In the Know with Father Joe

Dear Fr. Joe: What is a mortal sin? If I commit one, do I automatically go to hell?

Well, to explain this one, you need to join ARF. ARF stands for Acronyms R Fun. OK, long stretch for what is basically a pretty lame joke, but I assure you, my intentions were noble.

For something to be a Mortal Sin, you need to remember the acronym CIA. That stands for Circumstance, Intention and Action. We'll take it one at a time.

Circumstance: you have to be free to commit something or not commit something. For example, killing is normally a mortal sin, but if someone were holding a gun to your head and ordered you to kill, that is different than if you were to kill someone “for the thrill of it.”

Intention: here you need to intend offense to God or not care if it does offend God. You need the knowledge that it is wrong and a lack of proper concern that it is wrong.

Action: the action has to be of “grave matter,” meaning a serious issue. Cheating at solitaire, for example, probably could never fall into mortal sin because it's just not an important issue. Unless, of course, you were trapped by an evil (pronounced E-ville) doctor who was forcing you to play solitaire in a twisted, but well thought out plan at world domination which begins and ends with your game of solitaire and you play your guts out, but no matter what happens, you find yourself thwarted at every turn by the insidious …

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. Back to your question.

So, in a nutshell, if you are in a situation where you know that what you are doing is wrong and of a serious matter, and you are free to not do it and you do it anyway, you have put your soul in jeopardy.

In this situation, you need to get yourself to confession as soon as possible, and certainly before you receive Holy Communion.

Enjoy another day in God's presence!

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