I once took an overdose of pills and woke up in ICU a week later, and I confessed that sin (and many others) the last time I saw a priest.
That’s not the kind of thing I’m thinking of here, and I only mention it because it seems funny that this particular question should be coming from me.
We hear about all kinds of things that could shorten our lives today, such as carcinegins being passed from plastic to foods in heating or re-heating.
I noticed that a plastic storage bag that had been breifly left on the stove where I was preparing dinner before I extracted a food item from it, had to be pulled open when I extracted the food (even though it had already been unzipped), and one pin-point spot that probably was never touching the food looked like it might have been starting to melt.
I still would like God to call me as soon as my soul is ready, so I’m not really worried about going a little sooner because I ate it, but what does worry me are the thoughts I struggled with before I ate it.
I was hungrey, and I really wanted it, and I think my thought process went something like this.
“Could this shorten my life, and do I care?”
"But is that a sin?
“Maybe, but only a venial sin.”
“But if Christ died for all our sins, and I do this knowing it could be a sin, could that make it a mortal sin?”
“And could I still ask Him to forgive me, if I ate it knowing it could be a mortal sin?”
I ate it, and now that last question still bothers me.
Is this another mortal sin that I have to confess to a priest before I receive communion?
I read this online, but I’m not sure it answers the question.
Three conditions for mortal sin
There are three conditions that make an act a mortal sin:
An act of grave matter that is... Committed with full knowledge and... Deliberate consent.
All three conditions must be met for it to be a mortal sin. If one condition is seriously lacking, it’s not mortal — it’s considered a venial sin…
Of course, such actions are still wrong!
A lack of knowledge or freedom only reduces our culpability (our degree of responsibility or guilt). We’ve still committed an act that is objectively evil. Such an act cannot help us to grow in grace, virtue or charity. The only upside is that our reduced responsibility means that we don’t kill the life of grace entirely.
Obviously, it’s important to understand these conditions!
The term grave matter means a serious act contrary to the moral law.
The Ten Commandments are the standard reference point for defining grave matter…
I should clarify two important things here.
First, a serious act is required. Telling your mother you forgot to put your shoes away (when you didn’t), is not the same as perjury or tax fraud. Minor violations are usually seen as venial sins unless serious harm results, or they are committed with real malice. (See Catechism, 2484)
Second, don’t look at that point about serious acts and try to use it as a loophole! …
For an act to be a mortal sin, we have to have full knowledge of its sinfulness. We have to know:
** That it is wrong; and
That we are committing the act.**
Much of the time, we know what acts are gravely wrong. Because of something called the “natural law”, we have a natural understanding of the universal norms of morality.
We don’t always recognize the natural law clearly because sin clouds our vision of it. So…
We also have the obligation to form our conscience, so that it can judge accurately and bear witness to the objective moral truth…
Deliberate consent of the will
Mortal sin also requires deliberate consent. This means that you make a free choice to commit the act.
The state of freedom is something that defines us as human beings. Freedom is the ability to choose to act or not to act. With freedom comes the responsibility for our choices. (See Catechism, 1731)
Sometimes, there is some factor that seriously interferes with our ability to make a free choice. These cases reduce our culpability for sin. Perhaps some factor slightly reduces the malice of our action. Other times, if we’re seriously unfree, it may reduce the gravity of our responsibility for the sin, making it a venial sin. (See Catechism, 1735, 1860, 1862)
Honestly, this is the hardest factor to determine accurately. At times we know clearly that our choices are indeed deliberate. In other cases, we’re honestly not sure.
We know that God sees the truth completely and with great clarity. But here on earth, things can be a little cloudy.
Complicating factors can include:
Physical force or other strong coercion Great fear or anxiety Extreme fatigue Hidden or deep-seated emotional wounds Long-established habits
It’s also the case the that sin tends to pull us into a downward spiral. What begins as a small matter becomes a habit. It dulls our perception of sin. We get used to sin; it doesn’t seem so bad. Little by little, we “up the ante” and slide into mortal sin.
Eating a piece of scrapple that might shorten my miserable mortal life surely isn’t a grave matter.
But presuming on God’s mercy is.
And isn’t knowingly doing something that might be a sin, and that Jesus died for, and then asking God to forgive you presuming on His mercy.
That’s one of the sins I had to confess commiting many times in my life (as was despairing of god’s mercy), and I don’t know if I committed it again.
Do I have to go back to confession?