Baltimore Catechism 3

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Actual Sin


 * Q. 63. Is original sin the only kind of sin?
A. Original sin is not the only kind of sin; there is another kind, called actual sin, which we ourselves commit.


 * Q. 64. What is actual sin?
A. Actual sin is any willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God.


 * Q. 65. How many kinds of actual sin are there?
A. There are two kinds of actual sin: mortal sin and venial sin.


 * Q. 66. What is mortal sin?
A. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.


 * Q. 67. Why is this sin called mortal?
A. This sin is called mortal, or deadly, because it deprives the sinner of sanctifying grace, the supernatural life of the soul.


 * > "Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent: for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee. The teeth thereof are the teeth of a lion, killing the souls of men" (Ecclesiasticus 21:2-3).


 * Q. 68. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, what else does mortal sin do to the soul?
A. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, mortal sin makes the soul an enemy of God, takes away the merit of all its good actions, deprives it of the right to everlasting happiness in heaven, and makes it deserving of everlasting punishment in hell.


 * > "But, if the just man turn himself away from his justice and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered: in the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die" (Ezechiel 18:24).

 * > "Then when passion has conceived, it brings forth sin; but when sin has matured, it begets death" (James 1:15).


 * Q. 69. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
A. To make a sin mortal these three things are necessary: first, the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong; second, the sinner must be mindful of the serious wrong; third, the sinner must fully consent to it.


 * Things seriously evil are known to be such from Sacred Scripture, Tradition, the teachings of the Church, or from the nature of the acts themselves. The sinner is mindful of the serious wrong if at the time he commits the sin or places a cause from which he foresees the sin will follow, he either is clearly aware or at least thinks that the action is grievously sinful.

 * A sinner fully consents to the wrong when he freely chooses to do evil, although he is entirely free not to do it. A person who deliberately consents to do something grievously sinful is guilty of mortal sin although he never actually does it, because his will has chosen evil in preference to good. When a sinner, mindful of evil, consents to it he is said to commit a formal sin.

 * When a person does wrong but is in no way mindful of it, he is said to commit a material sin; for example, a person who misses Mass, unmindful that it is Sunday, commits a material sin. God does not hold us accountable for material sins and they do not deprive us of sanctifying grace.

 * > "Before man is life and death, good and evil: that which he shall choose shall be given him" (Ecclesiasticus 15:18).


 * Q. 70. What is venial sin?
A. Venial sin is a less serious offense against the law of God, which does not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and which can be pardoned even without sacramental Confession.


 * Venial sin, under certain conditions, can become mortal: first, when an action which is not seriously wrong is performed by a person who thinks it is seriously wrong; second, by reason of circumstances affecting the act; for example, if a person under oath to tell the truth were to lie about a light matter; third, when the matter of several sins, in themselves not serious, adds up to a serious amount; for example, if someone were to steal small sums of money which would accumulate to a serious amount.


 * Q. 71. How can a sin be venial?
A. A sin can be venial in two ways: first, when the evil done is not seriously wrong; second, when the evil done is seriously wrong, but the sinner sincerely believes it is only slightly wrong, or does not give full consent to it.


 * If a person being uncertain of the gravity of a sin nevertheless commits the sin, he is guilty of mortal sin because he shows himself willing to offend God seriously. One should not act in doubt but should form a certain conscience.


 * Q. 72. How does venial sin harm us?
A. Venial sin harms us by making us less fervent in the service of God, by weakening our power to resist mortal sin, and by making us deserving of God's punishments in this life or in purgatory.


 * > "A workman that is a drunkard shall not be rich: and he that condemneth small things shall fail by little and little" (Ecclesiasticus 19:1).

 * > "But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the Day of Judgment" (Matthew 12:36).


 * Q. 73. How can we keep from committing sin?
A. We can keep from committing sin by praying and by receiving the sacraments; by remembering that God is always with us; by recalling that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost; by keeping occupied with work or play; by promptly resisting the sources of sin within us; by avoiding the near occasions of sin.


 * Q. 74. What are the chief sources of actual sin?
A. The chief sources of actual sin are: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth, and these are commonly called capital sins.


 * Pride is the inordinate seeking of one's own excellence. It is opposed to the virtue of humility.

