Is there a list of what constitutes a grave sin?

Fr. Bloom,

I have recently come across your website and enjoyed looking at some of the questions posed by your "internet congregation". I have a question regarding the Eucharist and consciousness of grave sin.

Is there a list of what constitutes a grave sin? I have gone to some websites and read definitions of what constitutes grave sin but have trouble deciding whether or not I should receive communion. I have specific questions regarding pre-marital sex, masturbation, and drinking to excess. There is no doubt what the Catholic Church teaches about these practices. Does each in itself, however, automatically constitute grave sin and require a trip to confession in order to receive Holy Communion?

Today's world seems to be so non-chalant about these acts that perhaps it is hard for me to use the word "grave" to define them. Perhaps I should read more of the Bible and listen to less of today's world???

If possible could you provide a list of other sins which may be considered grave and that I should be aware of before my next trip to receive The Eucharist? Thank you in advance for your time!! God Bless.



Dear GW

A good place to start is Thomas Aquinas' definition of mortal sin (quoted by the Catechism):

"When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object...whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery." (see Catechism, 1856, which also has a definition of venial sin).

As far as what would constitute "grave" sins, the clearest list I know of is the Ten Commandments: stealing, false witness, not keeping holy the Lord's day, dishonoring ones parents, adultery, etc. Pre-marital sex, masturbation, drinking to excess are potentially grave or mortal sins, if one commits them in a knowing a deliberate way. People (myself included) will often take comfort in the fact "everybody does it." However, the fact that something is common does not mean it is less likely to result in separation from God. On the contrary, Jesus says that the way to perdition is wide...

If when examining your conscience, you become aware of a grave sin, you should immediately turn to Jesus, ask forgiveness, place yourself under the divine mercy. Because of Divine Mercy we can have complete assurance of salvation. After that comes confession and communion which are themselves an integral part of that mercy.

Keep asking the Lord for the grace you need each day and place your trust in Him. God bless,

Fr. Bloom


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