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73. The Standing of Sins Toward One Another

1. Sins are sometimes contrary to one another, as, forinstance, sinful love and sinful hatred. It is therefore not trueto say that all sins are connected.

2. Nor are all grave sins equal in gravity. Their gravityis measured by the extent in which they depart from the rule ofright reason. Our Lord said to Pilate (John 19:11): "He thathath delivered me to thee hath the greater sin." YetPilate's sin was certainly great.

3. The gravity of mortal sin varies according to itsspecies, and this species is determined by the objective characterof the sin. Thus, murder is more grave than great theft.

4. The gravity of any sin is discerned in its oppositionto a virtue. The more excellent a virtue, the graver the sin thatopposes it. Venial sins may stand opposed to great virtues, but notdirectly so. An analogy illustrates all this: the most seriousillness is that which directly opposes health and tends to destroyit utterly; yet minor ailments also oppose health, but not indirect and totally destructive fashion: conversely, the moreperfect is health, the more free it is from destructive disease,and the more readily it overcomes minor ailments. Thus also, themore excellent a virtue is, the more remote it is from its fullopposite, and the more readily it withdraws a man from the minorfaults that could lead to that full opposite.

5. Carnal sins are, in general, less grave than spiritualsins; yet they bring greater shame on the sinner, and tend more tobrutalize him.Carnal sins usually spring from a strongerimpulse than spiritual sins; they are a turning toinordinate pleasure, while spiritual sins are a direct turningfrom God and right reason.

6. The more intense the will is in choosing and cleavingto sin, the more grievous is the sin. For the will is the cause ofsin, and the greater the cause, the greater is the effect. Yet whenthe will is made more intense in sin by things external to itselfand contrary to its nature, the sin is diminished in gravity. Thusignorance (which weakens the judgment of reason and thereforehampers the will's choice) reduces the gravity of sin; so alsodoes concupiscence, which hampers free action.

7. Circumstances, as we have seen, can introduce newelements into sin and thus change its specific nature, or rather,add to one sin another specifically different sin. The circumstanceof person may thus add a sin of filial impiety to a sin ofinjustice, as, for example, when a man injures his own father. Andcircumstances can turn a sin through different areas so that thesinner commits the same sin in more than one way; as, for instance,when a wasteful man gives when he ought not, and to whom he oughtnot. Again, circumstances may make a sin more grave withoutchanging its nature or species, as, for example, when grave angeris nursed and made more lasting.

8. A sin is made more grave by the graver harm it does,unless this harm is accidental to the sin and is neither foreseennor intended by the sinner.

9. In sins against others, the status of the personoffended may make the sin greater; thus disrespect for parents ismore grave than disrespect towards respectable strangers. So too, asin is greater for being committed against a person who, byholiness, or by his official station, is closer to God thanothers.

10. The more excellent the person or status of the sinner,the greater is his sin. For such a person has resources for moreeasily avoiding sin. Besides, in sinning, such a person shows agreater ingratitude to God who has bestowed more excellent gifts onhim. Finally, sin in such a person is especially inconsistent withhis gifts and his station, and so gives the greater scandal.

"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Happy is the youth, because he has time before him to do good. "
St Philip Neri

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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