Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic prospects, depression and anxiety about the future. Such circumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibility and the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which in themselves are evil

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Pope St. John Paul II

Evangelium Vitae, #18

Pedro Gabriel

Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

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12 Responses

  1. Christopher Lake says:

    It surprises me when I talk with serious, devoted, prayerful Catholics who don’t seem to understand, or want to accept, this Catholic teaching.

    The Catechism is *very clear* that someone may commit a sin that, objectively speaking, involves grave matter, and is a serious sin, with that person still not necessarily being *personally guilty* of mortal sin, due to mitigating factors– such as the ones listed above in “Evangelium Vitae.”

    This teaching should not surprise or upset orthodox Catholics at all. It has been a part of the Church’s Sacred Tradition for a long time and continues to be so. As shown above, it definitely did not begin with Pope Francis.

    • Christopher Lake says:

      To be clear, by “personally guilty of mortal sin,” I meant, “personally *culpable* for committing it,” in the way that the Catechism teaches about the conditions which must exist for one to be guilty of having committed a mortal sin. CCC 1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

  2. chris says:

    Easy…Pope John Paul II…I remember reading it when it came out!!!

  3. Hans Georg Lundahl says:

    God be thanked I was already a trad back in 1995!

    • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

      So, let us consider 2 cases:

      1. A woman who proudly aborted her child to make a feminist statement against the Church

      2. A woman who was coerced by her employer *and* her husband *and* her family into having an abortion, even when she didn’t want to, and who got into a severe depression because of that

      Is it your contention that both these women are equally culpable?

      • carn says:

        “Is it your contention that both these women are equally culpable?”

        They aren’t, at least as far as we can guess.

        But presume that both go to confession some days prior to having the abortion; both tell about their intent to abort.

        Wouldn’t the priest be required in both cases (among other things) to advise against having an abortion (although there might be different options to word this advice, some wiser, some less wise)?

        Wouldn’t in both cases the priest required to withhold absolution if both declare that they intent to ignore the advice and still have the intent to have an abortion?

        • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

          This post is not about the (false) contention that Pope Francis doesn’t want sinners to be admonished not to sin again, which is not what Amoris Laetitia is all about. Even so, I’ll answer your comment.

          Yes, if these women still intends to have an abortion, the priest should withold absolution (even though I don’t know which sin would be absolved, since the sin of abortion wasn’t commited at that time)… but the reason why is because we’re talking about the taking of a human life here. It’s very very grave matter.

          However, since your question comes in the context of Amoris Laetitia and we’re talking about a divorced and remarried person living more uxorio (a lesser sin than abortion), then I must tell you there is precedent, on the Vademecum issued at the time of Pope John Paul II regarding the intrinsically evil act of contraception:

          “The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin”

          This “let penitents remain in good faith” principle, in turn, dates back to St. Alphonsus Liguori’s advices to confessors.

          Of course, that principle is temporary in its application, as the priest who is acompanying the sinner instructs him on the faith, at a pace he can withstand.

          • carn says:

            Thanks for the interesting response:

            “Yes, if these women still intends to have an abortion, the priest should withold absolution … but the reason why is because we’re talking about the taking of a human life here. It’s very very grave matter.”

            “subjectively invincible ignorance”

            That would mean that if we were not talking about women intending to have an abortion, but instead about penitents intending to be intimate not with the one they are married with before God but a subsequent civil partner,

            that then maybe the priest would have to give absolution,

            as this is not about killing someone and

            if there is some currently (meaning the priest cannot resolve it during confession) invincible ignorance regarding that such intimacy would be an intrinsic evil act.

            But that would still mean that the priest might also decide not to give absolution (as the intent to sin no more is not present if penitent actually has no invincible ignorance) in which case the respective penitent should not receive communion until there is some change in that regard.

            Which would mean that the decision of whether someone is allowed to receive communion is not alone a decision of the person himself but also of the priest, who in deciding to withhold absolution would also decide that the person should not receive.

            However one evaluates this, it is at least pretty complicated to communicate.

      • Hans Georg lundahl says:

        I think they are not equally culpable. But it seems he was speaking of suicide during depression?

        That would be sufficiently culpable to go to Hell.

        • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

          A person who commits an evil act when not on a sound mind due to an ilness is sufficiently culpable to go to Hell…

          Paraphrasing what you said earlier: God be thanked I’m not a trad.

          PS: No, he is not talking about suicide on a depressed person

  4. Hans Georg lundahl says:

    In the case of abortion, I think a teen forced by her parents has mitigated guilt – but they are guilty of murder.

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