Unrepented Mortal Sin = Hell


#1

Of all of the Catholic teachings this is the one that I (a recent convert) struggle with the most.

One of the requirements of a mortal sin is that there be “full consent.”

The only times I’ve ever committed a grave sin, I either was under the influence of alcohol or a lot of stress. Thus, arguably, I didn’t have the requisite consent for it to be a mortal sin (although I understand the need to avoid the near occasions of sin by, e.g., remaining sober).

When things are going good for me (i.e., when I’m sober and not under stress), the idea of committing a grave sin is utterly unthinkable. It would be next ti impossible, for example, for me to commit adultery right after attending Mass. It just would never happen in a million years. But if I did commit such an act–with full consent–and didn’t repent, the Church says I go to hell.

Here’s what I struggle with: Since it’s virtually impossible for me to commit such an act, what is it that “saves” me and gets me to Heaven? Is it the not committing the act, or is it my Christian faith that makes committing such an act next to impossible? Protestants would say the latter, obviously. And given my belief that committing a mortal sin (a grave act with full consent) is next to impossible for me (at least I think it is), I have a hard time understanding why they are wrong.

Is it the faith that saves us–i.e., the faith that makes us the kinds of people who can’t imagine committing a mortal sin–or is it the not committing the mortal sin?

“Both,” is what some people will say, and I understand that. Obviously, we must have faith to be saved.

But if the faith prevents the committing of a mortal sin–i.e., prevents us from giving full consent to committing a grave act–isn’t it the faith–alone–that saves us?

I hope I’m being clear.


#2

I think you are, but you are leaving out an important component: God’s grace. It is neither faith alone or works alone (i.e., doing good and avoiding evil apart from God’s grace) that saves us, but our response to the grace that God gives us in any given situation. Even our faith is a gift of God’s grace that we give our consent to, cooperate with, if you will. That is where our free will comes in.

I know this isn’t a full or direct answer, but if you would rethink your problem in these terms, it may become a little clearer for you.:slight_smile:

Also this article may help:

Grace: What It Is and What it Does:
catholic.com/library/Grace_What_It_Is.asp

As well as:

Sanctifying Grace:
rosary-center.org/ll46n1.htm

and

Actual Grace:
rosary-center.org/ll46n2.htm


#3

Since returning to the Church 4 years ago, I have come to realize that obvious offenses against the “big ten” are not the only ways we participate in sin. While it is fairly easy to identify cheating on one’s spouse as a mortal sin, it becomes a bit more complicated when one examines more subtle yet equally sinful actions that occur almost on a daily bases. For me, remaining watchful and aware of all my thoughts and behaviors as well as praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal my sin to me raises my consciousness of the many little ways I offend God. Seemingly innocuous participation in gossip, indulging in vengeful thinking, neglecting to evangelize when given the opportunity, etc., are all offenses against God. When I pray for awareness, I realize as I am engaging in these behaviors that I am choosing an action that will separate me from Him. So I, in fact, find that it is not that difficult to fall into mortal sin.


#4

To add to my previous post, it may be helpful to think of sin in two basic ways: Positive and Negative.

Positive sins are those things, large and small (mortal and venial) we actually have to positively take conscious action to do: murder, robbery, bonking our little brother on the head in a pique of anger; racing to cut someone off from a parking space they were waiting for, etc. These are pretty easy to recognize, though we can be quite inventive in justifying our commiting of them. “Well, they had it coming…”

Negative sins are more subtle. We have the opportunity to give alms, or talk about Jesus, or help our spouse with a chore, or give an encouraging word to friend (or even foe). These are our non-responses to those things that God has put into our paths to do and in fact given us the grace to do them if we will cooperate with it, even when (especially when) the task seems onerous. It is part of that cross Jesus told us we’d pick up and carry where our will crosses God’s will.

As it says in the Confietor:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,to pray for me to the Lord, our God.


#5

If you break one of the ten commandments you committ a mortal sin.

I never cease to be amazed by Catholics who feel like they rarely committ mortal sins. If they really are that great they must be saints!

Look if St. Peter himself can deny our Lord Jesus don’t you think that it would be pretty easy and pretty common for us lessor Catholics to committ much less grave mortal sins–and no I’m not talking about venial sin.

The scriptures say that the righteous fall seven times a day–now let me ask you this–say you fall seven times a day but they are only 7 venial sins–how many venial sins do you think you can committ before your love for God would be Wounded enough that you would fall into mortal sin?

Wake up! Go to Confession!

Going to Confession doesn’t mean you’re being scrupulous–it might just be you have a sense of reality and are “Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” just as St. Paul says!

See being Catholic and feeling like you hardly ever committ mortal sin is as bad as being Protestant and believing in Blessed Assurance and Once Saveed Always Saved:

The same mindset leads equally to Hell!

Why is the message from our Blessed Mother always Penance?

Why did St. Pius X and Mother Teresa go to confession Daily? Were they stupid? Emulate them! Who knows–maybe if we all did we would become saints, too!


