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September 25, 2006

Comments

Jason

As a follow up to this, how does one know if their contrition is perfect? Is it enough to just say a prayer that encapsulates perfection contrition? What if you're sorry partly because you're afraid of hell?

chad

JA: "He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin."

As a new convert, I had no idea that this was the case! Thanks Jimmy.

J.R. Stoodley

Thanks Jimmy.

Maybe I have some kind of mini-scruples. I often wonder if I should recieve communion because some sins like lust and anger can potentially be mortal, even though I don't think I have commited a mortal sin. I was having trouble because I heard once that you should never act on a uncertain conscience, but I guess that doesn't apply here.

Or is this advise only for those with a recognized case of intense scrupulosity and the rest of us should be more, uh, scrupulous about receiving communion?

Also, shouldn't this post have number 20 at the bottom? If I were you I would be afraid of some overenthusiastic ubercatholic hot-shot coming in and confusing us all with a refutation of your point #2.

Matt McDonald

As a follow up to this, how does one know if their contrition is perfect? Is it enough to just say a prayer that encapsulates perfection contrition? What if you're sorry partly because you're afraid of hell?

For the typical laity, this should never be a problem. You should only rely on "perfect contrition" in grave circumstances. I don't know when that could be the case unless you are called upon to be an extraordinary minister, or perhaps at your wedding. To my mind those circumstances should be ardently avoided.

Simply desiring to receive communion should never be sufficient to rely on perfect contrition, especially when sacramental confession is so readily available.

If you're partly sorry for fear of punishment... you may be drinking judgement, no amount of embarassment is worth that risk, IMHO.

I think it's important to remember that for a sin to be mortal it must involve not only grave matter, but an act of will to consent to the sin, so idle impure thoughts, or spontaneous emotional reactions would never be mortal sin.

God Bless,

Matt

Philip Howard

I'm pretty sure I have an overly scrupulous conscience. Just this weekend I was looking up rules about mass attendance on days of heavy travel and work. In my line of work, I feel a lot pressure to work on the weekends. When I do, especially on Sundays, I sometimes feel too drained to attend mass. When I don't go, I feel terribly guilty - to the point where I won't take communion the next Sunday when that's the only sin of which I am consciously aware.

Not that I want to turn this into an "excuses" sequence, but is it not true also that some cases of masturbation are not considered grave (i.e. length of habit, stree factors)? This is one about which a male Catholic friend and I had a long-running debate.

Anyway, subsistence work, heavy travel and tiredness have been situations and sins about which communion questions have revolved for years in my life. - PH

J.R. Stoodley

Matt, I disagree that perfect contrition is only for extreme cases.

Yes, you should go to confession asap, but why not make, or try to make, an an act of perfect contrition first. Be made right with God imediately, don't waite until you can get to the sacrament of Reconciliation and be reconciled to the Church as well. Of course confession also gives much greater assurance of forgivness, since one could second-guess one's motivations endlessly. It is healthy and not contradictory to having perfect contrition to be afraid of hell. The part about dreading the loss of heaven and the pains of hell is in the Act of Contrition for a reason. The point is that your primary motivation must be regretting having offended God.

Philip Howard,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this in the section about mastrobation, after a forceful statement about the gravity of the sin:

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psycological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

JohnW

I'm thinking there is a difference between a state of perfect contrition and an act of perfect contrition. A state of perfect contrition is a special grace that God might grant to somebody who has died in a state of mortal sin without the opportunity to make a sacramental confession, and it is one of the conditions under which theologians used to think that maybe non-Catholics could be saved (in combination with a state of imvincible ignorance). Specifically, it is the grace of being totally sorry for every sin one has ever committed wholly because of the offense which these sins have caused to God.

Meanwhile, an act of perfect contrition is the prayerful expression of remorse made by a priest who absolutely, positively has to say Mass despite being in mortal sin; and it may or may not result in the grace which is the state of perfect contrition.

Someone correct me on this if I am wrong.

J.R. Stoodley

JohnW,

God doesn't play games like that. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions commited. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of the ehart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi criciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (affliction of the heart).

1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!" God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have peirced.

Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation, it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.

1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stiring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin. If there are doubts, he should go ahead and receive.

Anyone want to point out where in Canon law it says this? CCC #1415 and 1457 say that anyone who is "aware" of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion. The dictionary says "AWARE implies vigilance in observing or alertness in drawing inferences from what one experiences," and to "INFER implies arriving at a conclusion by reasoning from evidence; if the evidence is slight, the term comes close to surmise."

Mary

From Scrupulous Anonymous:

I find it very reassuring to read the words of Saint Alphonsus in reference to this matter. It is good to know that the teaching of our very wise patron and model, a saint whom you might recall also suffered greatly from scrupulosity, is so clear and straightforward. "There is no sin," are the words we need to hear and recall as often as necessary.

Matt McDonald


J.R. Stoodley,

Matt, I disagree that perfect contrition is only for extreme cases.

