Expert Answer Forum
sin QUESTION from ray spilewski August 5, 2000 What is the difference in the catagory of sin ,venial, grave , serious, mortal.Shoud one suffer the same degree of punishment for the sin of stealing and say murder?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on October 17, 2000 Dear Spilewski:
There are three categories of sin. Each category receives the punishment that is due for that category according to the severity of the sin.
The first category is Venial Sin. Venial sins are minor sins that disrupt fellowship with God but do not sever the relationship with God. Stealing a minor item like a pen from your employer would be a venial sin. But stealing that is more significant can become grave matter and perhaps mortal sin.
The second category is Grave Matter. Grave matter involves serious sin that breaks the relationship with God. Murder, adultery, pornography, masturbation, major stealing, etc. are all grave matter (serious sin).
The third Category is not really a third category but merely an extension of the second. The issue here is whether the Grave Sin committed is Mortal Sin (that is sin that leads to death, sin that if not repented could cause you to lose your soul to hell).
There are three conditions necessary for a sin to be Mortal
The sin must be Grave Matter
You must KNOW that it is Grave Matter
In knowing that it is Grave Matter you choose to commit the sin anyway through as act of free will.
All three of these conditions are required for a sin to be mortal.
If one commits a Grave Sin but does not meet the above criteria, culpability for the sin may be appropriate mitigated to a lessor level according to what the sin and circumstances were.
Since a sin t be mortal one must have chosen the sin through free will, a person who is addicted to sex, for example, may not be committing a mortal sin, although it is a Grave Sin, because he is not freely choosing, but is compelled by a psychiatric illness.
Once we know all this, to answer your question about stealing and murder. If the act of stealing was such that it constituted mortal sin, and the act of murder was such that it constituted mortal sin, then the effect is the same -- loss of sanctifying grace which if one dies in such a state would mean loss of heaven.
Now in hell one may burn hotter as a murderer and burn cooler as a theft, but hell is hell.
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