Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

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.*

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?

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?

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.


Blogger frrich said...

TJ & PD-
Thank you for your inspiration and dedication.

June 30, 2007 11:00 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Your welcome Father! But, it is we who must thank you for your hands that bring us Jesus in every Mass and applies His forgiveness via the sacrament of reconciliation.
God bless and thanks for paying a visit !

June 30, 2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

I was told that stealing, intentionally or not, a pen from work and adultery and murder were the same, too, (all sin is equal) by the wife of our former Catholic, then SDA, then Independent Evangelical preacher. What a totally American concept this 'sin is sin' talk is from many Evangelicals.

We're "free" now to what? "Live as we please" "go to church where we please, or not go if we so please" "it doesn't matter where you go, and "you can't lose your salvation" (unless you become Catholic!) and the scariest thing of all is, we think God nods in agreement, that he's changed his mind regarding sin and now he thinks just like we do! Sweet gig! But Oh, the profound and gross presumption!

Poignant, powerful post TJ.

July 01, 2007 12:13 AM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

I think that in their eagerness to reinstill in the church a proper sense of the serious nature of transgression against God's law, fundamentalists and others have adopted a kind of egalitarian approach to sin. This is, perhaps, at least partially a by-product of our increasingly egalitarian society. We may use the sin of lust as an example. Jesus talks about it in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Here Jesus explains that the sinful attitudes of the heart and mind, as well as the actions, are to be avoided. However, rather than saying that lust is a sin just as adultery is a sin, many have abrogated the biblical understanding for the concept that lust (thought) and the action of adultery are exactly equal in God's eyes in that they merit exactly the same kind of punishment. I do not believe this is what Jesus intended for us to understand, and seems to me to be in conflict with His teaching in Luke 12:47-48.

47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Strictly speaking, this passage is comparing the ignorance of one servant to the enlightenment of another, and in that sense does not directly bear on Matthew 5. However, it does strongly indicate that sins both of commission and omission carry with them varying degrees of punishment. I think that the Catholic Church is on track in its recognition that all sins are bad, but not all sins are equal, that is, equally bad. There is a scale of transgression, as it were, that the Judge of the universe recognises. However, the issue becomes more complicated as it involves deep questions of the nature of justification and sanctification. What exactly did Christ accomplish on the cross? And for whom? These questions continue to be at the heart of the Reformed debate.

July 01, 2007 12:53 AM  
Blogger JP Manzi said...


Just wanted to take a second and thank you for taking on this issue. I am swamped right now and have not actually read it yet. I will do so Monday night when I have all the free time in the world

July 01, 2007 12:26 PM  

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