You are free to disagree with me, but the Code of Canon Law says:

Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
.


Mary, and anon,

Please be cautious about reading statements out of context. The advice about not refraining from communion unless you are certain there is a grave sin is applied exclusively to those who suffer from scrupulosity, which is a condition which causes people to think every fault to be a mortal sin regardless how trivial. This would only be the case where one is going above and beyond what the Church teaches in her definitive documents what is or is not a mortal sin.

The quote from St. Alphonsus is extremely short, I wonder what fell on either side of the those four words which seem so contradictory to all of the Church's teaching.

John,

missing mass because one is "too drained", it seems that in a very extreme case, such as after running a marathon, and where there is no possibility for assisting at Saturday vigil, or an early Sunday mass, then the Sunday obligation would be remitted (ideally this obligation would be dispensed in advance by speaking with one's pastor). It seems that a more normal level of exhaustion would be insufficient to remit one's obligation. Further, if one's profession routinely demands such hours and exertion that one is missing Sunday obligation, it may be starting to be a danger to one's salvation.

Note that as regards masturbation, the judgement of the confessor would be required before considering culpability insufficient for a mortal sin. He should prescribe a course of action to resolve the problem.

Mary

The advice about not refraining from communion unless you are certain there is a grave sin is applied exclusively to those who suffer from scrupulosity

If so, too bad Jimmy didn't say that.

scrupulosity, which is a condition which causes people to think every fault to be a mortal sin regardless how trivial.

To many people, saying someone "suffers from scruples" is simply a way of saying the person has moral integrity and wants to do what's right even when the crowd doesn't.

J.R. Stoodley

Matt,

How does Canon 916 conflict with what I have written or support your position? Yes, we should confess our sins, but we should not refuse to make an act of perfect contrition except in extreme cases when we can not go to confession.

It is a good idea to make one every night for all the sins one has commited during the day, though hopefully those are all venial ones. If one has commited mortal sin then all the more we should make, or at least try to make, an act of perfect contrition immediately (or perhaps after a preperatory period of lectio divina and meditation on sin), maybe repeating it later to achieve a deeper repentance and to be more certain of its authenticity, and then get to confession as soon as possible. The only time I can see it being justified not to try to have perfect contrition before confession is if you commit a sin right before entering the confessional and don't have time to make the spiritual effort. But even so when saying your act of contrition before absolution the goal should again be perfect contrition. Why do you think we have the act of contrition said before absolution anyway? Perhaps we are misunderstanding one another.

J.R. Stoodley

humph. My post got italicised fixed?

Maureen

IIRC, "there is no sin" is not saying that sin does not exist. Rather, it's what St. Alphonsus is saying as a confessor to someone who hasn't sinned, but is confessing about something that isn't a sin.

You can feel bad, or even have an attack of scruples,, about something that wasn't a sin, or that wasn't your sin. It's the priest's job to say, "this is a sin" or "this is not a sin" if you have any questions.

And if you need your job to live or for your family, and your job's demands cause you to miss Mass, that's not a sin or necessarily a danger to your salvation. The Church knows you have to eat, and Sunday wasn't the weekend back in early Christian times. Obviously, missing Mass because of work isn't ideal, but it happens.

Missing Mass because you're sick is fine, right? And exhaustion is also a bodily incapacity, right? And if you're just going to sleep through Mass, or maybe you're so tired you have a car crash, that wouldn't be helpful to anybody's soul, right?

Do what you reasonably can. Don't worry about the rest.

Re: aware

If you're _aware_ you've got a mortal sin on your soul, then you _know it for certain_. Sheesh. Just suspecting or wondering or rolling possibilities through your mind ain't the same thing. That's more "wary" than "aware".

Jeff

I don't understand the argument here.

All of us, including priests, must confess our grave sins BEFORE receiving communion, barring certain highly unusual situations. Priests, however, are dispensed from that obligation if they must celebrate Mass. Instead they make an act of perfect contrition and confess their grave sins afterward.

So...if you have committed a grave sin and are not a priest about to celebrate Mass, don't go to communion until you've confessed. It should be perfectly normal that Catholics abstain from communion. There may be all sorts of reasons to do so...one may be inordinately distracted or filled with anger or any number of other things.

Communion is a desirable thing and it should be strongly encouraged. But it isn't a norm. Cardinal Ratzinger (what ever happened to that guy?) said that the spectacle of everyone at Mass always receiving communion was a scandal and showed that Catholics nowadays don't appreciate what Holy Communion is. He even recommended the occasional practice of the "Voluntary Fast" from communion--abstaining from communion without the reason of grave sin or other serious reason--merely as a reminder to onesself and others of the great value and meaning of reception.

Sometimes when my eleven-year-old son needs to abstain from communion, I will do so with him as an act of solidarity. It's important that he see that it can be done and is a normal thing and that he shouldn't feel pressured to take communion or feel that "all eyes are on him" wondering what hideous behaviors he has been up to.

