When are mortal sins venial

I was told by a catholic teacher once that even though abortion is a mortal sin, if there were certain situations (such as intense pressure, the woman was young, etc.) then it might not be considered a mortal sin because of her situation. I’ve also read in the cathecism about other mortal sins such as pornography that might not be mortal if someone is addicted to it.

So I guess my question is, do the circumstances always matter? Can a mortal sin always become venial if there is a lot of other mitigating circumstances? Also, is this kind of dangerous, because we can justify any mortal sin if we say “were under enough pressure”?

I guess on the flip side, if the circumstances don’t matter then I guess it would be kind of harsh to judge people so strongly.

I’m familiar with the 3 requirements that are needed for a mortal sin but I don’t quite understand how they would answer this issue. Please dont just quote the 3 requirements - please explain it to me. Thanks,

-Teneth

Abortion is a grave sin. In fact, it’s intrinsically evil, so it is always a grave sin (in other words, there are no mitigating circumstances under which it might be considered not to be sinful).

, if there were certain situations (such as intense pressure, the woman was young, etc.) then it might not be considered a mortal sin because of her situation.

A mortal sin is a sin that is a grave sin, which is committed with full knowledge of its gravely sinful nature and with deliberate consent to commit the sin. If these three conditions aren’t all met, then it is not a mortal sin. That holds for all sins, not just any particular one…

So I guess my question is, do the circumstances always matter?

Sin is always sin, from the perspective of its objective sinfulness. The question of the culpability of the sinner is always subjective, and takes into account the sinner’s knowledge and his consent to commit the sin.

Can a mortal sin always become venial if there is a lot of other mitigating circumstances?

Not ‘mortal’, but ‘grave’. The sin isn’t changing; rather, a subjective evaluation is taking place.

Also, is this kind of dangerous, because we can justify any mortal sin if we say “were under enough pressure”?

A mortal sin requires deliberate consent. In any situation, if that consent isn’t present, then neither is mortal sin.

I’m familiar with the 3 requirements that are needed for a mortal sin but I don’t quite understand how they would answer this issue. Please dont just quote the 3 requirements - please explain it to me.

Not quite sure what you’re looking for: if you don’t know it’s a grave sin, how could we claim you committed it deliberately? If you’re unable to consent or do not consent to committing the sin, how could we claim that you’re culpable for it?

It is dangerous to think that you can justify any sins. You can’t just say “I was pressured”, it has to be real and true.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer 17:10

“And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts” Luke 16:15

The knowledge of what is mortally sinful does not affect God’s nature, it only is useful insofar as it drives us to repentance.

Ok, well I guess there is a definition of grave sins and mortal sins. I wasn’t familiar with it but I think I understand it.

Also you seem to just be retelling me the three requirements. I guess let me try to be more clear. I understand that to commit mortal sin you need the three requirements:

  1. The object is grave matter
  2. It is committed with full knowledge
  3. It is done with deliberate consent

My question is, what can impair your consent/knowledge of the sin? I know the obvious answers (i.e. you weren’t aware it was a sin or somebody physically forced you to do it). I understand why it wouldn’t be a mortal sin in those cases.

But what about softer things, like emotional pressure from a friend/family/society? Can that impair your consent? Apparently addiction to a certain activity (such as pornography) can also impair your consent. So there seems to be a variety of emotional factors that can impair a persons consent and make it not a mortal sin.

I guess I was just wondering if this was true for every mortal sin.

I mean, here’s one example. I know murder is usually going to be a mortal sin. But what if somebody breaks into my house, kills my family, and I come home and find him. I know I should turn him over to the police but in my anger I decide to kill him instead. Would this be a mortal sin?

Thanks,
-Teneth

:nope:Let me be very clear here -…:nope:
:nope: I in no way support nor condone the willful act of an abortion:nope:
:nope: This post should not be interrupted in any way, that would suggest that I would do so at any time :nope:

Gorgias,
There certainly are situations wherein the abortion isn’t automatically a mortal sin (or even a sin at all) for the person** receiving **the abortion - still intrinsically evil but not always a mortal sin (or sinful act)… You give the conditions right there, especially the two I’ve highlighted in red.

Of the two, lack of free choice is the more likely mitigating condition. Any person forced to have an abortion (i.e. a minor child, an individual threatened with death (as can happen with prostitutes), or another form of coercion especially that relating to the loss of life or limb from self or others) fails the deliberate consent requirement. Still a grave act, still intrinsically evil, yet the person may not be guilty of mortal sin (or of any sin).

Also, we must keep in mind that there are people in this world that do not know or understand the severity of the act nor that it is intrinsically evil such as a minor child or someone of diminished mental capacity due to a medical condition; thus, such a person would fail the second condition.

This has been covered in a dozen threads, one such:
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=657164

Also: EWTN: Abortion - Excommunication

NOTE WELL To actually incur the excommunication one must know that it is an excommunicable offense at the time of the abortion. Canon 1323 provides that the following do not incur a sanction, those who are not yet 16, are unaware of a law, do not advert to it or are in error about its scope, were forced or had an unforeseeable accident, acted out of grave fear, or who lacked the use of reason (except culpably, as by drunkenness). Thus a woman forced by an abusive husband to have an abortion would not incur an excommunication, for instance, whereas someone culpably under the influence of drugs or alcohol would (canon 1325).

If Excommunication isn’t automatic, then neither is the act automatically a mortal sin or even a sin at all for that person - that of course does not relive the person performing the act - they are most likely committing a mortal sin (I can’t imagine a case where such a person wouldn’t be; however, there is the case of coercion should such a person performing the act do so under duress - must be done with free will!).

We must also consider that a medical act taken, without the intent to cause an abortion, that results in a spontaneous abortion may also fail to be a sinful act by anyone involved… For example, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy (where the baby develops outside the womb) where the mother’s doctors determine that the only way to ensure her survival is to remove the fallopian tube (resulting in the death of the baby) is not a sin because the death of the child was not the desired result, it is an unavoidable consequence of the procedure to save the mother’s life.

:nope:ONCE AGAIN, let me be very clear, I do not condone the willful act of abortion for abortion’s sake:nope:

The terms “grave sin” and “mortal sin” refer to the same sin. A grave sin is a mortal sin and vice a versa. It is not that a “grave sin becomes a mortal sin”. Abortion objectively is always a mortal sin in itself (grave sin, serious sin). And as you note - if one has the needed knowledge and consent one then commits it (is guilty of grave sin).

The better term to use “grave matter” when discussing if a person has committed a grave sin (mortal sin).

Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

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?

1862-1864
1875

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 practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

My question really hasn’t been answered yet. You guys keep quoting me this very doctrinal items that dont seem to get to the heart of my question. Read my 2nd response to this thread (the 4th post down from the top). I’ll quote the main part here:

"But what about softer things, like emotional pressure from a friend/family/society? Can that impair your consent? Apparently addiction to a certain activity (such as pornography) can also impair your consent. So there seems to be a variety of emotional factors that can impair a persons consent and make it not a mortal sin.

I guess I was just wondering if this was true for every mortal sin.

I mean, here’s one example. I know murder is usually going to be a mortal sin. But what if somebody breaks into my house, kills my family, and I come home and find him. I know I should turn him over to the police but in my anger I decide to kill him instead. Would this be a mortal sin?"

I’m more wondering about what sort of emotional factors can impair your consent and make it not a mortal sin.

I think it depends on how strong in faith you are; everyone has different levels of resistance when it comes to persuasion. This is a question that can’t really be answered. If there is something that REALLY affects your consent, where you REALLY can’t handle the pressure of a situation, then your culpability MAY be reduced. I say reduced, not eliminated, but only God and you can know if you were REALLY pressured into doing something that you would not normally d. You can’t just say “I was pressured”; you really have to be pressured to the point where you can say you were not in your right state of mind.

In your example, it is very likely that in an emotional fit, you were not thinking straight when you killed the intruder, because if you WERE thinking straight, you would (I hope) turn the perpetrator over to the authorities, and it is possible you committed no mortal sin, because you did not fully consent to it.

If, on the other hand, you WERE thinking straight, and you CONVINCED yourself with right deliberation that you were going to murder the perpetrator as revenge, that would be a mortal sin.

Is that more clear?

When in doubt, seek the forgiveness of God in the sacrament of Confession.

Sounds like you were knowingly and very deliberately deciding to kill them…yes out of anger but the way it is phrased there it would seem that such did not effect the free character of the act in question (it was freely chosen vengence aided by anger). The presence of the anger per se does not mean there was less sin.

But can strong feelings etc effect things where the sin is diminished? Yes they can. Such is “possible” but judging for oneself afterwards can be rather difficult and possibly self deceptive.

Catechism:

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm#IV

Also:

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.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a3.htm#I

1767 In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, "either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way."44 It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason.45

1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a5.htm#II

Yes it is “possible” that various antecedent emotional states can affect things in various circumstances…ones confessor can assist one in judging what happened.

If one though says to oneself at the time “I am going to murder him for it will not be a mortal sin due to my strong feelings here cause he murdered my family” - well that would rather more indicate that such is very deliberate choice freely made!

