What's Mortal and What's Venial

In preparing the eighth graders for the Advent Reconciliation Service, I got into a good discussion with them about sin. Kids are full of questions about what “qualifies” as a mortal sin and what can be characterized as a venial sin. I was encouraged by how comfortable they were in asking questions about some very difficult subjects, such as violence, homosexuality, and adultery. One of the boys asked, “Is sex bad?” They all looked astonished when I replied, “No, it’s a sacrament!” My explanation of the sacrament of matrimony was, I believe, the first time most of them had heard a discussion of sex begin with the positive.

About Joe Paprocki 2737 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

2 Comments on What's Mortal and What's Venial

  1. Congratulations on starting a conversation on sex with the positive. Why is it that the Church seems to give the message that sex is something dirty and shaneful, when in fact it has a very positive stance on human sexuality.

    Can you tll me a little more about how you explained the difference between venial and mortal sins?

  2. Brian, I suppose it’s the same reason that some people view the Ten Commandments as negative…a lot of “Thou shalt not’s” when in reality, the Ten Commandments are a positive guide to protecting something very sacred: our relationship with God and others. We need to do more as catechists to make sure that those we teach understand the sacred sacramentality of married sex and to recognize that anything less than that diminishes what we hold as sacred.

    When speaking of mortal sin, I describe it as the rejection of our relationship with God and neighbor. One cannot commit a mortal sin by accident. Venial sin, though less serious, can have a destructive eroding effect which is why we need to ask for forgiveness for our venial sins. Left unchecked, they can erode away the foundation of our relationship with God and neighbor.

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