When is doing something that could prematurely end your life a mortal sin?

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?”

“Not really.”

"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!


Grave matter

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! …

Full knowledge

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?

If eating a tiny piece of plastic could shorten your life in a matter drastic enough to be mortally sinful, I’m screwed. I remember as a little kid I had a really bad habit of chewing on the ends of ziplock bags and I’m pretty sure I swallowed my share of plastic. I seem fine.
Or if you’re worried about the melted plastic being infused with the food, just imagine all the thousands of hundreds of people all over the globe who ignorantly microwave food in plastic containers.
You’re not going to get cancer and die from this. Chill.

I wish I had known that when I put it in my mouth and ate it, but I didn’t

Thank you.

But dying isn’t what I’m worried about.

The one person who loved me more than anyone else isn’t here in the flesh anymore, and the only other person who really loves me will probably be with her soon, and if we don’t leave this world together, I hope I’m not far behind him.

What I worry about is being accepted.

I thought that food might be tainted by plastic, and might shorten my life, and that eating it might be a sin (knowing that Jesus suffered and died for our sins), and I ate it anyway.

Is that a grave matter?

Is that another mortal sin I need to confess before I can receive communion?

And are the seven deadly sins all mortal sins, and is that why they’re called deadly?

I’m thinking of lust and glutony here.

If you eat something you think might shorten your life because you’re hungrey, and you really want it, is that lust (or glutony), and is that a mortal sin?

…I don’t really see how this would even be a sin. If that’s a sin, then something like driving would be a sin, every time you get behind the wheel you have a chance of dying in a car accident. Almost in every situation there’s some strange way you could die. I think you’re kind of over reacting, and should just forget about it.

Great analogy. :thumbsup:
To take it a step further, presuming something like driving were a sin given the potential risks, then wouldn’t it be one to NOT speak with an actuary and run a model of the absolute best and healthiest and least risky way to live?

At some point, you have to live your life, even if things (careers, hobbies, etc) are known to not live as long as potentially otherwise.

I THINK you might be leaning towards scrupulous here. Speaking from personal experience… I recognize some of the thought processes.

And no, the seven deadly sins are not the same as the definition of mortal sin. Somebody please correct me if I am wrong, but the seven deadly sins are like sins that may LEAD to more serious sins… like slippery slope kind of sins? :wink:

I think I understand that you are worried not so much about what you did, but about the fact that you did it even though you felt it might have been a sin.

The question is also, of course: Did you really think it was a sin, or were you just afraid it might be a sin, in the back of your head already knowing that you lean towards scrupulous? And decided to do it anyway ebcause after all, you weren’t even sure whether or not it was sinful?

I can really relate… to the conflict, been through it often… Did you really think it was a MORTAL sin and decided to do it anyway?

I am not even really sure what church law would say in that case… maybe somebody here knows. I doubt you were sure it was a mortal sin… I mean… ok, yeah, I get what you mean, I have been worrying just about health things myself, but had to come to the same conclusion as one mentioned her eby somebody: Then even driving would be a sin. Riding a bus would be a sin. Etc. I think we cannot avoid danger when we live in this world… Even though of course there are things that unnecessarily put our lives very much at risk that then of course may be sinful… where the border is between that and normal living I am also not sure… :wink:

p.s. presuming on God’s mercy is a mortal sin?
I think that depends on the context?

Committing a garve sin knowingly, presuming on God’s mercy… then it is sinful to presume on His mercy.

But being unsure and otherwise a scrupulous person (which I am not sure if oyu are or not, it is just a possibility… :wink: ) and trusting in God’s moercy instead of listenign to the scruples… that is totally different.

Or did you talk about the sin of presumption, as in: Well i’ll di this even though I know it’s a grave sin, I can just confess it again later anyway?
That of course is a sinful/immoral attitude.

This is all just my humble and not 100% sure knowledge/memory/thinking :slight_smile:

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