 * Covetousness is the inordinate seeking of temporal goods. Covetousness is two-fold: first, the inordinate seeking of temporal goods by acquiring or possessing them unjustly. This form of covetousness is opposed to the virtue of justice and is often a mortal sin; second, the inordinate seeking of temporal goods by loving or desiring them too much. This form of covetousness is opposed to liberality and is ordinarily a venial sin.

 * Lust is the inordinate seeking of the pleasures of the flesh. It is opposite to the virtue of chastity.

 * Anger is the inordinate seeking of revenge, or an unreasonable opposition to a person or thing. It is opposed to the virtue of meekness.

 * Gluttony is the inordinate desire for food and drink. It is opposed to the virtue of temperance.

 * Envy is sadness at another's good fortune because it is considered to be detracting from one's own excellence. It is opposed to the virtue of charity.

 * Sloth is the distaste for spiritual things because their attainment requires much labor. It is opposed to the virtue of charity.


 * Q. 75. Why are these called capital sins?
A. They are called capital sins not because they, in themselves, are the greatest sins, but because they are the chief reasons why men commit sin.


 * Pride is the source of presumption, ambition, vainglory, and boasting,

 * Covetousness is the source of hard-heartedness toward the poor, and of theft, fraud, and deceit.

 * Lust is the source of blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, over-hastiness, instability, love of oneself, hatred of God, worldliness, and despair.

 * Anger is the source of contumely, blasphemy, quarrels, and murders.

 * Gluttony is the source of dullness of mind, excessive talkativeness, and gross and vulgar speech.

 * Envy is the source of hatred, calumny, detraction, joy in our neighbor's misfortunes, and distress at his prosperity.

 * Sloth is the source of the neglect to perform good works that are of grave obligation.


 * Q. 76. What are the near occasions of sin?
A. The near occasions of sin are all persons, places, or things that may easily lead us into sin.


 * There is a grave obligation to avoid the near occasion of mortal sin. If circumstances force us into the near occasion of sin, we are obliged to make use of the necessary safeguards, such as prayer and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist.




 * By means of his free will, man can give God loyal and affectionate service; but by means of the same free will he can also offend God by committing actual sin. This sin can be committed in many ways. It can be entirely within man's mind and heart, as when he deliberately takes pleasure in something evil pictured in his imagination (sin of thought) or when he deliberately wishes something evil, even though he knows he can never do it (sin of desire). Or, a person can make use of his bodily faculties to offend God-by using his power of speech in bad language, such as blasphemy or cursing (sin of word), or by employing another bodily power, such as his hands to murder or to steal (sin of action) . Finally, a person can commit sin by neglecting to do something which he is obliged to do, as when he fails to go to Mass on Sunday or to help others in their need when he could and should do so (sin of omission).

 * When a person is in doubt as to whether or not a certain action is sinful, he is not allowed to do it until he has made reasonable efforts to solve his doubt. Usually, the most practical way to solve such a doubt of conscience is to ask a priest, particularly in confession.

 * The most important division of actual sins, mortal and venial, is explained at length in the lesson. Some persons have the idea that it is sufficient to avoid mortal sins; they freely commit venial sins. This is a false notion. Venial sin is a great evil--next to mortal sin, it is the greatest evil in the world, worse than the most painful sickness or the most dreadful form of death. One who pays no heed to venial sins will soon fall into mortal sin. It is true, on account of the weakness of human nature brought on by original sin no one (unless he receives a special privilege from God, such as was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary), can abstain for a long time from semi-deliberate venial sins, committed without full consent of the will. But all should strive to avoid every deliberate sin, whether it be venial or mortal. No one can ever claim that God does not give him sufficient grace to avoid such sins, for St. Paul tells us: "God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength" (1 Cor. 10:13).

 * However, venial sins, even though frequently committed, do not unite to form a mortal sin, though sometimes the matter involved in several sins, each of which in itself is venial, will accumulate to form a large amount, and thus eventually a mortal sin will be committed. Thus, if a clerk would steal fifty cents a day from the store in which he is employed, the total amount would soon become sufficient to render him guilty of mortal sin, even though the amount of each theft taken in itself would constitute only a venial sin.

 * We must all be on our guard against the capital sins, which are the sources of all the other sins. It is not sufficient to resolve not to give in to the capital sins-we must strive to practice the opposite virtues. Everyone should honestly examine his own character and find out his predominant passion--that is, the type of sin to which he is most inclined-and try earnestly to overcome it. With God's grace, he shall eventually succeed.

