Weekly Q and A (closed)

Please use this post to ask questions on topic in Catholic theology — faith, morals, salvation, biblical chronology, eschatology, etc. I do intend this post to be used for simple questions and answers, and not for any kind of extended debate.

Ron Conte

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52 Responses to Weekly Q and A (closed)

  1. Paul M. says:

    Ron, you correctly state that intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, and in other places that evil should never be done that good may come of it.

    Can you explain how sins against nature, such as unnatural sex, can be both intrinsically evil but not always damning? How can a person sinning against the natural law not find themselves in the state of mortal sin when the matter is grave, such as unnatural sexual acts. Doesn’t the natural law, by default, condemn the person?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Only actual mortal sins deserve eternal punishment. Unnatural sexual acts are always gravely immoral, objectively, but they would need to be committed with full knowledge of the grave immorality and full deliberation in order to be actual mortal sins. Some persons, misled by society or by individuals, might mistakenly think that these acts are moral.

    • Marco says:

      Exactly. That’s what i explained here https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/a-cdf-document-sheds-light-on-amoris-laetitia-and-contraception/comment-page-2/#comment-5204 about the difference between actual mortal sin (a sin which has grave matter and was committed with full deliberation and knowledge) and objective mortal sin.

      God always gives the Grace to avoid actual mortal sin, which is the only sin that deserves eternal punishment.


      “Some persons, misled by society or by individuals, might mistakenly think that these acts are moral.”

      Yes, not to mention the mitigating factors regarding freedom that were listed in the Catechism.

    • Paul M. says:

      Thanks, Ron. Are you arguing, then, that unnatural sexual acts are not intrinsically evil? If so, why? Are none of them, even sodomy and beastiality, intrinsically evil?

    • Ron Conte says:

      What?!! Of course unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil. They are also always gravely immoral. Acts which are only immoral due to a bad intention become moral with a good intention. Acts which are only immoral due to circumstances become moral in other circumstances. Only intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances.

    • Marco says:

      Paul is making a very common mistake.

      His mistake is thinking that committing an intrinsically evil act always entails subjective culpability, when this is clearly not the case.

    • Paul M. says:

      The reason I am asking is that I am confused: Why would an act that is intrinsically evil be permissible in the eyes of the Church– in certain circumstances?

      You have argued that that a Catholic in the state of grace may receive the Eucharist in irregular situations if the Pope wills it by changing Church discipline. As well, in different threads you have stated or you have insinuated that this could be true for practicing homosexuals and the divorced and remarried.

      (Granted, I realize that you have also stated that it is not your preference.)

      Why if adultery and sodomy are intrinsic evils can this be just a matter of discipline and not an unchanging practice? In addition to being in the state of grace, is not it equally important that the receiver of the Eucharist actually believe fundamental Church teachings? I would think that acts that are intrinsically evil would be essential to believe by all recipients of the Eucharist.


    • Ron Conte says:

      These sins are intrinsically evil. They are not a matter of discipline. The Pope has the authority to decide which sinners may receive Communion. Many Catholics have unknowingly have accepted one idea or another which is heresy, and heresy is intrinsically evil. Yet they can receive Communion if they are not conscious of grave sin. Allowing a sinner to receive Communion does not imply that their sins are good. Jesus rejected the use of the Mosaic death penalty for the woman caught in adultery, but in doing so He did not approve of the intrinsically evil act of adultery.

    • Paul M. says:

      Thanks Ron. You wrote, “Yet they can receive Communion if they are not conscious of grave sin.”

      This really is the crux of the matter, and the point that I am still struggling.

      It seems to me that the applied theology of the day is to place human understanding above God’s law. The argument being made is that it is not enough for a Catholic to submit to the Church; if he does not understand a teaching, he is exempt from following it.

      Well, at what point does someone understand it enough to submit? Also, why shouldn’t they submit while they are seeking understanding? Isn’t submission itself a greater good than understanding?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m so tired of arguing about Communion for the divorced and remarried. They should repent and give up their objective sins. We should all go to Confession at least once a month. Everyone should submit their minds and hearts to Church teaching. But given that many sinners do not do what they should, Peter holds the keys and he can decide to open or close.

    • Marco says:


      Like i wrote in my article, i think that the real problem here is the freedom of some divorced and remarried to act otherwise without further guilt, not so much their erroneous conscience.

      Let me quote myself

      “In my understanding, it’s hard to say that a validly married person may lack the full knowledge, and it seems to me that the Pope’s attention is focused on the second subjective condition—deliberate consent. Subjective responsibility for an objectively sinful situation may sometimes be lacking because the freedom of the parties involved is restricted as a result of various factors or circumstances, such as “duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments,” “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors” (§ 302, quoting the Catechism).

