The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the definition of sin: it is an offense against God (# 1850); it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor (# 1849). There are two kinds of sins: mortal sin and venial sin. Mortal sin is a serious violation of God’s law. Venial sin is a slight offense against God; it wounds love but allows it to subsist (# 1855).
Mortal sin is the worst thing in the world because “it results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.” (#1861)
Three conditions must be present in order for a sin to be mortal. First, the matter must be serious or grave. This is specified by the Ten Commandments. Secondly, the person, committing the offense, must know that the thought, word, act or omission is gravely sinful. Thirdly, the sinner must have full consent of the will; it must be a personal choice.
Venial sins do not destroy charity, and, as such, do not cause eternal damnation. Nevertheless, we should do our best always to avoid them because each and every one offends God, Whom we should love above all else. A vast number of venial sins cannot equal one mortal sin, but they weaken the will and dispose the soul toward mortal sin.
Committing sins creates a climate of sin. Its repetition causes vice. Moreover, we have a grave responsibility never to cooperate in another person’s sins by our approval or participation. We must try to hinder their sins through our advice and pleadings. Also, it would be wrong to protect evil-doers (#1868).
The remedy for sin is Confession. The power of sin is removed, and the love of God gives us strength.
There will be more on Confession in next week’s column.