By all means, make an act of perfect contrition if you believe you have sinned gravely. But don't dispense yourself from confessing the sin as soon as possible or abstaining from communion til you have done so. Of course, if your confessor has instructed you not to regard a certain habitual vice as grave for subjective reasons, follow his advice. Still: all the more reason for regular confession. Once a week will do very nicely in most cases. A properly staffed church should have priests available for confession before every Mass--mine certainly does. Most churches have Saturday confession anyway. Go!

And remember, no one knows whether an act of perfect contrition works or not. No one claims that it is automatic in removing grave sins. That's because it's not necessarily an easy thing to achieve! This is one of the reasons that we have confession available to us, by the grace of God. We should use it!

Mary

If you're _aware_ you've got a mortal sin on your soul, then you _know it for certain_.

Let's see... According to Matt, the "advice about not refraining from communion unless you are certain there is a grave sin is applied exclusively to those who suffer from scrupulosity." But according to Maureen, the only ones who'd ever be aware of having committed a mortal sin are those who are certain of it, and therefore the advice would apply to everyone and not just to those who suffer from scrupulosity. I guess this shows the only thing one can be certain of is uncertainty.

As "promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders," I wonder how anyone, in reflection, can ever be certain of having committed a mortal sin. As Fr. Robert Levis wrote earlier this month on another forum, "True, yes, there sometimes are ameliorating circumstances that diminish the culpability of our sins. Perhaps they could be so strong that mortal sin is reduced to venial sin, but who knows for sure? God alone."

Matt McDonald

Mary,

If so, too bad Jimmy didn't say that.

He did, you didn't cite him properly:
In the case of a person with a scrupulous conscience, the person should not refuse to receive Communion if he merely thinks he may have an unconfessed mortal sin. He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin.

Stoodley,

Perhaps we are misunderstanding one another.

Yes, I think that's the case. You can not go to communion when you are conscious of grave sin until you have been absolved by sacramental confession, UNLESS it's grave circumstances (such as a priest required to say mass) and perfect contrition will suffice.

Maureen,

And if you need your job to live or for your family, and your job's demands cause you to miss Mass, that's not a sin or necessarily a danger to your salvation. The Church knows you have to eat, and Sunday wasn't the weekend back in early Christian times. Obviously, missing Mass because of work isn't ideal, but it happens.

Missing Mass because you're sick is fine, right? And exhaustion is also a bodily incapacity, right? And if you're just going to sleep through Mass, or maybe you're so tired you have a car crash, that wouldn't be helpful to anybody's soul, right?

Do what you reasonably can. Don't worry about the rest.

This was not a discussion about whether the job demands you to miss mass but if you are "too drained" after working. Now if your job demands you to work during all the times that mass is offered (Saturday vigil, Sunday morning, and Sunday night), then of course as it's remitted. If you are so exhausted as to be a danger to drive, or to the point of incapacity, of course that's equivalent to illness and it's remitted. However, if you properly understand that Sunday mass is when you "get fed" for the week, and you miss it routinely IT does become a danger to your salvation, not necessarily because it's sinful, but because you are being denied the spiritual nutrition that you need.

Jeff,

how could I improve on what you said?

Too many people today seek to diminish our responsibilities and it's to the detriment of our souls. Fr. Corapi tells about a certain priest in Africa who has 100,000 parishioners, many of whom, walk miles and miles to go to mass on Sunday... not out of obligation, but out of Love for Christ.

Mary,

If you're _aware_ you've got a mortal sin on your soul, then you _know it for certain_.

Let's see... According to Matt, the "advice about not refraining from communion unless you are certain there is a grave sin is applied exclusively to those who suffer from scrupulosity." But according to Maureen, the only ones who'd ever be aware of having committed a mortal sin are those who are certain of it, and therefore the advice would apply to everyone and not just to those who suffer from scrupulosity. I guess this shows the only thing one can be certain of is uncertainty.

If you are suffering from scrupulosity you think everything is a mortal sin, it's like (is?) an obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you're not suffering from scrupulosity, and you THINK you committed a grave sin, you probably did, if you are properly informed (check the catechism, or a solid examination of consciences), even if your not certain, it's better to be safe than sorry and refrain from communion until you can get to confession (at the earliest opportunity).

As "promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders," I wonder how anyone, in reflection, can ever be certain of having committed a mortal sin. As Fr. Robert Levis wrote earlier this month on another forum, "True, yes, there sometimes are ameliorating circumstances that diminish the culpability of our sins. Perhaps they could be so strong that mortal sin is reduced to venial sin, but who knows for sure? God alone."

Your problem here, is that Fr. Levis is referring to culpability which can diminish a mortal sin to a venial sin. However, if the sin is grave, it's grave and nothing changes that... the canon on receiving the Eucharist refers to grave sin, so diminished culpability is not the issue.

