Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Venial sin: a serious business

Many Catholics believe that venial sins really aren't that serious. And this attitude has even been encouraged by some priests who discourage penitents from regular use of the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. I've had several priests tell me that there is no need to confess my venial sins so often (which in my case is every 2-3 weeks).

Is this attitude consistent with the Magisterial teaching as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? In a word, no. The Catechism (no. 1863) provides us with three specific reasons why venial sins are serious:

1. "Venial sin weakens charity.." In other words, such sins weaken the supernatural life of grace in us.

2. Venial sins "merits temporal punishment." In other words, such sins will have to be atoned for in Purgatory.

3. Most troubling, "deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin."

This paragraph continues:

"While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise thee sins which we call 'light"....A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession."

Should you ever encounter a priest who attempts to discourage you from confessing your venial sins on a regular basis, remind him of this passage. While it is always important to avoid scrupulosity - the fear that one has sinned when in reality no sin has occurred - it is important to perform a regular examination of conscience and to confess those venial sins we are aware of for the reasons given in the Catechism.

As Mother Angelica used to say, most of us take a shower every day. If we are so zealous about keeping the body clean, why are we so indifferent when it comes to keeping our soul clean? Now, it may be argued that venial sins can be forgiven in other ways (Holy Mass is ordered to the forgiveness of venial sins for example). And this is certainly true. However, as Pope Pius XII taught, it is by frequent confession that, "genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself" (Mystici corporis Christi, AAS 35 (1943) 235, PE, 225.88; See also, Canon 988 of the Code of Canon Law).


1 comment:

Sharon said...

I love that! Thanks for promoting the sacrament of reconciliation. When are our priests going to promote confession?

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