Father Tim Finigan from The Hermeneutic of Continuity replies:
Since questions about mortal sin frequently frighten people or give rise to complaints about the dark old days and fear of hell, let us first be clear that a mortal sin is only committed when the matter is serious in itself, when the person has full knowledge that it is seriously sinful, and when full consent of the will is given to the action. Some people take this to mean that hardly anyone ever commits a mortal sin, but the Church’s practice suggests a more robust view of our human nature and our ability to commit sin. If we commit a mortal sin, we may not receive Holy Communion until we have made a sacramental confession. This does not mean that we are condemned to hell until we have been to confession. An act of contrition, made out of the love of God will restore us to grace there and then, as indeed the “penny catechism” teaches, if we also have the intention of receiving the sacrament of penance in due course. The answer to your question is that the Church teaches that missing Mass on days of precept through our own fault is grievous matter. If we know this and there is no excusing cause then we have committed a mortal sin. Our conscience is not a matter of deciding for ourselves what is right or wrong; our conscience speaks within us to warn us away from sin and to prompt us to good. It is our duty to inform our conscience according to the teaching of the Church so that it points us towards the truth. Our properly informed conscience should ideally help us not simply to avoid sin and do the minimum, but to act in the way most pleasing to God, especially in valuing the privilege of participating in the most holy Eucharist in which Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross is offered for us.
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Missing Mass and mortal sin | Catholicism Pure & Simple
What about Holy Days of Obligation?
(Hope this is not ‘off-topic’) A conscience is a puzzle sometimes because, though coming from within us, it is an awareness beyond our own knowledge. So what you call conscience may be God speaking -so gently that you have to practise listening, and discerning. Individual, sometimes sad, even laughing, gentle, sometimes dismayed and even forceful. It can fade when brushed aside, but be brought back to focus after mass, for instance.
The best way to describe it would be ‘something coming from beyond one’s consciousness to clear the fog of limited, personal moral understanding and allow the broad, social action of love’.
Is it that symbolic language or action in solemn dialogue is formalised in Catholicism and purified, while in other contexts the ‘conscience’ is inadequate or confused or even corrupted and obscured, hence the type of false ‘voice’ given to Macbeth. Prof. Colin Jory explains that in Hamlet the supernatural is never in doubt, but confusing, due to Hamlet’s strong desire for sweet revenge. He makes a brilliant case for that play being a deep enquiry into the consequences of a perverted conscience (Hamlet’s) while modern audiences mostly think of him as a rather bolshy hero.