Mary

He did, you didn't cite him properly:
In the case of a person with a scrupulous conscience

As I said before, "scrupulous conscience" can have many meanings, to include someone with moral integrity, not just people with OCD or whatever.

Main Entry: scrupulous
1 : having moral integrity : acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper

Your problem here, is that Fr. Levis is referring to culpability which can diminish a mortal sin to a venial sin.

No, if it's venial sin, it's not a mortal sin, and therefore not a barrier to receiving Holy Communion.

the canon on receiving the Eucharist refers to grave sin, so diminished culpability is not the issue.

CCC #1415 and 1457 refer to awareness of mortal sin.

J.R. Stoodley

Mary,

People do misuse the word scrupulosity, but you are the only one refering to that unfortutate, confusing use of the word. Don't introduce complications into the thread if you don't need to. We are talking about the disorder called scrupulosity here.

Jeff

Matt:

I don't think you're right about grave sin. I think what you are talking about is grave MATTER. Grave matter makes for objectively grave sin. But if some factor reduces the culpability of the matter, it may not longer be grave, but rather venial sin.

A grave sin--in concrete terms--is a sin which ACTUALLY kills the life of grace in our souls.

Now, I think that we should assume that sin which involves grave matter is subjectively, as well as objectively, grave. Unless, of course, a spiritual director tells us otherwise.

Some sins, nevertheless, require a judgment call and involve some sort of subjective analysis in a practical sense no matter what the circumstances. Many of us would hardly ever get to communion if we took a strict view of what constitutes "deliberately entertaining impure thoughts".

Mary

People do misuse the word scrupulosity, but you are the only one refering to that unfortutate, confusing use of the word. Don't introduce complications into the thread if you don't need to.

I, like the dictionary, point out the other meanings of the word for the sake of clarity. Unless it is made clear that one is speaking strictly in regard to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, then who is to say, for example, what meaning poster "chad", as a new convert, or anyone else who stumbles along may take it to mean.

Matt McDonald

Mary,


He did, you didn't cite him properly:
In the case of a person with a scrupulous conscience

As I said before, "scrupulous conscience" can have many meanings, to include someone with moral integrity, not just people with OCD or whatever.

Main Entry: scrupulous
1 : having moral integrity : acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper

Jimmy correct me if I'm wrong, but the whole discussion is treating an excessively scrupulous conscience, I apologize for not being clear, we all thought everyone understood. I think one can read the thread and reasonably conclude that we are referring to scrupulosity as a disordered state by the context of it.

You are not introducing clarity, you are introducing confusion, surely that is not your intention, but it is the effect.



Your problem here, is that Fr. Levis is referring to culpability which can diminish a mortal sin to a venial sin.

No, if it's venial sin, it's not a mortal sin, and therefore not a barrier to receiving Holy Communion.


the canon on receiving the Eucharist refers to grave sin, so diminished culpability is not the issue.

CCC #1415 and 1457 refer to awareness of mortal sin.

I'll requote Canon 916 for you, so that it's abundantly clear:

A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

The reason it says grave sin, is because that's an objective matter, whereas mortal sin has a subjective nature. If the sin is grave, it might be mortal, but it's difficult to tell, so better to go to confession first.

Jeff,

no, i'm citing from Canon law, so I'm not wrong. A grave sin is a sin that involves grave matter. Grave is synonomous with serious. Mortal is a sin unto death, which requires grave matter, full awareness, and consent of the will. All mortal sins are objectively grave, not all grave sins are mortal subjectively speaking.

Susan Peterson

But, original person who really suffers from scrupulosity.........and who has probably been told by a priest in confession and/or spiritual direction that he suffers from scrupulosity....listen to Jimmy, please, and not to all these other folks.

That's why confessional moral theology is different from prescriptive moral theology.

While people with too few scruples might be more common today, there are still people who suffer from scrupulosity. These people do have a serious desire not to offend God. They are suffering when they believe that they have offended God over and over. They need careful guidance. Jimmy knows what he is talking about here, and he was talking to the person who asked the question, for whom his advice is absolutely correct. The rest of us should probably drop the issue and talk about our issues on another thread.
Susan Peterson

Mary

You are not introducing clarity, you are introducing confusion, surely that is not your intention, but it is the effect.

Is that the effect on you? Are you confused? If Canon law says one thing but the Catechism says another, are you going to blame me for that?

I'll requote Canon 916 for you, so that it's abundantly clear

And I'll quote CCC #1415 and 1457 for you, so that it's abundantly clear:

1415 Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.

1457 According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

Jimmy knows what he is talking about here, and he was talking to the person who asked the question, for whom his advice is absolutely correct.

Jimmy may know what he's talking about, but the public at large who reads his blog may or may not.

The reason it says grave sin

Why don't you explain why the Catechism says mortal sin?

Matt

Mary,

you and I both know that my comment about confusion vs. clarity was your introduction of the idea of being scrupulous in a healthy way, when everyone else was referring to scrupulosity as a disorder.

