger.
So Joe’s doing all that he reasonably can, given that he doesn’t have the willpower to stop sinning.
What you are forgetting is that the rules are not arbitrary - God decides that sin X will carry such and such a penalty. Rather the inability to enter heaven is an inherent effects of Joe’s sin.
Not sure what you mean here. Agree that God decides. If you are saying the act defines the sin, I disagree. The mental state and intention is part of the sin, and can aggravate or mitigate sin. If by “inherent effect” you mean automatic in the sense that God either does not control it or even in the sense that God does not make an individualized determination of the repose of each person’s soul, then I disagree. People are not saved and damned by category, each is individual judged.
Let’s say Joe is a serial killer, for example. His desire is that those women be destroyed. So the women and Joe cannot both be in heaven. If Joe repents of his killings, however, and the women forgave Joe - maybe in the minutes before he killed them - that particular problem won’t arise.
This is actually the part that prompted me to reply. There is no requirement that the victims forgive Joe for Joe to be saved. I believe that in heaven we will all have the grace to forgive each other. But Joe’s salvation does not turn on their forgiveness. They are called to forgive him, if they fail in that it does not effect his sin or his salvation in the least.