Moral Theology. What happened to sin?

Chris Richardson

Moral theology has been under the spotlight recently following the synods on the family. Despite centuries of moral reflection there appears to be a significant gulf between official Church teaching and what many of the faithful believe. This article traces some of the key developments in moral theology and suggests that our notions of sin have become ambivalent. Chris Richardson is a retired Catholic secondary headteacher and diocesan commissioner. He is currently associate lecturer in Catholic school leadership at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Whatever happened to sin? When I was young we were constantly reminded that we were sinful people and that we had to confess our sins regularly, being clear that if we died in a state of mortal sin we would be condemned. The penny catechism told us that mortal sin was ‘a grievous offence against God’ which, ‘kills the soul and deserves hell’. A venial sin ‘is an offence which does not kill the soul, yet displeases God, and often leads to mortal sin’. However, ‘it is more easily pardoned’. The Council of Trent taught that we should confess our sins, relating their number and kind.

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