When Canon law and the Catechism disagree, it is Canon law which holds, as the Catechism is not in and of itself a binding document but a collection of teachings proclaimed elsewhere (such as Canon law). In fact the Catechism references Canon 916 as it's support.

The more recent Compendium clarifies the position of Canon Law:

291. What is required to receive Holy Communion?

1385-1389
1415

To receive Holy Communion one must be fully incorporated into the Catholic Church and be in the state of grace, that is, not conscious of being in mortal sin. Anyone who is conscious of having committed a grave sin must first receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before going to Communion. Also important for those receiving Holy Communion are a spirit of recollection and prayer, observance of the fast prescribed by the Church, and an appropriate disposition of the body (gestures and dress) as a sign of respect for Christ.

The likely reason that the Catechism says mortal sin, is that it is based on the Council of Trent. At that time the Church hierarchy was more rigorous and did not consider diminished culpability to be a significant factor. A priest or bishop at the time would say that any grave sin is mortal except in extreme circumstances. The concept of incomplete assent is based on a more modern understanding of psychology. The Canon law and the new catchism reflect this understanding and apply the more objective standard in order to avoid confusion and scandal.

Susan,

I think Jimmy posts these things for the very purpose of discussion, and as long as we respect the rulz and not contradict his advice thus confusing the inquirer it is fair game. I don't think anyone here is contradicting the original post.

J.R. Stoodley

Mary,

You really are confusing matters with your introducing a different definition of scrupulocity. If you just posted something saying how different people use the word differently that would be fine, but you gave a definition of scrupulocity totally different than the one we are useing and did not acknowledge that the definition you gave had nothing to do with the matter we are discussing. Again, this provides confusion, not clarity.

For clarity, the scrupulosity we are discussing here is exclusively the obsessive-cumpulsive disorder.

Mary

you and I both know that my comment about confusion vs. clarity was your introduction of the idea of being scrupulous in a healthy way, when everyone else was referring to scrupulosity as a disorder.

Was poster "chad" thinking he had a mental disorder? Is everyone who reads the words "someone who suffers from scruples" going to think in terms of a mental disorder? The dictionary does not agree that it's necessary to conclude a mental disorder from those words. In J.R. Stoodley's post, he even asked, "is this advise only for those with a recognized case of intense scrupulosity and the rest of us should be more, uh, scrupulous about receiving communion?"

When Canon law and the Catechism disagree, it is Canon law which holds

The Catechism says mortal sin. Even the more recent Compendium says mortal sin. If you feel the Catechism is incorrect, write your complaints to the Vatican.

The concept of incomplete assent is based on a more modern understanding of psychology. The Canon law and the new catchism reflect this understanding and apply the more objective standard in order to avoid confusion and scandal.

The very same Catechism from which the quoted #1415 & #1457 were pulled also reflects the concepts of incomplete assent and diminished culpability in defining mortal sin.

In addition, the "more recent Compendium" which you say "clarifies the position of Canon Law" also states: "To receive Holy Communion one must be fully incorporated into the Catholic Church and be in the state of grace, that is, not conscious of being in mortal sin." It's right there in the sentence previous to the one you highlighted.

You really are confusing matters with your introducing a different definition of scrupulocity.

I didn't introduce it. The English language did.

Matt McDonald

When Canon law and the Catechism disagree, it is Canon law which holds

The Catechism says mortal sin. Even the more recent Compendium says mortal sin. If you feel the Catechism is incorrect, write your complaints to the Vatican.

The concept of incomplete assent is based on a more modern understanding of psychology. The Canon law and the new catchism reflect this understanding and apply the more objective standard in order to avoid confusion and scandal.

The very same Catechism from which the quoted #1415 & #1457 were pulled also reflects the concepts of incomplete assent and diminished culpability in defining mortal sin.

In addition, the "more recent Compendium" which you say "clarifies the position of Canon Law" also states: "To receive Holy Communion one must be fully incorporated into the Catholic Church and be in the state of grace, that is, not conscious of being in mortal sin." It's right there in the sentence previous to the one you highlighted.

I don't understand your problem with this, there is no contradiction. Because we can't be certain that a grave sin is not mortal, we must refrain if we are conscious of a grave sin. The old Catechism (CCC) is not clear on this point, and is out of accord with the very Canon it cites to be authoritative. The new Catechism (Compendium) clarifies the position by mentioning mortal sin AND grave sin.

That is not to say the CCC was wrong, I never said that, just that it falls short of what is said in Canon law, which is more specific, and authoritative. There's no need for me to complain to the Vatican, as the clarified position in the Compendium is in perfect alignment, very clear on the matter.

Do you believe a person can licitly receive Holy Communion when they are conscious of grave sin if they believe on their own authority that they are not fully culpable? Are you trying to suggest that the CCC supports this position because it doesn't mention grave sin as an impediment to receiving Holy Communion?

