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SINS: MORTAL AND VENIAL

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Q. What is a sin?

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (C.C.C.) defines a sin as follows:

"Sin is an offense against reason, truth and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.     It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity.     It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law." (C.C.C. # 1849)

"Sin is an offense against God: 'Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.'     Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become 'like gods,' knowing and determining good and evil.     Sin is thus 'love of oneself even to contempt of God.'      In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. (C.C.C. # 1850)

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Q. How many kinds of sins are there?

A. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

"There are a great many kinds of sins.     Scripture provides several lists of them.     The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: 'Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.'" (C.C.C. # 1852)

Other lists are:

"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God?     Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers - none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God." [1 Cor. 6:9-10]

"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven: but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." [Lk. 12:10]

"Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.     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 sulfur, which is the second death." [Rev. 21:7-8]

"Outside (of the Kingdom of God) are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." [Rev. 22:15]

"If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person 's share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." [Rev. 22:19]

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.     Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.     For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.     For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." [1 Cor. 11:27-30]

"Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate.    They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission.    The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.     These are what defile a man."    But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds." (C.C.C. # 1853)

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Q. What is a mortal sin?

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a mortal sin as follows:

"Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him." (C.C.C. # 1855)

"Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the Sacrament of Confession." (C.C.C. # 1856)

"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself.     It results in the loss of charity and the private of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace.     If it is not redeemed by repentance of God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion to make choices for ever, with no turning back.     However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." (C.C.C. # 1861)

"To choose deliberately - that is, both knowing it and willing it - something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin.     This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible.     Unrepented, it brings eternal death." (C.C.C. # 1874)

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Q. What is a venial sin?

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a venial sin as follows:

"Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it." (To "subsist" means to "exist.") (C.C.C. # 1855)

"Venial sin constitutes a moral disorder that is reparable by charity, which it allows to subsist in us." (C.C.C. # 1875)

"One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law,or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent." (C.C.C. #. 1862)

"Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment.     Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin.     However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God.     With God's grace it is humanly reparable.     'Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.'" (C.C.C. # 1863)

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Q. What is the difference between a mortal sin and a venial sin?

A. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must exist at the same time.

1. It must be of a grave matter;
2. It must be committed with full knowledge that it is a mortal sin;
3. It must be committed with full consent. [Full consent means to do it "voluntarily."] (C.C.C. # 1857)

Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'     The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft.     One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger." (C.C.C. # 1858)

"Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent.     It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's laws.     It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.     Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin." (C.C.C. # 1859)

"When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object... whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbour, such as homicide or adultery...     But when the sinner's will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbour, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial." (C.C.C. # 1856)

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Q. What about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

A. On this subject, it can be said that,

"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."      There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.     Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss." (C.C.C. # 1864)

"Blasphemy against the Spirit: The saying about blasphemy against the Spirit has long presented difficulty, particularly in Catholic theology, which affirms the possibility of repentance up to the moment of death.     This teaching is solidly founded in the NT, and this saying of Jesus cannot be understood in a way that contradicts his invitations to repentance.      Refusal to recognize the Son of Man as Messiah can be forgiven; faith atones for previous denial of faith.     This Messianic claim is missing in Mk. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, however, attributes the activity of the Spirit to some other power.      The present activity of God can be attested only through the actions of the Spirit.     If these are not recognized, then there is no means by which God can reach man.     The one who will not accept the work of the Spirit has made it impossible for himself to recognize the word and the work of God.     Only he can be forgiven who confesses that he has something to be forgiven."      (Taken from: The Jerome Biblical Commentary; The Gospel According to Matthew Part II; Page 85, # 31.)

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Q. Does that mean that those who commit mortals sins will never go to Heaven?

A. All mortal sins can be forgiven.     With a conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Confession, the sinner can seek God's mercy and reinstate the state of grace that was previously obtained through the Sacrament of Baptism.

To be denied entry into the Kingdom of God, the sinner must:

1. Commit one or more sins of a grave matter;
2. Have full knowledge that the sin(s) is a mortal sin;
3. Voluntarily consent to commit the sin;
4. Reject the grace of God;
5. Reject the mercy of God by refusing to confess his sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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Q. Can you provide me with a list of possible mortal sins?

A. Abortion,
     Anger,
     Adulterers,
     Amending the words of the Holy Bible,
     Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, (Eternal sin)
     Carousing,
     Cowards,
     Defrauders,
     Dissensions,
     Disrespect towards parents,
     Drunkenness,
     Enmities,
     Envy,
     Factions,
     Faithless,
     False witness (liars)
     Fornicators,
     Greed,
     Holy Communion received while in a state of mortal sin,
     Idolatry,
     Impurity,
     Jealousy,
     Licentiousness,
     Love and practice falsehoods,
     Male prostitution,
     Murderers,
     Polluted,
     Quarrelling,
     Sodomites,
     Sorcery,
     Strife,
     Thieves (steal/robbers).

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Q. Is there anything else I should know about sins?

A. Because of the complexity involved in determining the state of one's soul, it is recommended that those seeking further information should contact their local priest.

On a one-to-one contact, a local priest would be in a better position to determine the status of one's soul by identifying:

  1. If the person sincerely seeks repentance;
  2. The last time one received the Sacrament of Confession;
  3. The nature of the sin;
  4. How many times it was committed;
  5. If the person had full knowledge of the severity of the sin;
  6. If the person voluntarily consented to the sin;
  7. If the person assisted others to sin;
  8. If the person by advised someone to sin;
  9. If the person commanded someone to sin;
10. If the person provoked someone to sin;
11. If the person consented to someone's sin;
12. If the person showed someone how to sin;
13. If the person praised someone for his sin;
14. If the person concealed, remained silent or did nothing to prevent someone's sin;
15. If the person took part in or enjoyed the result of someone's sin;
16. If the person defended someone's sin.

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