Venial or mortal sin?

Would getting into a fight, lets say with your brother or friend, be a venial or mortal sin? or does it depend? I know this is a dodgy question, but it would help if any of you can at least give me a hinting answer (if not a direct one)…

I will paraphrase an episode of “Web of Faith” I watched on EWTN years ago on the same subject.

Lets say a husband goes off to work and has said something that upsets his wife… While he is at work she plans of something to say that will “Get Even” with her husband for what he said; then when he walks in the door upon returning home, she lets him have it… That would be a mortal sin on the part of the wife, because she had planed the “Get even fight”

On the other hand: If the husband had a bed day at work, walked in the door, saw toys all over the floor, tripped over one, then let his wife have a verbal “What for”… That would be a venial sin… It just happened… Not a planned fight.

One would have to judge if the needed aspects of a mortal sin are present (grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent) I will leave it to the confessor and the parties involved to determine what was mortal or venial above (and I did not see and thus know the context of the show there)–but I do want to note that simply planning something does not mean that it is per se grave -for it is possible to plan both a venial sin and a mortal sin. Let us though avoid both!

From the Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?


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?


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.

Not sure what you mean by “fight” – are we talking about an argument or or a fist fight or are we taking out swords!?

Anger is often venial sin (it is grave for example when it gravely offends against justice or charity …such as one seeks to seriously harms another etc etc)

One may discuss with ones confessor in confession --he can assist one in judging and for judging any future events. Of course let us love one another and avoid anger etc.

It depends on how much of a beating you gave him. Jokes aside, fights between loved ones can happen because we love them and we are easily hurt by them. Verbal arguments can hurt someone and become mortal sin if the honor due to the person is taken away (ex. if it is not just a loud argument, but it has grave personal insults or remarks that undignify the person). Same with good friends… Now, if the fight became more than mere words, I would argue that the deliberate consent became blurry…a Christian in his right mind would never lay hands on a brother or a loved one during a fight, so it must have been really bad…in any case, that definitely requires to repair and be reconciled with the person hurt, and to confess.

I would personally don’t risk it. I know about this sin and I know that if there is ever a heated argument, I am partially to blame (or I could say it is my fault, as I can always just smile and refuse to argue and back away, but I chose not to). I was once told, about arguments that involve critical things, that I am to be firm but kind. Easier said than done, but it is the only way when backing away is not an option.

Also age is important. Two kid brothers fighting is probably not a bit as bad as two adult brothers fighting! :wink:

To understand how common an occurrence in close communities fights are, suffices to say that the ancient Rule of St. Benedict has one section called “That No One Presume to Strike Another” :o Then again, to avoid occasions of arguments another section states “No One Presume to Defend Another”. I think it is a worthy reading.

Yeah, by “fight”, I mean a verbal battle (not in a playful, but aggressively). Okay, let’s pretend for a moment that two people have a fight:
So the first person says= “Look what you did, you stupid fool, I told you not to press that button on the PS2!!”,
and the second replies=
“What button?! I can press this button anytime I want, you ****!! You’re not my dad!”,
“Fine you stupid prick, then I’ll leave!”, the first one responds again.
Then they stopped talking to each other for two days.
Obviously, this is a made-up silly and somewhat comical scenario, but I simply want to see how grave those kind of situation would be like if someone like that for example happened.

so it is all about how much you’ve offended the other person??

It is about the gravity of the sin. The blessed apostle John teaches us: “All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.” If I have a mere strive with my brother about some ridiculous business, and if by our temper we get heated and have what could be termed a fight, there may be no grave sin of the kind that brings death to the soul. On this, the blessed apostle Peter said: “If you are angry, let it be without sin.”

It is better to never fight, but if fight occurs, we must discern whether there was grave injury towards our brother or whether there was just lack of charity.

Jerome, the Church Father who translated and collected the definitive version of Sacred Scripture, had this to say:

There are venial sins and there are mortal sins.

We shall have to give an accounting for an idle word no less than for adultery. But to be made to blush and to be tortured are not the same thing; not the same thing to grow red in the face and to be in agony for a long time.

If we entreat for lesser sins we are granted pardon, but for greater sins, it is difficult to obtain our request.

Augustine, the great bishop, had this to say:

keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end.

I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted.

But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ…either adultery or some other enormities.

If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out…In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance.

With regards to this third way, Origen and Basil the Great witness:

[A final method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner…does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord

Let me be clear: in the Confiteor the sinner admits, peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere - sins are not just physical, are not just verbal, but also in “thought”. There is a kind of mortal sin that is interior, in the heart, in the intention. So it is not all about how much you have *actually *offended the other person, but about the motion of the heart accompanying the offense.

In short, you will have a “feeling” about the gravity of what took place - your conscience will speak inside your heart, and you will be able to see to some extent how much this affected your relationship with your brother in Christ. If the offense was lesser and you are reconciled, a heartfelt Confiteor and Act of Contrition may suffice, along with proper reparation. If things became bitter, then consider confessing to a priest and working to be reconciled with your brother.

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