Fundamentally I’m a Christian

Today I want to look at a particular issue in moral life. I am going to give a brief description of two antagonistic views. Perhaps you will be able to assist me in understanding the issues better.

As Catholics we are very familiar with the idea of mortal sin. And, if we are from an older generation, we may well see this as a constant hazard in many aspects of our lives. Were we to succumb – provided we knew that it was mortal sin, and we freely chose it, then we would separate ourselves from God. Should we happen to die (and it comes like a thief in the night) we are bound straight to Hell, equipped with its gnashing of teeth, for all eternity. Tough cheese.

A younger generation, which has observed several moral theologians of note adopt a less legal and more personalised approach, might quarrel with this. Such theologians may speak of the ‘fundamental option’. This starts with rejecting the view that the Christian life is a journey through threatening territory. It is not like some mad Monopoly game in which we are always in danger of landing on a wrong square – with a penalty not counted in lost points but in a “Go to jail forever” card. And here we receive punishment so gross that we might think that a thousand years on the rack was no more than a holiday by comparison. Such a punishment ordained by a secular ruler – for whatever crime – would be deplored out of hand.

Instead they argue that we choose a fundamental option through which we have a clear and deep intention to focus our will on Christ and continually to direct ourselves constantly towards him. Providing such a state is maintained, individual actions cannot involve abandoning this fundamental option, and so cannot add up to a direct and chosen defiance of God’s plan; it thus does not separate us from God and his salvation.

Pope John Paul II directly addresses the issue in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor 1993 (Part III. Fundamental choice and specific kinds of behaviour). If I may simplify, he argues that we define our fundamental option not merely in our internal resolution but also through our actions. That is, we cannot separate our fundamental option from the actions which we choose. Thus, when we freely commit an act of grave concrete behaviour which is opposed to God’s law, we ipso facto abandon our fundamental option through that very choice. Thus, for example, someone who uses artificial contraception or who misses a Sunday Mass without adequate excuse has by his or her own choice, in effect, condemned himself to Hell.

There is, he might have gone on to say, no lack of proportion between the act and the punishment since guilt is not only defined by the nature of the act but also by the nature of the person against whom the action is committed. In this case, Almighty God.


About Quentin

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61 Responses to Fundamentally I’m a Christian

  1. Alasdair says:

    Speaking about his followers Jesus said “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” John 10:29. In other words one’s salvation is not lost because of a momentary lapse.

  2. St.Joseph says:

    A lot of food for thought there!

  3. G.D. says:

    Oh, what a topic! The cat is well and truly out of the bag.
    Brings several initial thoughts ………..

    As grave and serious as ALL sin is,
    (everything that stops union with God is)
    how grave and serious a personal sin is
    perceived depends on the psychological and/or
    spiritual state of the person considering the sin.
    Extremes of scrupulosity & of sociopaths comes to mind.

    Socially accepted morality of any given peer group
    affects the discernment too of course.
    (Is the idea of a ‘fundamental option’ in this regard
    anything but ‘fundamental’. A Misnomer?).

    ‘Mortal’ sin implies forgiveness is limited.
    Suggest it’s man’s limit not God’s?

    To have ‘full knowledge’ & give ‘full consent’ we’d need to be perfect,
    then opt for the non-God option to reject God fully?
    Which of course, being perfect we couldn’t.

    ‘Eternal damnation’ as a possible ‘choice’
    doesn’t exclude God’s forgiveness being offered
    and accessible eternally?

    Paul’s teachings of more sin more grace.

    The hypostatic union in Jesus, the Christ,
    actualised & completed the redemption
    of All Creation from the fall.

    The fall is the Mother and Father of All sin(s).
    Known as ‘O, necessary sin of Adam’ a good thing!?

    Acceptance of ‘sin’, as in loving it to health,
    as Jesus exemplified,
    in self and from others,
    is the meaning of repentance?
    And the only true ‘fundamental option’?

  4. St.Joseph says:

    Pope Emeritus Benedict breaks silence: speaks of ‘ deep crisis’ facing Church post -Vatican two Life Site News. March 16th 2016.

    Speaking publically on a rare occasion, Pope Benedict XV1 gave an interview (English translation)
    to Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference in which he spoke of a ‘two-sided’ deep crisis” the Church is facing in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
    Pope Benedict reminds us of the formerly indispensable Catholic conviction of the possibility of the loss of eternal salvation or that people go to hell
    He also speaks of a ‘profound evolution of Dogma’ with the respect of the Dogma that there is no salvation outside of the Church.. This purported change of dogma has led,.in the Pope’s eyes, to a loss of the missionary zeal in the Church- any motivation for a future missionary commitment was removed.
    Pope Benedict asks the question that arose after the change of attitude ‘Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it.?”
    As to the other consequences of this new attitude in the Church, Catholics themselves in Benedict’s eyes are less attached to their faith. If there are those who can save their souls with other means’ why should the Christian be bound to the necessity of the Christian faith and its morality?’ asked the pope. And he concludes ‘But if Faith and Salvation are not any more interdependent, even Faith becomes less motivating.’
    Pope Benedict also refutes both the idea of the ‘anonymous Christian’ as developed by Karl Rahner, as well as the indifferentist idea that all religions are equally valuable and helpful to attain eternal life
    Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion. for which all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation and in this sense , must be considered equivalent in their effects’, he said ‘In this context , he also touches upon the exploratory ideas of the now deceased Jesuit Cardinal Henri de Lubac, about Christ’s putatively ‘vicarious substitutions’ which have to be now again ‘further reflected upon’.
    With regard to man’s relation to technology and to love, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of human affection, saying that man remains in his heart ‘ that the Good Samaritan comes to his aid..
    He continues, In the harshness of the world of technology- in which feelings do not count anymore- the hope for saving love grows, a love which would be given freely and generously.
    He also reminds his audience that ‘ The Church is not self-made, it was created by God and is continuously formed by Him. This finds expression in the Sacraments, above all in that of Baptism; I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, but with the help of this Sacrament.
    Pope Benedict also insists that always ‘we need Grace and forgiveness’.

