The Baltimore Catechism: Actual Sin

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The Baltimore Catechism
Revised Edition (1941)

Actual Sin
Lesson 6

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

Amen, amen, I say to you that whosoever commiteth sin is the servant of sin. (John 8:34)

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

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

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

Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent; for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee. (Ecclesiasticus 21:2)

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

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

68. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, what else does mortal sin do to the soul?
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.

For the wages of sin is death; but the grace of God, life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

69. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
To make a sin mortal these three things are needed:

the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong;
the sinner, must be mindful of the serious wrong;
the sinner must fully consent to it.
70. What is venial sin?
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.

Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 6:48)

71. How can a sin be venial?
A sin can be venial in two ways:

when the evil done is not seriously wrong;
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.
72. How does venial sin harm us?
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.

But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36)

73. How can we keep from committing sin?
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.

And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members perish rather than that thy whole body go into hell. (Mark 9:42)

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

75. Why are these called capital sins?
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.

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

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