Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Let's face it, many Catholics don't understand sin and what sin does to the soul and eventually the body if left unchecked.

It isn't rocket science though to understand sin in its the major categories, that of Original and Actual sins.

It isn't rocket science though to understand the two kinds of actual sin, or is it?

Venial sin is erroneously understood as wrong that is less serious, for example "white lies," stealing paperclips and pens from the office and spontaneous reactions that lead to bad words or gestures. True enough, but not the complete truth.

Venial sin can include very serious matter but the sin is not mortal because complete "full consent of the will" isn't present. For example, most people don't wake up and plan to scream, yell explicates, make obscene gestures and actually hit the driver of a car who cuts them off, what is classically called "road rage."  If a person who is normally non violent in a moment of provoked rage does the above and spontaneously, like a knee-jerk reaction, the sin isn't mortal, although very serious matter is involved, it is venial because full consent of the will is not present nor is there forethought and planning which is essential for serious matter to become mortal.

Mortal sin has three components for it to be mortal: 1. serious matter; 2. the sinner knows it is a sin; 3. the sin is committed with full consent of the compromised will and usually with forethought and planning.

Personally, I have always had a problem with the idea that a Catholic who is a good Catholic who practices his faith seriously, goes to confession regularly but then gives into temptation and plans an affair and carries it out and dies before he has a chance to repent, for example, for the first time having adultery and dies in the process, that this person will be condemned to hell by God at the person's personal judgement.

This person has given into concupiscence. But more than likely would have repented and stopped the adultery well planned. But he didn't have a chance. Shouldn't the Church teach that God's mercy knows the heart of the person and what would have been if the opportunity had arisen to repent, go to confession and be reconciled.

Thus Pope Francis' third category of sinner, the corrupt sinner, is a great theological break through in papal teachings and magisterium.

This is what Pope Francis has said as a matter of theological reflection:

“Corruption is the sin which, rather than being recognized as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviors.”

My post Vatican II seminary training, based in a theology that seeks clarification of doctrine of dogma (this is what theology is) sought to explain actual sin that could lead to damnation in three categories not two:

1. venial as it is classically taught.

2. mortal sin was changed to serious sin, meaning it is evil, wrong, needs the Sacrament of Confession after examination of conscience, repentance and a firm purpose of amendment. However a single serious sin doesn't necessarily condemn a person to hell if they die before getting to Confession. 

3. Mortal sin was given a clearer definition as it concerns the possibility of eternal damnation. It is a lifestyle in direct opposition to God and the Church, a prideful arrogance which embraces sin as good and places a person's desires above Divine Truth revealed in the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

It is basically what Pope Francis calls corruption: “Corruption is the sin which, rather than being recognized as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviors.”

Thus Pope Francis hits the ball out of the park when he teaches the following and I hope it gives direction to those who have authority to teach the Faith to people and how corruption is a sign of having chosen already now to live in hell and with full consent of the will:
“The corrupt man tires of asking for forgiveness and ends up believing that he doesn’t need to ask for it any more. We don’t become corrupt people overnight. It is a long, slippery slope that cannot be identified simply as a series of sins. One may be a great sinner and never fall into corruption if hearts feel their own weakness. That small opening allows the strength of God to enter.”

“When a sinner recognizes himself as such, he admits in some way that what he was attached to, or clings to, is false. The corrupt man hides what he considers his true treasure, but which really makes him a slave and masks his vice with good manners, always managing to keep up appearances.”


Cletus Ordo said...

I often refer to Confession as "The Forgotten Sacrament." So many accounts in the lives of saints indicate to us that whether a sin is venial or mortal, ALL sin offends God and separates us from Him to one degree or another. I am not discounting mortal sin, but agreeing with you that we should even be more sensitive to our venial sins. This especially becomes apparent when we read about "The Forgotten Doctrine" of Purgatory. No one preaches about Purgatory any more, but there is ample evidence of its existence and we cannot begin to understand how severe the purification is for those of us who die without doing penance for our sins that are forgiven or have attachments to sin.

I once had a priest tell me that there are levels of Hell that are worse than others, and God will sometimes let someone die in a state of mortal sin because He knows that person will not repent and does not want the person to suffer at the deeper level of Hell that he would likely earn if he continued to live. I am not qualified to speculate whether that is true or not, but there is one sin that seems to be the "Forgotten Sin" that seems to trouble no one: Sacrilegious Communion. No one seems to talk about the gravity of receiving Holy Communion while not in a state of grace. In the average parish, Confession lines are short, if there are any lines at all and almost everyone comes forward for Communion. As Father William Casey once put it, either there are a lot of soon-to-be-canonized saints in these parishes or else there are a lot of people who are in denial.

Jusadbellum said...

The important but unspoken Catholic tradition of a perfect act of contrition is the missing link.

If a man gives into temptation on a business trip - he runs into a willing and able women for example - and they have a passionate 'devil may care' fling, he's committing fornication or adultery. If he happens to die in the state of sin he's damned.

But suppose on his flight home he begins to reflect and realizes the horror of what he's done? Don't we all accept that it's POSSIBLE for him to make a sincere and perfect act of contrition prior to going to sacramental confession?

It's in the acknowledging of sin and the debt owed to God's justice that we are opening ourselves to God's mercy.

If on the other hand, the man went to a modernist Catholic parish or college and was told that any number of sexual behaviors were "natural" and "not a big deal" and that marriage allows him to have occasional flings so long as "his heart isn't in it" and he's not unfaithful emotionally.... he would still be committing fornication or adultery but he wouldn't be aware of it nor necessarily ask God for pardon! He go home to his girlfriend or wife with nary a care in the world or in his conscience.

That I think is the modern danger -the complete loss of a sense of personal responsibility for the behavior God expects of his disciples. There's a loss of a sense of what we ought to do that sets us apart from the world. Instead, we pattern ourselves after the direction of the world, flesh, and devil. We justify so much on the basis of other dogmas and doctrines like "so long as it's mutual consent, so long as no one gets 'hurt'".... or "so long as it makes me FEEL good..."

Apostasy from the faith happens slowly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for opening a discussion on sin. It is not a popular topic.

Is "in a state of grace" defined as merely an absence of mortal sin, or is there more to it?

Also, perhaps you could speak further on what "consent of the will" means. It seems we are all fallen, so full consent of the will does not imply that angelic clarity of thought is necessary, but something less. I get the impression in the old days this meant something closer to stepping into the street without getting pushed and getting hit by a car rather than searching for a busy street and actively looking for a car to step out in front of.


Gene said...

None of this matters. The Pope just said recently that all major religions are paths to the same God. Now, just how long are you people with your heads in the sand going to continue trying to support this poseur, this fakir, that has hijacked the Papacy? The EF, the FSSP mean nothing in a Church that is represented by this man who has sown ambiguity, doubt, and confusion. The EF is nothing but cosmetics on the face of a Church that is in a crisis of belief. If the Holy Spirit was guiding those who chose this man, it was only by way of effecting God's judgement upon an apostate Church. I sometimes wonder if the HS even dwells within the Roman Catholic Church anymore...perhaps it is seeking another home. It makes me doubly angry because people like me are trapped here, having fled a failed protestantism hoping to get closer to true worship and belief. There is simply no place else for us to go, so we have to just wait and see how God's will and judgment will play out. The Church is broken, folks...and the old fix the liturgy, fix the Church mantra doesn't get it anymore. It goes way deeper than the liturgy. Christ have mercy!

George said...

The will and the intellect of modern man has become clouded and darkened to sin and it effects. For too many Catholics today, the reality of hell and purgatory is no longer present and for far too many, religion and God are just an afterthought, if even that. The same for prayer and fasting.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of walls put up by sin which separate the sinner from God and the recognition of personal sin.