    • Vincent says:

      I would have been happier if Benedict had also examined God’s justice with regards to those who have not encountered the Catholic Church. This includes historical and geographical reasons, and those who, while knowing the Church, have never been offered compellingly credible reasons for joining it. And we can add to these, who are the majority of mankind, those who, perhaps through parental upbringing, worship Christ in denominations which are separated from the Church — to say nothing of those who are loyal to Judaism.

      Either we must accuse God of massive injustice or we must learn how the Church Christ founded can be the source of salvation to all those of good will — to whom the Angels at Bethlehem brought their message.

  5. G.D. says:

    “Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it.?”

    Why should we expect people to accept (become Christian) if grace is not given them to accept? Plenty still are accepting and becoming Christian.
    We witness to our faith by our lives, rightly. If others are given the grace to accept well and good. If not, and they are living lives of goodness and love, that too is well and good.
    If they are ‘nasty’ then we pray for them and love as much as we can hoping they will see the ‘light’ and follow where it leads them to change.
    What’s the problem with that?

    “But if Faith and Salvation are not any more interdependent, even Faith becomes less motivating.”

    By this i take it he means the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church? Why should Faith become less motivating if Salvation – souls being reunited to God – can exist by other means? My faith in God and Jesus as i have been given it by grace, lead me and keeps me, in the Faith of the Roman Church. A mighty struggle at times, because of the ‘fundamentalist’ attitudes of some. (And the fact that i am an unworthy sinner, not worthy of the gift!).

    But each time i struggle with that teaching of ‘exclusivity’ ( I must be wrong and believe as they say i should i tell myself ) it has brought a deeper trust in God, awareness of the Spirit working in all of creation leading it, by many means.

    I may be totally deluded and be heading for hell with all the other ‘liberals’. But, in all sincerity, with a LOT of prayer, parish involvement & works, and more than enough of intellectual study, God is not letting me believe, (any longer!) the only way is ‘The Roman Catholic Church’ or ‘Christianity’ . And believe me i have tried!!

    My faith, in being a follower of Christ is not challenged or threatened by others who seek the Spirit of Life and Love (by whatever means) I see Christ there!

    What is a sadness to me is when others conclude that only their ‘way’ is right (and i include atheists) and assume everyone should believe as they do.
    Tell people of your relationship with God (or absence of it!), including experiences reasons & beliefs, live it, love it, and then let God’s Spirit decide who chooses to follow your example.
    I can’t see any problem with that?

    • St.Joseph says:

      What do you mean when you say all the other ‘liberals’?

      • G.D. says:

        Anyone that is not strict traditional

      • G.D. says:

        Anyonw that is not srict in obeying the dictates of the hierachy. Can ‘think outside the box’ so to speak. And still, in all good coscience, consider they are doing and following God.

    • Alan says:

      GD – “What is a sadness to me is when others conclude that only their ‘way’ is right (and i include atheists) … ”

      I wouldn’t conclude that my way is right. I would conclude that one of us is wrong though. And, where someone is interested in hearing it, I’m happy to explain why I think it’s likely to be them.

      • G.D. says:

        Quite rightly so too. Everyone should be happy to explain
        their way and experiences in an unbiased open exchange.

        An acknowledgement and acceptance of difference – ways of seeing, understanding, ‘being’ even – yes all well and good.

        Which necessitates no biased conclusions,
        of ‘wrong’ on either side.
        The fact that ‘one’s way’ may be in opposition
        to the others needn’t posit prior judgements.

        If it does so, there is no real exchange.
        Only a subversive defence of ‘position’.
        Which is always one of two things
        boring or antagonistic.
        Neither of which i can be bothered with.

        ‘Being wrong’ isn’t in my remit when discussing
        life and the universe, and the possible answers being ’42’.

        I can’t assume the other’s take on it is right or wrong.
        It’s just their ‘way’, as my ‘way’ is my way.

  6. Nektarios says:


    I do not need to remind you of all people, that sin, all sin, one or many is mortal. Adam sinned once, and the effect was catastrophic for him and all we who are inheritors of that nature. One the day that you eat of the the tree, you will surely die.
    We are born into this world with a sinful fallen nature which will manifest itself eventually.

    No amount of theologising, philosophising, morality and ethical teaching will change the nature of fallen mankind in his old nature.
    He is dead to God. Blind that he cannot see. He is a rebel against God. No amount of moral teaching and ethics is going to change that.

    Moral teaching and ethics is only a socio/political semblance of order and punishment by the State
    if one does not conform. However moral teaching and ethics do not lead to holiness , to righteousness or give spiritual life.
    This is the failure of mere morality and ethics past and present.

    • G.D. says:

      Yes! But it they are the tools that we’ve been given to seek. A step to realising the the presence of another way of ‘seeing’ the presence of God.

  7. St.Joseph says:

    When you say artificial contraception are you speaking about condoms? That is the only one I can think of . I would not think that a mortal sin if one was desperate,. There is always Confession
    Missing Mass on Sunday I believe that to be case of ignorance on ones part, and a lack of love for the Blessed Sacrament. It seems to me that thousands go to see the Holy Father but if they felt the same about Jesus ‘Presence in Holy Mass, the re-enactment of Calvary they would not stay away.

