“Mortal sins are very difficult to commit”

Father Jim Rude doesn't believe that most people have mortal sins on their conscience when they come to confession
Father Jim Rude (photo from loyolahs.edu)

Father Jim Rude, S.J. (photo from loyolahs.edu)

The following is from an article published in the September 2016 edition of Central California Catholic Life by Fr. Jim Rude, SJ, Co-Editor:

I’m getting to be an old man, brushing the mid eighties, and I find that in these past few years, I have been doing a lot
 of reminiscing, thinking of people, places, events.

I remember the theology we were taught in the early days, a theology that was rather simple, and in a way, rather sad. For there was not a great deal of explanation. I went to Mass every Sunday with my family, wouldn’t miss it, but it meant nothing to me religiously; it was just something we did. I made my Confirmation when I was in the eighth grade, but all I can remember from it was the Bishop slapping me — and all the others as well.

Being a Catholic was simply fish on Friday, confession on Saturday and Mass on Sunday. And those confessions were rather sad, for there were usually mortal sins mentioned, but looking back on it I believe that there were never any mortal sins.

There were never mortal sins because I was only 15 and had no clue what a mortal sin was. Unfortunately there are still some Catholics among us who also do not understand. A mortal sin is not simply some evil action, an action which is truly evil, but it 
is one that has to be done with the deepest understanding of God’s relationship to the doer’s situation. The doer has to understand who God is, his ultimate and eternal love, and the doer has to be saying to himself, “I know who God is and what He should mean to me, and I don’t care. Away with God! I’m going to rob or hurt or sex no matter what.”

But also the doer has to act with full freedom. I look at articles in the news these days, like the 12-year old who killed an 82-year old priest while he was saying Mass, and I wondered what the kid was really doing, what he was really thinking. As horrible as his action was, I simply have a hard time believing that the kid committed a mortal sin by Catholic standards. And I look at people who grew up with horrible abuse during their childhood or poverty or continual gang experiences, and I wonder if they are really free to act in such an evil way.

I reflect on those most incredible words that Luke tells us were heard coming from that Man on the cross when He was suffering incredibly intense pain, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Those words give me joy.



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  1. The operative word here is “Jesuit.”

    • You are correct. What a sad excuse for a priest. That may seem harsh but it is way past time for the laity to start calling out clerics who believe in this manner and act in this manner. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Our Lord said this about people who had not heard the Gospel. This priest has no excuse.

      • Don Guillermo says:

        Yes! And our Lord also said this as God, who alone can know the state of souls with mathematical certainty. We, on the other hand, can be only morally certain of the state of our own soul. This is why we are wise to err on the side of caution by assuming that a material mortal sin is also a formal mortal sin.

  2. anne o. nymous says:

    so many years ago, Fr. Rude absolved me of my sins. for that, I am grateful to God and to Father Jim Rude.

  3. Maybe because from the Pulpit and those at home haven’t been doing there job for the longest time and continues to this day.

  4. Typical liberal gobbledegook. I think we need to discover what the saints had to say on the subject; not your local Jesuit, sorry, Father, you’re suspect on these matters. It wold be nice if I was wrong, who wants to commit serious sin? But I don’t think so


  5. Bob Bugiada says:

    This is in sharp contrast to what I learned in catechism class as a youth. I first learned that violation of any of the Ten Commandments was a mortal sin. I later learned that for a sin to be mortal it has to be serious, we have to know it’s serious, and we have to decide to do it anyway. It all seemed so simple. I guess I’m not sufficiently nuanced.

  6. Barbara Jensen says:

    The purpose of the marvelous Sacrament of Confession, given to us on Easter night, is not only to ‘forgive mortal sin’ but also to help us grow in self knowledge and to eradicate the power of our selfishness manifest in lesser sins we commit. It is in this way that each of us deepens in the Presence of Jesus living within us, a Presence that begins at Baptism. Without self knowledge there is no growing in union with Jesus. There is no increase of the Trinitarian Life of Grace within one’s soul. There is no infusion of awareness of how our selfish tendencies gain the upper hand in our choices. Just read the mystics about this, especially St. Catherine of Siena to whom God the Father spoke at length about the necessity of self knowledge…

    • True. If you don’t know yourself you can’t think for yourself. God grant me self-knowledge without despair. Without it, you deny the soul what it needs; grace, contemplation of God, a realistic love of souls..

  7. Doesn’t his quote of Christ’s words undo his whole presentation? “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do?” Why would they need to be forgiven if ignorance excluded the possibility of sin? I’m not going to roll the dice on my salvation based on this bull. But I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. One of his Jesuit contemporaries tried to push the same delusion in my sophomore year of high school in 1968. He says he has “a hard time believing.” That about sums it up.

  8. Fr. Jim may be in for a “rude” awakening on the other side.

  9. Rev. Patrick Fenton says:

    To commit mortal sin, there must be 1) grave matter, or perceived grave matter; 2) knowledge of gravity of the sin,; freedom of will. For the second, it suffices to know that the Church, speaking for Christ, teaches that an act is gravely sinful. There is no need to have a quasi-Beatific Vision, from which one turns away.

