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According to Christian tradition, "actual" sin as distinguished from original sin is an act contrary to the will and law of God whether by doing evil (sin of commission) or refraining from doing good (sin of omission). It can be either "mortal," faith destroying, or "venial," not faith destroying. In Roman Catholic theology an actual sin is specifically any willful thought, desire, word, action or omission forbidden by the law of God.
Roman Catholic doctrine
A mortal sin is mortally harmful to the soul. That means that it is deadly to the soul. It is a major act of disobedience to God and His law.
- It takes away sanctifying grace which we need to get into heaven.
- Makes the soul an enemy of God.
- Takes away all the merit we earn from good works.
- Makes the soul deserving of hell.
There are three things that make a sin mortal:
- Serious matter ("It is a very bad sin.")
- Sufficient reflection ("The person committing it knows it is wrong to do.")
- Full consent of the will ("The person does it anyway.")
A venial sin is in the soul. It is not deadly in itself, but can eventually lead to the death of the soul by making us weaker to resist mortal sin. Sin is made venial in two ways:
- The sin is not seriously wrong.
- The sin is seriously wrong, but the sinner honestly believes that it is only slightly wrong, or does not give full consent.
A venial sin weakens our power to resist mortal sin, and a venial sin makes us deserving of God’s punishments in this life or in purgatory.
To avoid actual sin
The Christian should:
- Receive the Sacraments frequently
- Remember that God is always with us
- Remember that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit
- Keep occupied with work or play
- Resist temptation the moment it strikes
- Stay away from near occasions of sin.
A near occasion of sin is any person, place or thing that leads us into sin.
Capital vices or the Seven Deadly Sins
The "Capital vices" or sins, also known as the "Seven deadly sins" are the main roots of sin. They are called capital sins not because they are the greatest sins, but because they are the main reasons that people commit sins. These sins are: