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What constitutes a mortal sin

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What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  columba on Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:40 am

A friend of mine told me recently that a priest in confession told him that there was no such thing as mortal sin.
From the teaching in the Baltimore Catachism it would seem that the priest could be justified in his statement.

Basltimore Catechism
Q. 282. How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal?

A. To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: 1.a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.

Q. 283. What do we mean by "grievous matter" with regard to sin?

A. By "grievous matter" with regard to sin we mean that the thought, word or deed by which mortal sin is committed must be either very bad in itself or severely prohibited, and therefore sufficient to make a mortal sin if we deliberately yield to it.

Q. 284. What does "sufficient reflection and full consent of the will" mean?

A. "Sufficient reflection" means that we must know the thought, word or deed to be sinful at the time we are guilty of it; and "full consent of the will" means that we must fully and willfully yield to it.


The "full consent of the will" clause could make mortal sin an imopossibility depending on how strictly one interprets this. Eg, If we allow full consent to mean we are totally uninfluenced by any conditioning such as upbringing, emotional/mental state, physical health or a hundred and one other possible influencing factors, then strictly we could say that no one is ever acting with total freedom of will.

Any thoughts?
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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  Guest on Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:39 pm

I would say to answer your question we would have to go to a more authoritative source than the Baltimore Catechism. There most likely have been documents of the Holy Office addressing this issue.

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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  Roguejim on Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:45 pm

columba wrote:A friend of mine told me recently that a priest in confession told him that there was no such thing as mortal sin.
From the teaching in the Baltimore Catachism it would seem that the priest could be justified in his statement.

Basltimore Catechism
Q. 282. How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal?

A. To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: 1.a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.

Q. 283. What do we mean by "grievous matter" with regard to sin?

A. By "grievous matter" with regard to sin we mean that the thought, word or deed by which mortal sin is committed must be either very bad in itself or severely prohibited, and therefore sufficient to make a mortal sin if we deliberately yield to it.

Q. 284. What does "sufficient reflection and full consent of the will" mean?

A. "Sufficient reflection" means that we must know the thought, word or deed to be sinful at the time we are guilty of it; and "full consent of the will" means that we must fully and willfully yield to it.


The "full consent of the will" clause could make mortal sin an imopossibility depending on how strictly one interprets this. Eg, If we allow full consent to mean we are totally uninfluenced by any conditioning such as upbringing, emotional/mental state, physical health or a hundred and one other possible influencing factors, then strictly we could say that no one is ever acting with total freedom of will.

Any thoughts?

Your strict misinterpretation of "full consent of the will" makes the whole question, and subsequent discussion, meaningless, and without resolution. Nowhere to go.
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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  columba on Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:47 pm

Roguejim wrote:
Your strict misinterpretation of "full consent of the will" makes the whole question, and subsequent discussion, meaningless, and without resolution. Nowhere to go.

The misinterpretation isn't my interpretation at all. but what I'm saying is, is that it could be interpreted this way as the priest so did when he said there was no such thing as mortal sin.

How though is one to argue against this interpretation unless one has a more defined interpretation as given by the Church. Can you interpret this? And if so how would you know that your interpretation is correct?
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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:53 pm

Here is a quote from JPII "Veritatis Spendor" It is a heavy read but he does clarify many moral topics:
"Mortal and venial sin

69. As we have just seen, reflection on the fundamental
option has also led some theologians to undertake a basic revision of the
traditional distinction between mortal sins and venial sins. They
insist that the opposition to God's law which causes the loss of sanctifying
grace — and eternal damnation, when one dies in such a state of sin — could
only be the result of an act which engages the person in his totality: in other
words, an act of fundamental option. According to these theologians, mortal
sin, which separates man from God, only exists in the rejection of God, carried
out at a level of freedom which is neither to be identified with an act of
choice nor capable of becoming the object of conscious awareness. Consequently,
they go on to say, it is difficult, at least psychologically, to accept the
fact that a Christian, who wishes to remain united to Jesus Christ and to his
Church, could so easily and repeatedly commit mortal sins, as the
"matter" itself of his actions would sometimes indicate. Likewise, it
would be hard to accept that man is able, in a brief lapse of time, to sever
radically the bond of communion with God and afterwards be converted to him by
sincere repentance. The gravity of sin, they maintain, ought to be measured by
the degree of engagement of the freedom of the person performing an act, rather
than by the matter of that act.


70. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio
et Paenitentia
reaffirmed the importance and permanent validity of the
distinction between mortal and venial sins, in accordance with the Church's
tradition. And the 1983 Synod of Bishops, from which that Exhortation emerged,
"not only reaffirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent concerning the
existence and nature of mortal and venial sins, but it also recalled that
mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with
full knowledge and deliberate consent".
116

The statement of the Council of Trent does not only consider the "grave
matter" of mortal sin; it also recalls that its necessary condition is
"full awareness and deliberate consent". In any event, both in moral
theology and in pastoral practice one is familiar with cases in which an act
which is grave by reason of its matter does not constitute a mortal sin because
of a lack of full awareness or deliberate consent on the part of the person
performing it. Even so, "care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal
sin to an act of 'fundamental option' — as is commonly said today —
against God", seen either as an explicit and formal rejection of God and
neighbour or as an implicit and unconscious rejection of love. "For mortal
sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason,
chooses something gravely disordered. In fact, such a choice already includes
contempt for the divine law, a rejection of God's love for humanity and the
whole of creation: the person turns away from God and loses charity.
Consequently,
the fundamental orientation can be radically changed by particular acts. Clearly,
situations can occur which are very complex and obscure from a psychological
viewpoint, and which influence the sinner's subjective imputability. But from a
consideration of the psychological sphere one cannot proceed to create a
theological category, which is precisely what the 'fundamental option' is, understanding it in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon
the traditional concept of mortal sin"
.117


The separation of fundamental option from deliberate choices of particular
kinds of behaviour, disordered in themselves or in their circumstances, which
would not engage that option, thus involves a denial of Catholic doctrine on mortal
sin:
"With the whole tradition of the Church, we call mortal sin the
act by which man freely and consciously rejects God, his law, the covenant of
love that God offers, preferring to turn in on himself or to some created and
finite reality, something contrary to the divine will (conversio ad
creaturam
). This can occur in a direct and formal way, in the sins of
idolatry, apostasy and atheism; or in an equivalent way, as in every act of
disobedience to God's commandments in a grave matter"."http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html



The part I highlighted in blue should help you--
"full knowledge and deliberate consent" I think the pope here uses better phrasing than what you were working with before. He seems to be saying 'you know it is a forbidden serious matter, and deliberately chose to do it anyway' =mortal sin.

The two big trends in moral theology have been the Fundamental Option Theory and Situation Ethics. The Fundemental Option Theory creates excuses for why you real never sinned. It says that people are many layered ( kinda like an onion--lol) and at the core that you really didn't want to do anything wrong--so don't worry about it. They say that one needs to make a deliberate decision to hate God and that is the only mortal sin, but as the Pope points out this isn't so (highlighted in blue)
Hope this helps

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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  columba on Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:26 pm

Duckbill wrote:
The part I highlighted in blue should help you--
"full knowledge and deliberate consent" I think the pope here uses better phrasing than what you were working with before. He seems to be saying 'you know it is a forbidden serious matter, and deliberately chose to do it anyway' =mortal sin.

That is a more helpful explanation by the Pope.
I wonder though when lack of knowledge becomes attributable to the sinner -especially a catholic- who could easily find out (with a little effort) if an action is gravely sinful or not.
Does lack of knowledge come to the rescue again and could there be a hint of invincible ignorance here ? scratch
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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:10 am

The counterpoint to invincible ignorance is culpable ignorance.

"VINCIBLE IGNORANCE


Lack of knowledge for which a person is morally responsible. It is culpable ignorance because it could be cleared up if the person used sufficient diligence. One is said to be simply (but culpably) ignorant if one fails to make enough effort to learn what should be known; guilt then depends on one's lack of effort to clear up the ignorance. That person is crassly ignorant when the lack of knowledge is not directly willed but rather due to neglect or laziness; as a result the guilt is somewhat lessened, but in grave matters a person would still be gravely responsible.

A person has affected ignorance when one deliberately fosters it in order not to be inhibited in what one wants to do; such ignorance is gravely wrong when it concerns serious matters. (Etym. Latin vincibilis, easily overcome; ignorantia, want of knowledge or information.)" http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=37108
hh




This is a helpful defintion by Father Hardon but the same encyclical Veritas Splendor covers this well too:

Seeking what is true and good

62. Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error. As the Council puts it, "not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as a result of invincible ignorance, although it does not on that account forfeit its dignity; but this cannot be said when a man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin".107 In these brief words the Council sums up the doctrine which the Church down the centuries has developed with regard to the erroneous conscience.

Certainly, in order to have a "good conscience" (1 Tim 1:5), man must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth. As the Apostle Paul says, the conscience must be "confirmed by the Holy Spirit" (cf. Rom 9:1); it must be "clear" (2 Tim 1:3); it must not "practise cunning and tamper with God's word", but "openly state the truth" (cf. 2 Cor 4:2). On the other hand, the Apostle also warns Christians: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12:2).

Paul's admonition urges us to be watchful, warning us that in the judgments of our conscience the possibility of error is always present. Conscience is not an infallible judge; it can make mistakes. However, error of conscience can be the result of an invincible ignorance, an ignorance of which the subject is not aware and which he is unable to overcome by himself.

The Council reminds us that in cases where such invincible ignorance is not culpable, conscience does not lose its dignity, because even when it directs us to act in a way not in conformity with the objective moral order, it continues to speak in the name of that truth about the good which the subject is called to seek sincerely.

63. In any event, it is always from the truth that the dignity of conscience derives. In the case of the correct conscience, it is a question of the objective truth received by man; in the case of the erroneous conscience, it is a question of what man, mistakenly, subjectively considers to be true. It is never acceptable to confuse a "subjective" error about moral good with the "objective" truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience.108 It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. Furthermore, a good act which is not recognized as such does not contribute to the moral growth of the person who performs it; it does not perfect him and it does not help to dispose him for the supreme good. Thus, before feeling easily justified in the name of our conscience, we should reflect on the words of the Psalm: "Who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults" (Ps 19:12). There are faults which we fail to see but which nevertheless remain faults, because we have refused to walk towards the light (cf. Jn 9:39-41).

Conscience, as the ultimate concrete judgment, compromises its dignity when it is culpably erroneous, that is to say, "when man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin".109 Jesus alludes to the danger of the conscience being deformed when he warns: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Mt 6:22-23).

64. The words of Jesus just quoted also represent a call to form our conscience, to make it the object of a continuous conversion to what is true and to what is good. In the same vein, Saint Paul exhorts us not to be conformed to the mentality of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom 12:2). It is the "heart" converted to the Lord and to the love of what is good which is really the source of true judgments of conscience. Indeed, in order to "prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12:2), knowledge of God's law in general is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient: what is essential is a sort of "connaturality" between man and the true good.110 Such a connaturality is rooted in and develops through the virtuous attitudes of the individual himself: prudence and the other cardinal virtues, and even before these the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. This is the meaning of Jesus' saying: "He who does what is true comes to the light" (Jn 3:21).

Christians have a great help for the formation of conscience in the Church and her Magisterium. As the Council affirms: "In forming their consciences the Christian faithful must give careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. Her charge is to announce and teach authentically that truth which is Christ, and at the same time with her authority to declare and confirm the principles of the moral order which derive from human nature itself ".111 It follows that the authority of the Church, when she pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians. This is so not only because freedom of conscience is never freedom "from" the truth but always and only freedom "in" the truth, but also because the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to light the truths which it ought already to possess, developing them from the starting point of the primordial act of faith. The Church puts herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit (cf. Eph 4:14), and helping it not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it. "


It is really a good encyclical. Worth the effort to plow through it. I don't usually like JPII's style in general but this one is pretty good.

I find this part particularly interesting:
"but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. Furthermore, a
good act which is not recognized as such does not contribute to the
moral growth of the person who performs it; it does not perfect him and
it does not help to dispose him for the supreme good.
"

I think the subjective part is stressed today and many miss the objective part. Artificial Contraception is an objective evil, but an atheist may not be sinning by using it, because to him it seems logical. But the objective order is altered to expose society and that person to a more clear objective evil that can't be so easily dismissed as ignorance. Failure of artificial contraception often leads to abortion and abortion is a clear evil for any honest person.
I am not so clear of JPII's understanding of objectively good moral acts done without knowledge, that they don't dispose one to the supreme good:"
it does not help to dispose him for the supreme good."

Subjectively this could be true but objectively it would effect society/personal environment, to be more disposed to accepting truth when it comes. Much like the contraception example but the opposite. There was something in the Irish that made them very open to receiving the Faith. No other country was completely converted in one generation by one apostle(St.Patrick).

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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  columba on Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:12 pm

Thanks for that post Duckbill.
That was a well writen and informative piece by Father Hardon.
Still, this ignorance thing whether imputable to the sinner or not would seem at best to be neutral (if there be such a thing as neutrality in the spiritual life) as far as any salvic merit goes.
In fact if anything it would be more likely to lead to ruin even when not culpable as in
"My people perish for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4: 6)


There was something in the Irish that made them very open to receiving the Faith. No other country was completely converted in one generation by one apostle(St.Patrick).

Whatever that "something" is that the Irish have it could also be responsible for their embracing Modernism so unquestionably.
Many rural Irish still hold belief in fairies and leprachauns. In fact I know a few people -of otherwise sound mind- who claim they actually seen one or the other.

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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:38 am

LOL I remember a trip to Ireland and people were talking about the Banshee and fair trees. Like you said, they seemed normal LOL.
Well maybe that wasn't a good example. Well could stoicism be a better example of striving for virtue? But then again they would be conscience of it, not doing good in ignorance. Hmmm.... very deep subject that.

Happy St. Patrick's day BTW

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Re: What constitutes a mortal sin

Post  columba on Fri Mar 18, 2011 7:50 pm

Thanks for the St. Patricks Day wishes.

You may have hit on something when you mention stoicism.
there seems to be a trend in Ireland even among practicing Catholics to seperate virtue from faith, in the sense that (striving for) virtue becomes a personal matter that can be achieved without grace, and God is still somewhere out there to reveal Himself as judge on the final day (there are exceptions of course as I'm talking generally).
It's telling also that many who have lapsed in faith find it very easy to accept eastern type philosophies, especially Buddhism. (priests and nuns not excepted).
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