Describe mortal vs venial sin

Mortal sin is a pretty serious offense against God. Could someone give a little refresher as to what constitutes a mortal sin? what constitutes a venial sin?

If our belief system changes, does what is mortal sin change? or is a sin mortal depending on whether we believe it or not?

From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?

1862-1864
1875

One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

“A word, deed or desire in opposition to the eternal law” -St. Augustine
sin is sin no matter how society changes, because sin is without God, and God can have no part in sin, and that cannot change because God cannot change, God tells us Himself - *“I am the Lord, I change not.” Malachi 3:6 *
sin is committed whenever a person knows that something is contrary to the law of God and then freely does the action anyway,

now what makes a sin mortally sinful? well, God has revealed to us the sins most displeasing to Him in the ten commandments, although even before God gave the ten commandments to Moses, His commandments were known by other means, like for example (although more obvious) when God cursed Kane after he killed his brother Able, or when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring cities for their grievous sins against nature,
whatever is not of God, is without God, and is sinful, but whether it is mortal or venial would depend on your knowledge and intent regarding sin and Gods laws,
in which case i am obligated to tell you, that you are morally obligated to learn these things through the Catholic Church, you are morally obligated to the best of your ability, to seek the teachings of God through the Church, and put them in to practice, your virtues, the commandments, and other obligatory and morally necessary things,

although i’m pretty sure your asking, what makes something more evil than something else? the answer to that is, it depends on your knowledge and intent(as i said before) and although i’m sure there is a more deep and specific answer to that, perhaps by one of our great theologians or doctors of the church, that is as much as i can explain it personally.

although to get more specific, there are matters of tradition, such as fasting and penance, which the church can change, but in regards to morality and other sins revealed by God, those cannot be changed.
and although depending on your knowledge and intent something may not be mortally sinful, but no matter what, if you commit a sin even unknowingly, it is still a venial sin.

if you want to understand how God plays a part in our world without having any part in sin, i’d suggest reading this -
gaiaonline.com/guilds/viewtopic.php?t=18175319
it’s a small book, and easy to understand.

ok i hope this helps, tc

Could anyone give some examples of what is ordinarily considered grave matter and always considered a mortal sin?

Anything that breaks the ten commandments is always grave matter. Murder is always grave matter for example. There is no example of what is always considered a mortal sin since unless all three conditions are met there can be no mortal sin. So, if one were to take anything that is considered to be grave matter and know that it is and then give full consent to the act then it would be a mortal sin. So adultery, stealing, murder, idolatry, and many other actions of word, thought or deed are considered grave matter. It’s best to consult a good examination of conscience for a list of offenses that are considered serious matter. Only the penitent and God knows if one is in the state of mortal sin with the guidance of a priest… teachccd

What a beautiful, thorough and thoughtful reply.

There have been some excellent posts to this thread so far. However, when we say that the first condition of mortal sin is that it must be a “grave matter” I think we must explain what “grave matter” is and isn’t especially for the benefit of those who are new to our faith. One of the best ways to do that would be by using examples. I don’t believe that the Ten Commandments" define “grave matter” since stealing a piece of chewing gum or disobeying one’s parents in a minor way would always be considered a “grave matter”. Someone above started a list of transgressions that would always be considered “grave matter”: idolatry, fornication, adultery, murder, stealing if the value of the object stolen is major. Can we add to that list or does someone have a link to a site that contains a list of mortal sins?

This post might be slightly on the fringe since the OP is more about describing mortal vs venial sin, than in explaining the difference between the two kinds of sin. If so, my apologies in advance.

A protestant pastor once challenged me to cite Scripture to prove that there is any distinction between mortal vs venial sins. I could only cite 1 John 5:16-17 as follows:

If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal. (NRSV)
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. (NAB)

The pastor’s reply was that
a) one cannot build a theology based on a single verse.
b) any teaching that white lies are not sins that condemns one to Hell if one dies unrepentant would contradicts scripture verse Rev 21:8.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death. (NSRV)

The pastor believes in Sola Scriptura and insists that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture.
Can anyone help by providing a good answer?

Murder always grave matter… in war too? A soldier in battle? Full consent is present. Repentance not possible if the soldier doesn’t survive. I am not sure this is true in all the ten commandments. What about conscience-- formed or unformed?

I am surprised that the Church is not more clear on this issue. I often hear the advice that you should ask in confession if a sin is serious, but this is kind of like asking, “is what I just drank poison?”

This is the only examination of conscience I have ever found that differentiates between venial and mortal. I jibes with everything I have ever read about what the Church teaches:

catholicparents.org/oxcart/Examination%20of%20Conscience.pdf

I spent a lot of years afraid to find the answer to this question and I know I am not alone. I thought how the Church defines sin was arbitrary, but that is not the case at all. When I started living according to Catholic moral teaching, contrary to my expectations, it was astoundingly freeing. I found many lessons from history and a great deal of science backing up the Church’s conclusions about what is good and evil.