    • G.D. says:

      thousands go to see the Holy Father but if they felt the same about Jesus ‘Presence in Holy Mass, the re-enactment of Calvary they would not stay away. ………………Oh, St J. you are so right!

    • Quentin says:

      It is straightforward and well established Church teaching that a an action of grave matter freely chosen with knowledge that it is grave matter is mortally sinful. Death in that condition is punished by Hell for all eternity. Artificial conception in any form and missing Mass on Sunday without proportionate excuse are both grave matter. You may not believe this, nor may I, but that is what the Church teaches.

      • St.Joseph says:

        That is a very frightening thought.
        It seems to me that, Heaven may be empty and Hell full. of shilly shally catholics my grandmother used to call them.
        That must also hold for abortafacients for catholics as well.
        It seems to me that many non Catholics will go to Heaven as their conscience will be clear of any sin they commit from the teaching of the Catholic Church!

  8. ignatius says:


    “…Thus, for example, someone who uses artificial contraception or who misses a Sunday Mass without adequate excuse has by his or her own choice, in effect, condemned himself to Hell…”

    I guess the above is a bit of deliberate hyperbole on your part rather than a paraphrase of John Paul?

  9. John Nolan says:

    Sunday Mass as performed (I hesitate to say celebrated) in most parishes of the English speaking world is a foretaste if not of hell, then at least of purgatory, and I would go out of my way to avoid it. My only worry is that if this is a mortal sin I might be condemned to that circle of hell where, in a grotesque parody of the heavenly liturgy, the poor damned souls have to endure for eternity the music of Marty Haugen, David Schutte, Paul Inwood , Bernadette Farrell and others of that ilk.

    Being boiled in pitch would be mild in comparison.

    • G.D. says:

      John, you have found the level of humour to get your piont cross – congratulations!

      • John Nolan says:

        Thank you, GD. After the last thread, we need a bit of comic relief. I know John Candido provides a good measure of this, albeit inadvertently.

        I am quite often contemptuous of the dictates of the hierarchy – the CBCEW has made few sensible decisions in half a century. Does this make me a liberal?

        In the Church as in the wider world, it is usually conservatives rather than liberals who ‘think outside the box’ and challenge conventional assumptions.

  10. G.D. says:

    If the church’s teaching is hell for ‘mortal sin’ and a person doesn’t believe in mortal sin, then the concept is null and void for them and they can’t commit mortal sin. (Hows that for a rational justification!). The teaching of ‘particular’ sins being ‘mortal’ and others not, seems to be self defeating.

    For instance, say (just for the hell of it!!) i lie in one Sunday morning and don’t attend mass that week. In all sincerity, i don’t believe missing mass one Sunday is a mortal sin. Therefore, i don’t have ‘full knowledge’ nor can i have given ‘full consent’.

    When it comes to really serious sin it’s a bit more tricky but the principal is the same …
    If a sociopath, lacking the conscience to know the wrong committed, kills someone are they committing mortal sin?

    Whereas if all sins were to be given equal ‘gravity’ and equally be open to loving forgiveness, we can dispense with ‘mortal’ ‘venial’ justifications, and blaming and shaming (which only increases negative responses) and concentrate on healing life in the ‘present moment’. Rather than live in fear of future hell.

    The old ‘carrot and stick’ comes to mind.
    Also … ‘What you bind on earth will be ….’ is not just about the sacrament of reconciliation.
    And … the bible thing of giving scorpions rather than eggs to children

    I am not advocating ignoring the consequences of sins or the responsibility, recompense and metanoia needed from ‘the sinner’. Just a more ‘loving’ response. Tough love if needs be.

    Read somewhere about our concept of ‘sin’ being wrong. It’s not so much the ‘moral code’ we see it as, that is the mere symptoms of what sin really is. We treat the symptoms but don’t attend to the real ’causes’ …. will try to find it ….

  11. John Nolan says:


    I couldn’t agree more. One problem that so-called neo-cons have (as opposed to us merely traditional Catholics) is that they advance a legal-positive interpretation of the Sixth Commandment which admits of no degree. Therefore libidinous thoughts (who has not had them?), masturbation mutual or otherwise (who has not done it?) is equivalent to adultery, sodomy or bestiality.

    The Church has always admitted that there are degrees. Sin is an offence against God and his divine plan for mankind. We are all sinners to a greater or a lesser degree. We can repent and trust in God’s infinite mercy but may not presume it.

    I have been watching ‘The Secret’, based on a true story, where the protagonist (played by James Nesbitt) commits a coldly premeditated double murder in order to advance his sexual desires and (as a staunch Baptist) is able to convince himself that it is OK with God. He is not mad, but subscribes to an heretical version of Christianity which loves the Bible and puerile guitar-accompanied songs but looks no further.

    We have had perverts in the Catholic Church (alas, too many) but in their conscience they know that their actions are wrong. Because the Magisterium holds it to be so, and always has. Therein, I would suggest, lies the difference.

    • Quentin says:

      In reply to John Nolan.
      John, what you say here is interesting. I take, as an example, your mention of masturbation. It has been through an interesting cycle: until the fifth century it was not logged as a sin at all — and the first issue raised was its fitness as an activity for celibate monks. By the end of the twentieth century (Catechism 2352) the guilt could be seen as much diminished because of factors like human immaturity. Nevertheless it remained “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action”.

      How does the sensitive and conscientious mind react to this? It is grave matter. We have full knowledge that this is so because that’s what the Church teaches. It is freely done because anyone who is not psychologically damaged can in fact choose to avoid it. There is no escaping mortal sin and its awful consequences.

      This is why, when I was at school (late 1940s) there was always a queue at the confessional after night prayers. These were the boys getting absolution so that they could receive the Eucharist the next morning. This was not always devotion but avoiding being stigmatised as a ‘wanker’.

      Your understanding of the grades of such sins is the outcome of thought and experience. A 15 year old does not have access to such wisdom and can, I believe, be much damaged by the thought of a tyrant God. It was certainly taught by the Jesuits, in my day, that any sexual sin was grave and so subject to eternal damnation. When Professor Dawkins suggests that religious education of the young is an abuse, I think he may have a point. Let’s hope it is different now.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, if one were to take this to its logical conclusion, then we must believe that any sexual intimacy between a married couple which does not involve full penetrative intercourse is a mortal sin. This seems so legalistic and out of touch with what actually happens in relationships as to strain credulity.

        Similarly, I can accept that artificial contraception is against natural law, but if a couple (and this applies to a large number of Catholic couples) have recourse to contraception for pragmatic reasons but do not deliberately intend that the marriage be unfruitful, and indeed go on to have children, then this surely mitigates the offence.

        In the 19th century medical opinion held that masturbation was physically and mentally damaging (remember ‘Eric, or little by little’?) and this gave a boost to what we now call the sex industry, in other words prostitution.

      • Quentin says:

        Oh yes, I remember Eric, or little by little – a fearsome read. Here’s an 1899 medical quote on masturbation “The habit acts slowly but powerfully, in destroying the harmony of the nervous system, vitiating the blood, producing ultimately a great variety of illnesses, commonly consumption, mental depression and insanity” To be avoided, I think.

        An interesting debate in the 1970s argued out whether it was sinful for a woman to have more than one orgasm in a single act of sexual intercourse. And of course it was often taught that only the ‘missionary position’ was allowed. For each of these an appeal to natural law could be made.

        Your mitigation of the offence of contraception is significant because it moves from measuring the objective status of the offence to the motivations and circumstances which surround it. While I agree, followers of Veritatis Splendor would say that it moves dangerously towards situation ethics.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Can you tell me what you mean by Artificial Contraception.
      Because condoms are used ‘say for the whole month’ when a couple does not know when they are fertile or not.-it will only be an artificial contraceptive when one is fertile.
      Because it can not be called a contraceptive if no conception ‘can not take place. However the. intention. through lack of knowledge in their’ mind would be not to conceive’.

      I don’t know what you are saying.
      If a condom !s used during the fertile time then it would be considered to be an artificial contraceptive, however not 100% safe.
      Is that what your thinking is.
      I don’t think (I may be wrong) that a condom separates the unitive relationship from the couple. A condom could be used if the husband had a sore spot, therefore protecting it.
      I don’t believe The Lord will understand as long as nothing interferes with the fertility times. or abortfacients are used, or where sexual intercourse takes place. As long as one is married.
      I hope you understand all this.

  12. G.D. says:

    Yes, wrong is wrong, of course John, no matter what the individual conscience say’s.

    Degrees (in this topic) don’t function for me. A thin thread that holds me (indeed anyone) back from union with God is just as ‘damning’ as a chain.
    But condemnation (the ‘holding back’ of mercy?) as the concept of ‘mortal sin’ is the question.
    Can’t see that being a truth of God’s being.
    Or the way God relates to what God created.

    Man works in that way, from fallen nature.
    Rationally turning it on it’s head en mass to scapegoat his own communal guilt; and as individuals to ‘excuse’ self.

    The point is to see the ‘wrong’ without condemnation, not to excuse, as the best way of accepting the ‘thread or chain’ and allowing the healing of it.
    In self and en mass.

    ‘Heretical’, for me, is just one more intellectual concept that we use to justify ‘our way’ as the ‘right way’.
    Yes, there is Truth, but it’s not ‘intelectual’ when all is said and done.

  13. ignatius says:

    Degrees (in this topic) don’t function for me. A thin thread that holds me (indeed anyone) back from union with God is just as ‘damning’ as a chain….”

    I’m surprised by this. It does seem to me that the concept of venial and mortal sin is helpful. If we regard our hearts or listen to our consciences we will surely notice that some sins merely disturb our peace, spurring us to do or be better, while others, more serious because done with intent, seem to sear our heart and render prayer near impossible, to the degree that we are forced to confession by our conscience. Personally I find the distinction enormously helpful.

    As to condemnation arising from mortal sin, I always understood this to be a deliberate and wilful pursuit of that which we know seperates us from God, and wilful persistence in this state until the very end.Its difficult for me to envisage a person, fully informed of conscience, hiking jauntily down that particular path to destruction and whistling as they go.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Do we not place too much thought as Christians on ‘sin;
      When we hear the most terrible things that are going on in the world, the blowing up of innocent people , destroying their homes, refugees ,no place to rest their heads, children suffering whose parents have been killed. We do our best to enlighten their pain by sending lorry loads of food and clothing and sleeping bags etc. That’s what we do.
      We see babies being ripped from their mothers womb, using their body parts for experiments even before the baby dies.
      To me that is not only sinful but downright evil, I can see it must be hell for them.
      We must pray for the soul of poor sinners that they will see the evil of their ways, .

    • G.D. says:

      Some sins are a worry, some heart breaking – agreed. They ALL separate us from God to varying degrees.
      Each individual (if seeking a ‘better’ life) will have thier own ‘degrees’ of pain for various ‘sins’ commited and work to overcome with the aid of conscience and teaching and (for catholics) confessors and sacraments …. yes, yes. Indeed, all good and true.

      The (General) Point i am trying to express is … To label any ‘sin’ in life as unreedemable after death (that is as mortal) is to set up a deeply, often unconscious fear that guides the conscience in a negative way. Even if they are leading a ‘holy life’ to all extensive purposes. Which ultimately must lead to fearing God. It sets up and portrays God as some tyranical despot. (The ‘Carrot & Stick god’ that rewards and punishes; as if!).

      If i seek to appease God because i fear the punishment of hell, or seek to love God because i want the reward of paradise, that in itself is a ‘thread’ keeping me away from God.
      They are the two most consistant and prevailant ‘reasons’ given for seeking God in the minds of most adult people, particularly religious people. And are taught to children and adults alike.
      We may no longer have openly ‘hell fire & brimstone’ sermons but those attiudes, i feel, are still rampant in our religious ‘knowledge’ and practice.
      They separate us from the real God.

      The Unconditional Love that God is, is the only reason for living; and the only path on which to seek ‘salvation’. (Exemplified by the life of Jesus). Seeking to imitate (God’s) unconditional love (that God eternally gives and manifests) is the healing of ‘my’ sin; eventually union with/love of God; and hopefully the rest of creation too.

      If that attitude was taken on, lived and taught (as this Pope seems to be!) God wouldn’t get such a bad name in this broken world. Might even be more appealing!

  14. ignatius says:

    Yes I think we do. But nonetheless it is there and needs to be properly dealt with else lessen our effectiveness in the Kingdom of God. Sin causes us to forget who we truly are.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    I understand what you say hopefully we are mature Catholics and know how to examine our conscience, . then know what to do when we have done something wrong.
    We were taught as children to say a good act of contrition before we went to sleep..
    Of course the usual was I told a lie, I hit my brother, fallen out with a friend disobedient to my mum and dad. etc;
    When I was a child I thought like a child, now I am a man I have put away childish things, we now realise that those sins led to greater ones if not controlled.
    The point I am making is how we relate to God now as an adult, He is our Father and friend, Jesus our brother, and Our Lady our blessed Mother.
    We must look outwards to the ‘world and pray until it hurts’ if we can not do anything else, because it does work.
    Our Blessed Mother has asked for it.!.

  16. Nektarios says:

    I said before, all sin is mortal, because of sin we shall all die.
    I may be wrong, probably am, as I read through these postings, in none does any seem to have assurance of their Salvation. That they are saved, being saved, and will be saved.
    Jesus said, All manner of sin shall be forgiven……

    Another preoccupation with venial and mortal sins and all supposed degrees in-between, I have a feeling, probably wrong, of seeking to establish ones own righteousness.
    Appealing to the Law of God, condemns us. None of us can keep it perfectly, no not even the Christian, but he/she has an Advocate with the Father who pleads our case not on our merits, but on His.

    Before Salvation came man was and still is totally helpless hapless, God hating, blind and ignorant.
    The believer in Christ is a new creature, having a new nature, that does not sin. But we still sin at times, but that takes place in the flesh, our bodies, That will be united with our new nature in Christ when we are raised incorruptible from the grave.
    It is not a matter of what we do so much, as the perfect work that Christ Jesus has done and continues to work in us. He will make all His people holy even as He is holy. It will come to pass.

    All devising on moral and ethical and religious grounds is doomed to failure. The Law only aggravates sin all the more in the natural man with his fallen nature.
    Over the centuries there was much philosophical and theological discussion about morality and so-called Christian ethics – well, we can all see where their surmising arrived at – it was and is total failure. The reason being, and I notice this in these postings, our ignorance of the sinfulness of sin and just how deep it runs.
    To cleanse us from all our sin and unrighteousness, is not the work of the Magisterium or others men, but of God. And this He has done perfectly and totally for all who believe on Him whom He sent, Jesus our Lord.
    There is no Salvation through no another means that He and the Apostles taught.
    He and He alone reaches the depths of our sinfulness and and makes us pure and holy in His sight.
    Jesus Christ, is the source of my assurance and should be for all of us who call ourselves Christians.
    Glory to God forever.

  17. ignatius says:

    I think its time you re read Galatians Ch 5. Having done so, what advice do you give, for example, to a married Christian man who develops a drink problem, then, becoming infatuated with a married female colleague has an affair with her?

    • St.Joseph says:

      The advice I would give to a Christian married man/woman and that is ‘There are three persons in the relationship of a Sacramental marriage-that third Person being God!!

    • Nektarios says:


      I think the Apostle addressing not just these sins but many others makes it clear in Galatians 5.
      Such a person really needs to ask if they are a Christian at all, or understood the christian message?

      If one was their priest or pastor, then they need to not only see where the course their actions are taking them. Galatians 5: 19-21.
      But to also help them face the struggle not with the arm of the flesh, which will fail. but to help such a one to be restored, gently. Galatians 6:1.

      It is interesting this whole scenario to the oh so modern liberal minded person today,
      who thinks such behaviour is with it and going with the times.
      What was happening in Galatia and with some in the Church there demonstrates, there is nothing new in any of this, it is an old as man himself.

      • ignatius says:

        “But to also help them face the struggle not with the arm of the flesh, which will fail. but to help such a one to be restored, gently…”
        And how would you do this, exactly?

      • Nektarios says:


        Dealing with hypothetical situations and Christian people is difficult. It is not the same as in real life at all. One size does not fit all situations.
        Sorry, Ignatius, not to be willing to indulge your hypothetical question or to answer you directly. What I said earlier from Galatians 5. is more than enough to help the Christian in you Hypothetical situation, and these Epistles are solely for instruction for the Church towards holiness.

        It is not the same response to person who does not know Christ, not a Christian. The need then would be the Gospel, and if God wills, come to believe on Christ as Lord, Saviour and God.

  18. G.D. says:

    It’s Not A Sin to Be a Sinner – but, your a very naughty boy.

