Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

Are having impure thoughts a mortal sin?

I recently when to Confession and do not want to have them again, but the more I try not to have them, the more I find myself thinking of them.

I used to have a few of them, then wondered if I was committing a mortal sin and whether I had to go to Confession again in order to receive Holy Communion.

Thank you,


  { Are having impure thoughts a mortal sin? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

Thanks for the question.

You said:
Are having impure thoughts a mortal sin?

Unless you are opening yourself up to occasions or settings that are conducive to having impure thoughts, No. For example:

If we see something inadvertently on T.V. or in public, we can't be culpable for an unplanned event. For example:

  • If I go to my town's parade and unexpectedly find some very lightly clad young women who are marching cheerleaders with the football team, or
  • If I saw something on T.V. of a sexual nature that I didn't expect.

I certainly can't be at fault for what I didn't expect.

On the other hand, if you open yourself up to occasions or settings that are conducive to having impure thoughts, yes it probably is a mortal sin, and you should go to Confession before receiving the Blessed Sacrament this coming Sunday at Mass. I say probably, because every mortal sin has to meet three criteria. (See below.) Nevertheless, in this sex-saturated culture, if you are unsure, I would go to Confession before Sunday Mass; a priest is there every Saturday afternoon.

The devil, who we believe is REAL but like thin air, we cannot see, will do everything to put impure thoughts in our mind. Praying the Rosary on a regular basis can be a powerful weapon again him.

I would also recommend finding a spiritual director. He may be able to assist you in your spiritual needs. Make sure he is faithful to the Church's teachings and Holy Father.

These paragraphs from the Catechism should clarify the issues you brought up in your question.


1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

Mary Ann replied:

Anonymous —

Thoughts are not sinful unless they are:

  • willed
  • consented to
  • and enjoyed.

For instance, a policeman has to think about bank robbing all the time.

It is only a sin if he is thinking about robbing a bank in the sense of intending to do it.

A doctor has to think about sexuality a lot, but thinking about sex is not a sin in itself.

It is a sin if we are entertaining thoughts and images for the sake of gratification.

It is not a sin to think about owning a Lexus like yours. 

It is a sin to intentionally think about owning YOUR Lexus if you are willing to steal it.

Mary Ann

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