“When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 96)

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus not guilty of  any sin):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  

Saint Pope John Paul II specifically rejected the above argument proposed in AL 301, stating the following in no. 76 of his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor:

“Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition…. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord. When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfillment of the law in the precept of love of neighbor as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbor cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit.”

We are faced then with at least a hypothetical or conceptual heresy from Pope Francis, to wit: that a person may be justified in intentionally committing mortal sin. If this be the case, then the foundation of Catholic morality has been fractured, and who is to say what is right or wrong? Pope John Paul II warned of this very situation, saying:

“It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Veritatis Splendor, 104).

Pope Francis, in AL 301,  has attempted to alter the understanding of justification pronounced at the Council of Trent, where it was infallibly said:

“If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace, let him be anathema” (Session 6, canon 18)

I conclude with this final quote from Pope John Paul II, which should have served as an impenetrable road block against theories of moral relativism such as AL 301:

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (no. 115, Veritatis Splendor)

What motivated Pope Francis to go against the entire Tradition of the Church, and thus to compromise the moral law, is a very perplexing consideration? May the Holy Spirit guide the Church back to the fullness of truth.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image: Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens, between 1610 and 1612 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

P.S. Significantly, one of the Church’s most prominent theologians has recently addressed errors in Amoris Laetitia. See link that follows:

Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors …

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  1. I believe that you have taken Pope Francis out of context . Pope Francis is merely stating that we have to consider all things in context .

    So what kind of Sins are Mortal?

    In order for a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions:

    Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter
    Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner
    Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

    Not everything is black and White .

    Person A may commit a certain sin i.e. engage in pornography and be in mortal sin
    Person B may commit the same sin and NOT be in Mortal Sin

    There are many mitigating factors in what constitutes Mortal sin , and they can and DO vary from person to person according to their, Knowledge , upbringing , Emotional Maturity , Religious education , age , strong temptation and so on and so forth

    What you have done is assume that all sin is blankly applied to all people in the same way , for example , those living in irregular partnerships , and have determined that all people no matter what background they come from must therefore be equally culpable . But this is just simply not true , and isn’t even Catholic teaching

    Pope Francis NEVER said that a person is justified in committing a Mortal Sin . Those words NEVER emanated from his pen or his mouth

    In fact that is a contraction in terms because a Mortal sin IS , by its very nature UNJUSTIFIABLE

    What Pope Francis said was this :
    Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.

    Secondly your are also Pitting John Paul 2 against Pope Francis without weighing what both have said in their true context as I just explained here .

    Both of these Pontiffs were speaking in different categories and are NOT relational to one another least of all are they in conflict with another

    Pope Francis was NOT whitewashing sin and neither was he Justifying it . All he said was that there CAN and ARE mitigating factors involved with those living in irregular arrangements

    What he said is entirely Catholic

    Just to reinforce what the Catholic Church Teaches about sin , lets take a look , for example , at the following statement regarding masturbation ;

    CCC (No. 2352).
    “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 can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability”

    Pope Francis statement above is completely in harmony with Catholic Teaching

    Pope Francis did not call on the Catholic faithful to reject the teachings Pope St John Paul 2 , but rather clarifies in more detail how mortal sin is applied to those sins

    Pope Francis has NOT , as suggested here , engaged in Moral Relativism , because he never at any stage said that the sin itself was justified , but rather that the culpability of the individual that committed the sin may be diminished . That is an enormous distinction that was overlooked by this article


    Paul Vinci .


    1. Paul,
      You cannot use mitigating circumstances to allow a person to remain in mortal sin. Imagine a judge saying, “Because of mitigating circumstances I am dismissing the drunk driving charges against Harry, and I will enter an order allowing Harry to drive drunk on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” See my post below on mitigating circumstances:https://catholicstrength.com/2017/03/13/the-huge-mitigating-circumstances-mistake-in-amoris-laetitia/


      1. Tomlirish

        Hope you are well

        First of all , if there are mitigating factors , then the sin isn’t Mortal . Thats the point

        And That is what Pope Francis is saying

        Presenting hypothetical situations is all well and good , but that doesn’t escape the inevitable truth the church herself teaches that there can and are mitigating factors that diminishes a persons culpability .

        Would you say that the church is wrong to teach this ???????

        If not then you cannot say that Pope Francis is teaching heresy either , since Pope Francis is only reiterating what the church herself teaches ; That there are mitigating Factors which reduce a persons culpability .

        I don’t need to read your article , i have read the catechism and have taken heed from the counsel of the church which clearly teaches that mitigating factors need to be taken into consideration

        God bless

        Paul V


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