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Mortal sin is actual sin that destroys sanctifying grace and causes the supernatural death of the soul. Objectively speaking, a sinner who passes into eternity in a state of mortal sin sends himself to hell.
Mortal sin breaks our relationship with God. It destroys charity in the heart of man by grave violation of God’s law. Mortal sin is generally associated with a seriously inordinate adherence to creatures that gravely injures our rational nature.
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met. CCC 1857 “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
CCC 1858 “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: ’Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.’ The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”
CCC 1859 “Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.”
CCC 1860 “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.”
The words mortal or deadly address the effect in the sinner, loss of God’s friendship. The words grave or serious address the importance of the matter in which the sinner offends God. But these are simply nuances in describing the same kind of sin: grave matter committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.
Sin which does not fulfill these criteria is called venial sin.
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