Catholic Calculus: Is a particular sin mortal or venial?

The errors of Roman Catholicism run wide and deep, but today we’re going to look at just one example; Catholicism’s un-Biblical concept of sins being either mortal (deadly) or venial (Latin veniālis “excusable”).

To start off, we must remember that Catholics are taught they must receive their church’s sacraments to supposedly receive graces to be able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in order to remain in a “state of grace” and hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of their death. The Bible says no one can possibly obey their way into Heaven, but Roman Catholicism tries to get around that by attaching A LOT of qualifications to sin. Hang in there with me for a few minutes and I’ll show you what I mean.

According to Catholicism, there are two types of sin; mortal (major/deadly) and venial (minor/excusable).

For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must supposedly be present:

  • It must be grave matter – The act must be a serious, intrinsically evil matter.
  • A person must have full knowledge – The offender must be fully aware of the seriousness of the act.
  • A person must exercise deliberate consent – The offender must freely choose to commit the act.

A sin is only venial if even one of the conditions is not satisfied.

All mortal sins must be confessed to a priest in the confessional. The priest than absolves (forgives, acquits) the person of the sin and prescribes some form of penance, usually a few rote prayers. According to Catholic teaching, if a person dies with only a single, unconfessed mortal sin on their soul, they will go directly to Hell, no questions asked. Even if all of their mortal sins were forgiven by a priest, a person may still have to spend time in purgatory to satisfy any remaining temporal punishment.

Venial sins can be forgiven by attending mass and by fasting, prayers, and almsgiving. Venial sins do not doom a person to Hell, but a soul will have to spend time in Purgatory if their venial sins have not been completely expiated prior to death.

Catholicism’s mortal sin-venial sin system gets into some very murky water right from the start. Let’s go back to the issue of “grave matter.” What exactly is the dividing line between grave matter and non-grave matter?

Catholic theologians and clerics would unanimously agree that such heinous acts as murder, rape, and sexual abuse of children are all grave matters and thus, mortal sins. But let’s focus on the sin of stealing. Catholics would say that stealing an inexpensive item, such as a pack of gum from a grocery store, would be a venial sin, while embezzling a million dollars from an employer would be a mortal sin. But we have to ask, what is the threshold dollar amount whereby a venial sin becomes a mortal sin? The Catholic church cannot determine that, for they say it all depends on the particular circumstances. They would say a burglar who breaks into the home of an elderly, impoverished widow and steals $100 dollars commits a much more serious sin than the person who claims $5,000 worth of fraudulent deductions on their income taxes. When in doubt, the church says to ask a priest. But priest A may say a certain theft is a mortal sin while priest B judges it to be only a venial sin. This same game of imprecision and ambiguity is also played out with all of the other Ten Commandments.

Conditioned by such a cloudy, inexact system, Catholics in the pews naturally view just about all of their sins as venial, if they acknowledge them as sins at all. As a result, a Catholic can go through an entire week, a month, or even a year, thinking they have committed no major sins. Revealingly, Catholic sources report that only 12 percent of Catholics go to mandatory annual confession at least once per year.

The Bible knows nothing of this elaborate yet imprecise system of differentiating between mortal and venial sins. Sin is sin and we all disobey God’s commandments in thought, word, deed, or by omission every day. Joe Catholic, with very little knowledge of God’s Word, goes through his week thinking he is doing a great job of obeying the commandments. After all, he says to himself, he hasn’t killed anyone or cheated on his wife. But the Lord God sees every self-centered, prideful, and uncharitable thought and act of every day. Joe Catholic will not be able to offer one single plea of righteousness at the moment of his death. He needs a Savior! And a loving God has provided a Savior; His Son, Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Joe Catholic needs to repent of his sin and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone and then come out of the apostate Catholic church.

Does the Bible teach mortal and venial sin?

17 thoughts on “Catholic Calculus: Is a particular sin mortal or venial?

    1. Thanks, Jackie! I tend to get a little wordy, but I try to keep it “wordy simple.” One of my pet peeves are theological books that are unintelligible because of the academic jargon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We jest,Tom, but it such a true thing. Such a shame how people are set on cluttering up the Gospel with all sorts of baggage that doesn’t belong. We do that o]in our work sometimes, when people slip into legalism, politics, and other junk. It’s Jesus, nothing but.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wally, I’m with you 100%! It’s bad enough when certain pastors or churches delve into legalism to a degree, deciding for you which political party, which Bible translation, no movies, etc. But there are denominations calling themselves “Christian” that make salvation an impossibly complicated jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. “It can’t withstand even minor scrutiny.’ Agreed. By the way sorry for my delay and being behind reading, there’s been multiple pastoral counseling cases I’m juggling
        I’ve been engaged in so I have popping in and out of WordPress.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This was something that was really confusing me recently. I was listening to an old interview the other day with a mob where he murdered several people. His priest had him do some hail Marie’s and a few other things then he was ‘forgiven’. It was just heartbreaking to hear this man explain why he was going to heaven, and Christ crucified was never even hinted at. Thank you so much for explaining this!

    Liked by 1 person

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