Mary

I don't understand your problem with this, there is no contradiction.

I've been pointing out the lack of clarity, such as that between the Canon, the Catechism and even within the new Compendium. If you have a problem with me pointing that out, then you have a problem.

Likewise, the reader's letter quoted by Jimmy refers to "grave sin", but Jimmy's response did not once use that term but instead consisted only of references to "mortal sin." Specifically, Jimmy advised, "He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin."

Because we can't be certain that a grave sin is not mortal, we must refrain if we are conscious of a grave sin.

Jimmy advised in regard to being CERTAIN of having an unconfessed MORTAL sin. I questioned, in light of all the related psychological mumbo jumbo, how one can ever be certain that a sin IS mortal vs venial, much like you say we can't be certain that a grave sin IS NOT mortal.

The new Catechism (Compendium) clarifies the position by mentioning mortal sin AND grave sin.

To gloss over differences is not adding clarity.

Do you believe a person can licitly receive Holy Communion when they are conscious of grave sin if they believe on their own authority that they are not fully culpable?

Jimmy is the one giving advice on this blog. Jimmy said, "He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin." By Jimmy's advice, merely being conscious of a grave sin would not be sufficient cause to refrain, but would require a higher standard of (a) certainty that one committed (b) a mortal sin.

Are you trying to suggest that the CCC supports this position because it doesn't mention grave sin as an impediment to receiving Holy Communion?

The CCC does explicitly say mortal sin, not grave sin.

Matt McDonald

Mary,

As you are aware, Jimmy's advice is for someone suffering from excessive scrupulosity, not a typical Catholic who does not suffer from this problem.

He's not saying that someone who is rationally conscious of grave sin should go to communion, he's saying someone who's capacity to rationally distinguish between mortal and venial sins is impaired by disorder, should exercise this discernment to help correct their conscience.

Mortal sin and grave sin are not mutually exclusive. When the Compendium says if you are conscious of mortal sin you should refrain from Holy Communion and it says if you are conscious of grave sin you should refrain from Holy Communion there is absolutely no contradiction. Both conditions can and do apply. The Compendium assumes that the consciousness of sin in either case is rational, so Jimmy's advice doesn't contradict the teaching.

J.R. Stoodley

Matt,

I'm not sure of the answer here myself. I had figured due to the differences in different documents and the fact that some things can be mortal sins but normally aren't at least for a serious Christian (like lust) that the word "grave" was being used inconsistently, sometimes to mean mortal sin and sometimes to mean grave matter exclusively.

In any case don't you think if it were wrong to receive when aware of sin that is technically grave but you rationally don't think is mortal, then Jimmy would have said "go to communion unless you know for a fact that the sin is grave matter?" I think the last thing you would want to tell a scrupulous person is to do something that ordinarily would be a mortal sin, all the more if you are a layman on the internet not the person's confessor. Plus grave matter is much easier to distinguish than mortal sin.

The same rules ought to apply to a scrupulous person as for anyone else, but you should emphasise for them the need for absolute certainty. For a more rational person the word "aware" suffices.

Obviously the rational person should not say "I'm going to communion next Sunday because I'm not a hundred percent certain that was a mortal sin." You should use your best judgement. If you think there was a reasonable likelyhood something was a mortal sin, confess it before receaving communion. But equally you should not refrain from communion when you are not absolutely 100% certain with all your being that you do not have an unconfessed mortal sin, if you have a very good reason to think the sin was venial due to subjective elements, even if the matter was objectively grave.

At least that's my take. I hope Jimmy clarifies this once his back is fixed.

Matt McDonald

But equally you should not refrain from communion when you are not absolutely 100% certain with all your being that you do not have an unconfessed mortal sin, if you have a very good reason to think the sin was venial due to subjective elements, even if the matter was objectively grave.

That flies in the face of the Canon law and the Compendium which clearly forbid communion when you are conscious of grave sin. Refraining from communion even if it's not absolutely necessary is not the end of the world, recieving communion when you're in mortal sin, is drinking judgement... not a good thing.

You are right that people often intermingle mortal and grave because in the past it was generally assumed that tne vast majority of grave sin is mortal. For myself, I still hold that conviction.

There is far more people suffering from an problem with an unscrupulous conscience than an overly scrupulous one.

Mary

he's saying someone who's capacity to rationally distinguish between mortal and venial sins is impaired by disorder, should exercise this discernment to help correct their conscience.

What discernment should they exercise? Their impaired discernment? Their irrationality?

Was Jimmy advising the use of discernment when he said, "If there are doubts, he should go ahead and receive" ? Or is he saying enough is enough, you're not sure and you're not going to be sure, so call off the fruitless efforts to discern, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and go for it.

Telling someone he needs to be certain is a joke, and particularly so if that someone suffers from uncertainty. You CAN'T make yourself certain. Every effort in a struggle to be certain is just more struggle with uncertainty. It's a dog chasing its tail.

