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John Richardson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I do not understand the concept of mortal sin.

  • Can I be forgiven if I have committed a mortal sin?
  • If so, how?

Thank you,


  { Can you explain to me the concept of mortal sin and can I be forgiven if I have committed one? }

Bob replied:


The distinction between 'mortal' and 'venial' sin comes from the Bible, in the first letter of John Chapter 5 vs. 17 where he says:

"there is such a thing as deadly (mortal) sin" and "all wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly."

Read over the passage from vs 13-17 to get a greater sense of the context. In essence, the distinction relates to deliberate unrepentant sin vs. sins from our human weakness and faults.

If someone sins because he is weak, God's forgiveness is always there like a loving parent. He is not looking to beat us up because we aren't perfect. Rather, we receive forgiveness through God's great kindness and our sincere heart and good will to follow him. Reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Confession take care of these not so big matters.

However, if someone deliberately sins and the matter is serious (i.e., not just telling your kid there is no more ice cream in the freezer), and fails to repent, that person has committed a mortal sin — a sin that extinguishes the life of grace in that soul. That person is at risk of losing their eternal salvation. What is needed in this case is repentance, Confession and absolution from a priest who was invested by Christ himself with the power to forgive sins (cf. John 20:21ff). (That would be a Catholic or Orthodox who holds valid Holy Orders) If a person was in a life threatening situation and no priest was available for the sacrament, all hope is not lost. God will forgive if the contrition is "perfect." Contrition is the true remorse for having offended God and his children. One can be sorry for sins based on the fear of punishment, but that is not "perfect." This lesser form of sorrow is sufficient for turning the sinner toward true repentance and is enough for a good Confession. Absolution (from a priest) will still work in this place.

If you are left without recourse to a priest and your life is in jeopardy, however, you ought to reflect deeply on your contrition and realize it needs to be real, relational (from a child to a father) and trusting in God's mercy. Otherwise, you'd better pack some cool clothes, cause where you are going is extremely warm.


Bob K.

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