Monday, 5 March 2012

The forgotten sin

I never hear of this sin today, no one appears to have knowledge of it, even some priests know it not so, presumably, it does not feature much in the confessional litany.

No, it is not witch burning, hamster swallowing or dwarf throwing, it is the sin of being theologically drunk.

Of course, being drunk is a sin in its own right; it is an act of gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly sins and it is a catalyst for many other sins.

Drunkeness comes in many degrees; there's the Irish one of "having drink taken" which is a way of covering the pleasant and (if controlled) harmless stage of having had one or two drinks, just enough to feel a slight quickening of the senses.

Then there is "sloshed," "trolleyed" and all the other epithets we use to describe someone who is pretty well inebriated.

And, finally, the "dead drunk" stage which says it all.

But "theologically drunk" - what is meant by that phrase?

Well, it does not mean an overdose of St Thomas Aquinas; what it does mean is being in such an inebriated state that one is no longer able to distinguish moral values and, therefore, not capable of defending one's faith or recognising when one is committing a sin, the consequences of which are manifest.

This must then fall into the gravest category, that of mortal sin.

For anyone suffering from addiction to alcohol, this definition is not quite so simple.

There are strong forces at work with an addiction and although Archbishop Sheen used to say that "the sin of alcoholism is in the blood" I am fairly certain that a confessor priest would not classify an alcoholic being theologically drunk as being in mortal sin.
Why? Because in committing the sin the person is not in full control of their faculties, deliberate and complete consent (in all probability) are lacking.

But, for the rest of us......being theologically drunk will leave us with both a physical and spiritual hangover.


  1. I'm sensing a small loophole here, for me? ;)

  2. This is certainly a new one on me! I think it was Mae West who said 'Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.' But I digress...

  3. Ros, I would not presume to comment on your situation, keep up the good work.

    Ben - ha, I collect MW quotes and that's a new one for me. My favourite is: "I used to be snow white, but I drifted" - all too true for me!

  4. I find the three conditions (which must all be met at the same time) for being in the state of mortal sin most interesting for they demonstrate the wisdom of the Church's teaching.

    "Grave matter" is the perhaps easiest to determine e.g. let us choose something truly heinous such as performing an abortion.

    "Full understanding" is a little more complicated, because it implies not only real knowledge, but appreciation, of the implications of an act. However, let us say that an abortionist does understand that, according to Church teaching, such an act cuts him/her off from God. (I will not complicate matters by considering those who are unware of the Church's teaching or are non-Catholic abortionists)

    The most difficult condition to meet is "Full consent", to actually agree to cut oneself off from the Almighty and to embrace the eternal separation that this may entail; in other words to want damnation. I find it inconceivable that, even an abortionst, would want such a thing. Of course, there is free will and therefore, as the Catechism (1861) states, such a thing is possible.
    What I find compelling is that the Catechism goes on to say "However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must trust judgement of such persons to the justice and mercy of God." So, is there hope even for the abortionist? One must answer in the affirmative.

    Any thoughts?

    1. The prayer given to the children, by the angel at Fatima ends:

      "Lead all souls to heaven, ESPECIALLY those, most in need of your mercy"

      Obviously the angel is not the author of this prayer, God is. So we see that the last prayer given to mankind by God was for sinners most in need of his mercy to be led to heaven. To me, this tells me something about God's heart regarding the worst sinners, those most in need of his mercy. He desires thir salvation, not damnation. We are to pray for them/us/me.

  5. Parepedimos - a very good comment. My interpetation (and,hopefully, that of the Church) is that, dying in a state of mortal sin condemns us to hell.
    However, we do not know the extent of God's mercy but it would be hard to imagine much leeway.
    Perhaps a theologian might like to comment?

    Ros - of course, God is most concerned about us sinners and the saying that 'all Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents' must surely be true.
    Damnation is not what God wishes for us but we are the deciding factor there. It is up to us to discard sin and open our souls to God's graces.
    Of course, we can fall off the log many times in that process, the vital thing is to keep climbing back on again.

  6. Saint Teresa of Avila is said to have said (I cannot source the quote) that "There is a time for penance and a time for patridge."

  7. I was desperately going for "partridge."

  8. Mack, Supposedly, when Teresa was told that several nuns in one of her reformed convents were seeing visions, she replied, "Feed them properly and they will stop seeing visions." My kind of saint. Holy and sensible.