Skipping Mass, mortal sin, and Hell


A member in my household frequely misses Mass without good reason. The person also never goes to confession. Now I believe the Church teaches that skipping Mass is a mortal sin. I also believe the Church still teaches that a person who dies in the state of mortal sin goes to Hell. So, adding 1 plus 1, I am left to deduce that this person will go to Hell. But then I remember that we are told by Jesus NEVER to judge the state of another’s soul, which is solely the province of God Almighty. This is why the Church never has a list of souls in Hell. My question is why we can not simply come out and tell, say, Sally, that she WILL most assuredly be going to hell given that a) unforgiven mortal sin sends one to hell and given that b) Sally has admittedly commited the said mortal sin? It’s seems to be an obvious syllogism with only one possible answer if Jesus did, as we believe, give the Church the power to bind and loose on earth. Why can’t we just flat out say “barring a change of attitude, you are headed for hell”? Can you help me understand this?


You are perfectly justified to admonish, but not to condemn.

“You know, Sally, you seem to miss Mass a lot, and not for any good reason that I can see. If there’s some sort of problem you’re having with the Church, why don’t you come with me to Confession this Saturday? I’m going there anyway, and you could talk to Father about the problem while you’re there.”

Of course, this assumes the someone in your household is a person you have no authority over (for example, a child). If we’re talking about this sort of person, it might be appropriate to exercise your authority:

“You’re going to Confession with me this Saturday. You’re going to Mass the following morning. Please remember that skipping Mass can be a serious sin, and that you’re not to receive the Eucharist unless you’ve been absolved of serious sin.”

– Mark L. Chance.



The missing part in your equation, I think, is the “without good reason.” Since you do not know the other person’s motivations, you do not know for sure whether that person has a good reason or not. So the 1 + 1 = going to Hell isn’t quite so cut and dried.

I also don’t know the state of your relationship with the other person. If it is in the right sort of state that the person would actually listen to, it might indeed be proper to point out lovingly that to miss mass without a good reason is a mortal, serious, grave, send-a-person-to-Hell sin. Whether or not the person has committed such as sin is that person’s business. Most of the time, in my experience at least, though, such an approach on my part is unproductive.

  • Liberian



As others have already suggested, it isn’t a cut and dried, fer-sure conclusion that Sally will go to Hell for the reasons you mention. She may simply be very ignorant about the Church’s teaching. She may not understand where the Church’s authority comes from, and may think that it’s merely a human institution with rules that don’t carry a lot of weight for her. Now, she is obliged to seek the truth and seek answers to questions she might have, but anyway you can see how her culpability can be affected by these considerations.

I was raised with very poor catechesis. I understood very little about the Church, which was why I left it for quite a while—she may be in a similar situation. I woud gently try to draw her out on her understanding of the Church and give her information, but to be honest it’s tough with family members.


You are also mixing up grave matter and mortal sin. There is a difference between the two. Missing the Sunday obligation is grave matter, not necessarily mortal sin. To be a mortal sin it must be grave matter, the person must do so freely, and finally the person must know fully that it is grave matter.


Also it is important to realize that any statement definitively saying that a person is in Hell puts a limit on God’s mercy.


[quote=Roche42]Also it is important to realize that any statement definitively saying that a person is in Hell puts a limit on God’s mercy.

Unless it’s in the Bible that they’re in hell. I’m not so sure it’s about putting a limit on God’s mercy as not being able to judge intentions.


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