Some People are Not in a State of Grace

… is the answer to many different questions about the world in which we live.

Why is there so much harm in the world? Why are millions of human persons in a state of hunger or poverty? Why are serious crimes found in every city and town in the world? Why does every attempt to benefit those in need meet with stiff resistance?

Why is there so much division in Christianity? Why do so many members of the Catholic Church so often fail to be shining examples of the Gospel of love to the world? Why do so many Catholics reject the teachings of the Church? Why do so few persons convert to Christianity or Catholicism each year?

Why does greed dominate the economy? Why do sex and violence prevail in the various forms of entertainment? How can a nation of Christians produce a culture with so much disdain for Christianity? How can a nation of Christians have a culture that supports and glorifies nearly every possible sexual sin?

Why are some individuals cruel or vindictive or self-destructive or hateful? Why do so many marriages end in a bitter divorce? Why are so many families afflicted by discord, division, and estrangement? Why are close friendships rare, and many relationships superficial?

Why is the Gospel of Jesus Christ so unwelcome in the world today?

The answer to all of these questions, at least in part, is that many people in the world today are not in a state of grace. They are in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin.

An objective mortal sin is a knowing choice of the human person that is gravely immoral. For such an act to be an actual mortal sin, resulting in the loss of the state of grace, the person must have full knowledge that the act is gravely immoral, and must make that choice with full deliberation (full freedom of choice). If a person believes, with a sincere but mistaken conscience, that an act is moral or at least not gravely immoral, then the commission of that act is not an actual mortal sin. No one loses the state of grace by committing an act that others think is gravely immoral, unless the person choosing the act believes the act to be gravely immoral (or does not care if it is gravely immoral). Each person’s soul is judged by God based on that person’s own conscience.

And yet many persons today are not in the state of grace. They have committed an actual mortal sin, and they did not repent. The state of grace is the state of loving God and neighbor. Every actual mortal sin is incompatible with that love, and so anyone unrepentant from actual mortal sin cannot be in a state of grace.

How does this affect the individual? Without repentance from actual mortal sin, the human person is incapable of a sincere and full love of God or neighbor. A person in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin is still able to cooperate with grace partially, haltingly. But this limited cooperation does not reach to a full selfless love of God or neighbor. Certainly, every human person in a state of actual mortal sin is able to repent and return to the state of grace — for God will never refuse the grace of repentance to anyone in this life. And after repentance, the sinner is able to cooperate with grace in a full and selfless love. But apart from cooperation with grace in repentance from actual mortal sin, the unrepentant sinner cannot love anyone in a true and grace-filled manner.

Selfishness and callousness prevail in the world because so many persons are not in the state of loving God and neighbor. Such persons do not listen to reason, except when it benefits themselves. They may retain some affection and attachment to family and friends. But they do not truly love anyone, not even themselves. A person in the state of grace loves God, neighbor, and self; their love of self is ordered by their love of God and neighbor. But someone unrepentant from actual mortal sin has only a self-destructive false love of self.

When you have a society influenced by many persons not in a state of grace, much harm results. World hunger can only occur because selfishness and greed prevail over the production and distribution of food. Grave crimes are also often grave sins. Without actual mortal sin and the refusal to repent, there would be far less crime in the world. Organized crime, drug cartels, and any continuous long-standing criminal activity requires not only many actual mortal sins, but the continued refusal to repent from those sins.

A person in a state of grace can commit many venial sins, and still remain in the state of grace. Such a person can even commit objective mortal sins, lacking the full culpability of actual mortal sin, and remain in a state of grace. And certainly harm results from all of these sins. But the difference between actual mortal sin and venial sin is very substantial, as are their respective effects. The world would be a much different and much better place if actual mortal sin were rare, or if at least repentance from actual mortal sin were prompt and common.

Examine your conscience. Do not assume you are in a state of grace. Go to Confession regularly, at least once a month.

The 2000th anniversary of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John is 4 October 2015.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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4 Responses to Some People are Not in a State of Grace

  1. Matt says:

    I am continuously astonished at the very low turnout at my local Catholic parish for Confessions on Saturdays. I decided to go to another Catholic Church confession and I was the only one there. Three confessional booths had lights on. I was saddened. There was one old woman praying in the pews. The Catholic Priest who i confessed to told me to thank God for such a gift of Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why are Catholics just not seeming to care to go to Confession anymore? I do partially blame the priests for not strongly telling the flock to go to Confession.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Most Catholics have lost their sense of sin. They no longer consider any of their choices to be immoral. They have adopted secular views on morality, and have rejected Church teaching. Priests and theologians could have done a much better job of teaching ethics. But even if they did, most Catholics have decided to ignore Church teaching. Society has taught them pride instead of humility, self-indulgence instead of self-denial, and self-exaltation instead of true worship of God.

  2. Dot says:

    First, there is ignorance of sin, which means the person is not culpable. Then there is guilt, the second scenario, where a person is culpable for his or her grave sin. Lately, we hear more about demonic possession and, of course, Jesus cast out many demons. Is this a third possibility? Is it possible for an “innocent” to become demonically possessed? Who is culpable?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Some ignorance about sin is “invincible”, implying no culpability or little culpability. But at times ignorance about sin can be due to sinful negligence, which would be culpable. (What you said is generally correct, I’m just clarifying.)

      No one who is in a state of grace can ever be possessed by demons (fallen angels, devils). For the Holy Spirit dwells within all who are in a state of grace. There were many more persons possessed in ancient Israel because it was before the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession. Many persons were not in a state of grace.

      Only persons who are in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin can possibly be possessed, and only if they in some way freely will this possession. So it is culpable, to a grave extent, in all cases.

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