WARNING - This article is likely to make me unpopular.
There’s a tendency amongst Catholics to classify sin and to attribute to God a judgemental nature based on that of man.
Our Church has stated that if an individual dies with an un-confessed mortal sin then he will go to hell. It seems there’s no debate or any movement or deviation from that doctrine or stance.
But is this really always the case?
The Church states that a mortal sin is a grave sin indeed. Something really serious. Like breaking one of the Ten Commandments.
There’s no argument with that.
The Church also says that to commit a mortal sin the act itself must be a grave offence as already mentioned. The second condition is that the individual must know that what he is doing is a serious offence against God. And the third condition is that the individual deliberately commits the sin without undue pressure from anyone else.
To the human eye this seems fair and simple. But is it really the case viewed from God’s perspective.
There are those who believe that to commit a mortal sin you must also clearly and categorically break your relationship with God. You consciously and deliberately reject Him as your God and stand against Him.
This is an interesting concept which has given rise to a lot of debate amongst Catholic scholars and many others.
Whilst I do not deny that some sins, like stealing, murder, adultery in themselves imply a total break with God since they deliberately go against His Commandments; there are other sins which, I hope and pray, are viewed with more tolerance, love and compassion by Our Lord when He comes to judge us.
Let’s for example look at the third Commandment.
The Lord said to keep the Sabbath holy. The Catholic Church has interpreted this to mean we should go to Mass on Sunday (or Saturday) and that not doing so is a mortal sin. This means if you miss Mass on Sunday and you die you’re off to hell with no debate or excuse for your defence.
But, I ask myself, is this really so?
Let us assume that I miss Mass on Sunday because I have guests staying with me that weekend and I have to look after them.
It is a serious offence; I accept that. It is a mortal sin, and I committed it knowingly and deliberately because I had other things to do. We can debate whether it was a valid reason or not to our hearts’ content.
Now let us assume I died that very night with the mortal sin on my conscience. Am I destined straight to hell?
In this case, there has not been a breakdown in relationship with God. The individual still loves God and obeys Him as best he can but, on that one occasion, for debatable reasons, Mass was missed.
Sinning is an active act. When we sin it follows that we WANT to sin and we KNOW we are sinning at the time when we do it. A deliberate act in defiance of God.
It follows that to get right with God once again we must WANT to be forgiven and that we ARE actually sorry for what we have done.
Similar mortal sins would be missing a Holy Day of Obligation, or not fasting and abstaining when required, or breaking other Church rules or edicts.
Would a loving caring God use a human yardstick to judge us and send us to hell? Or would He see beyond the act of sin and judge what is in our hearts? Was missing Mass on that occasion an act of defiance and rebellion against Him? Or was it done, willingly I admit, but under extenuating circumstances?
I’d like to think that God would not condemn a soul to eternal hell for one misdemeanour. That’s not the God I was taught to love and respect.
Now, I am not saying that missing Mass is not serious … of course it is. Because it can lead to missing another Mass, and then another and gradually we can distance ourselves from God. Hence a breakdown of relationship occurs as other sins become unimportant in our eyes.
What I am saying is that God does not see things as black and white as the Church does; and that missing one occasional Mass, whatever the reason, does not constitute rebellion against God deserving eternal damnation.
He is far too big and far too loving to be really hurt by the occasional failing; and He is not as harsh and unforgiving as He is perhaps painted to be.