When IS gluttony a mortal sin?

I’ve done a lot of research on gluttony, and when it’s venial and when it’s mortal; I’ve also asked in the confessional, and talked to other Catholics about it. But I’m still not sure.
I have a big sweet tooth, and it’s very difficult for me to practice temperance when there’s a plate of chocolate and cookies on the table. I want so much to be able to avoid not only mortal sin, but venial sin as well, and even further than that, to deny my sweet tooth altogether. But I just end up eating to the point where I’m pretty sure I won’t get really sick, but I know I’ll be feeling somewhat off. Like tonight, with all the Christmas treats–I ended up feeling kind of gross later. I hate it when I do this, and I’m always disgusted with myself. But I’m really not sure whether this, in a normal case, would be mortal.
I also have a family history of heart disease, and I’m wondering if, with this qualification, eating all that junk food today would have been grave matter.

I also forgot to add: earlier, before I ate too many treats, I was wondering to myself whether it’s actually true that eating too much can only be mortal if it makes you *really *sick, as I’ve been told. I neglected to check this out before eating, though, and I know that the Church teaches that it’s a mortal sin to neglect doing the necessary research if you are doubting whether or not something’s mortal. I can’t decide for myself whether I committed a mortal sin here or not, though, and an outside opinion would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much.

Not a mortal sin, for one thing it is a psychological problem. Remember that you are not the only one eating. It would be more serious, a mortal sin, if you were eating all the food and allowing another to go without. God will probably tell you, in your conscience, when you have eaten your share and are then beginning to eat more than your share. Calories give one energy. So those you don’t expend are stored as fat. Too much fat, hurts your body. Gluttony is a sin for the confessional! There are a lot of people overeating! if you feel that you have sinned, you probably have. Go on a good fast to make up for it. It amounts to being uncharitable!

Where did you get the idea that “it’s a mortal sin to neglect doing the necessary research if you are doubting whether or not something’s mortal”? I’ve never heard of that.

I think you might be a bit scrupulous.

It’s difficult to commit a mortal sin and there’s a reason why. For a sin to be mortal it must meet three criteria:
(1) the act must be grievous.
(2) you must know the act is grievous.
(3) you must commit the act with full intent and free will.

I don’t think you are committing this act with full intent and free will. In fact, it sounds like you’re fighting it. It’s not a mortal sin. It can’t be.

Lots of people overdid it today on the sweets and are feeling a bit “off” tonight. I would bet that more people than not overdid it.

I overdid it.

If you’re overweight it would be a good idea to see a physician, especially with your history of heart disease. And if your thinking about this is consuming your life (no pun intended - really) it is a problem; not a mortal sin problem, but a problem that might be best handled by a therapist. If you binge and purge you definitely need to see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. And talking to a priest would help, too.

I hope this helps. God bless!! :slight_smile:

Where did you get the idea that “it’s a mortal sin to neglect doing the necessary research if you are doubting whether or not something’s mortal”? I’ve never heard of that.

Basically, if you’re really not sure whether something you’re about to do is a mortal sin or not, you have the obligation–under pain of mortal sin–to clear up that doubt before deciding whether to act; or if you’re not able to clear up that doubt right away, you must not act. Does this make sense?
It has to do with that analogy about the man who, while hunting in the woods, sees something moving in the bushes in front of him. It could be a deer (venial or no sin), or it could be a fellow hunter (mortal sin). Obviously, he needs to figure out whether he’s about to kill another human or not before he shoots. If he shoots at the thing in the bushes right away, knowing he might be killing a person, he’s committing a mortal sin.
The above was on Jimmy Akin’s blog; I promise you I’m not making this up! I’ve also heard this from various other trusted Catholic sources, so I’m quite sure it’s valid.

I’ve been thinking about it - I’ve just never heard it before. If it’s from Jimmy Akin’s blog then you are probably correct as he seems to always know what he’s talking about. His blog is cool, isn’t it? I’ve just started checking it out although awhile ago he presented a question I had as a full article and it gave the answer I needed, so I did read that.

Your analogy makes sense, too.

I had a funny feeling when I was writing my post that you might be right. I just honestly had never heard of it before. I didn’t mean to imply that you had made it up. I knew you had heard it somewhere or seen it somewhere; I just didn’t know where.

But I would change the wording a bit. It’s still not a mortal sin if it doesn’t meet all three criteria. Changing your analogy a bit, if someone is behind the hunter and has a gun to his head and tells him to shoot, he is not shooting with full consent even though he may be committing a grievous act. The hunter cannot commit a mortal sin if he doesn’t give his full consent to doing so. I would phrase it as saying we need to do research to find out if a particular action is grievous.

And if we knew that gluttony is a grievous act, we’d still need to know exactly what gluttony is. I think it’s obvious that the Romans stuffing themselves and then heading off to the the vomitorium to empty themselves so they could stuff themselves again would be grievous, not to mention disgusting and totally repulsive - if if it’s done with that full consent thing. People who are bulimic stuff themselves and then rid themselves of the food, but that’s a disease. It’s still not full consent.

OK. If you knew exactly how the Church defines “gluttony” that would mean you would meet two of the three criteria. But you still are not meeting the third. You don’t want to be weak. You don’t want to be tempted by a plate of cookies. You’re fighting the urge to gobble them all down. That’s not “with full consent.”

How do we find out if a particular action is grievous? Is it in the CCC somewhere? I’ve never seen a list. I’d like to know what actions are grievous.

I apologize for the way I worded my post. I had written it carefully and hit a button and everything disappeared so I had to start over. I meant your family history of heart disease, not your own personal history.

It seems weird to me that I can know if I’ve committed a mortal sin by meeting all three criteria but I don’t understand venial sins. Often I don’t know if something is a venial sin or a near occasion of sin. :frowning: So I rely on whether I feel that it has hurt God or hurt my relationship with God and if it has, I confess it (this isn’t a perfect way of determining venial sin - I confessed one sin so many times that the priest finally told me to stop).

I found this list of mortal sins although it doesn’t go into enough detail:

greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00BCBD

I also found the following from the Catholic Encylopedia and I think this is one of the most confusing articles I’ve read:

catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=5207

The above just makes it more complicated. No wonder you’re confused - now I’m confused, too!! :eek:

You should know that you’ve got me very interested in this and I think I’m going to be doing some research about mortal sins. :wink:

And I think that if there is any doubt about whether something is a sin, mortal or venial, it’s always a good idea to confess it and to ask a priest. I’m going to ask my priest about gluttony the next time I go to confession because it is very confusing.

gluttony is actually only rarely a mortal sin, but what makes it a sin altogether, either mortal or venial, is the importance we put on the eating or drinking,
it is an inordinate desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink, but it is also gluttony when we neglect our bodies need for food,
although it’s not just how much you eat or how little you eat, but the intention connected with it, or the importance put on it,

for example, the sins of gluttony that would fall under “mortal sin” would be things like, drinking to the point of drunkenness, or stuffing yourself so much and then forcing yourself to vomit, or making food your god, meaning those who live for food(live to eat instead of eating to live) and are willing to offend God just to satisfy their cravings, or willing to deprive their families for it, or hurt themselves or others for it.
but those are extreme cases, there is a degree of breathing room in there, and the key is really temperance, which is the virtue you want to practice if you want to overcome this vice,

but as for venial sins, they would be things like, being to picky or fussy with your food, or wanting it to be just right, or refusing to eat because there’s something in the food you don’t like, or only eating particular things, being impatient with your food(wanting it right now or right when you want it), or being so impatient that you start eating before everyone sits down to eat, or making your own food because you don’t like what’s being made for dinner, and even eating to hastily, which can actually be the cause of weight gain(as my doctor has told me)
and as far as eating things that may be bad for your health, that is something to talk over with your priest and doctor, because yes, it would be a sin to eat something that would hurt you.

well those are just examples, and again, what makes it sinful is the importance you put on the food, so it’s ok to be a little picky, or have things your way as long as it’s not an inconvenience to others, and it’s ok to eat more than you need once in awhile, like just a snack or on special occasions, or if someone offers you the food, in which case it would be more uncharitable to refuse, because again, it’s not the eating itself, but the importance put on it,
remember that eating is a good thing, our bodies need food, and so when we feed ourselves with the right intentions, then God is pleased,

the reason we put such an importance on food in the first place is, simply because we feel a need to satisfy ourselves, to fill ourselves with something, which of course is a result of the lack of God in our hearts and our lives,
there is a space to fill in our hearts, and although that space is meant for God, we tend to fill it with other things, such as money, drugs, drinking, food, games, tv, etc. etc.
but of course as you well know, those things are temporary and continuously leave our hearts, and so we are left feeling empty again, and seek to fill ourselves again and again,
but when we fill ourselves with God, then we are satisfied, and we no longer feel the need to search for what may fill us, because we have that which fills us completely…

but the remedy to gluttony is, as i said, temperance, and that is what you need to learn about and practice, and then of course you must pray for and try to love God more and more, and make room for Him in your heart by detaching yourself from these other inordinate attachments and desires,
some other remedies also are things like mortification, fasting, meditating on the passion of Jesus, and of course prayer and receiving of the sacraments.

also, try meditating on what it means to feed the body, and what it means to feed the soul, think of how you feel when you become hungry or when you see some food you want very much, and then think of how your soul is starving, and what things you should desire even more for your soul than those delicious foods you desire for your body,
or in others words, when you are faced with those cravings or inordinate desires for food, turn them into something you can meditate on, such as “this is what my body craves, what does my souls crave?”
you can turn almost any physical matter into a reference of the spiritual, in which case, as long as you are not sinning, you can turn those bad or inordinate things, into good and productive things.

well, if you have any other questions, please ask, and check out these very helpful sites, for this and many other things -
audiosancto.org/
alabamacatholicresources.com/index.html
www.naturalnews.com

Tangent question for discussion:
Are morbidly obese clergy giving bad witness? :confused:

Individual acts of overeating…intemperance (gluttony in this sense) are “ordinarily” a “venial matter” for venial sin…

(though it can be grave such as when one is getting drunk where one looses ones reason is mortal for example (or if it leads to other mortal sins)…or uncorrected habits of eating in a way that will “seriously harm ones health or life” --at least in the “short term” that is…)

Ones confessor can help in this…

We need to seek to grow in the virtue of temperance

Catechism:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75

I think we lack a great deal of prudence and temperance in this time.

Temperance is such a key virtue. :smiley:

It’s an answer to so many things.

I think a great way to mortify one’s palate is to eat food one does not at all like.

A fat person is not necessarily an occasion of scandal, because one can be fat without committing the sin of gluttony, though this is more exceptional.

Gluttony is a very popular sin these days.

try meditating on what it means to feed the body, and what it means to feed the soul

Yes, don’t eat for pleasure, eat to live, and eat for eternal life.

The latter sort of eating does not involve pleasure of the senses compared to the opposite, which gains both merit and self control.

Is it true that a venial sin, unrepented and regularly repeated, can become a mortal sin? If so, would this apply to the glutton who overeats on a daily basis?
I, myself, have gluttony issues on a daily basis. It is not something to take lightly. My gluttonous attitude eventually helped pave the road to alcoholism for me, and it took years to overcome that. One dangerous sign for me is the feeling that I HAVE to have something - a cookie, candy bar, whatever. It is too easy to train my brain for dependency.
I think the likelihood of mortal sin would increase if one has a “problem”. For instance, for me to take even a taste of alcohol would, in my opinion, be a mortal sin, given my past. Wouldn’t the same hold true for a person struggling with obesity, if they were to decide to give in “just this once” and have a few slices of that pie?
The difference, of course, is that I can live without alcohol, whereas no one can live without food. And the line between eating for nutrition and eating for self-indulgence is broad.
My general philosophy is that if I think it might be a mortal sin, I assume it is until I find out otherwise.

My general philosophy is that if I think it might be a mortal sin, I assume it is until I find out otherwise.

This is a good call!

I think that excessive television and computer use has a lot to do with people overeating these days. Not just because habits of excess spill over, or the bad content, but because of the state of mind we’re in when indulging in these things. Passively receiving all the time rather than actively doing things.

It certainly doesn’t help when there is a priest shortage.

What you’re describing would be a venial sin at most.

Mortal sins of gluttony are usually committed by getting drunk to the point of loss of reason (blacking out, etc.). Literally having food as the sole purpose of one’s life would also be a mortal sin, but sins of gluttony in food (overeating, being excessively picky, only wanting to eat expensive food, etc.) are generally venial.

Temperance is a virtue, giving us control over our weakness and overindulgence. My lenten discipline will be to avoid the inordinate snacking that I fall into often during the day. Think about it … every time we pay for a purchase at a check-out counter, we are tempted with a huge array of sweet stuff that never fails to attract our attention. That’s how they make their extra cash, taking full advantage of our passion for the pleasures of food.

Is it mortal? Not at this point, but it certainly keeps us in bondage of sorts, which could some day spill over into real grave excesses. If one becomes a diabetic because of excess sugars, and then disregards the body’s medical requirement to avoid them, it could cause a diabetic coma. Yes, that is mortal sin! When overeating causes danger to our health, it simply has to be disciplined.

Someone asked whether it scandalizes us to see a seriously obese priest. Yes, I have had to give myself a good talking to, so I would not judge them, but their lack of temperance cannot be hidden, if you know what I mean. It doesn’t inspire me to go and “do likewise.”

Individual acts of overeating…intemperance (gluttony in this sense) are “ordinarily” a “venial matter” for venial sin…(and the one older moral manual even notes that even if one foresees it shortens ones life to some extent)

(though it can be grave such as when one is getting drunk where one looses ones reason is mortal for example (or if it leads to other mortal sins)…or uncorrected habits of eating in a way that will “seriously harm ones health or life” --at least in the “short term” that is…)

Ones confessor can help in this…

and of course speak with your doctor…

We need to seek to grow in the virtue of temperance…

Catechism:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving 1 Tim 4:3 (I think it was RSV …or maybe ESV)

Temperance is a key virtue…

'She was taught in the school of suffering and mortification, and there learned lessons of perfection.

She allowed herself no more sleep or food than was absolutely necessary; passed whole hours in prayer every night; and in winter often knelt out of doors on the snow. She slept on the ground on planks arranged in the form of a cross.

Her food and drink consisted of what was rejected by others; she always kept the best parts even of that for the poor and sick, and when she did not know of anyone to give them to, she offered them to God in a spirit of child-like faith, begging him to give them to some person who was more in need than herself. When there was anything to be seen or heard which had no reference to God or religion, she found some excuse for avoiding the spot to which others were hastening, or, if there, closed her eyes and ears.

She was accustomed to say that useless actions were sinful, and that when we denied our bodily senses any gratification of this kind, we were amply repaid by the progress which we made in the interior life, in the same manner as pruning renders vines and other fruit trees more productive.’

- from the Introduction to the Dolorous Passion, by Bl. Anna Katherine Emmerich

'Continency is denial of the body, and confession to God. It withdraws from anything mortal, like a body which has the Spirit of God. It is without rivalry and envy, and causes us to be united to God. He who loves a body envies another. He who has not admitted the disease of corruption into his heart, is for the future strong enough to endure any labour, and though he have died in the body, he lives in incorruption.

Verily, if I rightly apprehend the matter, God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself. He reaches after nothing, nor has any sense in eyes or ears; wanting nothing, He is in all respects complete and full.

Concupiscence is a disease of the soul; but continency is its health. And continency must not be regarded only in one species, as, for instance, in matters of sensual love. It must be regarded in everything which the soul lusts after in an evil manner, not being content with what is needful for it. Envy is caused for the sake of gold, and innumerable wrongs for the sake of other lusts. Not to be drunken is continency. Not to overeat one’s self is continency. To subdue the body is continency, and to keep evil thoughts in subjection, whenever the soul is disturbed by any fancy false and bad, and the heart is distracted by vain cares. Continency makes men free, being at once a medicine and a power, for it does not teach temperance; it gives it. Continency is a grace of God.’

St. Basil the Great

‘Temperance is another cardinal virtue; we can be temperate in the use of our imagination, by not letting it gallop as fast as it would wish; we can be temperate with our eyes, temperate with our mouth – some people constantly have something sweet and pleasant in their mouth; we can be temperate with our ears, not allowing them to listen to useless songs and conversation; temperate in smelling – some people perfume themselves to such a degree as to make those about them sick; temperate with the hands – some people are always washing them when it is hot, and handling things that are soft to the touch. . . In short we can practice temperance with our whole body, this poor machine, by not letting it run always like a horse without bit or bridle, but checking it and keeping it down. Some people lie buried there, in their beds; . . . some are glad not to sleep, that they may the better feel how comfortable they are. The saints are not like that.’

St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

SHIN,
Speaking of temperance, these paragraphs reveal an in-temperance with regard to mortification, something that other saints warned about and forbid the members of their communities to undergo. I don’t consider it a good example.

She allowed herself no more sleep or food than was absolutely necessary; passed whole hours in prayer every night; and in winter often knelt out of doors on the snow. She slept on the ground on planks arranged in the form of a cross.

Her food and drink consisted of what was rejected by others; she always kept the best parts even of that for the poor and sick, and when she did not know of anyone to give them to, she offered them to God in a spirit of child-like faith, begging him to give them to some person who was more in need than herself.

But I really appreciate the balance and good teaching of St. Basil that you posted afterwards:

‘Temperance is another cardinal virtue; we can be temperate in the use of our imagination, by not letting it gallop as fast as it would wish; we can be temperate with our eyes, temperate with our mouth – some people constantly have something sweet and pleasant in their mouth; we can be temperate with our ears, not allowing them to listen to useless songs and conversation; temperate in smelling – some people perfume themselves to such a degree as to make those about them sick; temperate with the hands – some people are always washing them when it is hot, and handling things that are soft to the touch. . . In short we can practice temperance with our whole body, this poor machine, by not letting it run always like a horse without bit or bridle, but checking it and keeping it down. Some people lie buried there, in their beds; . . . some are glad not to sleep, that they may the better feel how comfortable they are. The saints are not like that.’

I’m afraid from what I read the saints give the same example as she does, and call it temperance. :slight_smile: When it is called intemperance, instead, this is said to be the prudence of the world, which is quite a different thing…

Which particular part of the above is that you consider a bad example? Which piece exactly? Kneeling in the snow? Eating bad tasting leftover food and fasting? Sleeping on wood instead of a mattress? Sleeping as little as necessary? Staying up all night in prayer (Vigils)?

Perhaps it seems a bit all too much at once?

Thinking of the life of Our Lord. . .

St. Basil ora pro nobis! :slight_smile:

Hi Shin,

Yes, most of it seems inordinate and kneeling in the snow can cause health problems. I don’t want to nitpick - just to share my own observance and contribute to the thread. You are most likely familiar with the many saints I spoke of who forbade excessive mortification, so I need not elaborate. :wink:

I will say that St. Francis de Sales who wrote for the laity, gave strong admonitions against this, besides the saints who founded religious orders. Off hand, I don’t have the chapter, but it’s in Introduction to Devout Life.

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