Venial sin

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According to Roman Catholicism, a venial sin (meaning "forgivable" sin) is a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation in Hell as an unrepented mortal sin would.[1][2] A venial sin involves a "partial loss of grace" from God. They do not break one's friendship with God, but injure it.[3]


A venial sin meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. It does not concern a "grave matter",
  2. It is not committed with full knowledge, or
  3. It is not committed with both deliberate and complete consent.

As the above criteria are the three criteria for mortal sin stated negatively, a sin which met none of these extenuating conditions would necessarily be considered mortal.

Each venial sin that one commits adds to the penance that one must do. Penance left undone during life converts to punishment in purgatory. A venial sin can be left unconfessed so long as there is some purpose of amendment. One receives from the sacrament of reconciliation the grace to help overcome venial, as well as mortal sins. It is recommended that confession of venial sins be made.[4][5] Venial sins require some kind of penance.[6]

According to the Magisterium, venial sins usually remain venial no matter how many one commits.[7] They cannot "add up" to collectively constitute a mortal sin, but their accumulation does lead to being more vulnerable to committing mortal sin.[8] There are cases where repeat offenses may become a grave matter. For instance, if one were to steal small amounts of property from a particular person, over time one would have stolen enough that it would develop into a serious theft from that person.[9]

In all this, one ought not to take venial sin lightly, especially when committed deliberately. No one without a special grace (according to the Magisterium, given only to the Blessed Virgin Mary,[10]) can avoid even semi-deliberate venial sins entirely (according to the definition of Trent). But one must, even to avoid mortal sins, seek as far as possible to overcome venial sin. The Magisterium teaches that although a number of venial sins do not themselves add up to a mortal sin, each venial sin weakens the will further, and the more willing one becomes in allowing such falls, the more one is inclined towards, and will inevitably fall into (if one continues along this path), mortal sin.[11]

In literature[edit]

The Venial Sin is a short story by Honoré de Balzac.


  1. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church". "1863. Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness." 
  2. ^ "Venial Sin". 
  3. ^ Donovan, Colin. "Mortal verses Venial Sin". EWTN. 
  4. ^ Saunders, Fr. William (March 30, 1995). "The Arlington Catholic Herald". 
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law (CIC 988). 
  6. ^ "The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance". Catechism of the Council of Trent. 1500's. "These words were said by our Lord in reference to grievous and mortal sins, although at the same time lighter sins, which are called venial, also require some sort of penance."  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. "
  8. ^ " But do not despise these sins which we call light: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass" [1]
  9. ^ Rev. Donald F. Miller, C.Ss.R., 'Examen for Laymen' Retrieved 2011-05-28.
  10. ^ "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. From the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life. " [2]
  11. ^ "Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. "[3]

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