What's the difference between venial sins and imperfections?


My understanding is that venial sin is always a deliberate action or thought against God’s laws, or failure to do something that is good that you really could (and probably should!) do.

I believe that, if an evil action is not deliberate then it is not venial sin. In that case it is an imperfection. Right?

So for example, lets say at one time in my life I swore like a sailor all day everyday, then by the grace of God I learned to stop swearing. And years after stopping swearing, one day I got very angry and out popped an f bomb simply out of “old habits die hard” and carelessness in anger. That is an imperfection.

But then, in my anger a couple more swears pop out, but then a couple days later, when I want to swear, I think about the bad word I want to say and tell myself not to swear…but then I swear anyways, probably because I haven’t been doing to much to stop the swearing out of anger in the past few days and so I’m now weak in that area. That is a venial sin.



No, actually, that isn’t quite right. A mortal sin is one that consists of grave matter, and is committed with full knowledge and deliberate intent. A venial sin is a sin that does not consist of grave matter, or is not committed with full knowledge, or one that is not committed with deliberate intent. (Another way of looking at it is that a sin consisting of grave matter is a venial sin if not committed with full knowledge and deliberate intent.) Therefore, one can sin venially even when one does not act deliberately.


Mortal and venial sin form 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.



There have been differing schools but an imperfection can be said to be:

About doing a good act (be it of obligation or not) but doing it “less perfect” then one can.

An imperfection can be said to be --when good is done -but with say with less generosity then one can. I do my work - it is done and is good -but really I could do it better. Such may be involuntary or voluntary.

Or it can be happen due to involuntary inattention (one makes noise in going into the Chapel or one sings too loudly due to ones mind involuntarily wondering). *(the act being good or at least indifferent itself–such as singing).

Or it can be when I choose between goods. Both good -but the one is less good -thus the choice of the lesser good may be an “imperfection”.

(Now can say venial sin enter in with imperfections? Yes - such as one is say lazy etc etc. But in itself one can I would say (as to many orthodox writers) distinguish between venial sin and an imperfection in the ways I noted above.)

For sin -mortal or venial - see the CCCC quote above

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