List of Mortal Sins Every Catholic Should Know
“Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death forever.” —John 8:51
The distinction between two types of sin
All sin is an offense against God and a rejection of his perfect love and justice. Yet, Jesus distinguishes between two types of sins. We call the most serious and grave sins, mortal sins. Mortal sins destroy the grace of God in the heart of the sinner. By their very grave nature, a mortal son cuts our relationship off from God and turns man away from his creator. St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews tells us that “if we sinfully willfully after having knowledge of the truth, there is now no sacrifice for the sins” (Hebrews 10:26). The second type of sin, the venial sin, that of less grave matter, does not cut us off from Christ. However, the venial sin does not weaken grace in the soul and damages our relationship with God. A person who often indulges in a venial son is very likely to collapse into a mortal son if they persist in their evil ways.
What kind of Sins are Mortal?
In order for a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions:
Mortal son is a son of a grave matter
Mortal son is committed with a full knowledge of the sinner
Mortal son is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner
This means that mortal sins can not be done “accidentally.” A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their son is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin anyway. This means that mortal sins are “premeditated” by the sinner and thus are truly a denial of God’s law and love.
The first condition, that a mortal son is of grave matter, means that certain premeditated offenses against God are more severe than others. We know that some sins are graver than others (eg it is a graver son to kill someone than to lie to someone). St. John tells us, “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if he is not dead, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose son is not deadly. There is such a thing as a deadly son, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is a sin, but there is a sin that is not deadly. “(1 John 5: 16-17). Thus St. John distinguishes between mortal and venial sin. Jesus also warns us that “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire, and they will be burned “(John 15: 6).
What kinds of offenses against God constitute a “grave matter”?
In the Bible, St. Paul gives us a list of grave sins. He states that anyone who commits these sins will not enter the kingdom of God. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, conflicts, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: told you in time past, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God “(Galatians 5: 19-20). Paul also tells the Corinthians, “Know ye not that the unjust will not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards nor railers, nor extortioners will possess the kingdom of God “(1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 ). These sins constitute a grave matter, and if they are committed willingly and with full consent, they constitute a mortal son.
The Church also tells us that the sins of anger, blasphemy, envy, hatred, malice, murder, neglect of Sunday obligation, sins against faith (incredulity against God or heresy), sins against hope (obstinate despair in the hope for salvation and / or presumption that one can live without God or be saved by one’s own power) and sins against love (indifference towards charity, ingratitude, and / or hatred of God) also constitute a grave matter. This list of grave sins is based on Jesus’ interpretation of the gravity of the Ten Commandments. Grave sins can be classified as sins against God, neighbor and self, and can be further divided into carnal and spiritual sins (CCC 1853).
Four other sins are also considered grave. These sins not only offend God, but also men. So these four sins are called “the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance” and are also mortal sins. These grave sins are:
The voluntary murder (Genesis 4:10)
The sin of impurity against nature -Sodomy and homosexual relations (Genesis 18:20)
Taking advantage of the poor (Exodus 2:23)
Defrauding the workman of his wages (James 5: 4)
Finally, the capital sins are also considered a serious matter. These sins are vices and are defined as contrary to the Christian virtues of holiness. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia).
Note from the author: For those of you who do not understand why these particular sins are of grave matter, I would suggest that you refer to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. He does a great job of explaining why these sins are of grave matter, and also explores the counter-arguments and objections that some people have regarding these grave sins.
A thorough listing and description of the grave sins:
The First Commandment, “You Will Worship the Lord Your God and Him Only Shall You Serve”
Idolatry-Idolatry is the worship, veneration or belief in false gods. Because it is a direct rejection of God, it is a grave sin (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10). Idolatry includes worship of images (This does not mean that we can not worship religious images. Veneration of images such as a crucifix is the worship of the person depicted, and not the actual image in itself.)
Divination, magic and sorcery -This is a grave sin that involves attempting to command the powers of the occult, control or speak to demons or spirits (especially Satan), attempting to divine the future, and the use of magic charms (CCC 2116) . Deuteronomy 18: 10-11 speaks against this grave son.
Sacrilege-The sin of sacrilege is a grave sin that consists of profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and liturgical actions of the Church as well as things consecrated to God (CCC 2120).
Atheism-Because atheistic humanism falsely seeks man and human glory and rejects God, atheism is a grave son (CCC 2125). It is a sin against the virtue of religion. St. Paul tells us, “For the wrath of God is revealed from the heaven against all unholiness and injustice of those men who hold the truth of God in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
The Second Commandment, “You will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”
Blasphemy-This grave sin is the uttering of hatred, reproach, defiance or speaking ill of God. Blasphemy against the Church, the saints and sacred things is also a grave sin (CCC 2148). It fails to give love and respect to our Creator. St. James speaks against sinners who “blaspheme the good name that is invoked upon you” (James 2: 7).
False and False Oaths-Those who take an oath in the name of the Lord and fail to keep it, or break the oath at a later date, show a grave lack of respect for the Lord of all speech (CCC 2152). Pledging oneself to commit a evil deed is also sinful. During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks against sinners who give false oaths (Matthew 5: 33-34).
