What is a material sin?


I recently heard about something called a materiel sin where the person is not fully cupible for there sins. I’m having difficulty understanding it though. So, let’s say someone decides to masturbate. The person doesn’t think about wheather or not it’s a mortal sin or not and they just do it. No premeditation, no reflection, nothing. This person goes to bed and doesn’t think about it the rest of the night and falls asleep. The next day this person wakes up and then realizes they sin. Was this an example of a materiel sin? Is this person in mortal sin? Or is all materiel sins veniel since sufficient reflection is absent?


A better way to put it is when someone is gossiping about someone else, but they didn’t know it was a sin.


If you take someone’s briefcase at a conference, thinking it is your own, this is called material theft. The person is still harmed by not getting it back (say there are no identifying papers), but you were not intending to steal. You are not culpable for this.


I know Madonna - had a song " Material Girl " -

The video of the song - subtly - hints about money, having fun,
jewelry, gigantic houses, elegant cars, power, prestige …etc

'Cause we are living - in a material world - And I am a material girl
You know that we are living - in a material world - And I am a material girl
(has a hypnotic - robotic type feel to it.)

The last two - of the ten commandments.


When you’re asking yourself “Is this a grave matter” you’re acting about whether a material evil happened. This material evil has nothing to do with your will. It’s the part of sin that is objective. So when we say we aren’t moral relativists, we are basically saying that material evil and material goodness exists. They’re not just social constructs. Good is good and evil is evil. Evil is recognized by the negation of the good. Evil doesn’t exist in itself.

So a better analogy would be running over someone with your car. The material evil is that the person lost their life. Death is an evil because it is the loss of life. The moral component involves my willfulness. So, in one situation, it might be a dark night with icy roads. I was being reasonably attentive on the road but failed to notice the person. Then I did everything in my power to avoid hitting them. But everything happened so fast and I still didn’t avoid it. In this case, I have no moral culpability for the evil. There’s literally nothing deliberate about it. I’m aware of the evil and their death even may haunt me afterward. I may fear getting in my car afterward. I can even feel guilty and question if I really DID everything I could. But such questions would be scrupulous to ask. My will was completely aimed at a respect for life.

Now maybe I might learn something from that, but we must also be careful of being over zealous in our avoidance. We have to avoid taking more blame than is due to us.

Now say that I wasn’t being attentive. Say I was driving while intoxicated. I didn’t intend to hit them, but I put myself in a morally wreckless situation that resulted in their death. My willful actions are once removed. I didn’t intentionally kill the person but I was gravely irresponsible. This is sort of my failure to avoid a near occassion of sin. I’m to blame but through a degree of seperation. I the drinking and driving is what I need to repent of. I should recognize the death wasn’t willful, but still recognize my level of culpability for their death.

The gravest and most willful way to go about this --the mortal sin, that is, is to know that is a person in the road and to deliberately steer your car into them. Now, some might tell you that those other things are mortal sins as well because they cry out for so much justice. But usually when people say this its because they view venial sins as small matters we shouldn’t bother with. They’re the sins we can get away with.

Our goal should be to want to avoid doing evil and do what is good. Thus I’d spend less time on discerning what category of sin you’re in. If you’re sincerely striving to do good and avoid evil, you won’t fall into mortal sin, AND you will earnestly go to confession for the graces, not because you’re selfishly fearing for your own eternal wellbeing. Fearing hell will always result in doing the bare minimum which is a graver sin in itself.


It is where something that is sinful is done, but the person isn’t held fully culpable due to ignorance or lack of intent.


“Material sin”??? did you mean to say “mortal sin” ?? I’ve never heard of material or materiel sin.

The reasons for not being fully responsible for a sin are stated in paragraph 1735 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
** 1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.**

This paragraph is not so much about technicalities, as they are not all mentioned. It is about God’s mercy. Inadvertence is only one such condition. The others are about intentional actions that are nevertheless considered to be less than demanding eternal separation from God.

I have asked for clarification of this paragraph and no priest will touch it – it is so vague and broad.

I’m over 60 and in my lifetime I’ve heard that masturbation is a venial sin, then many years later told that it was a mortal sin. But 1735 tells us it is perhaps not even a sin at all (in the sense of whether confession is required). It’s very vague. While I think God’s mercy is real, we should not “mock” God (as scripture says). We should not presume on God’s mercy to overlook our sins. The presumption itself might be the real sin

No priest has ever asked me in confession if any of the conditions of 1735 apply to my sins. One priest I asked on TV basically turned 1735 upside down,. In fairness, he was trying to urge people not to sin, but the CCC is the “deposit of Faith” – things we must all accept and believe.

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