Two part question on sexual sins

What are some examples of objective sexual or sex related acts or practices that could be instantly thought of as grave matter or mortal sins? (Examples being; pornography, fornication and so on)

With those mortal sins in mind, what would be examples of objective venial sexual sins?

It seems to me, most sexual sins seem to fall into grave matter. But I know that this can’t always be the case. What are some answers or thoughts to these questions?

A lot of the negative stereotypes about Catholics/Christians
deal with the fact that many ultra conservative people:

Anything Sexual = Sin!

Basically, anything but married missionary sex between a man and woman is bad!

But many “cafeteria” Catholics have no problem with being sexual and don’t think of it as sinning, but as being human and expressing love and pleasure.

But from a strict Catholic view, I’m sure many people believe that even thinking about anything remotely sexual is a sin. Silly of course.


First of all, please disregard posts #2 & #3 completely. These posts demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding about the Catholic faith and are just bludgeons to attack conservatives. Politics are only to be discussed in the News Forums per site rules. :yup:

Secondly, in order for someone to commit mortal sin, three conditions must be present:

  1. Full knowledge

  2. Complete consent

  3. Grave matter

If you are wondering specifically pertaining to your situation, then you need to ask your confessor or find a spiritual director to find out if and when any sexual sin (or any other “sin” bothering you like this) is mortal.

Specifically regarding sexual sins, they seem easier to commit than massive theft or murder, but just because one thinks lustful thoughts or even masturbates or uses pornography does not necessarily mean they are in a state of mortal sin.

Maturity, habit, age----these things are factors.

But as I said, the only person other than yourself to determine that is your confessor. It really cannot be done on-line on these forums.

Objective venial sins? You mean where the matter is “venial” or light?

Lustful thoughts, desires, actions -there is no smallness (parvity) of matter in such- a single person is not to deliberately engage in sexual thoughts/acts/desires. It is grave matter.

There can be immodest acts etc that are venial in matter though.

And of course one needs also full knowledge and complete consent in order to commit a mortal sin.

One must distinguish between temptation and sin. All sorts of thoughts etc can happen to one out of the blue - but there need not be any sin. A good confessor can assist one in forming ones conscience.

I think perhaps, a lustful thought could be more on the venial end as would wearing something a bit immodest.

A lustful thought is a grave matter.

It is not venial.

It can be a venial sin that is committed though or no sin at all even - due to lack of complete consent or no consent at all.

I have a pretty good idea of what sins, to my conscious, are mortal. No if, and’s or but’s about it.

For example (and this is an example and not from myself speaking), looking at a woman in skimpy clothes is not as grievous an act as scamming the web looking for naked women or women who are engaged in pornography.

Or perhaps a husband and wife who are doing illicit sex acts with each other opposed to a husband who is cheating on his spouse with multiple partners.

I could think of more examples. But for now, don’t circumstances come into play?

Is there a difference in the sin if someone feels compelled to do it rather than someone who makes a conscious choice to do it?

I just feel if we used the prescribed notion of what constitutes grave sin, everyone in the world would constantly be in a state of mortal sin since it seems like all 3 criteria are easy to answer with a “yes”.

Or perhaps I’m a really bad sinner…

Way too much emphasis on sin, and not enough on mercy.

In any discussion, we should strive to balance the two.

If we never sinned, we would never know the mercy of God.

Murder of my postman is not as grievous an act as the murder of my wife. But still both are grave sin.

Now as to your example though-such is a different matter:

Looking at woman in skimpy clothes: can be a venially immodest looks or grave matter -such as looking with lust. Or it can be simply a brief automatic noticing of the person without any sin whatever…It is such as “looking lustfully” that is the grave matter.

Pornography is always a grave matter.

So from my research I find that most all sexual sins are mortal, except (according to the catechism) masturbation.