      When the Argentinian Bishops, for instance, in their guidelines endorsed by the Pope and declared by him to be of the “authentic Magisterium”, say that “especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351)”, they are clearly referring, I think, to relationships in which one person is either not Christian or not practicing the faith, and also threatening serious consequences, e.g., leaving a civilly remarried spouse and children if they do not consent to sexual relations (which is pretty obvious because a non-Catholic would not understand such a requirement and this would seem to him/her as an absurd intrusion in his/her private life, thus damaging the relationship).”

      So i think that Al focuses more on the deliberate consent.

    • Paul M. says:

      My question was about the correlation between understanding vs. submission, more than about Communion, per se. However, I appreciate how thoughtful you are and active in the comments. If you were not, I would not be so active myself.

    • Marco says:

      “My question was about the correlation between understanding vs. submission”

      I got it, and i find it hard to believe that someone who was validly married in the first place (if he is validly married this means that he accepted marriage as a lifelong union without leaving a way out for himself, like many others do today [yes, i think that the lack of the acceptance of Bonum Sacramenti is the most recurring defect in many marriages, and that many catholic marriages are null for that reason] ) can have the mitigating factor of a mistakenly erroneous good conscience.

      That’s why i said that, in my understanding, Al revolves around more the mitigating factors described in the Catechism.

      “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2352)

      “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735)

      As you can see, even though in paragraph 1735 they mentioned ignorance, said mitigating factor is only one the many mitigating factors that can reduce subjective culpability.

      I think that Al revolves around more those ones.

      The lack of understanding and ignorance is certainly easier to detect in those (and i suspect that they can be even a majority among the divorced and remarried) who weren’t validly married in the first place.

  2. sircliges says:

    Dear Ron Conte, I am an Italian reader. Sorry for my not perfect English. I read your argument about communion to orthodox people and the so-called divorced and remarried people, here


    Please let me explain because I disagree with you. I see you closed the comments to the original thread so I write here.

    The comparison between orthodox people and the so-called divorced and remarried people is flawed because these two entities are dissimilar precisaly in the feature in which, in order to be comparised, they should be similar. This feature is the mortal sin.

    I summarize my argument.

    Othodox People.
    Point One. To be out of the Catholic Church is objectively evil; but often this is not a mortal sin for the person not-catholic, due to the lacking of full awareness. In fact the person who was educated in another religion, precisaly because of this background, doesn’t know that he or she must enter in the Church. This person can gain full awareness by meeting a beliavable champion of the catholicism, but as long as is not aware of the truth of the catholicism, there is no mortal sin.
    Point Two. Quite obviously, the situation of the not catholic person isn’t OK. In fact, this person does not have the specific mortal sin of not being catholic, but still has the burden of all the mortal sins commited in the life. That is one of the biggest disadvantages of not being catholic: not having the sacrament of the confession, the mortal sins are not washed away. Maybe there is regret, but this act of contrition is imperfect, is not a sacrament. Therefore, when this person dies, goes to the particular judgement with the entire debt. Here let’s work the perfect justice and the perfect mercy.
    Point Three. Orthodox people are in a very singular situation. They conserve the continuity of the sacraments. Their priests administer the sacraments “with validity even though illicitly”, due to the Schism; they have real sacraments with real effectiveness. So orthodox people can really receive the confession and can really be cleaned of their mortal sins. So they can receive the Holy Communion without mortal sin (assuming that the fact of not being catholic, for the point one, is not mortal sin).
    Point Four. Usually, Orthodox people get the communion by Orthodox priests. In some circumstances, they might to go to Catholic Mass (when they cannot find an Orthodox Mass). In this case, they get communion, but the priest (if he is aware that they are Orthodox) still has the obligation to predicate the Catholic truth, and to say to these people that being Orthodox is less good than being Catholic. Quite obviouslly, you cannot hope to convert a person in a snap of fingers. It’s rather probable that Orthodox people, in this hypotetical case, remain Orthodox, because they trust their priests more than the Catholic Priest.

    Divorced and remarried people (below: D&R).
    Are they comparable to the Orthodox?
    No, due to the Point One. In fact, are these D&R catholic? Sure they are, what else. So, they do not have the “excuse” of being been raised in another religion.
    No, due to the Point Four. In fact, if a D&R person approach a catholich priest in order to be confessed, the D&R person knows his / her obligation to fulfill the catholic doctrine; and the priest has the obligation to predicate the Catholic truth, and D&R people cannot say “I don’t believe you because you are not of my religion”.
    Here we are. I summarize a lot. If the D&R people approache the priest, the priest musth teach the truth, and they (differently from the Orthodox) have no excuse for not listening it. If the D&R people have no full awareness (I don’t think it’s even possible, because you don’t get married superficially: if you do, it’s not a valid marriage), they gain the awareness by listening the priest. If they have no more deliberate consent to the marriage, but they are stuck with their civil partner for some reason (i.e. presence of kids), they have to abstain from having coniugal acts. If a person is forced unwillingly to sex by the civil partner, what are we talking about? That’s rape, period. A priest must stop a such situation, not accept it.
    In a nutshell, there is no possible situation of no mortal sin for a D&R person that wants to have marital acts with a person that is not the real husband or wife. It’s not possible because the priest has specific obligations – and he’s not quite powerless to perform them, differently from the case of the Orthodox People.

    So, that’s the stuff.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The CCC lists a number of factors which may make an objective mortal sin not also an actual mortal sin. These mitigating factors apply to Catholics as well as non-Catholics. And, as the Pope points out in AL, the mere knowledge of a Church teaching is not sufficient to prove a lack of full culpability, as the person may have difficulty understanding and accepting that teaching. These mitigating factors apply to many different types of grave sins.

    • Marco says:


      1. That article is mine, Ron asked me to write it for this blog. In that article i demonstrated that we have a precedent and that Amoris Laetitia cannot be condemned by critics without condemning said precedent as well. The ortodox who refuse to join the Catholic Church are committing an objective mortal sin. As you correctly pointed out, their culpability for said sin is very often null, because they are following their consciences. But the very fact that they are admitted to catholic Sacraments without conversion, as Ron said with the following words https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/communion-discipline-for-the-orthodox-shows-the-wisdom-of-amoris-laetitia/comment-page-2/#comment-5004 ” Since this is a matter of discipline, the Church can admit both groups, neither, or only one and not the other. The substantial differences in their cases could be the basis for a decision to admit one and not the other. But Canon 844 does prove that mere objective mortal sin, apart from being conscious of actual mortal sin, does not absolutely require refusal of Communion, as if Canon 915 were an expression of divine law” implies that the divorced and remarried catholic can be admitted as well, when they benefit from mitigating factors reducing their guilt to actual venial sin.

      2. Your example about rape is neither here nor there. It’s only evident that a normal couple, if one of the two starts, right off the bat, to treat the other very differently, refusing to have intimate intercourse, would fall apart, if one of the two is not catholic and is not willing to undergo the same discipline. Fc84 is very good but it is objectively very hard to apply unless they aren’t both Catholics. Your example about rape is immaterial, it is not so much about rape, it’s more about the fact that if the catholic partner imposes chastity to the other non catholic partner the union is likely to crumble, and the very purpouse of FC84 (remaining together for the good of the children) is defeated.

  3. Matt Z. says:

    Paul, I think you make some good points in your last post. What if a divorced and remarried sinner goes and talks to a priest who properly informs them that they cannot receive Holy Communion due to their sin(and until they repent,) but they remain in their sin, still receive Holy Communion, while claiming a lack of understanding?

    • Marco says:

      I think they are at great risk of committing sacrilege, that’s why is important to seek absolution before approaching the Holy Communion.

      Sure, it can be the case that, in some times, they really are in good faith and their consciences excuse them, so that they would not commit sacrilege, but i wouldn’t put my faith in that.

      Better ask for absolution and respect the decision of the priest.

  4. Fr Joseph Fazio says:

    You may have seen this YouTube video about the Malachy prophecy. It was well done in some ways but it flawed terribly in that it leads you to believe that the Last Pope, essentially Pope Francis is the False Prophet who will collaborate with the Antichrist. I was disappointed too because they give the air of being Catholic. The idea is historically and conveniently manipulated by Protestants, who all of a sudden take interest in a Catholic saint; I could see Protestants posting that idea. But I am like I said disappointed that Catholics would say that. Like you’ve said, there are so many false teachers and confusion seems to be more widespread than truth. Whoever is the last pope, even if Pope Francis is Petrus Romanus nothing even in the prophecy itself implies that he is an impostor. I wish a Catholic video similar to this one but presenting the other probabilities would be produced.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m aware of the claim that Pope Francis is the last pope ever, and the claim that he is the false prophet. I’ll see if I can get an article up on that topic relatively soon.

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