Feb 11, 2011

Different Kinds of Sins, Mortal, Venial, Original and Actual

Okay, all, I've been trying to wrap my head around sin. What is it? And, especially, what makes a sin mortal or venial?
So, I did some exploring online and in my copy of the catechism and even the Bible.

Most of us have read/heard the story of Adam and Eve in the garden and the eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ate and that was original sin. Original sin happened once, and like the gift of Jesus, for all.

Actual sin is any sin committed since the knowledge of good and evil entered the world. This includes Cain's killing of Abel and my hitting my brothers on the head when a kid. This is all the sins that are actually committed, in thought or deed, since the time of Adam and Eve's original sin.

Now, as for mortal and venial. This is where my confusion comes in. I can get the distinction between original and actual pretty easy. One was the first, and the other is all others since the first. Easy peasy.

But, now comes mortal and venial... you mean there's different levels of sin? Huh? How does that happen?

Let's see if an example will help. Take the story of Cain and Abel. Cain knew that killing his brother was serious, thought about it for a while, and chose to kill Abel. The matter (sin) was serious, thought on, and chosen. This sin removed Cain from God's love by Cain's actions.

However, my hitting my brothers on the head when I was a kid, while a sin was not mortal sin. The matter was not very serious, not thought on as it was usually a reaction and not a response to my brothers' actions, and not chosen while knowing it violated God's will.

Any sin which doesn't meet the criteria for a mortal sin is a venial sin. Venial sins cannot add up to mortal sins, but can make it easier to chose against God. It's like being under a bright spot light, then shooting paint balls at the light. As you hit the spot light, the light dims, and it is harder to see how each additional paintball makes the are darker. The light illuminates God's law, while the paintballs are sins that make it harder to see God's will.

As for cleaning the spotlight, there are two ways to do so. One is the part of the mass when the priest asks God to forgive us our sins, and that wipes away venial sins of the group. The other way is Reconciliation or as it was known, Confession. Stating your sins and asking for God's forgiveness and showing your intention to not do them again, wipes away sins. You still have to live with the consequences, but it's like your account is set back to zero with God.

Please leave a response with your thoughts and questions, even you disagree.