 * We must particularly avoid the near occasions of sin. Nowadays there are many occasions of sin in the world, such as bad books, heretical or improper radio programs, indecent motion pictures, vile theatrical exhibitions, and persons who try to lead others into sin by their bad speech or wicked conduct. Those who frequent unnecessarily the occasions of sin are running a great risk. "He that loveth danger shall perish in it" (Ecclus. 3:27).

 * Above all, we have prayer and the sacraments to strengthen us against temptation to sin. Whenever an inclination to offend God besets our soul, our first thought should be to have recourse to prayer. It need not be a long prayer; even the devout calling on the names of Jesus and Mary will be of great help. And one who frequently receives Our Lord in Holy Communion obtains immeasurable spiritual strength against the weakness and evil inclinations of his nature that are the cause of so many sins.




 * Resolve frequently to suffer any evil, even death, rather than offend God by sin, especially mortal sin.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 6





 * (Select the word or phrase in the parentheses which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence):


 * When a person eats meat on Friday without realizing that it is Friday he commits a (formal ... material ... venial) sin.

 * When a person is in doubt whether or not a certain action is a sin he (is free to do it without further inquiry ... may say a prayer and do it ... may not do it until he has made a reasonable effort to find out whether or not it is sinful).

 * Pride is called a capital sin because it is (one of the chief reasons why men commit sin ... a sin that will not be forgiven ... a mortal sin).

 * A person's predominant passion is (pride ... lust ... the type of sin to which he is most inclined).

 * If a man goes into a saloon, knowing that for him it is a near occasion of grave sins of intemperance, but on one particular occasion does not drink to excess, he commits (no sin ... a mortal sin ... a venial sin).

 * A person who deliberately takes God's name in vain, erroneously thinking it is a mortal sin, commits (a mortal sin ... a material sin ... a venial sin).

 * A person who eats too much commits a sin of (sloth ... gluttony ... covetousness).

 * A person who inordinately seeks temporal goods by loving or desiring them too much commits a sin that is opposed to (justice ... charity ... liberality).

 * When a person commits several venial sins of envy, (they remain venial sins ... unite to form one greater venial sin ... unite to form one mortal sin).

 * When a person in mortal sin goes to Mass he performs an action which (is a mortal sin ... is good but not meritorious of eternal life ... becomes meritorious when the person returns to the state of grace).



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Brian failed to go to Mass on Ascension Thursday because he entirely forgot that it is a holyday. Was his omission of Mass a formal sin or a material sin? Explain.

 * Rosemary ate meat on a Thursday, thinking it was Friday, but deliberately willing to violate the law of the Church. Did she commit a sin? Was it material or formal? Explain.

 * Six paydays in a row, Octavus, a Catholic laborer, got drunk. As he starts drinking on the seventh payday, his conscience warns him, reminding him how he missed Mass the last six Sundays from sickness following the drunkenness. The following Sunday afternoon he awakens from his drunken stupor. It is too late to go to Mass. Has he committed the mortal sin of missing Mass? Give the reason for your answer.

 * What bad effects does venial sin work in our spiritual life?

 * Percival wants to know how many venial sins it takes to make a mortal sin. How do you answer his question?

 * On Quinquagesima Sunday, Tarcisius, a strong healthy fellow of twenty-two years, listens to the reading of the Lenten regulations. He wonders if he is exempted or excused from the strict fast. The doubt lingers with him all through Lent; then on Holy Saturday night, in confession, he says: "I didn't keep Lent because I didn't know whether or not I was bound to the strict fast." Do you approve of his manner of acting? Was he guilty of serious sins? Why? If he had asked you on Shrove Tuesday what he should do, what would you have suggested?

 * Isabella asks if God ever allows anyone to be tempted beyond his strength to resist. Answer her, and in your answer tell her what St. Paul says about the matter.

 * What are the virtues opposed to the capital sins, and which capital sins do they oppose?

 * Evangeline is making her first school retreat. The retreat master makes frequent reference to "our predominant passion." What does he mean? Write your explanation in three or four sentences.

 * What does the Bible say about taking unnecessary moral risks?

 * Wendelin is a vitamin enthusiast. He maintains that vitamins are great aids in building up bodily strength and general resistance to disease. Tell him how he can build up resistance to sinful temptations.

 * Hortense goes to the movies frequently, but she never tries beforehand to find out whether the picture is good or bad, and consequently sometimes she goes to a picture that is a near occasion of sin for her. Does Hortense commit a sin? Explain.


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