#6

As Fidelis said, it is GRACE. I would just add a few things to show the way in which that grace works in us to accomplish our being saved (in regards to not sinning).

It is grace that not only brought you to faith, but continues to strengthen it. It is grace that helps you understand God’s moral teaching; it is grace that strengthens your will to resist sin. (It is grace that enlightens our darkened intellect and strengthens our weakened will.) Were God to withdraw all His grace, it’s frightening to think of all the mortal sins we would probably commit.

Nita


#7

Jerry-Jet, one of the things I continue to struggle with is recognizing sin in myself.

I don’t know the background of the OP, but perhaps he has the same trouble. It’s not deliberate, believe me.

I am from an evangelical Protestant background, and I was taught from an early age that it is a sin to think about our sins. I was taught that we should meditate only on Jesus and not ourselves. All of our sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven by Jesus when we “accepted Him as our Personal Savior,” so to think about our sins was to demonstrate a lack of faith in Jesus.

The only reason to confess any sins was for OUR benefit, to remind us that Jesus had already forgiven these sins. But we didn’t have to worry about sins, because Jesus had “covered” them with His Blood, and that’s what God saw when He looked at me–His Son’s perfection. I didn’t have to worry about my own perfection, because He was perfect for me.

After years and years of that kind of teaching, I find that I am more or less unaware of sin in my life, unless someone gets mad at me and makes it clear that I have sinned against them.

This “lack of awareness of sin” was and still is difficult for me as a new Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics who joke about “feeling guilty about everything they do” because they were taught from an early age to confess their sins.

Well, I wish I could feel some of their guilt, because I honestly am not aware of sin.

Like the OP, if I ever committed adultery, or stole something, or killed someone, I would be aware of that. But the little sins just fly right by. I couldn’t tell you anything. As you can imagine, confession is very hard for me because I can never think of anything to confess.

What I am doing at this point is relying on the Examination of Conscience and prayers asking the Holy Spirit to recall sins to my mind so that I can confess them. I know that I am a sinner because that is what the Church and the Bible teach, and at this point, I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me to recognize sin in myself.

I agree with those who say that God’s grace saves us. It is through God’s grace that we have any ability to be good at all.


#8

Not necessarily. One can only commit a mortal sin if they make a fully deliberate choice to do something that they know is gravely sinful ie. braking one of the Ten Commandments. It is not possible to accidentaly commit a mortal sin. You have to know what you are doing or are about to do, and then freely do it or continue doing it anyway.

I never cease to be amazed by Catholics who feel like they rarely committ mortal sins. If they really are that great they must be saints!

It takes a lot more than just not committing any mortal sins to become a Saint. One must be filled with heroic virtue, which requires much more than just avoiding mortal sin.

See being Catholic and feeling like you hardly ever committ mortal sin is as bad as being Protestant and believing in Blessed Assurance and Once Saveed Always Saved:

The same mindset leads equally to Hell!

This does not make any sense. How is recognizing that you have avoided choosing hell by the grace of God the same as believing that it is not possible for you to ever go to hell?


#9

think about what you are saying. “it is not difficult to fall into mortal sin.” i.e., “it is not difficult” to enter into a situation of total separation from god (the kind of total separation that can send you to hell for all eternity). that’s pretty hard for me to accept (and i don’t think that’s what the catechism teaches).


#10

so, you must think that your soul is often (perhaps even daily??) in a state in which, if you don’t go to confession, you will spend all eternity in hell. i don’t feel that way. do i sin? yes, all the time. but i do not feel like i commit sins on a daily or even weekly basis that, if unrepented, will separate me from god for all eternity.


#11

If you examine various Christian denominations, Catholicism, Protestant and Orthodox, the sorts of sins which are lethal to the spiritual life are pretty much the same. Catholicism, which has a fairly strong emphasis on rationality, precision and law, tended to split sin into fairly dry rational categories, including mortal and venial. In so far as moral theology is concerned, we are supposed to be good so we are like God; being morally good puts us in a state of grace which sanctifies us and this grace divinises and justifies us and makes us worthy to partake in the divine nature. Even pagan moral philosophers like Aristotle and Plato or Seneca emphasized to be virtuous is to be like the divine, and moral evil involved turning away from this to base things like murder and adultery, sexual excess, greed and gluttony, and so on. The difference between the moral philosophy of Kant I noticed, isn’t that much different from Catholic moral theology, except Kant is very agnostic about God’s existence.

We could see what is is saved from, but it is also what we are saved for. To take part in the divine vision of God we have to leave behind what is unlike God, and moral evil in any form is most unlike God, whose essence is entirely good and the fountain of goodness. God is also just and the source of all justice. This demands in a way if we wish to be worthy of seeing God we have to conform to his goodness and justice, and sanctifying grace achieves this. Mortal sin which is not repented of robs us of this, and our likeness to God by grace, so we can’t be changed into God in such a way that we are able to see the divine essence if we died.