  19. ignatius says:


    Revelation ch 22

    “12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
    14 Blessed are those who wash their robes,5 so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
    16 h“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

    You are certain that it is not a sin to be a sinner?

  20. G.D. says:

    Yes, it’s a fact we all are just by being. How can that be a sin? It’s the actual sin that matters. Not that we are sinners. – but that we are all very naughty.
    But it’s all semantics!

  21. G.D. says:

    ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes’ ….. continually not perfectly. Or it would state ‘have washed’ …. for a literal take on the passage.
    Literal semantics?

  22. ignatius says:

    No I don’t think it is semantics. The longer I live and the more I strive towards holiness, the more I work in prisons, the more I get involved in pastoral work, the more it dawns on me that sin is a very serious business indeed. Sin requires a forensic approach and the cut of the surgeons knife to deal with it then cauterise the wound. Broad brush generalisms simply do not work when one is faced with persons struggling in the grip of mortal sin. Mostly what such persons need is light shining upon them, then the courage to make a good confession as a base from which to proceed,.

    It is very easy to denigrate the Catholic approach to sin particularly if one lacks experience of the joy of absolution and thus an understanding of the reconciliation and renewal that absolution paves the way for. You know the angels dance for joy at reconciliation, well, so should we..

    It is also easy to scoff at the categorisation of sin, yet human beings need to know where they are with these things, a clear understanding of category brings clarity and concrete outcomes. So for the example I quote earlier it is quite clear to see that one would work towards confession, absolution, and reconciliation both of individuals and, if possible, spouses. The sacramental system in my view allows grace to gain grip and ground lost to be retaken.

    The value to adults of the sacrament of reconciliation is incalculable simply because it brings heaven to earth in a pragmatic way. Anyone who has never known what it is to be formally freed of that which one’s own conscience could not unburden simply does not understand the Catholic model of Mercy which is so clearly illustrated in the Prodigal Son where the younger son comes to his senses, recognises his sin and confesses it whereupon the Father takes immediate pragmatic practical steps to not only ‘forgive’ but to restore dignity and confidence. Of course no one but an idiot would believe that the power of restoration could come from a human being other than Christ but the mediation of this power is given to those to whom it is given.

    Finally there is absolutely no shame in the ‘carrot /stick’ approach to sin. There are plenty of times when resistance against temptation to more than venial sin is bolstered by the awareness of having to confess ones deeds or thoughts if these are persisted with. We need to be ruthlessly honest in the realisation we are weak human beings who need all the help we can get in our struggle against sin. We struggle so because we love God and do not want to offend him in the same manner that we hate to hurt our loved ones. All this has nothing to do with ‘salvation’ whatsoever but everything to do with love and a grasp of the meaning of human dignity.

    • G.D. says:

      Brendan, Methinks you are being a little too literal with my meaning and missing the more general aspects.

      Semantics – ‘logical aspects of meaning, such as sense, reference, implication, and logical form’ – is all we have to explain in words the mystery of sin in our broken world.

      Virtually agree to all of your post. Seems like a solid joining of sound psychology and Catholic Sacramental Theology, to me.
      (Except for 1. the accusatory tone it seems to be written in. I am not denigrating, nor scoffing, 2. the carrot & stick god of ‘shame’).

      Of course ‘sin’ is serious stuff.
      Of course the Sacrament of Reconciliation is valid FOR CATHOLICS.
      I go myself and have experienced the spiritual reality of it physically and emotionally on more than one occasion; as i did at my adult initiation into the church; and have heard the Angels singing about it – literally!!

      As for the ‘carrot and stick’ idea of God.
      That does create ‘shame’ and is not healing. Internal shame doesn’t have a healthy awareness or regard for our own mistakes, nor does it encourage acceptance of healing. External shaming does not create a change of heart.
      Shame may be felt by a person initially, and may be an external ‘tool’ to use (if people must!) but it itself is a ‘sin’ and needs to be overcome and eradicated; within the person and from the external environment.

      Are you confusing shame – ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. .. a loss of respect or esteem; dishonour’ –
      with sorrow – ‘a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others’?
      Shame includes dishonour (ill favour debasement) for self; sorrow has the same awareness with acceptance of self.

      One can feel immense sorrow without shame! And repent all the more for shames absence!
      If a person is shamed, rather than given confidence to accept faults and overcome them, there is no lasting metanoia.
      I know from personal experience. And from the personal experiences of others.

      Take away the beating ‘stick’ of shaming, take away the ‘carrot’ of reward for feeling shamed, and what are we left with?

      True Reconciliation of External Mercy, and internal forgiveness. Unconditionally. That’s a real metanoia. And a damn sight more painful for all concerned to achieve.
      And to extend it to others we must give it to ourselves first, and always.
      There is no carrot & stick in God’s unconditional love. That is ‘everything to do with love and a grasp of the meaning of human dignity’. And has everything to do with salvation.

  23. ignatius says:

    Hi GD,
    Its Ignatius not Brendan.

    One of the interesting things about posting on here is the way we react to the medium of postings and their content. Words, once on paper or screen, accquire a life of their own. This is because we cannot put over ‘general meaning’ very well since, as in all conversation, this is implied rather than spoken, the unspoken drift if you like. Which is why it is important to put careful thought into the words we use when we post. I was not, in my own mind, writing just to you and did not intend to accuse you of anything sorry if that’s what you picked up. But yes this IS a serious subject and deserves to be treated as such.
    I didn’t mean ‘shame’ in the literal sense you took it, but your discussion and description is helpful.I mean’t ‘nothing wrong in the carrot/stick approach’ I say this because as an adult I know that I sometimes need both. We often discuss the subject of sin as if we were children needing hugs all the time rather than as sons requiring sometimes firm direction to keep us from wandering. We all love the story of the prodigal son but perhaps it would have been better for him not to have strayed so far in the first place…but this kind of discipline is for adults and not for children, we accept discipline better when we pursue it voluntarily, doing do so because we know the value of forgiveness; in the end GD we are probably talking about the same thing but from a slightly different perspective..that perspective which is uniquely of our own lives.