Many things are noted in the Catechism…in the moral section. (of course it can not go into detail on all the possible ones…we invent new variations …)

And some of what the examine that you posted are…well judgments of the author not the teachings per se of the Church…so please realize this in considering the lists…

Fornication
Lying under oath before God
Grave Calumny
Idolatry
Adultery
Lust
Masterbation
Homosexual acts
Pornography
Serious Theft
Drunkenness to the point of loss of reason
Abortion
Euthanasia
Deliberate failure of the Sunday obligation or Holy Day
Grave Scandal

etc

These are called grave sins or serious sins or mortal sins…(means the same)
But they are also called “grave matter”

And thus remember one needs more than grave matter to commit a mortal sin (grave sin, serious sin)

one also needs full knowledge and complete consent…

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?

1855-1861
1874

One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?

1862-1864
1875

One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.
From the Compendium of the Catechism

Look at in terms of law: Mortal sin is a felony. Venial sin is a misdemeanor!

What does complete or full consent mean? How does one know when one’s consent was complete or full other than when one premeditates doing something in thought, word, or deed? Is premeditation required for a consent to be full or complete is what I am asking? Thanks in advance for help on this one!

From the Catechism:

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 heart133 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.

more later…

From the Baltimore Catechism which I quote for simplicity:

[quote=Baltimore Catechism]66. What is mortal sin?

  Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.
  *Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent; for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee. (Ecclesiasticus 21:2)*

  **67. Why is this sin called mortal?**

  This sin is called mortal, or deadly, because it deprives the sinner of sanctifying grace, the supernatural life of the soul.
  *Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he shall choose shall be given him. (Ecclesiasticus 15:18)*

  **68. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, what else does mortal sin do to the soul?**

  Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, mortal sin makes the soul an enemy of God, takes away the merit of all its good actions, deprives it of the right to everlasting happiness in heaven, and makes it deserving of everlasting punishment in hell.
  *For the wages of sin is death; but the grace of God, life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)*

  **69. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?**

  To make a sin mortal these three things are needed:

[LIST=1]
*]the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong;
*]the sinner, must be mindful of the serious wrong;
*]the sinner must fully consent to it.
[/LIST]

[/quote]

[quote=Baltimore Catechism]70. What is venial sin?

  Venial sin is a less serious offense against the law of God, which does not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and which can be pardoned even without sacramental confession.
  *Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 6:48)*

  **71. How can a sin be venial?**

  A sin can be venial in two ways:

[LIST=1]
*]when the evil done is not seriously wrong;
*]when the evil done is seriously wrong, but the sinner sincerely believes it is only slightly wrong, or does not give full consent to it.
[/LIST]
72. How does venial sin harm us?

  Venial sin harms us by making us less fervent in the service of God, by weakening our power to resist mortal sin, and by making us deserving of God's punishments in this life or in purgatory.
  *But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36)*

[/quote]

You can read more about what the Baltimore Catechism has to say about actual sin here:

catholicity.com/baltimore-catechism/lesson06.html

No… premeditation …as in thinking a good time prior is not required.

An impure thought can come…and instead of ignoring it or rejecting it…one can with full knowledge …give complete consent. But of course just a thought coming does not mean one has consented to it…and there is also partial consent…

Regarding when tempted…various theological works give some helpful signs of not having complete consent…such as:

being half asleep…distracted by another matter and hardly noticing the thought…after the act or thought one scarcely remembers what happened…one hesitates but does not want to offend God and so after the moments of hesitation one rejects the temptation…one resists thoughts but in a half hearted way or in a weak manner putting up half resistance (hence partial consent so perhaps a venial sin)

And of course …if a person has a sincere doubt about giving full consent and ordinarily is living a good life or is seeking to follow Christ faithfully or normally does not consent to such a sin …he may presume he did not sin mortally.

One is not obliged to confess a doubtful mortal sin…for by nature it is doubtful…and if one does…mention that it is doubtful…

A person who is lax…well they are recommended to go to confession…for otherwise they would not be bothered at all…:slight_smile: (but still tell the priest they are not sure…)

Thanks, Bookcat!:slight_smile:

vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm#IV

Yes, murder is always grave matter. However on a battle field one kills in self defense. Soldiers protect and defend our country. An example might be if someone broke into your home and threatened your family. If the person was armed and the only way that you could prevent the destruction of your or your family’s life is to take the intruder’s life then your full consent was altered by the duress that you were under.The act of killing is grave matter but the situation rendered full consent unattainable…

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