Although the following text is not new, it represents traditional Roman Cathollic teaching, and is in harmony with the current Catechism. It is used here to avoid copyright problems. Any confusion should be resolved in favor of the current catechism. People with questions should talk with their parish priest. People making moral decisions need to consult their Conscience and follow the Judgment of Conscience after taking the time to properly inform his/her conscience. The moral law is not merely personal opinion based on individual desire or whim. But CCC1790 "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed."
1. What is sin?
Sin is a willful violation of the Law of God.
2. In how many ways may we sin?
We may sin, 1. By bad thoughts, desires, words, end actions; and 2. Also by the omission of the good which we are bound to do.
3. Are all sins equally grievous?
No; there are grievous sins, which are also called mortal; and there are lesser ones, which are also called venial.
Some sins in the Holy Scripture are compared to motes [speck of dust, splinter], and others to beams (Matt. 7:3, NIV): and it is also written of the just man that 'he shall fall seven times' (Prov. 24:16). ["The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor." CCC1807]
4. When do we commit mortal sin?
We commit mortal sin when we willfully violate the Law of God in an important matter.
5. Why are grievous sins also called mortal sins?
Because grievous sin deprives the soul of supernatural life - that is, sanctifying grace - and renders us guilty of eternal death, or everlasting damnation. [See Hell in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and our page on the Catholic teaching on Hell.]
'Sin, when it is completed, begets death' (James 1:15NIV). 'I know thy works, that thou hast the name of being alive, and thou art dead' (Apoc. 3:1 DR; NAB ).
6. When do we commit venial sin?
We commit venial sin when we transgress the Law of God in an unimportant matter only, or when our transgression is not quite voluntary.
7. When is the transgression not quite voluntary?
When with our understanding we do not sufficiently perceive the evil, or, with our will, we do not fully consent to it.
8. Why are lesser sins also called venial sins ?
Because they can be forgiven more easily, and even without confession.
9. Should we dread only grievous sins ?
No; we should dread and carefully avoid any sin, whether it be grievous or venial, as the greatest evil on earth.
'How can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God?' (Gen. 39:9 DR; NAB).
10. What should deter us from committing sin?
The consideration of its malice and evil consequences.
11. In what does the malice of mortal sin principally consist ?
In this: that mortal sin is-
1 'Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds. "I will not serve," (Jerem. 2:20 NAB). 2. Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the LORD speaks: Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me! (Isa. 1: 2NAB). 3. Of those 'who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and are fallen away [from God by mortal sin],' St. Paul says 'that they crucify again to themselves the Son of God, and make Him a mockery (Heb. 6:4-6 DR; compare NAB). 'If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ. let him be anathema' (1 Cor. 16: 22 DR; NAB). [Be sure to see anathema in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Paul also uses the "lesser" decree of turning someone over to Satan. 1 Tim. 1:20; I Cor. 5:5 AMP.]
12. Can we comprehend the full malice of an offense against God?
We cannot, because we do not comprehend the in. finite greatness and goodness of the Lord our God, who is offended by sin.
13. What most of all shows us the malice of an offense against God?
1. The grievous punishment of the wicked angel. and of our first parents; 2. The everlasting punishment in hell which every mortal sin deserves; and 3. The most bitter Passion and Death which the Son of God suffered for our sins.
14. What are the consequences of mortal sin?
Mortal sin, 1. Separates us from God, and deprive. us of His love and friendship; 2. It disfigures in us the image of God, and disturbs the peace of our conscience; 3. It robs us of all merits, and of our heirship to Heaven; and 4. It draws upon us the judgments of God, and, lastly, eternal damnation. [See CCC 1855ff.]
'[T]hose habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies." (Tob. 12:l0 NAB). Example: Parable of the rich man Luke 16:19-31. [See Particular Judgment and Hell in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.]
["Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil..." Rom.2:9. See in context Romans 2:1-16.]
15. Why should we also carefully avoid venial sin?
16. What particular kinds of sin are there?
1. The seven Capital or Deadly Sins; 2. The six gins against the Holy Ghost; 3. The four sins crying to Heaven for vengeance; and 4. The nine ways of being accessory to another person's sins.
17. Which are the seven Capital Sins?
1. Pride; 2. Covetousness; 3. Lust; 4. Auger; 5. Gluttony; 6. Envy and 7. Sloth. CCC 1866.
18. Are these sins always grievous?
They are grievous sins as often as a weighty duty either to God, our neighbor, or ourselves is violated by them.
19. Why are they called Capital Sins?
Because they are so many main sources from which all other sins take their rise.
20. When do we sin by Pride?
When we think too much of ourselves, do not give God the honor due to Him, and despise our neighbor. ["Hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments." CCC 2094.]
