1

For example:

  1. An alcoholic decides to go to an event with an open bar (participates in near occasion of sin).
  2. The alcoholic decides that he will not directly go to the bar and request a drink (avoids clear mortal sin).
  3. The alcoholic decides that if anyone offers him a drink, he will accept it (openness to the possibility of sin).
  4. No one ever offers him a drink and the alcoholic remains sober the entire night (avoidance of clear mortal sin).

It seems to me that there is something mortally wrong with putting #1 and #3 together despite #2 and the end result being #4.

However, looking at the definition of mortal sin Im running into a problem:

  1. Its subject matter must be grave.
  2. It must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense.
  3. It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent

The above example checks all three boxes but the mortally sinful act was never actually committed.

1

2 Answers 2

2

Is entering into a near occasion of mortal sin a mortal sin?

No, it is not, but it could be a venial sin.


Is openness to committing mortal sin a mortal sin?

No, not necessarily, but in some rare cases it could be a mortal sin.

In both of these cases it is important to realize that the gravity of the sin in question is much less than the gravity of the mortal sin which was originally envisioned. For example, the gravity of an alcoholic going to an event with an open bar is much less than the gravity of an alcoholic drinking.


The above example checks all three boxes but the mortally sinful act was never actually committed.

The sin you are asking about is not the sin of drinking, and he clearly did not commit that sin (which in reality is itself a near occasion of mortal sin, not a mortal sin per se). There are two human acts you are considering: 1) Entering into a near occasion of sin, and 2) An openness to sinning. Both of those acts were committed, but in my judgment neither one constitutes grave matter. Therefore no mortal sin occurred.

It seems to me that there is something mortally wrong with putting #1 and #3 together despite #2 and the end result being #4.

It is bad to put oneself in a near occasion of sin, but it is sometimes justifiable and rarely, if ever, mortal.

It is sinful to entertain an openness to mortal sin, but it is almost always venial.

In my opinion part of the problem here is that you are assuming that for an alcoholic to have a drink is a mortal sin. I don't think that's true. It is a near occasion of mortal sin, but he has not yet committed a mortal sin by having a single drink.

In this question you are generally thinking about the kind of venial sins that dispose one to mortal sin. See Aquinas' article, "Whether venial sin is a disposition to mortal sin?"

1
  • 1
    Good point on the drink not being a mortal sin - i was struggling to think of a good example and that was the best I could think of. I'm surprised you were the first to call me out on that haha. Thank you for the answer Mar 14, 2022 at 19:27
2

The Catholic Encyclopedia says

It is important to remember that there is a wide difference between the cause and the occasion of sin. The cause of sin in the last analysis is the perverse human will and is intrinsic to the human composite. The occasion is something extrinsic and, given the freedom of the will, cannot, properly speaking, stand in causal relation to the act or vicious habit which we call sin. There can be no doubt that in general the same obligation which binds us to refrain from sin requires us to shun its occasion.

and

Theologians distinguish between the proximate and the remote occasion. They are not altogether at one as to the precise value to be attributed to the terms. De Lugo defines proximate occasion (De poenit. disp. 14, n. 149) as one in which men of like calibre for the most part fall into mortal sin, or one in which experience points to the same result from the special weakness of a particular person. The remote occasion lacks these elements. All theologians are agreed that there is no obligation to avoid the remote occasions of sin both because this would, practically speaking, be impossible and because they do not involve serious danger of sin.

Pope Gregory XVI says in Summo Iugiter Studio:

Hence if the circumstances suggest it, it may be necessary to remind them of that wellknown precept of the natural and divine law, which commands us to avoid not only sins but the next occasion of sin as well.

The Holy Office (now the CDF) condemned the proposition that:

He can sometimes be absolved, who remains in a proximate occasion of sinning, which he can and does not wish to omit, but rather directly and professedly seeks or enters into. [3]

From this quote I think one can infer that, if one does not repent and thereby confess willfully entering into occasion of sin, he cannot be absolved, and therefore has committed a mortal sin. Because someone also is not absolved who withholds any mortal sin from confession. But it's not clear to me whether that also includes near occasion of venial sin.

But, because it is a sin for one to willingly enter into proximate occasion (that much is certainly clear), then condition 2 and 3 may be present. But I'm not able to say when and how it may be grave matter. Anecdotally, I have heard that the gravity of the occasion is the same as the sin itself, but take that with a grain of salt.

In your alcoholic example, if he has consented to drinking in step 3, it seems he has already consented to sinning. And therefore he has already satisfied all 3 conditions, at least in that step, despite not actually drinking.

St Francis de Sales teaches that "Whenever it is possible to avoid the attraction which accompanies temptation, we sin in encountering it in porportion to the pleasure it gives us, or the consent which we give, be it great or little, for a short or a long while." And that "There is impurity in allowing either heart or body to consent to what is impure; and impurity consists so entirely in the consent of the heart, that without it the consent of the body cannot be sin." [4]

The question How defined is the threshold of graveness for mortal sins? (Catholicism) may also be helpful.

[1] Delany, Joseph. "Occasions of Sin." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 7 Mar. 2022 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11196a.htm.

[2] Gregory XVI, Pope. On Mixed Marriages. 7 Mar. 2022 https://www.papalencyclicals.net/greg16/g16summo.htm

[3] DS 1221

[4] de Sales, St. Francis. "How Temptations and Attraction May Become Sinful." Introduction to the Devout Life. TAN Books, 2013

5
  • This is misleading. Just because near occasions of sin should be avoided does not mean that entering into near occasions of sin involves mortal sin. There is no reason to believe the the OP has committed a mortal sin.
    – zippy2006
    Mar 13, 2022 at 20:00
  • Could you elaborate more on why you think my answer is misleading?
    – user54757
    Mar 14, 2022 at 2:37
  • There are two things you say which I think are unsupported: 1) "if one does not repent and thereby confess willfully entering into occasion of sin, he cannot be absolved, and therefore has committed a mortal sin"; and 2) "it is a sin for one to willingly enter into proximate occasion." Your sources do not support these crucial claims. Note that with regard to your first source, the near occasion in question is proximate, voluntary, and non-continuous.
    – zippy2006
    Mar 14, 2022 at 4:03
  • As for 1, that was my conclusion of [3]. Because if one cannot be absolved (i.e. the sacrament is invalid, on the side of the penitent), then there exists a mortal sin on the penitent's soul which is not repented of. How are you reading that statement? As for 2, I believe my sources do support it. Most especially Summo Iugiter Studio which explicitly states avoidance of proximate occasion as being a precept of natural law. If one violates natural law, is that not sinful?
    – user54757
    Mar 14, 2022 at 17:38
  • First, to say that one cannot be absolved says nothing about whether the sin that cannot be absolved is venial or mortal. Catholics are encouraged to go to confession even for venial sins. If I confess a venial sin and refuse to avoid its near occasion, the priest would not absolve me, but the sin would remain venial. Secondly, your quotation says that the precept "commands us to avoid not only sins but the next occasion of sin as well." This implies that the next occasion of sin is not a sin. (My view is that failing to avoid a near occasion can sometimes be a venial sin, not mortal.)
    – zippy2006
    Mar 14, 2022 at 23:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .