Somebody told me that if one isn’t sure one has mortally sinned then it means that one hasn’t mortally sinned because one KNOWS when one has commited a mortal sin, while somebody else told me that if one isn’t sure one has mortally sinned one is obligated to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion because one COULD be in a state of mortal sin. Which statement is correct? Please respond only if you know the Church’s official teaching on the subject. Thanks for your help!
For a sin to be mortal it must be all 3 of theses things-
- It must be grave matter.
- You must know it is grave matter.
- You must willingly choose to commit the sin anyway.
If you do not meet ***ALL THREE ***of these criteria, you are not in mortal sin.
I don’t think you can get an official answer because you are talking about a conscience of
an individual who may be lax, scrupulous, uninformed, irresponsible, fighting an hibitual sin, saint, and so on. It would depend. Conscience means the intellect forming a judgment which would depend on the formation or lact of formation of their conscience.
I would think for example if a person was lax, probably they should’nt go to communion and mention it in their confession.
So does that mean that we always KNOW when we have commited a mortal sin? I know that to commit a mortal sin always requires a personal choice on the part of the transgressor … does this mean we always would KNOW when we have commited a motal sin?
Oneofthewomen is correct about the three conditions necessary for sin to be mortal. But look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about full knowledge (emphasis added):
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.
We need to be very careful here. It would be a mistake to say that, until someone reads it explicitly in the Catechism that a specific act is wrong, they don’t really have full knowledge. We all have the natural law written on our heart, so we cannot feign ignorance just because it is convenient.
Nonetheless, there really are situations where someone could be unintentionally ignorant (perhaps every Catholic they have ever known–including priests–has told them that using artificial contraception is okay). I think that, if a person is in doubt, going to Confession is never a bad thing. If the person suffers from scrupulosity, that would be another thing to take into consideration. But priests know how to handle that sort of stuff.
I understand your point, but what do you personally think a moral theologian would say. If the person isn’t lax, scrupulous, uninformed, irresponsible, fighting an habitual sin, isn’t a saint yet, but wants to become one badly and is a bit advanced in the spiritual life: but isn’t sure he/she has commited a mortal sin must he/she go to confession before receiving Holy Communion to first resolve the issue, in order to avoid the possible sin of sacrilege?
I would think the first one would be more correct than the second choice. However there are degrees of certainty of sinning. I can only say what I would do. If I felt that it was
weighted heavily in favor of a sin instead of innocence, then I think I would mention it in
confession. If confession were unavailable to me, I would make an act of meaningful sorrow to our dear saviour and make a spiritual communion. For I am not obligated to actually receive Him but I could tell him in the spiritual communion any number of meaningful intentions and renew my love for Him until I actually receive Him again.
If the incedent were not heavily weighted toward a sin, then it probably is at most a venial sin if that. And since I always want to make an earnest act of sorrow for my sins before receiving Him, that would remove the blemish before receiving Him, even tho Holy Communion will take away small offenses.
That is my personal thought.
Thanks! But what if your guess was 50/50 and you had no idea whether your sin was venial or mortal, but only had a hunch that you only commited a venial sin?
Another question: To commit a MORTAL sin does one have to think to oneself (or implicitly accept) before or during a sinful thought/word/act that one knows what one is about to do (or is doing) is a MORTAL sin but is going to do it anyway?
Something else: What if when a person is commiting the sin they are not thinking of the sin as MORTAL sin, when it actually could be? What if when transgressing they are not thinking that what they are doing is a MORTAL sin, but rather they are experiencing it as some sort of sinful disorder - and the knowledge of it being clearly MORTAL isn’t realized? What if the sin were objectively MORTAL and the person wasn’t aware it was because they were lost in their passions, appetites, etc.?
Thanks for any help with these!
Another question: To commit a MORTAL sin does one have to think to oneself (or implicitly accept) before or during a sinful thought/word/act that one knows what one is about to do (or is doing) is a MORTAL sin, but is going to do it anyway?
Something else: What if when a person is commiting the sin they are not thinking of the sin as MORTAL sin, when it actually could be? What if when transgressing they are not thinking that what they are doing is a MORTAL sin, but rather they are experiencing it as some sort of sinful disorder - and the knowledge of it being possibly or clearly a MORTAL sin isn’t even understood? What if the sin were objectively MORTAL and the person wasn’t aware it was because they were lost in their passions, appetites,honest ignorance, a possible habit (though one not frequently recurring)?
Thanks for any help with these!
This has been asked and answered.
To be a MORTAL SIN ALL 3 OF THESE THINGS MUST COME INTO PLAY-
1.The action/thought/whatever MUST BE GRAVE MATTER
2. You MUST KNOW that said action/thought/whatever is grave matter.
3. You MUST WILLINGLY CHOOSE to do said thought/action/whatever, even though you KNOW it is grave matter.
Any other “what if’s” , or “in this cases” should be directed to one’s confessor or spiritual director.
Thanks for your good help! My posts stem from a situation where grave matter was not involved, but the grave matter (or lack of grave matter) issue was very confusing to grasp. Peace!
Compendium of the Catechism issued by Pope Benedict XVI
- When does one commit a mortal sin?
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.
- When does one commit a venial sin?
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.
As has been pointed out there are various consciences out there. Some may struggle with scruples and be directed by their confessor for example to go to communion unless they are “certain” of mortal sin. Others may have a rather lax conscience and are “advised” to go to confession if they think they committed a mortal sin.
One “examines” ones conscience and judges if one has committed a mortal sin. If one is not “conscious” then of committing a mortal sin then they may decide (if they are fasting the hour and disposed and have not exceeded the number that day) to go to Holy Communion.
One is obliged to confess mortal sin…but one is not “obliged” to confess something that one doubts was a mortal sin or not. Though for some such may be recommended…for others not. And if such is confessed --one notes ones doubt.
Thanks, Bookcat, for this very helpful post! Do you know where I can look to find this fact about one not being obliged to confess something that one doubts was a mortal sin? I’ll have to point it out to somebody who told me that even if one doubted one commited a mortal sin one would still have to go to confessin before receiving Holy Communion. Thanks for all your help!
Canon Law notes that one is obligated to confess ones mortal sins. Not that one is obligated to confess ones that which one doubts are moral sins. This is the long understanding in the Church.
It one can be said of course be “advised” to confess “doubtful mortal sins” when one goes to confession (one might choose to do so before Communion)…though those who are scrupulous are often advised not to.
Ones confessor can guide one.
Older post I did forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=6325078&postcount=9