Mortal sin and grave sin are not mutually exclusive. When the Compendium says if you are conscious of mortal sin you should refrain from Holy Communion and it says if you are conscious of grave sin you should refrain from Holy Communion there is absolutely no contradiction. Both conditions can and do apply.

You are arguing with yourself on the subject of contradiction. I have not once used the word contra* whatever, except in quoting your own words. As I've said, my focus has been and is on clarity. But since you insist on discussing the subject of contradiction, allow me to clarify the subject.

Grave sin and mortal sin are not contradictory in the sense that all mortal sins are grave. From that direction, there is no contradiction. But that's looking at it from only one direction. From the other direction, not all grave sins are mortal, and hence, there is a contradiction in the sense of an inconsistency, conflict, discrepancy, denial or objection. As the set of grave sins and the set of mortal sins are not one and the same, there is a discrepancy between the two sets, namely those grave sins which are not mortal. The set of mortal sins does not fully support the set of grave sins. There is only partial overlap, partial agreement between them. Hence, it is valid to say there's a contradiction between them as seen from that direction.

The Compendium assumes that the consciousness of sin in either case is rational, so Jimmy's advice doesn't contradict the teaching.

Jimmy advised, "He should only refrain on grounds of sin if he is CERTAIN that he has an unconfessed mortal sin." That is not what the Compendium teaches. It is NOT rational to be 100% certain of mortal sin, and the Compendium does not limit to "only" mortal sin.

Matt McDonald

Mary,

so we agree, that if we are a healthy person we must refrain from Holy Communion if we are conscious of grave sin even if we're unsure whether it's mortal?

Since mortal sin is a subset of grave sin, these statements are not contradictory, unless I were to say that "only in the case of mortal sin should a normal Catholic refrain from HC". This would be an incorrect statement, because there are several other reasons to refrain from HC, including grave sins which we don't think are mortal.

I would also submit, that we should all presume, as the Church typically has in the past, that our grave sins are mortal. That is the practice which will save souls, not trying to find the psychological loophole (which I grant exists in some circumstances). This concept is clear from the writings of the popes and saints.

God Bless.

Mary

so we agree, that if we are a healthy person we must refrain from Holy Communion if we are conscious of grave sin even if we're unsure whether it's mortal?

That is what the Canon seems to say, IF you understand the words "grave sin" as you do. Is that what the writers of the Canon intended? Given the frequency by which some people use the words grave and mortal interchangeably, and given the Catechism teaching, and the lack of clarity in the Compendium, who can be sure.

Since mortal sin is a subset of grave sin, these statements are not contradictory, unless I were to say that "only in the case of mortal sin should a normal Catholic refrain from HC".

As I've already said, the definition of "contradiction" also includes the condition of being in conflict, i.e. an inconsistency. As such, it extends to cases where there is not full agreement, to include such cases as this when one set is a subset of another. If you choose to use a more limited definition of the word, i.e. to see things from just one perspective, that is your choice. But I strongly suspect if I were to instruct that you're not to come to church if you have the measles, and then chastise you when you show up with any illness, you'd say I was contradictory, even though measles is a subset of illness and I didn't say "only".

I would also submit, that we should all presume, as the Church typically has in the past, that our grave sins are mortal.

You're welcome to presume whatever you want, but if you believe you're to refrain from Holy Communion when conscious of grave sin, then the question of mortal sin is not material to the decision of whether to refrain. On the other hand, for those people who are following what the Catechism teaches, or as Jimmy advised, the issue is in regard to mortal sin, and a presumption of mortal sin can be a starting point.

That is the practice which will save souls, not trying to find the psychological loophole (which I grant exists in some circumstances)

It may be a grave sin to receive Holy Communion while conscious of a grave sin, but it's not necessarily a mortal sin.

Matt McDonald

Mary,

On the other hand, for those people who are following what the Catechism teaches, or as Jimmy advised, the issue is in regard to mortal sin, and a presumption of mortal sin can be a starting point.

That is the practice which will save souls, not trying to find the psychological loophole (which I grant exists in some circumstances)

It may be a grave sin to receive Holy Communion while conscious of a grave sin, but it's not necessarily a mortal sin.

Grave sin is well defined in canon law, you must take it at it's word. The new Catechism clarifies my position on the requirement. Jimmy's advice is for someone with a problem understanding sin. Ignore the Canon law, and new Catechism if you wish, but I'd suggest you refrain from advising others to do so.

This game is over, you may continue to play by yourself.

J.R. Stoodley

Matt,

I just want to comment that you're calling the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the "new Catechism" is quite confusing and I imagine inaccurate. This is not a new Catechism replacing the old one, but a Compendium, more or less a summary, of the current Catechism.

Also, whatever Canon Law says, the Compendium is not at all clear on this teaching. First it says mortal sin, then it says grave sin, suggesting that either it considers grave and mortal sin synonymous or it actually contradicts the first sentence with the second.

What all this comes down to is how grave sin is defined in the Code of Canon Law. You suggest that the term is explicitly defined within the Code itself, so can you provide the quotation?

Jeff

This is likely a dead thread and so probably won't matter...

But I cannot find any reference that equates "grave sin with grave matter. This is asserted as an equivalence by Matt, but I cannot find any reference for it and he does not give any.

All of the references I see online or anywhere else treat "grave sin" as synonymous with "mortal sin" and also with "serious sin". For all of these things the matter must be serious and the will and intention must be fully engaged. There is not requirement in canon law that someone conscious of an act involving grave MATTER, but who--to use an extreme example--had committed the act while sleepwalking and without engagment of his will, would need to abstain from saying Mass. No, one might in fact treat most grave matter as being grave sin--and one probably should. But the requirement in canon law applies only to a priest who committed a mortal SIN, not an sin involving serious MATTER.

Apologies to Matt, but I think he invented the distinction he made.

Mary

Grave sin is well defined in canon law, you must take it at it's word.

What word is that? The word "grave" is found 131 times, but the word "mortal" is not used even once. However, Canon 988 says "it is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins," and in light of Canon 902 in the 1917 Code which expressly said that confession of venial sins is not required, one is left with the distinct idea that only confession of mortal sins is required. If only confession of mortal sins is required, then it is not logical that one must refrain from Holy Communion due to consciousness of venial sin of grave matter. Therefore, if your definition of grave sin includes venial sins of grave matter, that simply cannot be the definition implied by the Canon. Rather, a logical conclusion would be that the Canon is referring to mortal sin. And indeed, that is what the Catechism teaches.

Ignore the Canon law, and new Catechism if you wish, but I'd suggest you refrain from advising others to do so.

I don't need to refrain from what I haven't done.

Mary

All of the references I see online or anywhere else treat "grave sin" as synonymous with "mortal sin" and also with "serious sin".

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers an example of a grave sin which is venial: "Other sins admit lightness of matter: they are grave sins (ex genere suo) in as much as their matter in itself is sufficient to constitute a grave sin without the addition of any other matter, but is of such a nature that in a given case, owing to its smallness, the sin may be venial, e.g. theft."
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm

Jeff

No, Mary, you're missing the point. The passage from the Catholic Encyclopedia is the same if you insert the phrase "mortal sins" into it instead of "grave sins".

Mortal sins (or grave sins) are sins which involve grave matter. But some sins are mortal in the sense that they involve actions which are only SOMETIMES grave matter. An example is THEFT.

THEFT is not a venial sin. It's classed as a MORTAL sin. But that's because the matter involved is SOMETIMES grave--i.e., it CAN be grave--depending on the seriousness of the theft. Theft of a poor African woman's irreplaceable cooking pot, from which she gains her livelihood in the market is a mortal sin. Theft of billionaire Michael Bloomberg's yellow wooden pencil is venial.

You can make a chart: 1. Some matter is always grave. 2. Some matter is sometimes grave. 3. Some matter is never grave. Grave or mortal sins (as a CLASS only!) are sins that involve 1 or 2.

Mortal sins must ALWAYS involve grave matter. That is, mortal sins must always involve either a)matter which is ALWAYS grave(such as intentional contraception); or b) matter which is SOMETIMES grave (such as theft).

The quotation says that something may be CLASSED as a mortal sin because it involves matter which is SOMETIMES grave. But when the matter involved is NOT grave in a particular instance (minor theft), then that particular instance is NOT a grave sin or a mortal sin...it is a venial sin, because the matter in that particular case is too "small" to be grave in THIS CASE.

Grave sins are mortal sins are serious sins. The terms are equivalent.

Mary

Mortal sins (or grave sins) are sins which involve grave matter.

Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter AND which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. I've not said anything otherwise.

THEFT is not a venial sin. It's classed as a MORTAL sin... Theft of billionaire Michael Bloomberg's yellow wooden pencil is venial.

You contradicted yourself.

The quotation says that...

The quotation offered an example of a grave sin which is venial. It said, "they are grave sins... in as much as their matter in itself is sufficient to constitute a grave sin... but... in a given case, owing to its smallness, the sin may be venial." You're welcome to disagree all you want, but that IS what the quote says.

J.R. Stoodley

It may be that no one will ever read this, but I asked the canon lawyer on the EWTN Q&A website (Rev. Mark J. Gantley) about this and he said:

When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was promulgated, it used the term "grave" in reference to sins that must be confessed, rather than "mortal." However, by doing this, it did not intend to make a canonical distinction between "grave" and "mortal" sins. This is clearly indicated in the publication Communicationes, volume 10, p. 70, published in 1978. Communicationes is published by the Pontifical Council for the Authentic Interpretation of Legislative Texts, and over the years it has been publishing various statements and discussions that were involved in the revision of the Code of Canon Law. (Much of this periodical is in Italian or languages other than English.)

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