At what age and how do young Catholics know or be notified that they have committed a mortal sin or a venial sin? Basically, do they tell the priest at Confession that they have committed a mortal sin or venial sin, or does the priest tell the Catholic what type of sin the person has committed and what the consequences will be?

  • The "how" is asking for the process by which the young Catholic will be notified of the sin

Ordinarily, people (children and adults) simply tell the priest in confession what they did. The priest will determine whether the sin was mortal or venial (or perhaps no sin at all), possibly after asking the penitent some questions to get a clearer idea of the penitent's intention and state of mind, or of the circumstances surrounding the sin. The priest might but need not tell the penitent explicitly whether he considers the sin mortal or venial.


Your question has more to do with culpability than it has to do with anything else, and that is a sticky subject.

For a sin to be mortal it must:

  • be a grave matter.
  • be consensual
  • be done by someone who can understand what is going on.

So if a three year old fires a gun and kills someone, that would be a grave matter, the act might have had consent of the will, but does the child understand? Probably not (not impossible, but probably not).

I believe I read this in a commentary on the Code of Canon Law (but maybe not), but the loose standard for full culpability is a rule of sevens.

  • Under seven you almost certainly cannot have a full understanding of the consequences of actions.
  • Between seven and fourteen, you probably do not have full understanding of the consequences of actions, but it is possible that you do.
  • Between fourteen and twenty-one, you probably do have full understanding of the consequences of actions, but it is possible that you do not.
  • Over twenty-one you are almost certainly capable of understanding the consequences of actions.

Obviously there are exceptions, but those are guidelines.

  • What happens if a Catholic confesses that he has the intention to sin but does not actually do it or performs the sin? Would the sinful thought count, or is this more stressed on behavior?
    – Double U
    Oct 11 '13 at 2:25
  • @Anonymous You cannot confess to a sin you did not commit. If you intended to sin in the future, you should not do that. If you intended to sin but failed, then that intention itself was sinful and should be confessed. I cannot comment on gravity. Oct 11 '13 at 3:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.