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Only God can judge the sinner’s knowledge, consent

We are continuing our discussion about mortal sin. We have noted that for a sin to be considered a mortal sin that it must involve grave matter and the sinner must act with knowledge and deliberate consent. It is good for people to discuss these matters to better understand the nature of sin and our place in relationship with God. But, let me be clear, only God can judge whether someone is acting with a sufficient amount of knowledge for them to be guilty of a mortal sin. Only God can judge whether someone is acting with deliberate consent, sufficient to be held culpable for mortal sin. So, we will discuss things that can infringe upon our consent, but we can only speculate in specific instances whether someone may or may not be culpable, and actually, it is not our job to judge the sinner at all.
So, what are some of the things that can mitigate against our acting freely as moral agents? Well if I do not intend a harm that occurs because of my licit actions. So, if I am driving my car at a legal and prudent rate of speed and I lose control for some reason and in the resulting accident someone is killed or maimed I am not guilty of any sin. I did not have deliberate consent.
Obviously if I do something in my sleep and without my conscious-self choosing to do it, I am not guilty of any immoral behavior. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can diminish or eliminate my consent to an act that may be immoral. This does not absolve me from choices that may have been sinful that led me to the point of being impaired.
Just a quick warning to myself and people like me; God will judge this. Be careful to not excuse yourself because you think you acted without knowledge or consent. I can fool myself, but I won’t fool God.
Additionally, there are a whole host of psychological factors that may diminish or eliminate my consent and thus my responsibility. I am going to save the discussion of that for next time.
— Pat Arensberg is the Director of the Office for Evangelization and Family Life. Email him at parensberg@mobarch.org  For more information concerning the events of this office, visit us at mobilefaithformation.org

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