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Desperatio ( Latin for desperation ) is, according to the Catholic understanding, a sin against the Holy Spirit out of desperation in salvation . When a sinner recognizes his burden of sin, but does not draw the correct conclusion about conversion , confession and repentance , but despairs over the magnitude of his sins, one speaks of desperatio . The sinner, despite his great sins , could be saved if he followed the prescribed path of repentance. However, this remains closed to him because he thinks that there can be no more forgiveness for his sin . So he doubts the grace of God .

As a counter-example to the desperatio , the guote Sündaere Gregorius is often mentioned , who despite his great sin (incest with his mother) does not despair, but accepts an unimaginable penance and can even become Pope. Excessive sin requires excessive repentance, after which the great grace of God comes. Hope ( spes ) serves as a “remedy” against desperatio . However, misunderstood hope could lead to the sister sin of desperatio , the praesumptio . That is why God gave man not only hope but also fear ( timor ).

Gaufredus Babion sums this up in the following sentence: “ Spes sine timore praesumptio est; timor sine spe desperatio est. "(Hope without fear is praesumptio , fear without hope is desperatio .)


  • Friedrich Ohly : Desperatio and Praesumptio. To theological despair and presumption . In: Helmut Birkhan (Ed.): Festgabe for Otto Höfler on his 75th birthday (= Philologica Germanica 3), Vienna 1976, pp. 499–556. Reprinted in: Friedrich Ohly: Selected and New Writings on the History of Literature and Research on Meaning . Edited by Uwe Ruberg , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1995, pp. 177-216