  10. Fr. Jim Rude, SJ,— SJ says it all 🙁

  11. Oh good grief. Is it any wonder that people don’t think they commit mortal or venial sins anymore unless they kill or steal?
    Anyone who knows what offends God and could care less and commit the sin blatantly defying God can be committing a mortal sin. It doesn’t have to be just murdering or stealing. Adultery, avoiding sunday and holy days of obligation Roman Catholic Mass, using God’s name in vain can be mortal sins as well. Sad to think of it but with only 25% of modern catholics attending sunday and holy days of obligation worship services according to CARA of Georgetown U. statistics, there can be many souls committing mortal sins routinely.

  12. Thank you for an article on what’s wrong with the Church today and how priests overlook the Church’s teachings as they flex their pride in their own words (interpretation).

  13. Saint John Paul II said that Hell is not a place. If Hell is not a place, people can’t go there when they commit mortal sins.

    • Do you have the exact quote? I think St. Pope John Paul II meant that hell is in another spiritual dimension, just as heaven is in another spiritual dimension. We cannot see either now, but they are there. Hell is not just a place under the earth as some people thought.

    • I meant the quote in context, Anonymous.

    • In the article by St. Pope John Paul II on EWTN called “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory”, John Paul writes: “Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which we say that bodies are properly in place: but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances: a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us.”

      I see no heresy in what he said. The Church has always taught that heaven and hell are different spiritual dimensions from ours that are invisible to us most of the time.

  14. Another Jesuit I know of claims most marriages are invalid because Catholics don’t know what they’re doing when they get married.

    An encyclical titled “Ignorantia invincibilis” may be forthcoming, in which the Pope will declare that, although the Church is not changing any of its doctrines about sin, as a pastoral matter bishops and priests are urged to “accompany” the lost sheep of Christ by understanding that due to “complexities in modern life” and “various circumstances” many are ignorant of sin and therefore not culpable. Clear catechesis about sin will be discouraged, for knowledge could create culpability and make people feel bad about themselves.

  15. Anomynous,
    If what you said is true, then NO one should refer to him as a saint since he has committed heresy. Somebody, please show me where it says a heretic, especially one who has deceived a great many can go to heaven. Instead it is more likely a great millstone may have been hung around his neck drawing him into hell.

    • I do not think what Anonymous said is true. He needs to provide the context before he spreads such rumors around. Many things are said about popes, including Pope Pius XII, which are not true after looking at the whole situation or writings.

  16. When I was a boy if you did not attend mass on Sunday it was judged mortal sin. Now you can have cohabitation and sodomy and the Pope Himself is unable to judge it mortal sin. Political correctness will kill the Roman Catholic Church.

    • Can you imagine if the Church came out and said Sunday Mass is option? They would have to shut down most of the churches in the USA.

  17. “‘What are you thinking about, Jacinta,’ Lucia asked one morning.

    ‘I am thinking of Hell, and poor sinners. How sorry I am for the souls that go to Hell…the people there, alive, burining like wood in a fire..Lucia, why is it that Our Lady does not show Hell to sinners? If they saw it, they would not commit any more sins, and then they would not go there.’

    Lucia could find no word to answer.”
    From: “The True Story of Fatima: A Complete Account”, by John DeMarchi IMC

    • (Jacinta) “‘Lucia, what have these people done to go to Hell?”

      (Lucia) “I don’t know. Maybe they sinned by missing Mass on Sunday. Maybe they said ugly words, sole, swore..”

      (J) “And do they go to Hell just for one word?”
      (L) “If it is a big sin.”

      (J) “How easy it would have been for them to have held their tongues or go to Mass! How sorry I am for them. If I could show them Hell..”

      From “The True Story of Fatima”, by John DeMarchi, IMC (p.30)

  18. helen wheels says:

    “Mortal sins are very difficult to commit.”
    ?? Should I feel proud if I am able to “clear the bar” and commit one???

    God help us!

  19. this display of ‘wisdom at the end’ seems to be missing the teaching of ‘fear of the Lord’. a healthy fear of offending God.. the wisdom of the jewish tradition said ‘build a fence around the law’, that is, enact a concern for small infractions lest we self-righteously approach the Oly One with a sense of licence and lack of reverence. thus the penitential rite needs to come early in liturgies and is built into the Our Father .

  20. * * * Those responsible for teaching what a mortal sin is, and do not do it, are committing a mortal sin.
    This includes: all Clergy, Parents, God-Parents, and others.
    Hosea 4:6 – – – ” My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
    because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.
    And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. “

  21. There are no legitimate excuses for literate Catholics not to know what a mortal sin is, and is not.
    We have both a Catholic “Bible”,; and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition” of 1997,
    Laziness – not reading- is no excuse.
    Parents have an obligation to teach their children. If they do not, it is a sin that must be confessed.
    CCC: # 2226 & # 2223.

    • Agreed. But the real scandal centers around the excuses put forth by the clergy. Given the level of training and education it takes to become an ordained priest, there is no such thing as an “illiterate” priest.

  22. FromThePew says:

    What? There are 75% of catholics each week that miss mass. Missing mass* is a MORTAL SIN. The reception of Holy Communion without confessing the mortal sin of missing mass, is another mortal sin. Are we expected to believe all the people missing at mass (unless it’s christmas or easter) are not there due to a ‘good’ reason? This article is rubbish.
    * Reasons per Church Law such as — sickness, medical emergency, care giver….VS ‘I want to sleep in’ or ‘watching the game’, etc.

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