Can a venial sin be a grave matter?

Started another thread here that’s got me thinking about mortal and venial sin. In order for a sin to be mortal it has to be a grave matter, carried out with full knowledge and full consent. It seems to me that breaking any one of the ten commandments is a grave matter, regardless of the motive or knowledge, etc… So to me it seems like a sin can be grave, without meeting the other requirements of mortal sin, which means it would be venial.

Thoughts?

No. There can be venial matter involved.

CCC:

The obligation of the Decalogue

2072 Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.

2073 Obedience to the Commandments also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light. Thus abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment, but would be a grave offense only as a result of circumstances or the offender’s intention.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2.htm

Are you asking whether venial sin can ever become mortal sin? If so, I would say yes. It depends on the context.

Suppose a co-worker keeps a jar of candy on her desk. If you take a single piece of candy without permission, you are stealing. Is that a mortal sin? No, because stealing ten cents worth of candy is not grave matter. If, however, you repeatedly steal from this co-worker over time, you might reach a point where the total value of what was stolen rises to the level of being considered grave matter.

If someone cuts me off in traffic and, in anger, I whisper under my breath, “What a ____!” before driving on, I’ve probably committed a venial sin. If, however, I chase the guy, pull up to him at a traffic light, get out of my car and then challenge him to a fist fight, I’ve probably committed a mortal sin. (I may have also committed a crime as well but that’s another matter altogether.)

Bottom line: I try not to spend a whole lot of time drawing distinctions between venial and mortal sins. That may mean that I lean towards scrupulosity, but so be it. I go to confession frequently for a reason. Stealing a Hershey’s kiss from a co-worker or calling a bad driver a _____ under my breath are venial sins that make me less attractive in eyes of God. Those venial sins also make me more vulnerable to committing mortal sin. Those are reasons alone to prompt me to make a trip to the confessional so that I can mention these sins to my confessor. I hope that helps.

Technically all sin is, in some way, a violation of 1 of the 10 commandments.

No, I’m asking whether breaking the 10 commandments can be a venial sin. Can you steal, or masturbate, or dishonor your parents, or covet your neighbor’s possessions and have the sin be venial.

I’m also wondering-- though I didn’t include the question-- how you know if you had “full knowledge and full consent”? How can we really know our own motives? How good are we at judging full knowledge and full consent?

Bookcat– can you weigh in on the thread I linked to? I’m curious what your opinion is. Thanks!

Breaking the Ten Commandments is always a grave sin. But when we do it without full knowledge or full consent then it is not a mortal sin. But I would not use the term Venia
l Sin to describe this. Rather, it is a grave sin for which we are not fully responsible.

  • Fr Steve

The only thing I’ve heard (and regard this as unofficial) is that if a person thinks they are committing mortal sin and does so, it can a mortal sin because they were willing to commit mortal sin.

I gave you an example of how breaking one of the Ten Commandments can be a venial sin. Stealing ten cents worth of candy from a co-worker’s candy jar is a venial sin and not a mortal sin. It is a venial sin notwithstanding the fact that God said Thou Shall Not Steal.

You asked how do we know when full knowledge and full consent have occurred. In answering that question, I am reminded of what the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said when he was trying to define obscenity: “I can’t define obscenity, but I know it when I see it.” I guess what I am trying to say is that I know when I have full knowledge and full consent of the will. I know that masturbation, for example is a sin that involves grave matter. I know that if I freely engage in that sin, it is a mortal sin. That said, and as the Catechism itself teaches, there are circumstances that might make masturbation a venial sin for someone else. (e.g., someone that committed that sin while drunk or someone that committed that sin while suffering from some form of mental illness). Again, as I said in the first post that I made on this thread, the context in which the sin occurs plays a big part in determining whether a sin is venial or mortal. If there is any doubt in your mind as to whether a sin is mortal or venial, I would suggest talking it over with priest in the confessional as soon as possible.

I hope that helps.

scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2352.htm

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a priest about lust and pornography. If I heard it right --and again pin any error in what I heard on me and not the priest – he said that if you have done a sin so much that it is habitual and you really do not have the free will to resist it then it could possibly be a venial sin. However, if you know what situations put you in position to committ that sin, and then knowingly and freely consent to putting yourself in a situation where you will sin then that is a mortal sin. For instance, lets say pornography and masturbation. Lets say you have a computer with a filter that blocks that filfth and so you buy a device iPad or smart phone and go into a room where you can get alone with your sin then you are in mortal sin because you have put yourself willingly in a position where you have committed mortal sin. Please understand that its been about three years since this conversation at a Q&A session for Catholic College Students, but that is what I remember, mainly that if you are in a sin that you are addicted to and lack free will over it, then the sin itself is not a mortal sin, but placing yourself knowingly in a position to sin is.

I guess another example would be alcoholism. If you are an alcoholic and addicted to it then getting drunk is not a sin, but if you go to a party fully intent on getting drunk then placing yourself in a position where you know you can can get drunk and having full control over that is a mortal sin.

It’s important to separate the two things:

First, is some act grave matter or not.

If it is not grave matter, then it will not be a mortal sin.

At most, it will be a venial sin … or no sin at all.

So, first, you need to determine if the act is grave matter.

If it IS grave matter, …

Then, depending on many different circumstances, it may be a mortal sin or a venial sin or no sin at all.

Such is not quite correct.

There is venial matter that fall under the Ten Commandments.

Catechism:

The obligation of the Decalogue

2072 Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.

2073 Obedience to the Commandments also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light. Thus abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment, but would be a grave offense only as a result of circumstances or the offender’s intention.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2.htm

Slapping someone in the face may be a grave matter, but if done for the rights reason it could be a venial sin. For example, angrily slapping someone who is hysterical in order to bring him to his senses might be a venial sin, compared to slapping someone just because he irks you and you feel like slapping him silly … which surely constitutes a mortal sin.

There isn’t just “one way” to break a commandment. For example a teenager not doing his homework RIHT when his parents say is disobeying his parents, but not in a grave way. Lying is another good example. ALL lying is a sin, but not ALL lies are grave matter

It is important to distinguish between objective sin and actual sin. An act is objectively a sin if it is a violation of the eternal moral law. However, the person choosing that act only sins with culpability, committing what is called an actual sin, if he chooses that act knowingly and freely, at least to some extent.

An act can be objectively gravely immoral, and yet be chosen without actual sin if there is invincible ignorance, i.e. if the person sincerely believes the act is moral.

An act can be objectively gravely immoral, and yet be only an actual venial sin, if the act is chosen with substantially limited freedom of choice or with substantially less than full knowledge that the act is gravely immoral. So if a person sincerely believes that an objectively grave sin (grave matter) is only a venial, he commits only an actual venial sin if he chooses that act.

Only an act that has all three criteria is an actual mortal sin:

  1. full deliberation
  2. full knowledge
  3. grave matter

Only unrepentant actual mortal sin condemns a person to Hell.

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