  24. G.D. says:

    Ah, meaning is often contained in the ‘unspoken drift’ and lost in written expression. Yes.
    Sorry for reading your post a little personally.
    And taking ‘shame’ as literal – i hate ‘literality’!

    Alas, I gave up trying to slow down my ‘Joycean’ free flowing brain years ago, interrupts my natural intuitive flow too much- and takes hours to write! Just the way i am. (Strong INFP).

    I will try harder to discipline my thinking function and include more ‘unspoken drift’.
    But, i fear my posts could get even longer than they are already.
    Even longer than Nektrios’ & John Costello’s put together. And i admire conciseness so much!

    We probably are thinking along the same lines. I DO agree with most of your content, in this and other posting. And learn from it. Thank you.

  25. Nektarios says:

    G.D. & Ignatius

    How good a thing it is, in unity to dwell.

    I am sorry G.D. if you think my postings too long, perhaps they are sometimes. What I can say Scripturally, can be quite concise. But to demonstrate that clearly, accurately, faithfully, that takes a little more time, effort and space.

    But before we lose the trend of this topic on morality.
    What Christ has done, and what we are in Him is a complete work – it is finished!
    We are to reckon ourselves dead to our passions and other manifestations through the body.
    Are we? Well the answer is no, not fully yet, we are in the process of a work of God in our sanctification.
    We are already sinless pure and holy in God’s sight if we are His. We have to fully realise that and live that out in our mortal bodies. So we are instructed and exhorted as true Christians, ‘Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies.

  26. ignatius says:


    “..We are already sinless pure and holy in God’s sight if we are His. We have to fully realise that and live that out in our mortal bodies. So we are instructed and exhorted as true Christians, ‘Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies…”
    Yes, all very good, the question is how. The reason Catholic theology delineates between mortal/venial sin, which was actually on topic, is that it takes these things seriously. Simply banging on about sanctification is rather like seeing a man in a swamp and telling him there is a bridge somewhere down the road if he can only find it. I would still like to see from you something on the nitty gritty ‘how’……but I’m not holding my breath.

  27. Nektarios says:


    You would think it rather strange of God if he only told us to be Holy even as He is Holy, that is perfectly holy, and did not show us how and any problems there might be in our experience grappling with it? Yes?

    One of the first thing to realise is what God in Christ has redeemed as from.
    Secondly, How He has translated us who are His, out of the Kingdom of devil, into the Kingdom of His dear Son.

    Thirdly, Salvation is all of Grace. Why so? Because the enemy of our souls, is much more powerful than us. Consider our first parents fell in the Garden of Eden under a temptation so easily. Without God grace, we will be defeated, that is why Salvation is all of Grace.

    Fourthly, We then in our old nature was unwillingly made subject to him and prey to his temptations and wiles.
    All manner of sins came to manifest in our lives – the devil is out to destroy us, especially Christians, and all God’s works. The Devil has made sinners of us all, powerless, ignorant of so many of his wiles and devices. Man was in a lost and hopeless state.

    Is our approach to all that is morality and moral ethics sufficient, powerful enough? It may restrain a few things out of fear of punishment by the laws of the land, go to prison or worse, we know all this has already failed.
    Taking sins, venial or mortal, does not give one power to overcome it ever, that is why the whole philosophy of morality which contrains man in some ways, does not deal with it before a thrice Holy God.
    Again, that is why Psychology ( though it has its uses) fails when it comes to sin and its effects.

    Fifthly, Salvation is not all about what we do so much, we know that, but what He (Christ) has done, and is doing now, and will do in the future.

    Read very carefully and prayerfully without any bias, let it speak for itself. Ephesians 1: 1-14. Here you have before you, not, man’s doing, but God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at work on the whole plan of Salvation.
    Our sense of morality is not perfect in thought,nor in our lives, as God wills it, and the expectation that one will ever be fully perfect here, is well, obvious. But why?
    Because sin is in the body, hence we will all take of the wages of sin, death.

    Now we will come to what actually is our our Salvation in Christ, the nuts and bolts of it.
    But I will have to carry this on in a little while.
    It might not be necessary for me to do that as you can all tell me all about it and in practice?

  28. Nektarios says:

    To Continue:

    Over the long history of the Christian Church and Christianity in its life and practice we have seen the ebbs and flows of it all, times of declension, and we are seeing the situation of the Church in the world at the present time.

    We saw the fledgling Early Church – read Acts 2 in particular, though reading through the whole of books of Acts gives one a better picture of what the Church was and is, what they thought, what they did and especially in relation one to another in the Church.

    Some say, the Church has developed since then. I personally question that. One can read of various problems within the Early Church and these problems are still with us today. The reason for that is, man does not in his old nature change at all.
    We can see over the long history of the Church, how the devil is ever seeking to overcome the Church and destroy it, and we can see God preserving His people down through the centuries till now.

    We also see where so many have departed from the faith once delivered unto us by the Lord and His Apostles. Are we greater, better, more informed from those believers in Christ that have gone before us? I think not.
    The Church is still here, but the problems remain as it was in the Early Church. I would say worse, because they knew in whom they had believed. This was no mere intellectual, philosophical or psychological exercise belief or mere theology. Those in the Early Church knew God, and together walked with God.
    They knew The Lord, they knew and understood what Salvation was, what they had been given
    and this was their source of Praise, Worship, Thanksgiving. The lived the life together, they loved one another, prayed together, learned from one another and often suffered and were martyred together. Such shine in the glory.