Yes… and no. Yes – when we’re talking about ‘serious sin’, we’re talking about ‘grave matter’. So, to be more precise: a sin of grave matter is a mortal sin when it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate intent; a sin of grave matter is a venial sin when it is committed either without full knowledge or without deliberate intent.

Abortion objectively is always a mortal sin in itself (grave sin, serious sin).

No. Mortal sin is only mortal sin in the presence of grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate intent. In other words, ‘mortal sin’ is a subjective determination. From an objective standpoint, abortion is always grave matter – it’s intrinsically evil, and cannot be anything but grave matter and sinful.

Almost. Yes, you’re correct that no sin is ever ‘automatically’ a mortal sin, since the criteria for mortal sin are subjective.

However, no, you’re incorrect in asserting that abortion might, in some cases, not be “even a sin at all for [a] person.” It’s always a sin; however, one’s responsibility might be diminished due to subjective considerations… and, in some cases, it might be a venial sin. The imputability might be lessened… but, it’s always sinful. (And, of course, if the will of the person is taken away, such that an abortion is performed on them against their will, then the sin belongs to the aggressor in that situation, not the woman who had the abortion performed against her will. However, that’s a different kind of situation, and it seems that you’re not addressing it here.)

  • that of course does not relive the person performing the act - they are most likely committing a mortal sin (I can’t imagine a case where such a person wouldn’t be; however, there is the case of coercion should such a person performing the act do so under duress - must be done with free will!).

You’re talking about the medical personnel involved? It’s difficult to imagine how they might not be considered to be acting with “deliberate consent”. However, I suppose, one could make the case that, for some, there’s not “full knowledge” of the sinful nature of the act. Not terribly likely, but technically possible.

We must also consider that a medical act taken, without the intent to cause an abortion, that results in a spontaneous abortion may also fail to be a sinful act by anyone involved.

‘Double effect’. Yep, this comes into play in some situations. Note, though, that no procured abortion can be ameliorated by an appeal to double effect. Since an abortion – willed as an abortion – is intrinsically evil, it cannot prevail in a ‘double effect’ argument.

Yes, there are a variety of factors. We can’t really say, in an objective sense, “this counts” or “that doesn’t.” It’s always a subjective judgment call. And, in a very real sense, it’s not our call to make – it’s God’s call! So, the bottom line (for me, at least) is this: if you commit a sin of grave matter – get to confession! It doesn’t matter whether it’s mortal or venial; it doesn’t matter whether you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s mortal or if you just suspect it might be – get to confession! The awesome thing about confession is that, when you walk out – whether or not your sin(s) are mortal – your sins are absolved and you’re in a state of grace!

I guess I was just wondering if this was true for every mortal sin.

For every sin of grave matter? Yes, it’s true.

I mean, here’s one example. I know murder is usually going to be a mortal sin. But what if somebody breaks into my house, kills my family, and I come home and find him. I know I should turn him over to the police but in my anger I decide to kill him instead. Would this be a mortal sin?

Given the way you’ve described it, yes, it’s a sin – since you said “I decided to kill him”. Whether or not it’s a mortal sin depends on the extent to which your anger impeded your deliberate consent. However, your description has introduced another dynamic that’s in play here: if you deliberately consented to your anger, then you bear certain responsibility for the sinful actions committed in anger. So, you’re not out of the woods by saying, “I was angry, so by definition I couldn’t have committed a mortal sin.”

(On the other hand, if you’re looking for a discussion about the ways in which that action might not have been sinful, then you need to appeal to self-defense. IIRC, Aquinas argues that, if the intent is merely to defend yourself and your family against sinful aggression (and that defense leads to killing the aggressor, or if the only way to defend against him is to kill him), then the act is not sinful. That’s a different scenario, though, than the one you painted.)

I was at the Maronite Church in Greer, SC. The priest there (who I am assuming was visiting, I have no way of knowing). was talking about Pope Francis giving priests the right to absolve the grave sin (and he used the term) of abortion. He told us about one girl that confessed to having an abortion, but that she did not have full knowledge or consent of the abortion, and was in fact drugged. Now, she did not deliberately choose an abortion, her mother forced her into one, without her knowledge. So I ask you this: who is at fault?

Yes what I noted is yes correct. Grave sin does not become mortal sin. Grave sin is mortal sin and mortal sin is grave sin and both are serious sin.

As to this what you just wrote - yes it is best to use the term “grave matter” when discussing ones culpability. And yes you are correct that if a person does what is grave matter without the needed knowledge and or consent - then one commits a venial sin or no sin at all even. The matter itself remains objectively a “grave matter” and can yes be said to be “a grave sin, a serious sin, a mortal sin” (all referring to the same thing -just using different terms) but the person has not “committed” more than a venial sin in such a case.

(PS:To correct your typo there-- it is “deliberate consent” not “intent”. )

No it is not only the “subjective” determination.

Abortion objectively is always a mortal sin in itself --it can be called by either term.

It is completely true to say objectively:

Abortion is a mortal sin.
Abortion is a grave sin.
Abortion is a serious sin.

All referring to the same objective sin in itself.

But yes again one can say Abortion is grave matter. Yes you are correct. An intrinsically grave evil.

Thank you Stephen and Bookcat, you did answer my question. So it is possible that strong emotions or situations can reduce you’re cupability. I understand that self-deception is also possible though so it’s in no way an excuse. I was just wondering about this because I’m possibly converting to Cathoclicsm and looking to understand their conception of sin (which is a little different then the protestant versions). Thank you for your answers

-Teneth

Thanks. :thumbsup:

Abortion objectively is always a mortal sin in itself --it can be called by either term.

It is completely true to say objectively:

Abortion is a mortal sin.
Abortion is a grave sin.
Abortion is a serious sin.

All referring to the same objective sin in itself.

If ‘mortal sin’ refers to “full knowledge and deliberate consent”, then it has subjective considerations, and therefore – as distinct from ‘venial sin’ – cannot be used in a purely objective sense. (Unless, of course, you really are trying to muddy the waters by asserting that there’s an objective sense of the term ‘mortal sin’ as well as a subjective sense of the same term.)

Abortion is grave matter. There are cases in which abortion is a mortal sin for a particular person. There are cases in which abortion is only a venial sin for a particular person. (See CCC 1862 for a discussion of how grave matter may result in venial sin.)

Such is not muddying waters -but simply clarifying the terms as they get used in the Church.

Mortal sin refers to EITHER that sin itself: ie Murder IS a mortal sin. In itself.

Or it refers to the subjectively committed sin. I committed a mortal sin.

The terms “mortal sin” “serious sin” and “grave sin” are synonyms. And they can all be used in both an Objective sense or a Subjective sense.

The Church uses the terms in various ways -both in the subjective and objective sense.

Yes Abortion is a grave matter. And if one had the needed full knowledge and deliberate consent then one commits a grave sin (mortal sin, serious sin).

And Yes one also can simply say: abortion is a mortal sin or abortion is a grave sin or abortion is a serious sin - all referring to the nature of “abortion”.

(and yes if there is lacking either the needed knowledge or consent - even though abortion itself is a grave sin (mortal, serious) - the person is not culpable of grave sin…but of a venial sin or no sin even perhaps.)

The Church uses these terms in two senses (and an objective if you will and a subjective sense). And in both senses the terms grave sin, mortal sin, and serious sin are rather interchangeable. But the three are Synonyms.

Here are the two senses:

  1. Objective sense

Murder is a grave sin.
Murder is a serious sin.
Murder is a mortal sin.

(all three refer to the same sin)

Then there is this way…

  1. Subjective sense…

I committed the grave sin of Murder
I committed the serious sin of Murder
I committed the mortal sin of Murder

(all three refer to my same sin)

This is speaking of when the thing I committed is grave matter …done with full knowledge and deliberate (complete) consent.

Both are true. Both are ways the terms get used in Church documents


Ordinarily I tell people “such and such is a grave matter” for mortal sin and if one does it with full knowledge and complete consent…then one commits a mortal sin.

But sometimes I will say “yes murder is a mortal sin”…etc And that is perfectly correct.

What one does NOT what to say is “it was a grave sin but not a mortal sin” for that would be an incorrect usage for a grave sin does not “become” a mortal sin - a grave sin is a mortal sin.

Better to use the term as you have used it in various places: “grave matter”. When trying to discuss culpability.

Indeed sometimes one finds a forum writer saying something like --“was this a grave sin or a mortal sin?” Or “the person committed a grave sin but it was not mortal”. which can lead to the impression that a grave sin was anything other than a mortal sin. And thus be in correct.

grave sin = mortal sin =serious sin

The term used in some magisterial documents is “actual mortal sin” when the sin has grave matter and full knowledge and full deliberation. An act that has grave matter is objectively a mortal sin, also called a grave sin. So an objective mortal sin is also an actual mortal sin when all three conditions are met: grave matter, full knowledge, full deliberation. Only actual mortal sin deprives the soul of the state of grace and deserves eternal punishment (if one does not repent).

Pope Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus, and the Council of Florence both use “actual mortal sin”. In other documents, the term “mortal sin” is used to mean “actual mortal sin”. Terminology varies.

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