The Third Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”
Deliberate failure of the Sunday obligation-the Christian Sunday celebrates the new life of the world born in Christ’s Resurrection. All people have a duty to praise God and give him thanks. Thus all Christians are bound to participate in the Mass, and must partake of the Eucharist at least on holy days of obligation. A deliberate failure to do this constitutes a grave son (CCC 2181).
The Fifth Commandment, “You Will not Kill”
Murder (intentional homicide) -Direct and intentional killing is gravely sinful (CCC 2268). It’s a son who cries to heaven for vengeance, much like the murder of Abel at the hands of Cain. Indirect homicide can also be of grave nature (such as refusing to help a person in danger). However, the Church teaches that self-defense is permissible for the preservation of one’s life. If the attacker is mortally wounded or killed, then the death of the attacker is not a sin. Those who use unnecessary aggression in self-defense can sin mortally, if the attacker is killed or gravely injured.
Abortion-Human life begins at conception in the mother’s womb. For God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1: 5). Abortion is therefore murder. The oldest Christian book (also part of the Bible) is Didache, a book composed by the twelve apostles or their disciples. The Didache proclaims the ancient teaching of the Catholic Church, “You will not kill the embryo by abortion and will not cause the newborn to perish” (Didache 2.2). All Catholics who procure a complete abortion or participate in the execution of an abortion are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church (CCC 2272 and CIC Canon 1314).
Euthanasia-The direct killing of sick, handicapped, or dying, regardless of motives, is a grave son. The will and action taken to cause a person’s death is an act of murder (CCC 2277). Those who suffer and are nearing death must be allowed to die (or recover, which is sometimes a possibility) naturally. Administration of painkillers is permissible, provided the drugs are not intended as an end or a means to precipitate death. “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘overzealous treatment’ (CCC 2278). In this case, death is not intended, but is simply accepted as inevitable and can not be impeded.
Suicide-Suicide is a murder of the self. It is contrary to the love of God, self, family, friends and neighbors (CCC 2281). It is especially grave nature, if it is intended to set an example for others to follow. Voluntary cooperation in a suicide is also contrary to the moral law. However, the responsibility and gravity of suicide can be reduced in cases of serious psychological disturbances, anguish, grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture. But this does not make it morally permissible, and it is the judgment of God that will measure the gravity or responsibility of the sin.
Scandal-Scandal is an attitude or behavior that leads another to do evil. If someone is deliberately led to a grave offense, that person’s tempter commits a grave sin (CCC 2284 and 2285). Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18: 6) .
Drug abuse – Drug abuse is a serious offense to health and life. Only legitimate therapeutic use is acceptable (CCC 2290).
Gluttony-Gluttony is an excessive love for food, and is a disordered passion for wordly appetites. Because it is contrary to the virtues of temperance, it can constitute a grave son. Gluttony is also a major sin (CCC 1866, 2290)
Alcohol Abuse-Alcohol abuse can also be excessively dangerous and harmful to the body, and sometimes to neighbors (CCC 2290). Because it is also contrary to temperance and is a disordered passion, it is a grave sin (1 Corinthians 6: 9 -10).
Terrorism-Terrorism that threatens, wounds and kills indiscriminately is of grave matter (CCC 2297). Other forms of bodily violence (kidnapping, captive taking, non-medical amputations, mutilations and sterilization) are also contrary to the moral law.
Extreme Anger- “Anger is a desire for revenge. If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal son (CCC 2302). Christ speaks against anger saying, “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment (Matthew 5:22).”
Hatred-Hatred of a neighbor is to deliberately wish him evil, and thus is a grave sin (CCC 2303 and Galatians 5: 19-20).
Extortion-Extortion is to obtain something from another by coercion or intimidation. It is an act of violence and theft, and is condemned by 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10.
The Sixth Commandment, “You will not commit adultery”
Adultery-Adultery is marital infidelity. A married person who has sexual relations with anyone but their legal partner, even transient sexual relationships, commits adultery (CCC 2380).
Divorce-The grave sin of divorce condemns those who divorce and remarry (Matthew 5:32) and those who divorce in civil sense (except by grave dispensation). Therefore, the divorce between two baptized Christians is a mortal son (CCC 2384).
Fornication-Fornication is a carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman and is a grave sin (CCC 2353). St. Paul condemns forgiveness in his epistle 1 Corinthians 6:18. All aspects of the intimate contact associated with the marriage act also constitute fornication for Jesus said, “I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with a lust has committed an adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 9:28). If lustful looks are adulterous, how much worse is lustful physical contact?
Pornography-Pornography is a display of intimate real or simulated sexual acts to a third party. Because it removes the marriage act from within the sacramental sanctity of marriage, and perverts sex, it is gravely contrary to charity (CCC 2354). The display of pornography to children and other parties is especially seriously sinful because it is gravely scandalous.
Prostitution-Prostitution reduces a person to an instrument of sexual pleasure and lust. It is gravely contrary to charity and chastity and defiles the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, destitution, blackmail or social pressure can reduce the gravity of the son. Still, prostitution is always a son (CCC 2355).
Rape-A person who commits rape violates the respect, freedom, physical and moral integrity of the victim. It is a brutal crime of violence that can physically and psychologically scar a person for life. It is thus a grave son (CCC 2356).
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