From pride spring especially: Vanity, ambition, hypocrisy, disobedience, and resistance to superiors; coldness and hardheartedness towards inferiors; an inordinate desire of ruling; quarrel and strife; ingratitude, envy, cruelty , infidelity and heresy, hatred of God. -Examples: Lucifer [a.k.a. The Devil and Satan CCC 391,] Herod, the Pharisees, etc. "Odious to the LORD and to men is arrogance, and the sin of oppression they both hate....For pride is the reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice; Because of it God sends unheard-of afflictions and brings men to utter ruin." [DR see Sirac 10:7, 13 NAB.]
See the Imitation of Christ on AVOIDING FALSE HOPE AND PRIDE.
21. When do we sin by Covetousness?
When we inordinately seek and love money or other worldly goods, and are hardhearted towards those who are in distress. (See the Catechism, 10th Commandment and sec. 2535ff.)
Covetousness, or avarice, leads people to an excessive care for earthly things, to hardness of heart, lying, perjury, theft, fraud, usury, simony, treachery, superstitious seeking after hidden treasures, to manslaughter and murder...."There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one sets even his own soul to sale..." (Ecclesiasticus 10:10 DR). 'Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils..."(1 Tim. 6:9-10a NAB).
"A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace." Imitation of Christ I, 6.
22. How do we sin by Lust?
By indulging in immodest or impure thoughts, desires, words, or actions...
[Many people today might disagree with church teaching on one aspect or another of sexuality. Recall the material on conscience above. Catholics need to know what the church does say as part of the process of forming conscience.]
23. When do we sin by Anger?
When we are exasperated at that which displeases us, fly into a passion, and suffer ourselves to be carried away by a violent desire of revenge.
Anger leads to hatred, enmity, quarreling, cursing, blaspheming, reviling, and to all the sins and crimes against the fifth commandment of God. Examples: Esau, while in anger, designs to kill his brother Jacob; Absalom kills his brother Amnon. "All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice." (Ephes. 4:31 NAB).
24. When do we sin by Gluttony?
When we eat and drink too much, or when, out of time and in an inordinate manner, we long for eating and drinking.
"Clearly one who uses food or drink in such a way as to injure his health or impair the mental equipment needed for the discharge of his duties, is guilty of the sin of gluttony. It is incontrovertible that to eat or drink for the mere pleasure of the experience, and for that exclusively, is likewise to commit the sin of gluttony." 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Gluttony. [This article indicates that sins of gluttony or usually not grave. Also, the presence of disease would also mitigate sin. People should not rash judge the obese, for example, assuming they are glutinous when they may be the victim of disease.] Overindulgence with alcohol or drugs would be more serious because of the mental impairment which could be dangerous to others. See CCC 2291; Gal. 5:19, 21 "Now the works of the flesh are obvious...drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Examples: The rich man (Luke 16:19-31 NIV). 'Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and that day [of judgment] come upon you suddenly." DR (See Luke 21:34 NIV). Of the Intemperate St. Paul says: "Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their "shame." Their minds are occupied with earthly things." (Philip. 3:19 NAB).
25. When do we sin by Envy?
When we repine [are discontented] at our neighbor's good, and are sad when he is in possession of temporal or spiritual blessings, and rejoice when he is deprived of them.[ See CCC 2538-40.]
Envy produces: ingratitude and murmuring against God, blasphemy, whispering and calumny; hatred, desire of revenge, and knavery, persecution and murder. ["So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner... Matt. 20:10-11.]
Examples: the brothers of Joseph, Saul, the Devil. "For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it." (Wisd. 2: 23-24 NAB).
CCC 2539 "Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:
26. When do we sin by Sloth?
When we give way to our natural repugnance to labor and exertion, and thus neglect our duties.
["In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly..." 2 Thes. 3:10-12 NAB.]
27. What sort of sloth is particularly hateful to God?
Lukewarmness, or laziness in whatsoever concerns the service of God or the salvation of our soul. Therefore God says: "I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Rev 3:15-16 NAB. [Thus a "Halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ; cf Romans 12:11." Footnote 11 in the book of Revelation, NAB.]
The effects of sloth are neglect of the duties of our calling, ruin of property, lying, deceit, and a great many sins against the Seventh commandment. "For idleness hath taught much evil." (Ecclesiasticus 33:29 DR). "Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom... How long, O sluggard, will you rest? when will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest-- Then will poverty come upon you like a highway man, and want like an armed man." Prov 6:6-11 NAB.
The effects of spiritual sloth or Lukewarmness are: Aversion to all religious exercises, contempt of the word of God and of all means of grace, irritation at admonition, love of the world, pusillanimity, impenitence, and infidelity.
[Sloth may be one cause of the indifference to God evident among people today. They claim to believe but their lives show little evidence of belief which involves a relationship with God (CCC 299 & 1039), love of Him, worship and prayer, loyalty towards His teaching and leadership, and concrete actions in line with His will. James 2:14-26 NAB, NIV.]