“To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility [for masturbation] . . . one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. (CCC 2352)”

Now research aside my thoughts here, why are we even talking about this? If for debate or we to become theologians great I’m all about it, if for us believing in, loving God, strengthening our relationship with The Lord, a sin is a sin. Are some worse? Yeah, I’d probably rather see someone steal a candy bar than murder someone. Just me… But now if there is a deeper question here that’s what needs to come out.

And as pointed out above, you, God and maybe your confessor know all the circumstances, are you married, was there porn, are you 14 or 45 (Mentally not just physically). There’s a lot that goes into it.

Circumstances do not make objectively grave matter into a light matter. However it can be noted that culpability can be reduced in various ways. Where the person then does not have the needed knowledge and consent to commit a mortal sin.


Yes for some -(or many in our society -though God alone is the judge for there can be various things that effect culpability -and also note “being in state of Grace” is not just about avoiding mortal sins). And no for many others who are living in Christ or who via Confession Jesus has restored to that life and who are now living that life again!

Some can be confused too as to what is sinful or what is grave sin and what is venial or not even sin. Formation is an ongoing process.

A good confessor can be very helpful.

Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?


One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?


One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practic of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

I bring up the subject because as an earlier comment said, anything sexual seems to equal sin. Now, that’s not my personal view. I can say as a man in his 30’s, and living in a sex obsessed culture, it is an area of interest to know what other Catholics think about this topic. I can also say as a man in his 30’s that probably 75% (or more) struggle with at least some form of sexual sin or other. I’m sure the same could be said for females. Whether said sin is grave matter is not up for debate. At least not for me. But as another poster said, I think we need to focus on God’s mercy in this area. I do not believe that because someone gives in to temptation automatically classifies them as having mortally sinned. I think it’s important to examine what could or could not make certain sins mortal or venial. That’s why in my OP I asked to list sins. Hope I shed some light on your comments.

Thanks for the thorough replies Bookcat. I will research them later and reply. God bless.

I’m reading this amazing book called ? To lay hands on ? Don’t quote me on that name. Anyway, the priest, or whatever holy man (Catholic) wrote it (I don’t remember I got so involved in the book) talked about this kind of.

Now that everyone is totally confused here is basically what I’m trying to say. I’m reading a good catholic book, I got cut off in the middle of the part I’m talking about so I may update this post. The guy is some sort of authority in the Catholic Church.

Where I am he is talking about giving up what brings up the most pleasure and embracing the lesser pleasurable parts of our life. Not that we must all rip our clothes, wear sackcloth and rub ash on ourselves but I think this applies here…

THE POINT: If it’s such a pleasurable thing that it could possibly tempt us away from The Lord wouldn’t it be a mortal sin? Why is eating a deadly sin, it isn’t if it’s done in a controlled, appropriate manner. Yet when you put food above your health, your neighbors, the poor, the starving, above God himself then it’s Gluttony, a deadly, mortal sin.

I’ll add more later but I’m carrying on to much already right now…

Pretty much any sexual sin is grave matter. Whether it is mortal, as many have pointed out, is whether the three above conditions have been met. Sexual sins of the “thought variety” have a harder time reaching those three conditions than sins that tend to rely on more forethought and planning like fornication and especially adultery typically do. Masturbation is a sin that typically involves less forethought. But I would say that whenever committing a sexual sin in action (masturbation, looking at porn etc.) one shouldn’t assume that there was no mortal sin and should go to confession before receiving Communion.

Simple rule of thumb when it comes to sex and sin: It’s a sin. :wink:

Sex is a gift from God to married couples. Man and woman in sacred matrimony; marriage is a Sacrament by God not a piece of paper issued by a government office.

Fornication between unmarried men and women is a sin regardless of the sexual position you use or don’t use.

“Cafeteria” Catholics are a myth. You are or you aren’t Catholic. You don’t get to define your own “type” of Catholicism.

Frankly I think about having sex with my spouse and there’s nothing sinful about it.

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