Soap Suds Mouth Wash and Sin
JP over at Return of the Prodigal Blogger has recently asked some questions regarding Catholic doctrine of venial and mortal sins. Rather than tie up his combox, I'll try to give my perspective here.
Disclaimer: the following statements are my own musings and not to be taken as DOGMA but do set the stage for my next post. No imprimatur here unfortunately.
When I became an evangelical as a teenager, I was freed from the burden of discerning between mortal sin and venial sins. Hey! All sins are alike in the sight of God and are covered by His blood! What a freedom I felt to not have to go to confession to tell my most awkward sins to another person. (I do wonder though, if I had never stopped going to confession as a pre-adolescent, I may not have headed down that road to Yasgur's farm in the first place and making some very bad moral choices.)
Back to my first summer as a born again in 1973. In my new weekly Bible studies, I learned that a white lie, or gossip was the absolute equivalent to murder and blasphemy and fornication since there was no biblical basis for venial and mortal sins. I was told that Catholics invented mortal and venial sins because, well, … that’s just what they do and besides, they make up their own rules to rob our freedom as believers in Christ. Yeah that’s the ticket, those Catholics are just trying to put the yoke of slavery on us that Jesus removed! Our bible study leader had the largest collection of Chick Tracts east of the Delaware River and we were never short of reading material. Therefore, my understanding of mortal and venial sins was colored by my own distrust of all things Catholic, and partly just plain *faulty intelligence.*
And even more troubling to me was the issue of parenting. I disciplined my children with a different level of punishment based on the severity of the infraction implying there was varied consequences for their level of disobedience. Was having a "potty mouth moment" with his brother equal to direct defiance of my authority? Clearly, the ramifications of each sin here are worlds apart. Soap in the mouth might be appropriate for the former, but the latter would have graver consequences. Why didn't I just give one discipline for all since each disobedience against his parents and God should be the same? Wasn’t I teaching my children that some sins are really, really bad and can lead to death, and others are kinda bad and lead to soap suds mouth wash? As a Father was I teaching my children the principle that some sins are deadly (mortal) and others, less so (venial) yet believing that my Heavenly Father treated all sin the same and all sin held the same consequence regardless of severity?
In the back of my mind, I did wonder how an irritable thought towards a neighbor or my unspoken impatience with my brother (we used to get on each other’s nerves) could be morally equivalent to rape, murder or grand larceny?
The concept of venial and mortal sins is consistent with Natural Law and illustrated in parenting as well as our criminal justice system. For instance there are various degrees of murder based on mitigating circumstances. Why if society throughout the ages has always held that there are different degrees of sin and punishment should our heavenly Father start an entirely new paradigm that goes against Natural Law and reason? More to come.