Are all sins equal?
The Catholic Church teaches that all sins are not equal, or to make the point clearer for your understanding, the Church teaches that all wrong doing is sinful but not all sins are deadly. The Church distinguishes between mortal and venial sins and this makes some Christians raise eyebrows; how? they question the Church’s teaching. They argue; did James not say that For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law? James 2: 10-11. James truly said that, but don’t misunderstand him. James talks here on partiality or selected obedience, where people chose or select the law to obey. It does not mean when you break any law, then you have broken all the laws, not at all. Jesus did not encourage anybody to call somebody a fool, but if one does, it doesn’t mean he or she can be held accountable for the sin of adultery also. Don’t misunderstand James.
The Catholic Church is not encouraging anyone to live in any kind of sin, she calls us to holiness, to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy. Yet the Church distinguishes between mortal and venial sins without any fear of mistake, she says that sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sins, already evident in Scripture, become part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience. CCC 1854.
Many none Catholics do not like to hear the word Sacred Tradition, it is unfortunate that there is nothing anybody can do about it. However, the Church’s teaching on mortal and venial sins is scriptural, but before I take you through it, it is good we know exactly how the Church distinguishes between mortal and venial sins.
Mortal sin is a sin whose object is not only grave matter but also committed with full knowledge of the sinfulness of the act and freely committed. Mortal sin therefore requires grave matter, full knowledge and complete consent. Grave matter here is specified by the ten commandments keeping in mind of how Jesus interpreted the law. For instance, he says that any man who looks at a woman lustfully already commits adultery with her, he expanded it if you like.
On the other hand, a sin is considered venial when it is less serious matter, or without the full knowledge and consent of the person. Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace or destroys his or her friendship with God as such. It can however slow down our spiritual growth and gradually lead to mortal sin if not watched and avoided.
MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS IN THE BIBLE:
Haven exposed the Church’s teaching on mortal and venial sins, the question remains; is it biblical? And the answer is yes, it is. It is written; If you see your brother or sister committing what is not mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one-to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrong doing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal. 1 John 5:16-17.
Is St. John telling lies here? It is clearly written that there are sins that are mortal and by implication there are those that are not. Those that are not are the ones the Catholic Church calls venial sins.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 2:6 and in 2Cor. 5:10 that God will repay each one according to his deeds. This indicates that all sins are not the same because if we are going to be repaid according to what we have done, then it means the gravity of sins differ.
Jesus said in Mt. 12:31 that people are going to be forgiven their sins if they blasphemes against the Son of man, but anyone who sins against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This again shows that all sins are not the same, the gravity of the one that will not be forgiven is greater than the others. Whatever interpretation you want to give to this passage of the scriptur, the fact remains that some will be forgiven and some will not be forgiven. Jesus explained the difference in gravity of sins in his parable of the unfaithful slave (Luke 12:41-48) where he talked about slaves receiving different degrees of beating according to what they have done. This differences in degrees of sins is obvious in Mt. 5:22. But I say that if you are angry with a brother or a sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or a sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say. “you fool”, you will be liable to hell fire. Jesus presents here different sins with different punishment for each according to its degree.
The Catholic Church teaches that all sins are not the same, but encourages all to avoid all sins. Sin is evil, what ever kind.