[Studies suggest that even people who call themselves active Catholic only attend mass 50% of the time or less. This is despite the commandment of the Church to attend mass every Sunday under pain of mortal sin. Catholics guilty of this lack of dedication to worship need to consider if their behavior is slothful. For more on mass attendance see Attendance at Sunday Mass and the Sacrifice of the Mass.]
Examples: The slothful servant [Matthew 25:26]; the foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13 NAB.)
28. What benefit should we reap from the doctrine of the Capital Sins?
We should carefully avoid them as the sources of all evil, and most earnestly endeavor to acquire the opposite virtues
Application: every morning, when you get up, resolve to guard most carefully during the day against your chief fault. At night examine your conscience on it; and if you have failed, repent, and purpose to confess it as soon as possible.
29. Which are the Six Sins against the Holy Ghost?
1. Presumption of God's mercy; 2. Despair; 3. Resisting the known Christian truth (cf. CCC 2089); 4. Envy at another's spiritual good [cf. CCC 2540]; 5. Obstinacy in sin; and 6. Final impenitence.
Examples: Elymas the magician (Acts 13:4-12)
30. Why are they called sins against the Holy Ghost?
Because by them we resist, in an especial manner, the Holy Ghost, since we knowingly and willingly despise, reject, or abuse His grace.
'You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you also' (Acts 7:51).
31. Why should we particularly avoid these sins?
Because they obstruct the entrance of God's grace into the heart, and therefore hinder our conversion, or render it very difficult.
Speaking of these sins, Jesus Christ says 'that they shall forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come' (Matt. 12:32); that is to say, that they are hardly ever forgiven, because it is very, very seldom that people truly repent of them.
32. Which are the Four Sins crying to Heaven for vengeance?
1. Willful murder; 2. Sodomy [that is the sin of the people of Sodom][Gen 18 & Gen 19]; 3. Oppression of the poor, of widows and orphans [cf. Ex 22:20-22]; 4. Defrauding laborers of their wages [Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4.]
1. 'The LORD then said: "What have you done! Listen: your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil!" (Gen. 4:10 NAB). 2. "We are about to destroy this place, for the outcry reaching the LORD against those in the city [Sodom] is so great that he has sent us to destroy it." (Gen. 19:13 NAB) [See especially footnote 6 at Gen. 18:20]. 3. "Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. He is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint; Do not the tears that stream down her cheek cry out against him that causes them to fall? He who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right. God indeed will not delay (Sirac 35:14-19 NAB). 4. "Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:4 NAB).
[In ancient society, there was no provision for social security, no safety net. Children and women were dependant on their male relatives for support and protection. If the male parent or responsible male adult died, they were very vulnerable; women could not work. This is the beginning of the repeated concern among God's spokesmen for these vulnerable people. This concern continues today. See Love for the poor in todays Catechism. See also CCC 1911.]
33. Why are they called sins crying to Heaven for vengeance?
Because, on account of their heinous malice, they cry, as it were, for vengeance, and call on Divine Justice to punish them signally.
["Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest." CCC 1860.]
34. In how many ways may we become accessory to another person's sin, and be answerable for it?
In these nine ways: .1. By counsel; 2. By command; 3. By consent; 4. By provocation ; 5. By praise or flattery; 6. By silence;' 7. By connivance ;' 8. By partaking; 9. By defense of the ill done. [See CCC 1868.]
'When we could and should prevent another's sin either by kindly admonishing him or by giving information to his parents, his pastor, etc. 'If thou declare it not to the wicked, that he may be converted from his wicked way, and live, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand' (Ezec. 3:18DR, compare NAB). [The modern catechism says we should act to hinder when we have this duty. Thus we sin "by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so..."CCC 1868. This is an important limitation. We are not empowered to be vigilantes, or busybodies, but we are also not to be indifferent. A voter should hinder wrongdoing by elected officials by casting his vote against them, assuming this would serve the greatest good.]
35. Why are we answerable for the sin which another commits ?
Because, in any of the above ways, we are either the cause of his sin or cooperate with him in it, and thus are as guilty before God as if we had committed it ourselves ; or, it may be, even more so.
"Not only they that do such things are worthy of death, but they also that consent to them that do them." (DR, compare Rom. 1:32NAB).
Application: Always receive wholesome admonitions willingly and gratefully. Never participate in the sins of others; on the contrary, endeavor, to the utmost of your power, to hinder them [when it is our responsibility]; and when, for that reason, you are to reveal them [without detraction], do not say 'I do not like to denounce others, because I should not like them to denounce me.' Ought you, then, to be sorry, if some one were to snatch from your hands the knife with which you were about to kill yourself?"