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88. Venial and Mortal Sin

1. Mortal sin utterly destroys the order which directs thesoul by reason and God's law; it inflicts on the soul damagethat is naturally irreparable. Venial sin is a disorder, but not adestructive one.

2. By their genus, or general essential class, some sinsare mortal and some are venial.

3. Venial sin may dispose the sinner to commit mortal sin,not by its nature (for it is generically different from mortal sin)but by its consequences in the soul. For venial sin may accustomthe soul to disorder. Or, by its own disorder, venial sin mayremove from the soul some special barrier which kept out mortalsin.

4. A venial sin cannot grow into a mortal sin. But,inasmuch as it can dispose to mortal sin, it may be followed bymortal sin, and by mortal sin in its own field. Thus a person whopilfers a trifling sum may, when opportunity offers, be ready tosteal a great amount. But this is not a case of a little sinbecoming a big sin. The big sin is an entirely new act of thesinner's will. Both the big and the little sin offend againstjustice, but they are not in the same essential class of sinsagainst justice, for one is mortal and the other venial sin. Thesesins may look the same, and one may be inclined to think that theydiffer, not in generic kind, but only in degree. This is an error.Jabbing a man with a pin, even repeatedly, is never the same thingas running a sword through the man's heart. The sword thrust isnot merely an enlarged pin puncture. Between annoying a man with apin and killing a man with a sword, there is more than a differenceof degree. There is an essential difference in the kind of deeddone.

5. Therefore, no circumstance can turn a venial sin into amortal sin. For when a circumstance "changes the nature of asin," it is more than a circumstance; it is a new sinadded to, or amalgamated with, the sin of which it is called acircumstance. A theft from a church is said to be a sin ofinjustice with a circumstance of place which changes its nature andmakes it a sacrilege. But the theft is still a theft; that fact isnot changed when it becomes a sacrilegious theft. We have not herethe case of a theft being turned into a sacrilege, but of a thefthaving the nature of sacrilege added to its own nature as theft.The "change" induced by a circumstance is the change ofsomething simple into something complex because of the addition orannexation of an entirely new sin to the unchanged old sin.

6. Nor can a mortal sin become a venial sin. Of course, asin which is mortal in its kind may be venial in its performance.This happens when the sinner does not fully advert to the grievouscharacter of his act, or when he does not give his full consent tothe sin. But such a sin, as committed, is simply a venial sin. Itis not a mortal sin reduced to venial status.

"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."
Thomas á Kempis

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