    Are there differences today in the practice? You bet there is.

    Plenty of time to respond to this, but I have to go out for a while.

  29. ignatius says:

    Now you come to mention it, Ephesians is my favourite book I think. That first chapter always such a delight, like a spring of water on a hot day. You are right in many ways about all this but you always seem to forget the rest of the book..Ephesians ch4 gives instruction on how the Christian is to act and to be. Renewing of the mind, Nektarios, is not a sudden once and for all event but is something we walk in daily and the attitudes spoken of in Ch 4 verses 25-29 are those required to deal with the everyday failings of the flesh..venial sin in other words which damages but does not break our relationship with the God we have come to recognise and love but nonetheless must limp after on account of our fallen natures. I think if Paul were around today he would have approved of the catechism because he would see in it his teachings, Colossians ch 3 for example , fleshed out and made coherent for the current time.

    As to your thoughts concerning the ‘early’ church Nektarios I’m afraid you suffer from a spiritual kind of nostalgia, worse for the fact you yearn for a condition you never ever witnessed yourself. You have no actual knowledge of the day to day dealings of those times and the scriptures themselves tell a story of dissent, failure, falling away and continuing pursuit of immorality…see the Corinthian church for example. The closest I ever saw to a contemporary example of the New testament church was during the years I spent with the underground church of Asia. Yes there were miracles, yes here was togetherness, yes there was heroism but yes there was bickering,division, selfishness, deception and all the sins mentioned in Ephesians 3.

    It really is a bit dim in my view to make the negative comparisons you do, between early and contemporary, Nektarios, do you think the Spirit got fed up and left? Do you think God is grieved by the 2 billion Catholics on the earth today? Perhaps the Risen Christ suffers from this nostalgia too and longs back to those good old days when the church was born and only included a couple of hundred people?

    • Nektarios says:


      Within the limits we are allowed on the blog, there is only so much I can say at any time.
      I could give something of a commentary on the Book of Ephesians, but the blog does not allow for such a thing to be done.
      The same applies to Galatians and other books in the NT.

      They many true Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants far from grieving me, I rejoice in them as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

      What we have in Acts, is not only the beginnings of the Church, but all that it is and intended to be or, indeed can be on earth. The Church today has not got beyond that, but in many areas it has gone backwards almost into Paganism.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I agree there.
        Hiwever I believe with all the technology today, man has become his own God!

      • G.D. says:

        I offer this as a poetical reflection on what has gone before ….. and i have no idea why!!

        Look upon Christ’s church as
        something that Is
        Was and Always will be.
        The differences, between ALL,
        who sincerly seek God,
        from now to then,
        seen for what they are,
        own opinions. (Mea culpa).
        Sins, mortal or not?
        The ‘sin’ that hamper’s second sight
        into the Unity that God Is,
        already, in all creation.

  30. Brian Hamill says:

    I am coming late to this and I have not read all the comments so far so I may be repeating something. However, here goes. The idea that the severity of the offence and punishment is in accordance with the the status of the the person offended is just not true in ‘real’ life. If a child does something wrong, the offence is dealt with in a very different way than if an adult does it. So the severity of the offence and punishment is also based on the status of the person committing the offence. If we then apply that to offences by us fallen, and so rather stupid, humans against the uncreated and infinite God, the logic of eternal punishment for a single act takes on a different dimension. As Jesus said from the cross, ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t have a clue what they are doing’.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brian Hamill.
      Some how your comment makes perfect sense to me.
      I compare that with the sin whereby the married and divorced not being able to receive Holy Communion when entering into a civil marriage who have not been able to obtain an annulment!
      I believe that the church has to take a lot of the blame towards the breakdown of marriage by not teaching or co-operating with the teaching on the nature of the Sacrament of Matrimony and the relationship with the couple and God in that Sacrament.
      I believe it ought to be left to a persons conscience, when the second marriage is in harmony with the Church,
      Father forgive them as they ‘did not know what they were doing’!

  31. Nektarios says:

    Brian Hamill

    You are right to a point, but our logic cannot be compared to God’s and the way He sees things at all. When Adam fell, under the temptation of Satan, it was not the same as we in our fallen state
    are. Adam’s was a a deliberate act against God and His revealed will to Him. What was to follow would be cataclysmic for Adam and for all we of humanity, of whom He was the head.

    Like I said earlier, all sin is mortal because its wages is death. This happened to Adam and it happens to us. So, we are born in sin and shapes in iniquity as the Psalmist says.
    Man is unlike Adam pre-fall, who walked with God, could see Him and converse with Him face to face. Now the effects of sin is a rebellious spirit against God, a nature where sin runs so deep,
    a self -will, blind to God and ignorant of Him and His ways. Man is utterly lost.
    He loves sin, and pleasure because he is in such a state, but God? Worse, man could not make his way back to God and death reigned.

    Then comes The Son of God from Heaven, to restore that which was broken, restore man to more than his first state, to be a child of God. Defeat Satan, cast him out, and give us the victory over death, and where we can return (at anytime) to heaven and be with God.
    To give us a new nature, with a new head, Christ our Lord. Bring us to be born spiritually in Him,
    To hide us in Him, to safeguard us in Him. To adopt us in Him giving us a new name, and life eternal and perfect and holy even as He is holy without fear of ever falling again.

    We need to understand with great clarity what it means to truly be a Christian. And it is all what Christ has done, is doing, and will yet do in and for us.
    Presently, we can ask of Him and if it is in His will, he will do it or give it, and it does not stop there,
    He will give us more than we can ask or think.

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