Teresa of Avila:
"We must not voluntarily nourish a desire to continue in venial sin of any kind. No matter how small it is, a venial sin offends God." "As for venial sins, I paid little attention and that is what almost destroyed me"

Teresa of Avila speaking of her permissive confessors:

"What was venial sin they said was no sin at all and what was serious mortal sin they said was venial. This did me much harm...I went on in this blindness for I believe more than seventeen years until a Dominican Father, a very learned man, enlightened me about many things."

what Pope Francis calls corruption: “Corruption is the sin which, rather than being recognized as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviors.”

Doesn't this describe many people today who commit what according to the catechism is of serious enough matter to be mortal sin? Yet who continue on, oblivious to the consequences of their actions, both on themselves and others.

We cannot judge others as God can because only He has the necessary knowledge to make a just judgement of a person's soul.

Still,acts which are objectively evil are committed which go against what God desires of us. If people can be taught to have concern about the environment of the earth, certainly they can, and should be taught (and prayed for) to have concern for the environment of their souls and those of others as well.
Many things are done which offend God, even if those who do these things are not aware of this. If they are not aware, then it is up to those who can, and are in the position to do so,to make them aware. We can at least pray for them, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...


After reading this blog for some time, I have to say that comments like the one posted above are not helpful. If anything all they do is give Fr. McDonald ammunition to scold us for "hating" or "libeling" the current pope. I'm not crazy about him either, but can't we stick to discussing sin in the terms you wish were still used, rather than cursing the age we live in because a majority of Catholics aren't thinking the way we do?

Anonymous said...

"Now, just how long are you people with your heads in the sand going to continue trying to support this poseur, this fakir, that has hijacked the Papacy?

"Comments that are derogatory of the Faith or insulting will not be published."

The FARCE continues...

Gene said...

Anonymous, it isn't the "age we live in." That is just a broad dismissal. It is the Church and her failure to preach the Gospel, to clearly and unambiguously denounce sin, and to stand against the enemies of the Church. The election of this man as Pope is a clear indication that she is headed in the other direction. Fr. is a devout Priest who feels compelled to defend the Pope in any circumstance. While I do not agree with him, I understand his dilemma. He can call us names all he likes...after all, he is just following the Pope.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gene 1000%.

Gene said...

Anonymous at 9:49 PM, but, pay attention to the rest of my post. What the Pope said is heresy pure and simple. I believe it is a legitimate question, and I have raised it before, to ask if there comes a point at which the Church is no longer the Church...if the Holy Spirit shakes the dust from off its feet and takes up residence elsewhere. The Church does not own the HS...she does not have it pressed between the pages of the Missal, the CCC, or Dogmatics. The Holy Spirit is free and may be effecting God's judgement on the Church. I think a strong case could be made for such an eventuality.

Anonymous said...

The Pope is not the Church, not even the head of the Church, Jesus Christ is. If, as Gene say, he is a heretic then it can not be disrespectful to point this out, providing Gene has the expertise to judge the situation accurately. I do not know, I am certainly not an expert theologian.

If one reads Vatican I (one) on papal infallibility, one finds that they appear to say that the pope has to act in a way that preserves the authentic teachings of all times to deserve the title of Vicar of Christ among us. In a previous post Fr. Rippinger (sp?) is quoted that the standards of old have been modified (Vatican II?). Today, what the Magisterium states is what the faithful must accept as the norm no matter the discrepancy between it and what was officially taught before. Hence the disagreements among various members of the current magisterium about what Jesus said in the gospels, and what the Pope and his appointees teach about homosexuality, divorce, reception of holy communion, and many, many other hot button issues.

The current magisterium instead of presenting a coherent body of clear teachings is enamored with novelties that yesterday would have led to ecclesiastical censure of any one advocating them.

Jusadbellum said...


I think a fair reading of history and of theology (re: Revelation, message to the 7 churches), would have us conclude that while the whole Church cannot defect, the same cannot be said of individual, particular churches in nations.

We know that the great patriarchical sees of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, and finally Constantinople were all annihilated over the centuries starting in the 6th century to the 14th.

Only Rome was left (and was often occupied by either gangs or invading armies).

The faith can be eclipsed in countries that refuse to obey the Gospel in the name of following the spirit of the age.

As for Pope Francis, love him or not, he IS the Pope. Thus the office has prerogatives. On the other hand, we don't believe in an impeccable Pope or believe that infallibility covers the actions, omissions, and every single utterance of a Pope's mouth. Thus we have examples of scandalous Popes of the 14th century who were genuinely Popes but lived scandalous lives. Those sins didn't annihilate their spiritual authority any more than the sins of parents annihilate the obligation of children to honor their parents. But they do matter and hurt the people of God.

It can be argued that the sins of the Popes of the 1350s to 1450s was the proximate cause of the Protestant revolt. But for the depravity of the Church hierarchy, the laity would not have been so willing to jettison their entire hierarchy in favor of a desperate "bible alone" tangent that soon became entirely co-opted by national politics.

So if we would avoid a future calamity, we must all err on the side of caution and demand better of our deacons, priests, and bishops - even if we do so with charity (and charity can on occasion be 'hard' and unpleasant).

The criterion of judgment though is not what pleases us, but what the Church has always taught about God and about human morality. It's in allegiance to the perennial teaching, the 'deposit of faith' that we can rise to rebuke our clergy - never our mere whim or favorite pet theory.

Canonically, as a lay man, I am obligated to bear witness to the truth. But that's it. I'm not obligated or ordained or endowed with my own infallibility to step beyond what is revealed and promulgated truth.

Gene said...

Jusad, you and I agree. I particularly agree with your idea of "hard charity," unlike the mealy-mouthed, love everybody, go all sticky wet so-called "charity" preached these days.

Jusadbellum said...

No one likes being disciplined.

No one likes being called "older brother" or "Pharisee". I imagine those who level these charges against conservatives simultaneously think themselves clever and charitable.

I for one both bristled at the charge....and took it to prayer to see if in fact I was acting like an ungrateful older brother or a hypocritical Pharisee. I have meditated on whether I ask for mercy for myself while condemning others.

And so I have sought to be careful to only criticize the behavior (sodomy is wrong) while taking care to distinguish the sin from the sinner. The sodomite is a sinner but he is not 'sin'. He is a man (or woman) who commits evil. He or she is not evil incarnate.

Similarly, the Globalist Banker, the polluting capitalist, the arms merchant - they too may all commit sin but they are not reducible to their sin. Neither is the 'racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe' reducible to nothing but sin (and yet isn't that how those prodigal sons among us sneering at us 'older brothers' treat folk they disagree with??).

I think the kernel of truth is that conservatives may risk hypocrisy - but also that progressives risk laxity. What's worse? To know some behavior is wrong and call it out even while on commits similar things secretly....or to declare NO behavior to be wrong at all and thus commit the worse depravities not secretly but openly for all to see?

The Pharisees were hammered by Our Lord. But quite a few of their party became early Christians. I don't see any evidence in the scriptures of Sadducees or Herodian hedonists becoming early Christians. The Pharisees believed that sin was a threat and that perfection could be achieved through the Law. They became monsters in application but their minds weren't in the wrong place, just their hearts. But those who declare nothing to be sinful out of an ideology of progressivism (believing morality to be constantly changing with "the times") have locked themselves into a black box. Their only escape is hypocrisy (the double standard).

Thus as paradoxically as it may be, it's in the progressivist becoming Inquisitorial in their zeal to stamp out "phobias" that they vest with objective evilness (always, all time) that they stumble back into objective moral truths.

How does one reach such people though? Our Lord used abusive language not to be mean but to shock them out of the stupor of their hypocrisy and through shame crack their conscience open to the light of eternal and blessed truth that alone can set them free from the grim gods they worship.

Yes, the Irish hang up/Jansenist model of morality is a risky gamble (and we're seeing the terminal result in Ireland's apostasy), but it's not like the lax Mediterean