God is also merciful and I am sure the worst thing about many ‘mortal’ sinners is they never trust in God’s mercy enough to face judgement for their sins in this life via confession and reconciliation (or by baptism) and be restored to God’s grace and friendship. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel God is waiting for us to come home and stop wasting ourselves away in the illusory good of sin; all we ever need to do is turn back to him and his abundant goodness and mercy, which is mentioned always in the Church’s missals and masses.


#12

Grace through faith.

Is it the not committing the act, or is it my Christian faith that makes committing such an act next to impossible?

Not committing the act makes committing the act next to impossible? Sounds circular.

Its actually a combination of three things:

  1. the amount of sanctification your soul currently possesses, enabling faith to live in your soul,

  2. The quality of the faith that God gives you,

  3. the amount of cooperation you give to the HolySpirit working through your faith.

So if you have a temptation to sin, all three kick in to help you resist it.

Protestants would say the latter, obviously. And given my belief that committing a mortal sin (a grave act with full consent) is next to impossible for me (at least I think it is), I have a hard time understanding why they are wrong.

To a certain extent they are not wrong. What they are wrong in is that they believe that yours works have nothing to do with the preserving of your faith. Catholics believe that works plow, so to speak, the soul, to better allow faith to live there.

Mortals sin is like dumping poison in the ground. Nothing can grouw. Venial sins are like failing to plow up hardened soil.

Is it the faith that saves us–i.e., the faith that makes us the kinds of people who can’t imagine committing a mortal sin–or is it the not committing the mortal sin?

It is the keeping of a living faith that saves us. So both, as you say below.

“Both,” is what some people will say, and I understand that. Obviously, we must have faith to be saved.

But if the faith prevents the committing of a mortal sin–i.e., prevents us from giving full consent to committing a grave act–isn’t it the faith–alone–that saves us?

Again, the state of our souls with respect to sanctification determines is faith can live therein. And that is related to previous works done through faith cooperating with the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

I hope I’m being clear.

Crystal clear

peace
Don Esteban


#13

This is not correct. It is the grace of God ( a completely unwaranted gift) which sanctifies us and puts us in the state of grace, not our moral goodness. Our faith and moral goodness is an expression of our acceptance of the free gift of grace that God gives us.


#14

At first I thought you misunderstood Greg. But now I realize that Greg may have a fundamental misunderstanding of the source of the State of Grace.

However, if one realizes that the moral goodness of someone is the result of Grace, and that acting in accord with it is really cooperating with the Grace of he Holy Spirit, then I think such a view would be orthodox. Except that instead of using the verb “puts”, I would use “maintains”, because otherwise it appears our works have initiated Grace.

peace
Don Esteban


#15

Why is it that the greatest saints can easily see their sins and frequently went to confession and daily confessed venial sins directly to God but many ordinary Catholics don’t even think they sin much and aren’t worried?

Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

Let me tell you this: if you don’t know that you’re a sinner when you really are then you’re dangerously gone and don’t even know it.

When St. Paul said “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” exactly what part of fear and trembling do some people not understand?

When Jesus said “If you are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth”–what part of Hot, Cold, and Lukewarm do they not understand?

When Jesus commended the prayer of the person who prayed “Have mercy on me Oh God a sinner” did He give that teaching for no reason?

One does not have to suffer from scrupulosity to be able to see how far from perfect they are.

And if anyone is not daily asking for God to forgive their venial sins I’ll gurantee you that they are committing mortal sins!

Daily confession of venial sin plus receiving the Eucharist every Sunday is the bare minimum to avoid mortal sin.

Jesus said that we are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If we aren’t doing that everyday then we are at least everyday guilty of venial sin.

There is no treading water in the spiritual life–we are either going up or we are going down.

One venial sin will not a mortal sin make but repeated and accumulating venial sin unrepented will make mortal sin a greater and greater possibility.

I’ll also tell you this–Satan wants people to not be worried about their sins. He wants them to think that they are good and have nothing to worry about–from there it is easy for him to close the sale!

How many saints have written that the greatest pain possible–greater than any experienced on Earth is experienced in Purgatory–and that’s from the debt of Non-Mortal sin!

So even if you aren’t committing mortal sin do you think that venial sin is nothing to worry about?

Did Jesus want the feast of Divine Mercy celebrated for no reason?

Read any of the saints who did indeed live lives of heroic virtue and battled daily against sin and then tell me that you hardly ever committ mortal sin and aren’t worried about whatever purgation you may have to undergo in Purgatory for venial sin!

The saints never looked at things that way. Did they not know what they were talking about?


#16

Actually, the second poster, Fidelis, pointed out what we should all be aware of. If you are so blessed so as not to commit a mortal sin, then it is not your faith that made it happen but God’s grace, and your willful cooperation in it. That grace came through your faith.

And herein lies the Church’s stance on salvation: we are saved by Grace Alone. So given the situation you described, you don’t end up committing a mortal sin, then it is through grace, and is completely consistent with Catholic teaching.


#17

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