7

Does the Catholic tradition record if some saints committed mortal sin from time to time during their holy life or after conversion?

There are many saints who converted and lived their lives in the state of grace. I'd like to know if they still committed a mortal sin from time to time, went to confession, repented, and got back to their holy way of living?

Saint biographies don't typically mention any kind of an incident that would show their failures, but rather describes how they were always faithful.

6

It is difficult to know for certain, because most people do not make their mortal sins public. However, it is likely that many of the saints did commit mortals sins even after their “conversion” to a holy way of life.

In causes for canonization, the Church does not look for perfect people (which—except Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary—do not exist) to hold up as models, just persons who have shown virtue to a heroic degree (and, evidently, who have persevered to the end in their holiness).

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it,

By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors (no. 828, emphasis added).

The following document shows the steps in the process for canonizing a saint: https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/cause/process.asp.

As can be seen, in the documentary phase, the Postulation (the commission established by the diocese promoting the cause)

must gather testimony about the life and virtues of the Servant of God. Also, the public and private writings must be collected and examined. This documentary phase … concludes with the judgment of a diocesan tribunal, and the ultimate decision of the bishop, that the heroic virtues of the Servant of God have or have not been demonstrated (op. cit.).

Hence, an occasional lapse—even a grave one—is not necessarily an obstacle to canonization, provided there is sincere repentance and a tendency to virtue and holiness of life.

  • 3
    Thanks, that gives me hope to keep living a holy life and not to give up just because of sin. – Grasper Sep 9 '15 at 18:46
4

It is often not possible to know whether someone else commits a mortal sin as the degree to which they know it to be grave matter and the internal freedom and full turning of the will are often part of the internal forum.

However, with regard to grave or prominent sins, St. Hippolytus of Rome is a good example. He was an early priest who began to preach against the contemporary Pope and church doctrine, and even allowed himself to be elected as a rival schismatic Pope.

However, he reconciled with the Pope while imprisoned with him, was reconciled to the Church, and died a martyr and is now recognized as a Canonized Saint.

Also, in many of the lives of the Saints, you will find a strong devotion to penance and Reconciliation as a redress for sin. So we clearly know that they continued to sin, and often grew much more aware of their sinfulness.

4

From Sacred Scripture, part of the the depositum fidei, I can quickly find two examples:

1) Saint David the King, a man after God's heart, who after his anointing the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David, among his sins were his adultery with Bathshe′ba and arranging for the death of Uri′ah the Hittite, Bathshe′ba's husband, a faithful servant and soldier.

2) In John 13:9-11, St. Peter is clean, but that very night he denies Jesus three times.

In our path to sanctity, even though we ought to abhor every sin even the venial ones, it is not that we must to fall but that when we have the misfortune to fall, we get up again like Saint David the King did with the Psalm Miserere and St. Peter [who] wept bitterly and later told the LORD after His Resurrection, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

for a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity. - Prov 24:16.


Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
I come before you, unworthy as I am,
to renew our total dedication to you.
Be now and for ever our Mother, our advocate and our protector; rule over us as our sovereign Lady, keep us from falling,
but if we do fall
help us to rise again without delay.

Show yourself as Mother of God,
to whom all sinners have been entrusted:
be our patroness and theirs
with your loving Son.
- Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, THURSDAY Morning Prayer.

  • 1
    Not only that, but St. Peter for a time refused to eat with Gentiles, which was a serious negligence of his mission as universal pastor: “But when Cephas [i.e., Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (Gal. 2:11-12). And this was certainly after the baptism of Cornelius (Acts 10), which ushered in the evangelizaiton of Gentiles. – AthanasiusOfAlex Sep 14 '15 at 9:25
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex, I wouldn't consider this as a mortal sin. At that time he had no knowledge that it is a serious matter. – Grasper Oct 1 '15 at 12:32
  • @Grasper We have no way to knowing the subjective culpability of St. Peter (he probably still had leftover scruples about breaking the Jewish ceremonial laws), but objectively what he did was serious. For the ancients, refusing to eat with someone was tantamount to refusing friendship and communion—not very becoming for the universal pastor of the Church. We know that St. Peter knew better, because he had received a vision from God explicitly telling him not to refuse communion with Gentiles (Acts 10)—and in fact that he ate with Cornelius and his household (Acts. 11:3). – AthanasiusOfAlex Oct 4 '15 at 8:45
  • 1
    I thought about Peter, but wondered if that should count because it was before the resurrection. Peter had a lot of reason to doubt at that time. – fredsbend Dec 5 '15 at 17:24
  • 1
    Concrete find on David though. – fredsbend Dec 5 '15 at 17:24

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.